Odessa is not the Crimea: this war is about Europe

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Battles continue to rage in Eastern Ukraine. Yesterday, four people died and 30 were injured in a gunfight between pro-Russian and Ukrainian military forces on the outskirts of Slovyansk. An army helicopter was shot down , but the pilots survived.

Two days ago, government forces killed 20 rebels and dozens more were injured in the city of Slovyansk. On May 2 , in Odessa , 42 people were killed and 125 were wounded after pro-Russian sympathizers took refuge in a building which later caught fire. More than 30 government buildings (administration, police , security services , etc ...) are in the hands of the pro-Russian rebels in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

While Kiev blames "terrorists" for wanting to topple the legitimate government, Moscow denounces the "ultra-nationalist, extremist and neo-Nazi forces" who are guilty of "massive" violations of human rights, creating a "humanitarian catastrophe" that threatens the stability and peace in Europe. Meanwhile, the international community appears increasingly inept in its attempts to diffuse these outbreaks of war, perhaps because it is unable to understand what is at stake : the search for a way of life for a people who fell that neither Russia nor Europe really understand them.

The increasingly frequent outbreak of worrying clashes in the eastern regions of Ukraine pose different and new questions regarding the recent crisis, although they were clearly kindled by the Crimea's secession and its annexation by the Russian Federation.

The protests that were born on Maidan in Kiev concerned the development model of the country in the coming decades , influenced by the political choices of its relationship with Russia and the European Community. The protests have erupted into a revolt, following the excessive reaction of President Yanukovych . The violent repression of the Maidan protesters has created , or rather brought to light, a consciousness of political, ideological and spiritual aggregation,  which heretofore had never been expressed in these terms, even at the time of the "Orange Revolution". Going well beyond economic or strategic future prospective, Ukraine has "discovered" its national identity, not only as a "former Soviet country", but the result of twenty years of complex and contradictory experiences, which at the same time, are its "own" and unique.

The new reality that has been created has not yet had time to establish itself, and the "interim" faces of President Turchinov and Prime Minister Yatsenjuk are incapable of representing the real dimensions of the life of the Ukrainian people. The elections later this month may deliver some clarity, when he forces linked to the nostalgia of the past, to Russia or to periods of a Ukraine separated from it, but also to the post-Soviet oligarchs, and new forces, most representative of Ukrainians today, will run against each other.

There is no doubt that the ongoing riots follow an escalation ahead of the election, to influence its outcome. These clashes alternate the somewhat illusory "pro-Russian" as opposed to "pro-Ukranian" flag, even if the stakes are certainly more complex and less obvious. The Crimean split should fool no one:  there is a profound difference between the peninsula between the Black Sea and the regions of Donetsk, Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk. The Crimea has never been a truly "mixed" land; it is a substantially Russian nation, which was originally settled with the most significant part of the Golden Horde Tatar invaders , now reduced to a residual and dissident minority. Russians, Cossacks, Turks and Greek , Ukrainians and Poles inhabit Eastern Ukraine, in different and inconsistent proportions, not to mention the city of Odessa, where the most tragic and regrettable episode of the past conflicts took place; the great port of Odessa is the "final destination" of the large European Jewish diaspora and Yiddish culture , which in turn gave rise to the new exodus to modern day Israel.

The violence of Slovjansk , Donetsk and Odessa cannot be reduced to the provocation of spontaneous militias, which certainly affect many spetsnaz from Russia, or as excesses of interventionism of the provisional government of Kiev, to impose a new still rather shaky order. They are clashes of identity in search of self-affirmation, of souls in search of  a body, whether it be the state of Russia or Ukraine, the legendary Rus ' of the past or a new federation of more or less autonomous regions. It is pointless to feed one or other ruler to the lions, not even after Putin's menacing expressions or Obama's policy of sanctions, an increasingly predictable move by an international community incapable of understanding Ukrainian events. The European community is even more confused, terrified of being left with the bill for a crisis that it is struggling to identify with, despite involving a nation on the same continent.

Pope Francis' appeal, who invokes the spirit of brotherhood and peace, must be met with content from those who live side by side, as individuals and as peoples, as cultures, religions and churches . East and West Ukraine, regards everyone, Europeans and Christians, Turks and Jews: In the name of what do we feel ourselves brothers and sisters today on this earth?