Thursday, February 29, 2024

Opinion: Republicans blocking Ukraine aid should consider this hero — and hang their heads in shame

I wonder if my friend Maksym Butkevych knows the name of Speaker of the House Mike Johnson.

Maksym is a Ukraine defender and prisoner of war held by Russian forces since 2022. There has been no news from Max since August, months before Johnson became president.

I don’t know how much news enters his prison cell. Are his captors taunting him with stories about Johnson of Louisiana and his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives abandoning Maksym and Ukraine to the brutality of Russian invaders?

Polls show a solid majority of Americans still support financial and military aid to Ukraine to defend against Russia’s illegal aggression. Providing such support aligns with our values, boosts our economy, and contributes to our security without risking American lives.

But Johnson’s Republicans let the aid to exhaust oneselfblocking a $60 billion request from the White House just as Russian forces were ramping up their criminal activities. attacks on Ukrainian civilians.

If only Mike Johnson knew Maksym Butkevych. As a man of faith and avowed patriotism, Johnson might even take inspiration from him. Max has long demonstrated extraordinary courage in defending the inalienable rights that we Americans claim to defend.

Max began attacking the Soviet regime at the age of 13. In 1990, he joined university students who began a massive hunger strike for rights and autonomy in the Soviet Union. This was Ukraine’s “Revolution on Granite,” a neglected precursor to the Orange Revolution of 2004-05 and the Revolution of Dignity (or Maidan Revolution) of 2013-14. Addressing the thousands gathered in kyiv’s central square, young Max took a microphone and called for Ukrainian independence, shouting a phrase now known around the world: “Ukrainian Slava!: Glory to Ukraine!

After Ukraine gained its independence, Max embarked on a career as a journalist determined to expose post-Soviet corruption and cover the poor and marginalized. He then defended the interests of those he had covered: refugees, displaced people, members of Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ community. His blind and inexhaustible compassion was recently honored with the 2023 Prize. Anne Frank Special Recognition Awardwhich his father, Oleksandr, accepted in his place.

When Russia invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, forcing thousands of Ukrainians from their homes, Max helped unite citizens from different regions of the country, calling for “a transparent and non-corrupt system of government for the benefit of all, regardless of their origin and political opinions. » When Russia tortured and imprisoned Ukrainian activists in the occupied territories, Max tirelessly petitioned for their distribution throughout the world.

Then came the full-scale invasion of Russia in February 2022. Max was widely known as a pacifist, but he wasted no time. join the Ukrainian armed forces. Many of us who knew him thought he would rather help the millions of Ukrainians suddenly made refugees by Russian brutality. But his quick decision to take up arms was a warning to us all.

Max understood something that many of us fail to understand, even after two years of full-scale war in Russia. He knew that this kind of gratuitous and unprovoked aggression cannot be managed, negotiated or desired from a distance. We must fight it head on before it spreads.

“I must suspend my humanitarian work and human rights activism,” Max said after enlisting. “There are times when you have to be ready to stand up for what is important. Everything else comes after victory.

Max sacrifices everything for the ideals of freedom and equality that America cherishes. Johnson and his Republicans should demand his release and do everything in their power to help his people and enable his victory. Instead, they block bipartisan legislation that most Americans support and enable an aggressor state that openly fantasizes about our division and destruction.

I wonder if my friend Maksym Butkevych knows the name of Speaker of the House Mike Johnson. And I wonder if Max sees us, in the land of the free and the land of the brave, hanging our heads in shame.

Rory Finnin is Professor of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Cambridge and author of Blood of Others: Stalin’s Crimean Atrocity and the Poetics of Solidarity.

Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from



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