Activist Daria Kaleniuk made an impassioned plea to Boris Johnson for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but Nato doesn’t want to risk a direct confrontation with Russia. She tells Tortoise why she thinks it is the wrong decision
On 1 March, day six of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Boris Johnson arrived in Warsaw.
He was there to meet European leaders to discuss the imminent refugee crisis and how to deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin. And as part of his trip, the prime minister delivered a speech in the Polish capital.
“… and we must be rational in our response and recognise that Russia is capable…”Boris Johnson
Sitting in the audience was Daria Kaleniuk. She’s the director of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre in Kyiv.
Just two days before she’d fled her home in the Ukrainian capital with her young children.
“Ukrainian people are desperately asking for the west to protect our sky. We are asking for the no fly zone, we are [getting] a response that it will trigger World War Three but what is the alternative prime minister?”Daria Kaleniuk
Daria is clear about what’s needed – and she is not alone.
Like many other Ukranians – including the president, Volodymyr Zelensky – she is calling on Nato to implement a no-fly zone. She says it could save millions of lives.
But Boris Johnsnon and other leaders continue to say no. Why?
A no fly zone would ban any Russian aircraft or missile from entering Ukrainian airspace. It would prevent Putin’s army from launching air attacks, transporting troops and conducting surveillance.
But for this to work, it would have to be enforced and that is where the problem lies for Nato members.
“We have to understand that imposing any form of no fly zone over Ukraine is an act of war, it will involve Nato aircraft shooting down Russian aircraft, it will require Nato aircraft to attack and destroy Russian air defence installations and radars on the ground…
So very rapidly, we would go from a war in Ukraine to a war right across Europe, and indeed to the United States and Canada as members of Nato and a war against Russia as a state.”Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary
My colleague Paul Caruana-Galizia has spent the last week reporting from Poland’s border with Ukraine.
On his way home he stopped in Warsaw, where he met Daria.
“And I was begging yesterday, Boris Johnson I met him at the press conference here, and I asked him that, prime minister, what is the alternative to the no fly zone? So that all these missiles could be hit, you know, and it could be protected by also by, by Nato systems. And Boris Johnson told us they’re not ready to do that because they are afraid of World War Three.
But what [was] Nato prepared for? Why [was] Nato established? Why [was] the European Union established? Never before they saw it. Never before, millions of people, innocent people, should be killed. An act of war, an act of elimination of certain people. And what Putin is doing? He is saying that he is solving the Ukrainian question. What Hitler was doing? He was solving the Jewish question.”
Paul Caruana-Galizia: “He wants to eliminate Ukraine? Is that what he wants?
Daria Kaleniuk: “Yes. And he wants to eliminate Ukrainians as an idea. Therefore he’s bombarding a railway station with thousands of women and children and Nato is observing that, and the EU is observing that.
And saying sorry, we are afraid of World War Three, and I was saying to Boris Johnson, but it is already World War Three. You have to realise that and Ukraine cannot fight that war alone.”Daria Kaleniuk
Daria wasn’t the only person Paul spoke to who was convinced the war is about more than just Ukraine.
Paul: “One Ukrainian man we met at a border crossing said to us, you and the US should know that Putin is an international terrorist, he said, and he won’t just stop at Ukraine, do you think that’s true?”
Daria: “Absolutely. He’s an international terrorist. The Russians will not stop, they’ve already [said]m what other security guarantees they want, they want all countries [who] joint Nato after 2000 to forget about Nato. It’s Baltic countries, it’s Poland, it’s Romania, so it’s all Eastern Eastern flank of Nato and Russians are saying, Putin is saying, it’s all mine. I only want that because I feel insecure.”Daria Kaleniuk
Daria thinks that by facilitating Russian oligarchs, the west is complicit in this war and has a responsibility to protect Ukraine.
“And they can do no fly zone. They say they cannot do no fly zone but they can, and they should, and they must create the alternative. Call it not no fly zone but what’s wrong with Nato’s air defence systems which are here in Poland, in Romania, in Bulgaria, in Baltics, hitting Russian missiles over the Ukrainian territory? What’s wrong with that?
Is that, you know, announcing the war on Russia? It’s Ukraine… a nation asking, help us to hit this missile, we didn’t invite these missiles into our country. They are killing innocent people. Help us to protect out nuclear power plants, So ran nation asking, help us to hit this miss size. We didn’t invite this misses into our country. They are killing innocent. Help us to protect our nuclear power plants because they can hit nuclear power plants and then the border will not protect you guys.”Daria Kaleniuk
On Friday Jens Stoltenberg – the Nato secretary general – held another meeting with foreign ministers from the alliance.
It was to discuss ‘next steps’.
Amongst those at the meeting was José Manuel Albares – the Spanish foreign minister. For the first time he suggested Nato would discuss a possible no-fly zone. But he is just one voice. His counterparts have maintained that they will not engage with Russian troops and risk being dragged into a Third World War.
For the many of the Ukrainian refugees Paul spoke to last week, that’s simply not good enough.
And they warn that Putin seems unlikely to stop at Ukraine.
Today’s episode was written and produced by Gary Marshall and Paul Caruana Galizia.
Kseniya, Tuesday 1 March 2022
After escaping to Poland, Kseniya feels a sense of guilt about leaving Ukraine