The relationship with Ukraine of the former president of Murcia, Ramon Luis Valcarcel, starts with a visit to the riots of the Maidan square in kyiv in which a murder occurs and, according to his story, with his departure from the country “for safety” in a bread delivery van. And it ends with a cut of the sleeves that he himself assures that he did, already as vice president of the European Parliament, before the Russian embassy in Riga (Latvia).
January 2014. Ramón Luis Valcárcel is in his last year as president of Murcia after almost two decades. What head of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, goes to visit the pro-European demonstrators in the Maidan square in kyiv. The first murder occurs. A sniper from the security forces shoots at one of the congregants. “I saw how they moved the body wrapped in the EU flag, and how they took it to one of the shops near the square,” he says.
Later, he left the city for the airport camouflaged in a bread delivery van “because that morning there had been a second murder in a garden area near the EU ’embassy’ and the security officials they decided to take me out in that strange way“, it states. He had given interviews on Ukrainian television and called Ukraine’s pro-Russian government “corrupt” and “criminal.”
After that first death came dozens. More than 100 demonstrators and a dozen policemen, in addition to some 2,500 wounded. The Maidan massacre was the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Pro-European protesters, armed with shields and helmets, clashed with the police for days. This began to shoot with live fire.
The repression left images of pitched battles that shocked inside and outside the country. The pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovich, was deposed by Parliament and left the country by helicopter for Russia. Moscow intervened in Crimea, which was annexed after a referendum considered illegal by the United States and the European Union. Later, soldiers without insignia entered to support pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels in the east of the country. Donesk and Luhansk declared themselves independent republics. The Donbas war began, which would leave more than 14,000 dead.
A year after that Maidan revolt, in 2015, already as a member of the European Parliament of the Popular Party and vice-president of the European Parliament, Valcárcel travels to Riga (Latvia). There she learns from a journalist that Vladimir Putin had put her on a blacklist along with 88 other personalities: deputies, MEPs and high-ranking European officials. He was the highest ranking Spaniard, remember on twitter which was his assistant, Berta Herrero. Others sanctioned were the group leader of the Liberals (ALDE), Guy Verhofstadt, the French writer and philosopher Bernard-Henry Lévy. None could enter Russia.
“After finding out, I went to the Russian embassy in Riga and I cut my sleeves before the soldier at the sentry box. It’s not very uplifting, but it came from inside me… and someone took a photo,” says Valcárcel.
Seven years after those episodes, Russia has invaded Ukraine. It attacks dozens of Ukrainian cities with mortar fire, missiles and bombs: Mariupol, Kharkov, Chernigov… And, of course, kyiv, where it all began. The Ukrainian resistance, with European and American weapons, is hindering Moscow’s plans.
“Putin has waged a 20th-century war and the European Union has responded with a 21st-century war,” Valcárcel values. “The sanctions are going to do him a lot of damage: he can win battles but I am not sure that he is going to win the war. Invasions may be short, but wars are long. This is Vietnam for Russia. And the EU, which Putin has mocked so much, has managed to respond with a unity that was not known.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.