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Would you have negotiated with Hitler in 1943?

If the Russian aggression against Ukraine had started on Friday, the day before the missile strike on the apartment building in Dnipro, there would have been enough reasons to establish a court for war crimes committed by the Russian army on Monday.

Here is a short proposal for the evidentiary procedure: In the 9-storey apartment building after the missile strike, at least 40 people died, entire families and children were killed. On that occasion, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that “all the indicated targets were hit”.

Therefore, there was no mistake, nor the so-called “collateral damage”. Someone commanded, and someone carried out an attack on a civilian apartment building where 1,700 people live, with the intention of killing them.

The crime in Dnipro, unfortunately, will not be the only one that the future court will deal with – domestic Ukrainian or international or both. Russian civilian and military commanders will have to answer for at least 7,000 civilian Ukrainian victims during their aggression, according to the UN. We regretfully add – until now. Because it is absolutely clear that mass murder in Dnipro will not be the last that exists in the Russian command plans.

The fast collapse of these plans therefore stands as an imperative both for the Ukrainian defence and for all those who help in its defence. There are two ways to do this – military victory over the aggressor and bringing to justice all those who ordered and carried out the crimes. Any “in-between” solution opens up room for compromise, which is exactly what Moscow wants.

After the tragedy in Dnipro, the head of German diplomacy, Analena Baerbock, requested the establishment of a court that, as she said, will “investigate and prosecute the Russian leadership”. She said this on the day her government colleague, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned.

Both news are good and herald the end of a sad period in which Europe above all, with Germany in its centre, had dilemmas and even fears about how to position itself towards Russia and its invasion. Those German fears and dilemmas had been feeding Putin’s strategy with the hope that one day he would have to be invited to the negotiating table, where he would be the factor on which peace depends.

Russia’s call for peace talks has always been a matter of blackmail, similar to seeking a deal in which the Kremlin and its boss receive amnesty for everything they have done in Ukraine. Many in Europe today, after Dnipro, would pay that price – they would negotiate with Putin, considering it to be the fastest way to stop Ukraine from bleeding.

In the past 11 months, European conformity has often defeated basic European values – life, freedom and democracy. The last time it had the opportunity to make that choice, Europe made the right decision, but the question is whether the successors of those who made the decision remember that.

We cannot imagine that anyone in Europe in 1942 or 1943 was willing to talk to Hitler about peace, and in return left him with everything he had won up to that point. Why would today’s conversation with Putin be different – give us peace and keep Donbass and Crimea? Needless to say, since you were the main negotiator and signed the peace treaty, no one will prosecute you.

The messages of two key ministers in the German government, sent at the same time, give hope that Putin’s desired scenario for the end to the war will not come true. Annabelle Berbock’s insistence on establishing a special international court for Russia closes the door on Putin’s options of being a peacemaker and signatory to the historic agreement.

On the other hand, Christine Lambrecht’s departure could also mean a German turn in its previous reluctance to deliver much-needed weapons to Ukraine. Her tenure will be remembered as a period in which Germany had a powerful tool for accelerating Ukrainian supremacy at the front in its hands, and was hesitant to use it.

It will turn out that this reluctance has nothing to do with Germany’s traditional fear of getting involved in conflicts outside its borders, but only with business projections for the post-war period, which is why they should not make Putin angry.

Just like the Swiss appeal to “military neutrality” when on several occasions it refused to allow Germany to transfer ammunition to Ukraine, as a country producing that ammunition. The Swiss calculation has nothing to do with its military neutrality, but only with the post-war period, in which “business as usual” is expected with the Russian partners.

The price of these calculations was paid by the families in the collapsed apartment building in Dnipro, as well as 7,000 Ukrainian civilians before them. Unfortunately, many more will pay the highest price, because they have already been included in the Russian aggression plans as chosen targets. And because some important people in Europe did not make the decisions they had to make.

The Second World War ended with the unconditional defeat of whoever started that war. The new Europe was built on that fact, as the biggest peace and democratic project in the history of mankind. No one today has the right to decide otherwise.

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