Whenever a wave of pessimism rises in Ukrainian society, the media turns to the topic of resuming air traffic communication with the world. Since the appearance of articles analyzing the reasons for the failed summer counter-offensive, politicians are again saying that Ukraine is about to resume civil aviation.
Recently, the Head of the Office of the President, Andriy Yermak, summoned foreign diplomats to an official meeting at Kyiv’s Boryspil international airport. Invitations to the ambassadors were sent in the form of boarding passes, on which the Ukrainian Peace Formula was given as the flight destination.
Photos of this meeting showing a hundred participants, including representatives of 83 states, sitting at a huge round table in the large hall of Terminal D, are designed to restore optimism and belief in the imminent end of the war. The airport terminal sparkled and looked ready for action. Even the flight board glowed with optimism, indicating destinations to which there were previously no direct flights – Buenos Aires, Panama City, Washington, Jakarta, and Reykjavik.
Participants in the meeting of diplomats and representatives of the Office of the President spoke about supporting the Ukrainian peace formula and the choice of venue was not accidental. The country’s main airport symbolizes readiness for decisive, diplomatic action to promote the Ukrainian peace formula.
As the meeting was taking place, Ukrainian journalists noticed that advertisements for vacancies at Boryspil airport appeared on job sites. The airport is looking for pilots for an Airbus and an An-148 plane, flight attendants, an aviation ornithologist, and specialists in pre-flight aircraft maintenance.
At the same time, there was an announcement from the President’s Office that Boryspil would be the first airport to restart operations. Admittedly, the statement included a line about how the airport will only work when civil aviation flights are 100 percent safe. So, we should not hold our breath.
Discussions on the same topic held earlier in the autumn were more optimistic and pragmatic. At that time, experts were analyzing which airports might be safest and suggested that at least one could start operating without waiting for the end of hostilities – for example, at the one in Uzhhorod, in the Zakarpattia region.
The runway of Uzhhorod’s airport ends right at the border with Slovakia and, as soon as planes leave the runway, they find themselves in European Union airspace.
During my time as an IDP (internally displaced person) in that Transcarpathian city, I saw several small planes taking off and landing. They were not ordinary passenger planes, but the airport remains in working order and it still has some personnel.
The Ukrainian airline SkyUp, whose 11 Boeings have been operating on lease outside Ukraine since the beginning of the war, recently reminded Ukraine about its existence in an unexpected way. The company has published a children’s book in Ukrainian on how to prepare for air travel. The book particularly aims to support children with autism, for whom any trip is associated with stress, and describes, step-by-step, passenger preparations for a flight.
It has to be said, that for most children in Ukraine, the sky is now a dangerous place from which comes devastation, and few Ukrainians will look up at the stars over Christmas and imagine Santa Claus’s sleigh sparkling in the night sky. For children in the occupied cities of Lysychansk and Rubizhne, in the Luhansk region, the festive season will be further overshadowed by a figure from their nightmares – the Babai.
Putin has instructed the Republic of Tatarstan to take over patronage of these cities which once had a combined population of approximately 200,000. The figure is now probably only a quarter of that.
Products from Tatarstan have appeared in the stores. Doctors, electricians, musicians, plumbers, and public administrators from the far-away republic have been brought in to work in Lysychansk and Rubizhne, and you can hear Tatar spoken on the streets.
Money from the Tatarstan budget is being used to rebuild these cities that were all but destroyed by the Russian army.
On top of that, Kysh Babai, the Tatar Father Frost, is about to bring New Year’s gifts for the local children. The problem is that since the time of the Tatar-Mongol invasion, children in both Russia and Ukraine have been told that, if they behave badly, the same “Babai” will come and take them to a terrible, dark world.
While, the Tatar Kysh Babai looks and behaves very like Father Frost, and is no doubt loved by children in Tatarstan, Putin’s imposition of this name on Christmas celebrations in occupied territories carries a grotesque irony that should not go unnoticed.
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