KIEV, Ukraine --- Just days after a dramatic rise in violence in eastern Ukraine, leaders met Sunday in southern Germany kicking off the G7 talks, in which Ukraine will be a key topic. In Kiev, the usual outpouring of nationalistic pride is evident on almost every street corner.
The vibrant teal blue and yellow Ukrainian national colors are displayed on flags and bunting throughout the city. Soldiers returning from the east are seen in every neighborhood -- some bearing the scars of battle. In Maidan Square, memorial lamps, flowers and photographs of the heroes of last summer are strewn around the independence monument.
“If I were to walk down Khreshchatyk [Street] with a Russian flag, I would probably be killed,” a young Ukrainian man who will be called Alex, told Townhall.
But, he believes, the Russians are not involved in the separatist movement in an official capacity. While separatists’ weapons and technology come from Russian companies, the Russian military is not in play.
“My father is an army man in Russia,” Alex told Townhall. “He said they were given a strict order not to go towards Ukraine. He said that if they wanted to do that, first to retire."
Just two days before the G7 commenced, intense fighting broke out in the Donetsk region. The pro-Russian militants were spotted by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission using 10 tanks and militarized trucks with anti-aircraft missile systems and “Grad” rocket launchers.
“International monitors also observed incessant artillery fire on the militants part between 4:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.,” Colonel Andriy Lysenko, spokesman of the Administration of the President of Ukraine said at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
The militants lost 80 fighters while more than 100 were wounded in the fighting. The Ukrainian Army lost six killed in action and 38 wounded on June 4.
The narrative of the Ukrainian government is that the Russians are the driving force behind the action.
In the shadow of the monumental “Motherland” sculpture -- a prominent feature of the Kiev skyline and the trademark of “The Museum of the Great Patriotic War,” which documents Ukraine’s role in the Nazi-Soviet conflict in World War II -- there are now displayed several battle machines captured from the Debaltseve last year.
“What I think will happen -- and what I’m surprised hasn’t happened yet -- is that they will continue on to Odessa and Kharkiv,” Alex said. “I was traveling to Russia through Kharkiv and it is already occupied. [The separatists] have out already the flags and on the fences the colors of the flags. The nationalists are trying to suppress those who oppose them with propaganda.”
The situation being a propaganda battle between pro-Russian separatists (with some Russian help) and Ukrainian nationalists, the Minsk agreement is very difficult to enforce. Especially when the only diplomatic effort is reaffirmation of already existing solidarity and continuation of already existing sanctions.
Ahead of the G7, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with key G7 leaders, and seems assured that the G7 will be helpful.
“I am absolutely confident of a powerful position of our reliable strategic partners,” Poroshenko said at a press availability in Kiev on June 5. “I am fully content with the level of coordination between Ukraine and the G7 countries.”
The G7 meeting will continue through Monday. And if it goes as previous G7s have, the result will be another declaration of agreement between the nations and further posturing for full implementation of the Minsk agreements as decided last September.
"We will do everything to return Crimea to Ukraine," Poroshenko said, according to the Kiev Post. "It is important not to give Russia a chance to break the world's pro-Ukrainian coalition.”
“The key position we expect from our foreign partners is unity,” Poroshenko added. “The unity of G7. The unity of the European Union. Transatlantic unity. And solidarity with Ukraine".
But the nationalist ideals don’t charm everyone, especially Alex, who sees nationalist Ukrainians as hypocritical.
“They say they hate Russia,” he says, “but so many of them then go and work in Russia.”
According to him, Ukrainians who want the nation to join the European Union only want the European income and jobs for free -- without Ukrainian prices rising.
“Democracy doesn’t work,” Alex says. “I am not European. I am Slavic.”
The G7 continues in Germany on Monday.
“Only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO," Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Italian Newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview last week.
"There is no need to fear Russia,” he said.