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POTAPOVA: Letter From Ukraine as War Continues

Dear Friends,

A lot has changed from the last time we talked. What putin* planned to accomplish in less than a week turned into four months of an atrocious war with almost 1 million Ukrainians losing their homes, over 7 million refugees fleeing the country, and almost 3,000 missile strikes on different regions of Ukraine—what russians claimed to be attacks on military facilities, now turned into the blunt and vicious bombings of civilians, with hundreds of innocent people burned and killed, 344 of those – children.

Four months and counting.

They don’t give up on the idea of capturing the south of Ukraine and controlling both Azov and the Black Sea, and if all goes well, they move further. Meaning they want to capture the whole of Ukraine. At the same time, they spread the Ukraine fatigue rhetoric in Europe, lie about attacking “only military objects,” threaten with global hunger, call foreign politicians names, and leave all their dead on the battlefield. When it seems like they’ve reached the bottom, we see them reaching and breaking new limits again and again.

You asked what actions the U.S. could take to help. I will name a few not only for America but for the whole world.

Number one – boycott. You mentioned russian vodka. Well, their vodka is the easiest product the world can boycott. Oil and gas, other commodities, food, cars, arts, and literature – I could continue the list, but I guess you’ve got the idea. Boycotting literally everything of russian origin speeds up their complete isolation and turns the aggressor into a pariah. Governments across the world should accelerate action to make large businesses leave russia and impose stricter trade limitations (if not bans).

By the way, Belarus joined the club long ago and deserves serious response and sanctions too.

Number two – #ArmUkraineNow. We deeply appreciate the collective response of the West to the russian aggression in Ukraine. What we need now is the West holding the line. Continue standing with Ukraine and helping us resist. Ukraine fatigue is a sinister media narrative, especially considering the russian threats to Poland and the Baltics, which could unleash World War III. Weapons and financial aid that Ukraine already received or expects to receive have been unprecedented. However, we continue losing thousands of our men and women every day while the decisions in the cabinets are being made. Whenever possible, faster decision-making should be considered – it literally saves lives.

Number three – help us punish the killers for the thousands of their war crimes. I mean the international levers of influence enabling Ukraine to claim and recover damages done to our infrastructure, housing stock, people, and cultural heritage. Recently, Canada has become the first country to adopt legislation that allows seizing Russian assets and transferring them to Ukraine. Large global economies should do the same. We know it can take decades to make russia liable for its crimes, just as it was with the fascists in the Nuremberg process or with the genocide architects in the former Yugoslavia. To elaborate the mechanism for the liability of russia, the world has to start now.

Number four – russians came to exterminate us, to break our backbone. Please help us make the russian state liable for the thousands of forcible deportations for the way they treat Ukrainian captives. What they do is deliberate extermination. All our people must be returned home. Take five minutes to read the interview with Yuliya Payevska; a Ukrainian paramedic recently saved from russian captivity. Isn’t that genocide?

They came to break the backbones not only of the Ukrainian people but even of our pets. Yesterday I read the news about a dog named Lys (Fox in English) found in Kyiv region in a trash pit. Although alive, he had a vertebrae fracture, russian soldiers also broke his feet and then mined him. What kind of a creature is capable of that hatred? Would you sit to negotiate peace and then shake hands over the agreement with barbarians?

And number five –donate. Did you hear about Ukrainians donating around $ 20 million to buy Bayraktars (unmanned aerial vehicles) in 3 days? Be like us, stand with us, and help us prevail.


*EDITOR’S NOTE: putin and russia are not capitalized to show her disdain for the aggressors.


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HOLY COW! HISTORY: From British Tea to Russian Vodka; A Brief History of Boycotts

From government bans to customers pouring it in gutters by the gallon, Americans are saying “nyet” to Russian vodka, expressing their anger over the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Politicians have known since the republic’s founding that folks love taking out their frustrations at the ballot box. And in a capitalist economy like ours, Americans aren’t shy about doing it with their pocketbooks, either.

In fact, American independence actually grew out of one such economic protest.

Britain shelled out big bucks (or pounds, as it were) on the French-Indian War from 1754-1763. To recoup that money, Parliament imposed the Stamp Act in 1765. Everything from playing cards to magazines to newspapers required the hated tax stamp. And get this—it had to be paid in actual British pounds, not with the colonials’ own cheaper paper money.

Taxes being every bit as popular then as they are now, the colonials weren’t too merry about sending their income back to Merry Olde England.

It led to the famous rallying cry, “Taxation without representation!” It also produced an economic boycott. Colonists suddenly found they could do without new playing cards, magazines, and newspapers. That hurt businesses’ bottom line back in Britain, and King George III put the kibosh on the hated tax a year later.

When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, many patriotic people boycotted eating Germany’s signature dish, sauerkraut. Those who couldn’t go without the tart treat justified it by rebranding it “Liberty Cabbage” for the duration.

In more recent times, Russia’s best-known brand of booze, Stolichnaya Vodka, was also the target of a widespread boycott. On Sept. 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines flight 007 veered off course and was shot down over Soviet airspace. All 269 people on board, including Georgia Congressman Larry McDonald, were killed.

That prompted an immediate and intense pushback from furious American consumers. At its height, 15 state liquor agencies banned Stoli sales. But the bottles were back on most store shelves in less than a year. And in some places the boycott boomeranged. In Iowa, for example, sales shot up from an average of 34 cases sold before the crisis to 68 afterward.

Another Cold War relic, the Cuban Trade Embargo, didn’t go entirely as planned, either. The Kennedy administration announced a major extension of existing embargos to punish the island’s Communist government. Cutting off exports of legendary Cuban cigars turned them into highly prized “forbidden fruit” relished by stogie connoisseurs. It should also be noted JFK secretly ordered some 1,200 of those very cigars for his personal use just hours before announcing the embargo on Feb. 7, 1962. Talk about “insider trading!”

A mini backlash against France in general and a famous food item in particular came in 2001. France opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. That prompted some eateries (including congressional restaurants on Capitol Hill) to stop selling French Fries and offer “Freedom Fries” instead.

The current crackdown on Russian booze is part of a proud tradition. When Americans are miffed, they view cash registers as voting booths and their dollars as their ballot.

A parting point worth noting: Like so many words in our vocabulary (sandwich, cardigan, braille, and even graham crackers), boycott comes from someone’s name.

After retiring from the British army, Capt. Charles Boycott worked as a landlord in Ireland. Times were hard on the Emerald Isle in the late 19th century. Tenants demanded their rent be lowered. It came down a little, but not enough to help the impoverished Irishmen. Boycott was ordered to evict people in 1880.

That didn’t go over well in the close-knit Irish community. His employees stopped working for him, store owners wouldn’t take his money, and even his postal carrier refused to deliver his mail. In short, they boycotted Boycott. Which was how that proper noun became a verb.

A verb American vodka vendors are hearing quite often these days.

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