Sunday, May 28, 2023

Standing with Ukraine

I got an email from Siobhan, our MP, ten days ago:

Next Thursday, we are lucky enough to be joined by Luke Harding, the war journalist, who is currently stationed in Kyiv, Ukraine, and is coming to talk to us about his life on the front line. 

Luke Harding is an exceptional journalist, writer, and award-winning foreign correspondent with the Guardian. His remarkable career has taken him to the front lines of global conflicts, from Delhi to Berlin, and from Afghanistan to Syria. Luke has reported on the brutal realities of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.  

Between 2007 and 2011, he was the Guardian’s Moscow bureau chief. In February 2011, the Kremlin deported him from the country in the first case of its kind since the Cold War.

As I write this invitation, Luke is in Ukraine, directly reporting from Kyiv. We are incredibly fortunate to have him available to share his invaluable experiences and unique perspectives with us firsthand. 

You can follow Luke on twitter at @lukeharding1968 to see where he is right now.  

There will also be time for a Q&A, and I would love it if you were able to join us and ask any questions you like. As always there will be refreshments provided. 

The public meeting will take place next Thursday May 25th at 7.15pm at Merton Vision, 67 Clarendon Road, Colliers Wood, SW19 2DX. The event is open to the public, and we are welcoming guests from all walks of life, please do bring along any friends or family who may be interested in attending. 

Join us for what promises to be a fascinating and thought-provoking evening.

Very impressed with her for organising it, I went along and was even more impressed that the "refreshments" provided included wine and I could sit down with a glass of red in my hand.

Things started very encouragingly with what I took to be a Freudian slip. In his introductory remarks the chairman said that Mr Harding had been nominated for the Orwellian, as opposed to Orwell prize. Hilarity ensued.

As for the level of analysis to which we were exposed I was less impressed. "Putin, and almost everyone else in Russia, is a nutter," seemed to be about the level of it. Groupthink also extended to the audience. Whenever anyone asked an interesting or informed  question, they were looked at as if they were mad. A guy asking about whether the ascent of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (which represents about 40% of the world’s population see Icons passim) meant the world's centre of power was shifting away from Washington and the West and what the impications of that might be for the support of Ukraine was dismissed as if he had brought up something irrelevant. A lady I took to be African made the point that much of that continent supported Russia. She also was dismissed as if it was ill mannered even to bring the matter up, for all that Rod - the old Africa hand) has told me:

One thing is true about Russia and former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc as education magnet for African and other students... Cheap etc but also seen as attractive because of perception that Soviets helped bring about independence and decolonization etc. So many Africans speak fluent Russian... The Governor of Segou in Central Mali spoke Romanian. My old boss in Congo, a Malian, spoke fluent Serbian.

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