WATCH: An Exchange With a Ukrainian Poet on the War

Irina Starovoyt, a Ukrainian poet from Lvov, spoke with CN Live! during PEN International’s annual writers’ meeting in Bled, Slovenia on Russia’s motives, the role of neo-Nazis and the 2014 events in Ukraine.

Irina Starovoyt is a Ukrainian poet from the western city of Lvov, the epicenter of Ukraine’s far-right nationalism. Strarovoyt is neither a political scientist nor a geo-strategist. She is a writer and a teacher. But as she traveled 36 hours on a bus from Ukraine to Slovenia to speak at the PEN conference and as she is living through the war, CN Live! sat down with her on May 13 to get her perspective. The interview shows what an educated Ukrainian writer is being told about the war. Her views are hers alone. Interview by Joe Lauria. Video: Cathy Vogan.


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27 comments for “WATCH: An Exchange With a Ukrainian Poet on the War

  1. Mike Hall
    May 26, 2022 at 06:13

    This woman’s grasp of events or reality is massively selective & partial, & mostly a regurgitation of Kiev (Nazi) regime propaganda lies.

    It’s interesting from the point of view that supporters of Kiev have to ignore or deny pretty much all the *facts* about the context & conduct of the conflict to construct their ‘opinion’.

    Considering the de facto, extra parliament, lawless, rule of actual & Neo Nazis, by street violence, intimidation & control over all state security services since 2014, we cannot expect any standard of rule of impartial law or ‘democracy’ to emerge from Kiev.

    The support of EU corrupt/right wing elites, & massive $s meddling over 20yrs by US Neocons is 100% responsible for this situation. Not to mention the shameful reneging on Minsk & de facto attempts by Kiev to retake Donbass & Crimea by force – knowing of course that they care nothing for the lives of citizens in those regions.

    The only way forward to avoid more ethnic cleansing by Kiev’s thoroughly entrenched (& west backed) Nazi regime is partition.

    As in Syria, Russia’s actions are aimed at the best way to end hostilities & violence & restore civil rule. The fact that a short period of increased violence is necessary to achieve this, is not sufficient argument against Russia’s escalation since February.

    You can be sure that violence will *not* be allowed to continue beyond this year, never mind another 8yrs of Kiev’s continuous shelling of Donbass cities & further military build up, flying in the face of their signatures & obligations of MinskII.

    • Kalen
      May 27, 2022 at 08:53

      It is very sad how compartmentalized human brains can be. Disturbingly more than anyone so called intellectuals are prone to such moral relativism as we see in the west. A black and while worldview is nothing but pure anti intellectualism shared by Nazi ideologues east and west.

      This poet is no exception as she clearly plays a nation- victims role under Kiev propaganda of Total War against Russia that slowly started to develop as soon as “Independent” Ukraine was artificially created in 1993 for sole purpose of weakening Russian influence as a superpower.

      There is no historical perspective, no intellectual balance and no regard for gruesome Ukrainian historical record in Holocaust and ethnic cleansing deliberately conducted as a proud programatic “Ukrainian Nation Building” under deranged Nazi ideas of Dontsov and Nazi collaborator Bandera who also brutally eradicated Ukrainian political opposition to Nazism for his dream of Nazi dystopia.

      This is the same Bandera whose birthday is celebrated a national holiday in Ukraine and dozens of monuments were built for him and Shukhevitch, a commander of UPA responsible for Volhynia and East Galicia massacres of Jews Poles, Russians and 60,000 fellow Ukrainians in a country where just few years ago 60% of Ukrainian citizen called Bandera a war criminal.

      What kind of moral stand it presents for all those children who every morning in school sing a song for Father Bandera. Unfortunately this poet seems not to know her own country and its peoples who pure nationalists but are a melting pot and eastern and western cultural and political influences.

      Simpleton nationalism of simple people can be understood. However, such Orwellian denying or dismissing the legacy of their own past while promoting historical revisionism among so called intellectuals seems inexcusable. The only possible “excuse” is that any other alternative historical Ukrainian national movements were not viciously Russophobic.

  2. Robert Emmett
    May 25, 2022 at 11:26

    What I learned was that figuring out the exact order & details & meaning of an ongoing war is fine & dandy for those well out of the range of fire. But when it’s your families, friends & people you know experiencing the kind of devastation, that is, as Putin said, like nothing you’ve ever experienced before then political thoughts race to the extremes, hysteria is contagious, truth is dead, “we’ll figure it out later” as Irina Straovoyt said a couple of times but, in the meantime she said, even some Russian speakers in Ukraine now will hate Russians & all things Russia forever. That’s what war does. Not only leaves lives & ability to survive trapped in a present nightmare but seeds the ground with dragon’s teeth to rise & to rend future generations with the same hatred. Who will stop it?

    Congratulations to Joe L. & CN for this timely sharing of a perspective so little heard.

    • Ola Akintan
      May 25, 2022 at 12:13

      Thank you for this interview. I’ve been trying really hard to understand this war and was concerned that I was leaning too much towards the pro-Russian narrative, due to my frustration with the mainstream medias lack Of objectivity… but there are more than one side to every story and watching this has given me much to think about. Was interesting hearing about how some Ukrainians see Bandera, and helps to understand how he could be seen as a national hero (in opposition to Stalin rather than as an ally of NAZI germany). Can’t say I really understand it all but this has really helped.

      Discovered this site a few weeks ago and it’s awesome

    • May 27, 2022 at 00:36

      Appreciate RE [mention of the Russian speakers thing] and OA’s two cents that followed above.

      I think I have a sense of Russia’s motives, but most rundowns don’t go through a list of all possible factors. Such is needed, though, every time in every rundown. Strict thorough list, no digressing till it’s been gone through. If printed, an old fashion outline with indents, etc. I mean, because you have to determine when things would have (might have) catalyzed. Still I ask myself, why couldn’t Russia have tried sanctions themselves? The consequences would have been so dire the world would have wanted to hear Russia’s reasons. But granted, you go through “talks” with the west’s talkers, and even the patience/creativity of Job could start evaporating.

      It brings to mind what I was reading about Costa Rica getting hacked at nakedcapitalism. Maybe all of the provocations didn’t justify the op…if something else could have been tried? And if all of’em we know about didn’t justify the mayhem, then perhaps Russian had hacked into some plans we haven’t heard word one about? I mean, what were the chances we would have actually gotten to hear the Nuland phone call? If that’s the way the world operates, maybe Assange was trying to show us?

  3. Em
    May 25, 2022 at 10:45

    Debunking a persons sincere opinions does necessarily not make them invalid.
    Was any question posed by the interviewer that initially referred to the Minsk Accords/Agreement of 2014/15?
    If I missed it, forgive me!
    It would have been interesting to hear how such an obviously passionate and enlightened intellectual interviewee would have responded; how it she may have adjusted her responses.
    Would that more than a handful of Americans were as acquainted with their own actual history, as she, of hers….

  4. Sadeeq
    May 25, 2022 at 06:47

    I think it was very well planned how to glue Ukraine to the West many years ago.
    Now Ukraine gets tonnes of weapons and finanancial help from the West as lend and lease and loans.
    This means that Ukraine is going to be heavily indebted thus stick to the West for many decades to come. And I do not believe it is just coincidence.
    President .olodomir .elensky ( V and Z are forbidden in Ukraine now) came out with a statement on the second day or so of the war in the morning. He said, that they would accept the neutral status of Ukraine and were ready to negotiate.
    The afternoon of the same day he made a different announcement that Ukraine was going to fight.
    My guess is the first announcement came out when he thought he was the real “President” of Ukraine. Then in a few hours some people might have made him recall that he was an actor like in the TV series and his job was playing his role well and credibly.

  5. Scared Person
    May 25, 2022 at 04:25

    The idea that Azov and their ilk were reformed via inclusion into state apparatus is a bit ****.
    If I add ****, just a small spoonful to my pasta sauce, the **** might be better but the pasta sauce is worse.
    It will taste like ****.

    I understand that **** is around, and we cannot escape it, and it is not even necessarily the fault of the **** that it’s beliefs and foul characteristics exist, but I still don’t want to put it in the governmental pot.

    Ukraine and the US, put it in the pot. That’s what incorporating these foul organizations into state apparatus, did.
    Now they ask us to eat it. Nay, they tell us to eat it because it is good. This is not a good meal.

  6. Realist
    May 25, 2022 at 01:01

    It is sad but understandable that she would be biased in favor of her own people even to the point of denying or excusing the many atrocities carried out for years already by the unquestionably fascistic militias like the Azov Battalion. Perhaps her own family members are deeply committed to the mad Zeitgeist of this country and none have clean hands, so to speak. It is undoubtedly difficult to forsake one’s entire history on the say so of others, especially if you have already been taught to hate them from childhood.

    Now, what is the excuse for such a large majority of Americans, who have the luxury of being neutral and possessing the ability to search for the truth, even if inconvenient and contrary to the national propaganda. The day will come when the facade of propaganda collapses and the truth is made bare–just as happened in Vietnam, Iraq, Libya and how many other American led fiascos that would still be absurd even if not so tragic. How many Americans will still claim to embrace Ukraine and its racist Nazi agenda against the millions of ethnic Russian citizens within common borders when the true causes of this conflict become known? Perhaps most will still persist in hating Russians as they are led to believe by their government is their natal default point of view. It is nothing short of amazing that 30 years of purported peace with Russia seemed not to have converted many into objective rationalists willing to listen to both sides of the divide. The American politicos restart the standard two-minute anti-Russian hates and the prols join right in, while they are fleeced for tax money to buy billions more in weapons, as if it is their sacred obligation.

    The one thing that might sway a sizeable number of folks to change their thinking on Putin and Russia is when the two American political parties start to use those topics as a cudgel against one another again, especially if Trump is again the GOP nominee and “Russiagate” is still being peddled by Hillary in spite of the recent revelations by her campaign man (Mook) that it was all just a smear of her very own design and later an excuse for her loss. What a ludicrous pretext for ending the world in a nuclear conflagration that would be. Don’t try looking harder: there is absolutely no sanity to be found underlying any of this.

  7. Paul
    May 24, 2022 at 23:26

    Good job, Mr. Lauria. I wish you would ask a Russian poet or a journalist to comment on her interview. Irina failed on Nazi Azov, Georgia and many other facts and of course on Bandera. Everyone can read B’s atrocities and his friend Shukhevych on internet. Joe you should remind her that Yanukovych was impeached on February 21, when he was still in Ukraine. He left Ukraine on 24 or 25th.
    The US tourist who paid her tips was silly and ignorant.
    Thank you for this great interview!

      May 25, 2022 at 08:28

      We indeed pointed out already in the interview where the facts differ from what was said.

  8. BB
    May 24, 2022 at 21:25

    I don’t like her explanation that Yanukovych fled of his own free will. He had to run to save his life. She also does not actually admit that an illegal, anti-democratic coup d’état with the use of force, paid for and orchestraited by the US State Department, took place in Kiev. The US spent $4 billion to make Ukraine extremely hostile to Russia, and as we can see now, the goal was successfully achieved.

    This woman represents only one side of Ukrainian society. There are many citizens of Ukraine who support the current actions of Russia. Although in the so-called democratic Ukraine it is very dangerous. There, under the auspices of the state, there are armed formations similar to the Latin American “death squadrons”, engaged in political terror and the elimination of objectionable people. Those who disagree with the government cannot speak freely, fearing for their lives.

  9. Humwawa
    May 24, 2022 at 19:33

    She had me confused for a minute, but now I had a quick look at the Minsk II text, it’s clear that it doesn’t say anything about the autonomous regions having a veto power over Kyiv in matters of foreign policy. This is obviously something made up by Ukrainians so as to torpedo the peace process.

    In a separate document the decentralization reform has the following provisions:

    Strengthen local government;

    – Change administrative-territorial structure;

    – Consolidate the “principle of omnipresence” (local governments are defined by lands on the territory of settlements);

    – Empower local government with sufficient powers and resources;

    – Reflect historical, economic, environmental and cultural characteristics when planning the development of United territorial communities;

    – Transfer roles that local governments can perform to local authorities;

    The reform consists of three key components:[5]

    – Reform of the territorial organisation of power

    – Reform of local self-government

    – Reform of regional policy

    Well, that train has left the station. That’s what you get when you torpedo a peace process.

  10. Dmitri
    May 24, 2022 at 19:17

    I disagree with many things she has said, but this is what distinguishes a truly independent journalism – presenting different opinions, opposite sides.
    As for her reference to the Russian atrocities, living in L’vov she can only hear/see what Ukrainian media tell, and there is a lot of lies/fakes, which are being parroted by western mass media without any verification. If one watches/reads what Russian medis tell, or even independent foreign journalists reporting from the ground, the picture is quite opposite – numerous atrocities committed by Ukrainian military/Nazi battalions like Azov, Aidar etc. against civilians in Donbass, placing their tanks, artillery and other military in the residential areas (for the latter, there is numerous video evidence by Ukrainians themselves).
    I am not saying that Russian media tell all the truth, but there are numerous cases when Zelensky and his government outright lied.
    Surrender of Azov at Mariupol is one of the recent examples. It was presented as “evacuation planned and organized by Urrainian intelligence” by Zelensky.

      May 24, 2022 at 20:22

      The interview also debunks many things she says, such as that Russia started the war in Georgia and that there were no Azov soldiers in Bucha.

    • Phoebe
      May 25, 2022 at 05:57

      “this is what distinguishes a truly independent journalism – presenting different opinions, opposite sides.”

      Eureka, I think I get it! From the poem by Dr. Seuss, it wasn’t a case of schizophrenia that there were so many opinions when Mrs. McCave had so many sons. There’s not only two Daves to every story. Sometimes there’s fewer than 23, and there can also be more.

      Thanks Mr. Dmitri.

  11. Me Myself
    May 24, 2022 at 18:27

    One thing is for sure she loves and defends her country!

    I can understand why she could not give any justification for NATO’S eastward expansion into Ukraine.

  12. Humwawa
    May 24, 2022 at 17:49

    According to Jacques Baud, a Swiss intelligence expert who has worked for Nato with the Ukrainian army from 2014 onwards, there were no Russian forces in Ukraine. The rebels received weapons and reinforcement from the Ukrainian soldiers who went over to the rebels because they didn’t want to kill their brothers and sisters in the Donbas. The Ukrainian army is a territorial army; i.e., troops in the Donbas are from the Donbas. Since the army didn’t want to or wasn’t capable of fighting the rebels, Kyiv mobilizes ultra-nationalist paramilitary forces like Azov to fight the rebels.

    Different from the Maidan protests, which were very violent with numerous casualties among the police, the Donbas rebels were peaceful until they were attacked by the ultra-nationalists and bombed by the Ukrainian air force.

    I link a video showing unarmed civilians stopping and disarming a tank column.


    I also link a video showing Poroshenko giving a hate speech in which he predicts that Ukrainians in the Donbas won’t get any pension and that their children will have to hide in the cellar. Former PM Yulia Tymoshenko is on record as saying that she wanted to exterminate the Russian-speakers in Ukraine. All in all, not the kind of leaders Russian speakers would feel comfortable with.


    A third video shows Zelensky’s advisor predicting in 2019 that Ukraine will have to fight a war with Russia as the price for getting into Nato. Thus, the war has been planned by Washington and Kyiv many years ago. The question was just how to get Russia to invade.


    Jacques Baud also notes that Biden predicted a Russian invasion for Feb. 16th, 2022, because Ukrainian forces massed in the Donbas started their assault on the Donbas on the 16th. Biden obviously expected the Russians to take the bait and react, instead the Russians evacuated the civilian population to Russia. Jacques Baud’s 4 hour interview is in French, but it’s by far the best analysis I have seen so far.


    Jacques also notes that the disinformation and propaganda, instead of helping Ukraine, actually worked to the country’s disadvantage on the political and military level. The basis for making judicious decisions is accurate intelligence.

  13. Allen
    May 24, 2022 at 17:25

    It would be nice to get some legitimate on-the-ground reporting. Her perspective makes it clear that the situation is murky at best. Her reference to the Russian atrocities that she’s heard about but which didn’t occur in her hometown. One wonders where she is getting her information about these atrocities.

    • I Stevenson
      May 24, 2022 at 19:28

      Maybe here Allen
      Unless this will just be dismissed as propaganda

      • JohnA
        May 25, 2022 at 05:16

        I would not trust the Guardian as a purveyor of anything other than CIA/MI6 propaganda. It is those intelligence services mouthpeace.

        • Ian Stevenson
          May 25, 2022 at 10:17

          Do you think the photos are genuine?
          And the reports of its journalists made up? Or the weapons identified not being used? Or are they true but only part of the whole story?
          Is Novosti accurate? TASS just gives information about targets hit and advances made. Can you cite a neutral source?
          As an historian I try to find primary evidence. I read a lot of assertions about Ukraine but not the source of the information.

          • Tom Partridge
            May 25, 2022 at 16:23

            Ian, it is extremely difficult to source primary evidence in the fog of war. The truth may take years to discover and in many cases decades. In the meantime it takes common sense to decipher and entangle the information which we receive as best we can. I look for trusted sources, that have a track record in revealing the truth. It’s the reason I read Consortium News and others as sources of reliable information. They are the antidote to the MSMs infestation of lies.
            Depending on the Guardian as a credible source of truthful information is a hazardous occupation. In the case of Julian Assange, it’s record is abysmal.
            The character assassination of Julian and concoction of lies printed by the Guardian has been well documented in Consortium News.
            I’m not so sure that this newspaper could be relied on as a bona fide primary source.

            • Ian Stevenson
              May 25, 2022 at 18:09

              Tom, thanks for your reply.
              The Guardian has not been good on Assange. That doesn’t mean its other reports by different journalists is wrong. It is quite possible that the findings reported are true as well. We see similar things on other media. Al Jazeera showed some Novosty video which showed the mass destruction of Mariupol. We are seeing interviews with Ukrainian individuals on western media, not all pro-Kyiv. We see no interviews with Russian military and foreign media don’t seem to have access to areas occupied by Russia. This may be they are not being offered the chance, or western media has no access.
              Atrocities occur in war-often on both sides. I read a lot of uncritical accounts of Russian actions and no or little acknowledgement of the awful destruction visited on Ukraine. I don’t see much source material to back it up. You speak of trusted sources. Can you share them?
              I do read a lot critical accounts of Ukraine and NATO. As you say, we may have to wait until we can have open access to the people and sites. In the meantime I stick with my opinion that the resistance would have collapsed by now if the government had just been agents of Washington , or the people expected well of the Russians and they were being as Novosti and TASS say, ‘liberated’.

      • Humbert Humbert
        May 25, 2022 at 05:55

        Guardian is notorius propaganda outlet and MI6 cutout to the point that it’s also started being in recent times described as The Kiev guardian. Read about their “senior” Russian correspondent Luke Harding for example, he is a laghing stock pushing the Scripal and MH117 narratives and has been caught lying many times, just google his shenanigans during the years.

        • JohnA
          May 26, 2022 at 02:44

          Exactly. In an interview with Aaron Mate about 0ne of his anti-Russia books, he finally admitted that he was ‘a storyteller’ rather than a reporter. When pressed further, Harding pulled the plug on the interview. Harding was also convicted of plagiarism during his time as Moscow correspondent.
          His ‘scoop’ about who had visited Assange at the Ecuador Embassy was simply embarrassing and believed by literally nobody outside the Guardian.
          In answer to Ian, I cannot say whether photos or other ‘evidence’ from Ukraine are genuine. All I do know is that the Guardian spins everything in an anti-Russia, anti-Putin light so am always extremely doubtful about anything that appears in the Guardian.

          • Tim N
            May 26, 2022 at 07:59

            The Guardian can’t be trusted. Real simple.

Comments are closed.