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Monday, December 4, 2023
Dec. 4, 2023

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Rubin: Congress must not cave to Putin


Every U.S. legislator who currently opposes continuing aid to Ukraine should be forced to watch “20 Days in Mariupol,” a PBS “Frontline” documentary scheduled to air Tuesday.

Any American confused about why such aid is crucial for America’s security should watch it, too.

The film is directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press video journalist Mstyslav Chernov; he and an AP colleague were the last two Western journalists left in Mariupol after Russia invaded that port city in February 2022. They barely escaped after 20 days of filming Russia’s pulverization of the city, including direct bomb hits on hospitals.

As Americans fixate on video of Hamas’ butchery of more than 1,000 Israeli civilians and horrific scenes of Gazans dying from Israeli reprisals, it is easy to forget about Ukraine. But this harrowing film makes clear why Russian President Vladimir Putin is far more threatening to global security than Hamas is.

Directly responsible for slaughtering tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians in Mariupol through indiscriminate bombing, Putin has no scruples about mass murder. He is waiting for Donald Trump’s MAGA followers in Congress to abandon Kyiv, along with America’s global leadership role.

The Party of Putin wing of the GOP plays right into his hands when members insist that money for Israel and the southern border trump helping Ukraine. All are important. But “20 Days in Mariupol” shows why helping Kyiv defeat Putin is more vital than either to U.S. security — and that of its allies.

Chernov made the courageous choice to stay in Mariupol even though his work was known to the Russians, who probably would have killed him if he had been caught. What he filmed was critical to understanding Russia’s intentions for Ukraine, which were to destroy it as a sovereign nation.

Chernov’s gripping footage dispels Kremlin propaganda about how Mariupol welcomed the Russians. He documents how Moscow deliberately bombed hospital after hospital.

One desperate Ukrainian doctor, having failed to save a 4-year-old child, looks directly into the camera and says, “Show this bastard (Putin) the eyes of this child and all these doctors are crying.” He then uses an expletive to describe those killing civilians.

In other words, show the work of a cold-blooded Putin who will not hesitate to take global advantage of U.S. weakness and MAGA extremists.

Chernov took the famous video of a very pregnant wounded woman being urgently wheeled across the courtyard from the maternity wing of a Mariupol hospital, a scene that Moscow still insists was played by crisis actors.

Chernov and Associated Press reporters followed up on her case and found that she subsequently died from a shattered pelvis. Her baby didn’t survive, either. Without the video, there would be no concrete way to dispute Russian lies.

“Every day was just like these videos,” Chernov told me. “I knew how important the story was. The world moves on, and the only way to preserve that scale is to do more. I hope the film gains attention for what has already happened and what is happening now.”

Which brings us back to Putin’s “useful idiots” in the U.S. Congress. Are they so blind that they cannot see the link between Putin’s Mideast machinations and his savagery in Ukraine?

The Russian leader is receiving Iranian drones to use against Ukraine, and in exchange reportedly helping Tehran with nuclear technology. Moscow has long welcomed Hamas leaders and backed its propaganda in an effort to internationally isolate the United States.

Israel can fight Hamas without more immediate military assistance, and the mess at the U.S. southern border can be addressed only with bipartisan cooperation. But Ukraine’s last chance to regain the offensive against Putin is now.

Congress must not cave to a global terrorist who threatens America far more than Hamas does. Watch “20 Days in Mariupol” and you will see why.

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