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DOMINIC LAWSON: The brutality of little Liza’s death proved beyond doubt Russia is a rouge state

What a surprise. Just over 12 hours after Russia signed a UN-authorized deal with Ukraine to lift the blockade on much-needed grain exports, in which both sides agreed not to “carry out attacks on port facilities involved in this initiative,” four of the Moscow Kalibr cruise missiles were launched at Odessa.

Two penetrated the air defenses of Ukraine’s main southern port and slammed into the port.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the attack was evidence of the Kremlin’s “contempt for the safety and security of millions of citizens”. Our own Foreign Minister, Liz Truss, said ‘it shows that no word the Russian president says can be trusted’.

Both statements are correct, but they add nothing to what we already knew. Russia may be a member of the UN Security Council, but it is also a bandit nation – and you should never negotiate with bandits, or not expect them to honor an agreement.

We could go further and say that Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin has become a terrorist state.

Russia launched missiles that hit a grain factory in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa just hours after a landmark food supply agreement

Russia launched missiles that hit a grain factory in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa just hours after a landmark food supply agreement

Eyewitness video shows the moment when the Russian cruise missile hit the grain processing plant on the shores of the Black Sea this morning

Kiev said no grain was lost in the attack

Eyewitness video shows the moment when the Russian cruise missile hit the grain processing plant on the shores of the Black Sea. Kiev said no grain was lost in the attack

wickedness

This argument was recently advanced by Anne Applebaum, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a book, Red Famine, about the mass starvation of millions of Ukrainians as a policy act of Moscow in the 1930s.

She has been to Ukraine and has seen Russia conduct “constant, repetitive, visible terrorist violence against civilians, many of whom are not close to the fighting.”

She also points out that, after the revelations of the torture and slaughter of hundreds of civilians in Bucha, Putin awarded medals to the brigade that committed the most atrocities.

The testimonies of the depravities committed in Bucha, which came to light in April after the Russians withdrew from that suburb near the capital Kiev, made a deep impression; they were instrumental in strengthening Western determination to increase supplies of arms to the Ukrainians, to prevent further population centers from falling prey to this kind of barbarity.

But sometimes it is the brutal extermination of a single life rather than the slaughter of many that impresses most, and most clearly highlights the human cost of terrorism, which is at once arbitrary and deliberate.

That was the effect on me when I heard about the death of Liza Dmitrieva on July 14 in Vinnytsia. On that day, Russia fired seven missiles at this city in western Ukraine, more than 250 miles from the conflict’s frontline, posing no threat to Russian forces in the east of this vast country.

Liza Dmitrieva, 4, was killed in a Russian missile attack in Vinnytsia, Ukraine earlier this month

Liza Dmitrieva, 4, was killed in a Russian missile attack in Vinnytsia, Ukraine earlier this month

One of the guided missiles hit the city’s medical center.

Among the 23 victims was a neurologist, Natalia Falshtynska, a mother of three, who was working there at the time. Liza Dmitrieva was murdered on her walk back home from the center where she had gone for speech therapy. She was four years old and had Down syndrome.

Her mother, Iryna, had her leg blown off during the rocket attack and is still in critical condition.

But what tears at the heart is the contents of the phone carried by Iryna and rescued from the site. It had the video she’d made of Liza a few minutes earlier, in which the little girl happily chats with her mother as she pushes her own pram – a pram she no longer had to spend much time on as she had grown sufficiently strong.

I think I was most affected because I’m the father of a young woman with Down syndrome, and I understand how as a parent you feel so protective – almost painful – as a parent.

Iryna was overwhelmingly devoted to her daughter and wrote about her life via social media. She revealed how, when her daughter’s condition during pregnancy was discovered, the medical staff told her, “You are young. Why do you need a sick child?’

But she and her partner ignored the advice to terminate the pregnancy, as she put it: “To show Liza the world.”

After seven months, baby Liza had heart surgery and Iryna described watching our girl get out of the operating room and into the intensive care unit. Covered with threads, drops. . . So small and defenseless.”

Liza's mother Irina shot her leg off during the rocket attack and is still in critical condition

Liza’s mother Irina shot her leg off during the rocket attack and is still in critical condition

Dedication

But it was a success, like the procedure to close ‘the hole in the heart’ almost always these days.

In June 2019, after her daughter made great strides in her ability to get up and down from a chair unassisted, Iryna recorded: ‘A small thing for some, but for us it’s unbelievable. . . To us, Liza is a fighter and a hero, a strong girl who we love to the fullest.’

I suspect that all parents of such children will recognize that feeling.

Iryna’s dedication and her account of her daughter’s life had had a greater impact in Ukraine: she was known by Olena Zelenska, the wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky, with whom she had painted Christmas baubles.

After the rocket attack on Vinnytsia and the news of the death of Liza Dmitrieva – made graphically clear by the publication of photos of the child lying dead by her bloodied pram – Zelenska tweeted: ‘Today we were all shocked by a photo of a fallen pram from Vinnytsia. And when I read the news, I realized I knew this girl.

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska spoke about her meeting with Liza while shooting a video for Christmas holidays

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska spoke about her meeting with Liza while shooting a video for Christmas holidays

“We met while shooting a video for the Christmas break. The little girl managed to paint with paint not only herself, her dress, but all the other children, me, the cameramen and the director within half an hour. . . Look at her, alive, please.’

Unsurprisingly, the priest who presided over Liza’s funeral could not contain his emotions, even though he must have seen the past six months in his country under Russian bombing.

The description of the child’s father, Artem Dmitriev, staggering and held up by the shoulders by two relatives while his daughter was buried, is almost too much to read.

Yet we must read these reports – and there are countless more innocents who have been massacred in the same way as a result of President Putin’s deliberate policy of sowing terror among the civilian population.

The reason for this strategy is obvious: and it is not mere resentment. Putin hopes it will destroy the morale of the Ukrainian people and thereby weaken their support for the military resistance to his invasion. But if the Ukrainians are anything like the British during the German Blitz on our cities in 1940 and 1941, the effect will have only been to harden their resolve.

MI6 head Richard Moore said Russia had suffered an 'epic failure' in Ukraine and Ukraine could win

MI6 head Richard Moore said Russia had suffered an ‘epic failure’ in Ukraine and Ukraine could win

Terrorist

And if the head of current British intelligence is right, they should also be reassured in their belief that, with the increasing supply of the most current and formidable weapons, mainly from the US and UK, they are pushing back the invader.

In a highly unusual public intervention, MI6 head Richard Moore said last week that “this is a winnable campaign by the Ukrainians,” adding that Putin had suffered “an epic failure” in Ukraine.

This is another reason not to negotiate with the terrorist in the Kremlin.

And if you think “terrorist” is an inappropriate term for President Putin, remember that he approved a deadly radioactive isotope from a Russian state nuclear power plant to be unleashed in London (to kill British citizen Alexander Litvinenko), and a chemical attack on the streets of Salisbury, in the form of Novichok.

Only one person was killed, Dawn Sturgess, who picked up the discarded perfume bottle that two FSB agents had used to contain the deadly substance; but senior national counter-terrorism coordinator Dean Haydon told a news conference that “the amount of Novichok in that bottle . . . could have killed hundreds, if not thousands of people’.

If that doesn’t convince you, talk to the relatives of the British who were killed when a Russian missile blew Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 out of the sky over Ukraine in July 2014.

This month, finally, the inquest into the deaths of five of them was held, confirming Russian responsibility.

The remains of the five other British victims were never repatriated.

And never forget Liza Dmitrieva.

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