By Owei Lakemfa
Funerals, official and unofficial, were held in parts of the world this Monday September 19 to eternally send-off Queen Elizabeth II.
The pre-funeral ceremonies had included the Queen’s coffin which some mischievous people claimed was empty, lying-in-state in Scotland and London with some mourners spending a whole day queuing to view it.
In the official funeral, some 2,000-strong congregation included world leaders, royal family members and the richest in the world gathered. There were some angry reactions that African leaders were packed in buses like school children going on a picnic, while American President, Joe Biden, rode with wife, Jill, in his beast motorcade. To them, it was a display of neo-colonialism.
One Twitter user said: “Those saying that this was to avoid congestion of motorcades; in 2005 while Pope John Paul II was being buried in Rome, over 100 presidents attended and each came with their motorcade.” Despite such royal treatment for Biden, his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, mocked him for allegedly allowing himself to be relegated to the 14th row at the funeral service.
Some royal watchers attacked Prince Harry, the Queen’s grandson, for alleged disrespect because he held hands with his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, as they left the funeral. Meanwhile, the Queen’s demise had provided an opportunity for some Welsh to question why heir-apparent, William, an Englishman, would wield the title of the Prince of Wales.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby painted the former head of his church in saintly colours claiming she had touched “a multitude of lives” and having been a “joyful” figure for many. This belief must have been shared by some in Africa who mourned her and even held noisy funeral processions on dusty roads.
However, there were some who saw Elizabeth II in a different light. The Economic Freedom Fighters, EFF, one of the main parties in South Africa, said she reigned for 70 years as the head of “an institution built up, sustained, and living off a brutal legacy of dehumanisation of millions of people across the world. We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth, because to us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in this country and Africa’s history”.
The Communist Party of Britain declared thus: “Elizabeth Windsor has died leaving the kingdom she ruled over poorer, with greater disparities in wealth and income, obscene profiteering and tax evasion…”
Six countries, most notably Russia, were not invited to the Queen’s funeral. This may be due to the fact that the English royalty and the dismantled royals (Tsarists) of Russia, were first cousins. But more likely, because of the War in Ukraine.
Two days after Elizabeth II’s funeral, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a televised address as world leaders gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
The Western media presented the speech as a sign of the Russian military collapsing. The British Guardian newspaper headline was: “Putin announces partial mobilisation and threatens nuclear retaliation of Ukranian war.” The Reuters headline was: “Putin escalates Ukranian war, issues nuclear threat to West.”
One interpretation that caught my eyes was by conscientious Nigerian lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, who immediately took to the internet with a screaming headline: “PUTIN IS LOSING!” He pronounced magisterially that Putin calling up reservists “is a clear indication that his deployed regular combatants are not able to subdue Ukraine. Also, his plan to hold a sham referendum in the occupied Ukrainian territories shows that he is panting. He has difficulties in administering and militarily holding and dominating the occupied territory.”
These headlines and interpretations made me go back to reread Putin’s address. I recall that at the onset of the war, Russia, having taken out the Ukrainian Navy and Air Force, suddenly withdrew from Kiev and neigbouring cities. To the West, it was a sign that the war was going badly for Russia which was now in retreat. But it turned out that Russia, after bombing Kiev and causing mass population exodus across Ukrainian borders had simply redirected its energy to taking the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions among others.
I think the timing of Putin’s address was strategic: to let world leaders assembling at the UN appreciate Russia’s views and position.
I glean five decisions from Putin’s address. The first is that the legal status of the pro-Russian rebels fighting in Ukraine “must be the same as the status of military professionals of the Russian army”. This hints at a sort of merger or their recruitment into the Russian military.
The second is that there are going to be referendums in the Russian-controlled parts of Ukrainian; Donetsk, Luhansk Kherson and Zaporizhzhia “on the future of their territories”. This may imply that Russia either wants these areas to become a separate country(ies) or like the Crimea, be merged with Russia as a sort of Greater Russian Federation.
The third decision is a “partial mobilisation in the Russian Federation to defend our Motherland and its sovereignty and territorial integrity”. This implies that Russia wants to formally put its economy and military on war footing. For this, a seventh of the official Russian military reservists would be called up for service.
This means deploying additional 300,000 troops to join the estimated 190,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine. This is what has been interpreted by some as Russia losing the war in Ukraine. I am not sure about this, but I think such a conclusion may be way off the mark.
The fourth is “increasing the production of weapons and military equipment and using additional production facilities for this purpose”.
The fifth is an allegation by Putin that some high-ranking representatives of the leading North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, countries are talking “on the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction- nuclear weapons-against Russia.” He then added that: “In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country, and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.” In my analysis, this does not amount to Putin saying he would use nuclear weapons in the Ukrainian war.
Generally, the propaganda oozing out maybe to deaden our sense of reasoning. For instance, the NATO countries think it is alright for them to impose all sorts of sanctions, including financial, on Russia. But when the latter responded by shutting its oil and gas pipes, it is said to be endangering the world.
I reiterate, as before, that the solution to the war in Ukraine is more of negotiations and diplomacy, not claimed high moral grounds, motivating the Ukrainians to sacrifice more, die more, kill more Russians and endless propaganda.