Wednesday 16 April 2014
Reality is sometimes much weirder than the most inventive fiction. To start with, it is curious that there are three Ukrainian waitresses working in the beach-side cafe where my wife and I go every day here in Sitges, on the Catalan coast. This unlikely fact has a perfectly sensible explanation - all three arrived here from a School of Tourism in Donetsk, in the east of Ukraine, because, apparently, some energetic teacher from the school had the smart idea of setting up a link organising placements for students. All three Ukrainians are lively, charming young women, with an impressive grasp of fluent, accurate Spanish - it's a pleasure chatting with them.
This morning, one of them delivered the coffees just as my wife and I were skimming through the alarming reports from Ukraine about fighting between government forces from Kiev and pro-russian paramilitaries who had occupied buildings in various cities around Donetsk.
"Have you heard from home?" my wife asked.
"I spoke to my parents last night ... it seems that they're organising a referendum on the 17th, about secession, and so joining Russia..."
"The 17th?" I said, "but that's tomorrow."
"...er, yes, I suppose it is ... also, they say that there are Australian and New Zealand troops involved with the forces from Kiev."
"Australians? New Zealanders? What can they possibly be doing there?"
"Well, that's what they say. I suppose the United States will be behind it ..."
I found this all ludicrously unbelievable and started to say so, but she had to hurry off to attend to another table, leaving us both with our minds boggling.
What conceivable reason would Australia and New Zealand have for involving themselves in a murky conflict on the border of Europe and Asia? If no European nation has shown the slightest inclination to commit troops, why should two nations on the edge of the Pacific? For that matter, how did they get there? Ukrainian International Airlines scheduled flight to Kiev, pick up the heavy machine guns from the baggage carousel, and on to Donetsk? A week after the first paramilitary insurrections?
But of course, "No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Can this be the first confirmed sighting of the Australia/New Zealand Rapid Reaction Force - KIWIOZ RAPREF, as it is known in military circles? Will the history of the 21stC be marked by the awesome rise of the Evil Antipodean Empire? Only time will tell ...
I can only presume that this is part of an extensive and energetic campaign of disinformation organised by President Putin's old buddies in the former KGB. By 'disinformation', of course, we mean 'lies' - but shouldn't lies for cynical reasons of political manipulation be at least vaguely credible? More worrying still, why is the entire population of Donetsk not falling about laughing at this surreal fantasy? Obviously not, because our waitress friend seemed to think that "they say" was sufficient proof.