Letters: We may speak Russian but we are Ukrainians

These letters appear in the Tuesday March 11th edition of the Independent

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I am from the city of Mykolaiv, which is in the south of Ukraine, near Odessa.

I think it is important  for British people to know what is going on in the south of Ukraine, as it is often presented in the media as being an area that is predominantly pro-Russian.

This is a biased and unfair misrepresentation of the situation. Yes, we’re predominantly Russian-speaking, but the vast majority of us are true patriots of our motherland Ukraine.

Russian-speaking Odessa and Mykolaiv are for a united Ukraine.

Please help spread the truth of what is really going on in our country.

I strongly believe in the professionalism of The Independent’s journalists and your impartial, unbiased reporting of events in Ukraine.

Olesia Makh, Mykolaiv, Ukraine

There are two elephants in the room when Ukraine is discussed. The first is Sebastopol. This has been Russia’s warm-water port in the Med for many, many years. It only became a part of Ukraine because of a couple of administrative errors by different Russian governments, although Russia does have an effective lease on this area.

The Russians are now justifiably nervous about its future. Putin’s losing Sebastopol could be a disaster for him and for Russia.

The second elephant is Russia’s fear of being surrounded. Cast your mind back to the Cuban missile crisis. The resolution was a deal whereby the Soviet Union withdrew its missiles from Cuba in exchange for Nato withdrawing its missiles from Turkey. Putin now fears Nato with its missiles sitting on Russia’s border.

We need to stop always dealing with Russia in an adversarial way and find a way of settling the fears on either side.

Why not divide Ukraine into two countries, East Ukraine with Sebastopol and the principally Russian-speaking part, and West Ukraine, Ukrainian-speaking and leaning towards Europe?

This would create a buffer zone between Europe and Russia and a good possibility of peace.

John Day, Port Solent, Hampshire

 

Alzheimer’s and assisted suicide

Your leader welcoming the news of an early diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s (10 March) fails to mention one aspect of this dreadful disease which could be of great importance to those who have a positive test – the possibility of assisted suicide once the actual symptoms of dementia appear.

Having witnessed my mother’s slow and pitiful passing following four years of dementia, and having seen the inexorable progress of the disease on the residents in the care home where she spent her last years, I am quite certain that, should I ever develop the condition, then I would want to die with dignity while I still could.

The chances of my being able to do so are virtually nil at present, even if Lord Falconer’s “assisted dying” Bill passes into law; this would only apply to those who are terminally ill with six months to live.

Even if you were to seek to travel to a Dignitas clinic, my understanding is that you still need to have psychiatric counselling and would have to be of “sound mind” – if you wait until you have the first symptoms of dementia, then no one is going to sign you off.

Another problem is that in the early stages of dementia some people can still lead reasonably happy lives with support from relatives, and that period will vary from person to person.

With an early diagnosis, it surely should be possible for someone who has a 90 per cent chance of developing Alzheimer’s to make a living will which will provide for their assisted suicide once the disease has reached a certain clinical stage.

If Lord Falconer’s Bill is passed and works satisfactorily, perhaps the time might then be right to look at assisted suicide for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

John E Orton, Portishead, North Somerset

 

Road death target should be zero

In a scathing report on Network Rail’s handling of deaths in level-crossing accidents, the Transport Select Committee said that a target of zero fatalities by 2020 should be aimed for.

But has anybody considered a target of zero fatalities on our roads?

Sweden has one: in the Vision Zero Initiative. It believes that with the right education, engineering and enforcement, road crashes need not be fatal.

In stark contrast to an average 10 people a year being killed at level crossings since 2004, an average of five people a day (20,000 since 2004) are killed on our roads. Why no scathing report? How many dangerous drivers have we?

While Network Rail has closed almost 800 level crossings since 2010, with plans for 500 more by 2019, killer drivers regularly walk free. It was said that Network Rail showed “callous disregard” for the bereaved. Haven’t our courts done much the same in giving killer drivers their licence back – a licence to kill?

With sky-high rail fares and petrol prices, many are forced to travel by bicycle, but with high-speed driving, cycling can be seriously life-threatening.

On average, 150 cyclists a year have been killed since 2004. A survey of 18,000 drivers shows 93 per cent don’t see cyclists. If they’re so blind, why not ban them?

It seems ironic that records show driver error to be responsible for 93 per cent of cycling casualties. Doesn’t this show the driving test and traffic law enforcement to be grossly inadequate?

While Network Rail has been strongly criticised for saying victims had been “trespassing” or “misusing the railway”, more than a few drivers believe cyclists shouldn’t be on the road because they don’t pay “road tax”.

It’s odds-on that over 90 per cent of cyclists would say drivers pass them too close and too fast. Don’t too many drivers gamble (safe from detection, and protected by airbags) with excessive speed?

Why aren’t roads as safe as railways? With cars as fast as express trains, why aren’t car drivers as safe as train drivers?

Allan Ramsay, Radcliffe, Greater Manchester

 

 The announcement of an additional £140m for road repairs is welcome, but it’s not the recent bad weather that’s responsible for the damage – it’s decades of cost-cutting and neglect.

When I was a child, it was said that the British drive on the left of the road, now we drive on what’s left of the road.

Julian Self, Wolverton, Milton Keynes

 

Let there be  light mornings

In response to Peter Kellett (letter, 10 March), in a line edited from my original letter I did say it was my personal preference for light mornings as opposed to evenings.

I was never one for kicking a ball about after school, preferring to read a book and, by the time of the British Standard Time experiment, listening to Radio 3 – I was that type of schoolboy.

Still, my memory is that it was already dark by the time I got home from school in the north of England, even with the extra hour in the evening.

Paul Dormer, Guildford

 

After the yes vote, we shall not need to concern ourselves with David Bracey’s Scottish crofters (letter, 5 March). The Scots will be able to set their clocks as they wish – on Glasgow Mean Time?

Richard Harvey, Frating, Essex

 

Octopus has brains  as well as arms

Commenting on a fight between an octopus and a sea lion (“When two species go to war – the 12 most amazing animal battles”, 8 March), your boxing correspondent Steve Bunce said: “The octopus has the reach but does it have the brains to avoid being dinner?” The answer is yes. As the most intelligent invertebrate, the octopus has brainpower comparable to that of a dog.

The problem it had in this encounter is that, despite having eight arms, the octopus doesn’t have a knockout punch against a creature many times larger.

Christopher Hirst, Beckenham,  Kent

 

Use lie detectors on the police

Following further indications of police corruption in the Stephen Lawrence affair and many others, isn’t it now unavoidable that lie detectors be introduced to ascertain the honesty of police officers of all ranks?

Mark Rostron, Woking, Surrey

 

Blame burglars not the booze

You report that “drink is implicated in one in three burglaries” (“Labour pours cold water on plan to curb drinkers”, 9 March).

I often enjoy a drink – or two – and have not to date burgled anyone.

Burglaries are caused by burglars.

Jonathan Bennett, London NW10

 

A fairly quick job to do

“Clegg: ‘Rivals are airbrushing our role in recovery” (10 March). I don’t see this requiring much paint.

Eddie Dougall, Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk

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