In Digest, Ukraine

By Greg Butterfield, published on the author’s website Red Star Over Donbass, Feb. 9, 2015

Early February saw a flurry of diplomatic visits from the West and panicky negotiations by European Union leaders with Kiev and Moscow to reach a ceasefire in the war between Ukraine and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, also called Novorossiya.

Antiwar protest at annual Munich Security Conference, Feb 7, 2015, photo by Antiimperialistische Aktion

Antiwar protest at annual Munich Security Conference, Feb 7, 2015, photo by Antiimperialistische Aktion

On February 9, German Chancellor Angela Merkel flew to Washington and met with President Barack Obama to discuss U.S. plans – which seem increasingly likely – to openly arm the Ukrainian coup regime of oligarchs, neoliberal politicians and neo-Nazis installed with Washington’s help one year ago.

This followed whirlwind visits by Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to Kiev and Moscow. The leaders of the two European economic powerhouses met face-to-face with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin for five hours on Friday night, February 6, to present a ceasefire proposal.

The meeting, held with no other diplomats or media present, led to speculation that the EU bosses wanted to speak frankly with Putin about their fears of the U.S. pushing Europe into war with Russia. It’s also widely understood that the EU is being economically hurt by sanctions on Russia, imposed at Washington’s insistence.

French media reported that Hollande and Merkel undertook the trip without consulting Washington – a highly unusual step given the EU’s junior-imperialist status. Other reports suggested that they had the support of a section of the Obama administration which shares their concern that the West may lose more than it stands to gain from the escalating war. (RT.com, Feb. 6)

The Hollande-Merkel proposal is to be the focus of reconvened negotiations in Minsk on February 11.

A high-ranking source in German intelligence told the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung February 8 that the real death toll is nearly 50,000, including civilians and troops – that is, almost 10 times the “official” UN figure routinely reported by the media.

However, the sudden interest in a ceasefire by the leaders of Germany and France – and, perhaps, a section of the U.S. administration – has little to do with mounting civilian causalities in the besieged Donbass region. Rather, it is prompted by the Novorossiyan militia’s successful encirclement of an estimated 6,000 to 7,500 Ukrainian troops in the region of Debaltsevo, in northern Donetsk and southern Lugansk.

The looming defeat of the latest Ukrainian offensive, begun by Kiev in early January, also stepped up calls by the U.S. Congress to provide the coup regime with more powerful weaponry.

McCain admits Ukraine used banned weapons

Senate Armed Services Chair John McCain – who stood alongside Ukrainian Nazi Oleg Tyanhybok and has based his long career on support for war crimes – leads the charge for openly arming Kiev, with $3 billion in heavy weaponry as a starter.

At a news conference in Washington February 5, he admitted that the Ukraine junta has used internationally-banned cluster bombs in its war against Donbass.

This war crime was not a reason to withhold weapons from Kiev, claimed McCain, but to give them more: “I think that if we had provided them with the weapons they need, they wouldn’t have felt they had to use cluster bombs. So it’s partially our fault.” (Sputnik News)

McCain is not alone. Along with the overwhelming majority of Congress – both Republicans and Democrats – the plan to arm Ukraine is said to be supported by Secretary of State John Kerry and outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and was publicly endorsed by Ashton Carter, Obama’s nominee to replace Hagel. (Sputnik, Feb. 4)

Of course, Washington has been arming President Peter Poroshenko’s government for some time, both through proxies like Poland and directly, in secret, since at least mid-December. Novorossiyan militias have captured numerous U.S.-made and NATO distributed weapons during the past month. (Prensa Latina, Feb. 3)

Kerry and State Department official Victoria Nuland, an architect of last year’s coup, rushed to Kiev February 5, a day ahead of Merkel and Hollande’s visit, in an attempt to stiffen Poroshenko’s backbone with a pledge of another $1 billion in economic assistance.

The same day, NATO announced it would increase its “Rapid Response Force in Europe” to 30,000 troops, from the current 13,000. (RT.com)

Poroshenko’s government showed no signs of wanting peace. He was up to his old tricks in Munich, Germany, during so-called “Munich Security Conference” February 7, waving a handful of Russian passports he claimed were taken from invading Russian troops. However, media and Russian government demands to verify his claim went unmet. (Sputnik, Feb. 8)

In the past week, Ukraine’s armed forces, National Guard and volunteer fascist battalions continued to terrorize civilians throughout the Donbass by shelling homes, schools and hospitals.

Five were killed when a hospital was struck in the capital of Donetsk February 4. After Kiev agreed to create a “humanitarian corridor” in the area around Debaltsevo, the National Guard Aydar Battalion fired on civilians fleeing Chernukhin, Lugansk, as the people’s militia attempted to evacuate the village. (News-Front.info, Feb. 6)

And overnight Feb. 8-9, a Ukrainian missile struck a chemical plant in central Donetsk, shaking the entire capital city. (Rusvesna.su, Feb. 9)

‘Minsk warmed over’

In a February 3 interview with Cuba’s Prensa Latina news agency, Deputy Chair of the Donetsk Supreme Soviet and chief negotiator Denis Pushilin said, “Kiev’s troops apply the methods used by the U.S. military in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. They unload heavy artillery against the population from afar until they know the area is destroyed, and then send in soldiers to kill those who remain alive and clean out the city.

“It is a nightmarish picture of heavy artillery attacks on our cities from a distance, with the intent to avoid casualties among their own forces,” Pushilin explained.

In the face of this brutal situation, what are Hollande and Merkel offering to Putin (and indirectly to the people’s republics) with their ceasefire proposal?

It appears to be an attempt to turn the clock back to the September Minsk agreement, with some additional language on “federalization” meant to appease Russia, and adding the introduction of “peacekeepers” – that is, troops taking orders from the West. (Slavyangrad.es, Feb. 6)

Donetsk and Lugansk would be forced to roll back the progress they have made in the past month against the Ukrainian occupation forces, including in the Debaltsevo region where thousands of Ukrainian troops are currently surrounded.

Saving the Ukrainian military from defeat and its hardware from confiscation by Novorossiya is the most immediate purpose of the EU proposal.

“Minsk warmed over” is how anti-imperialist media analyst Daniel Patrick Welch described it.

Will the Novorossiyan leadership, much less the population, be willing to go along with a re-run of Minsk after so much death, destruction and broken promises by the Ukrainian junta and its Western backers? It will be a very hard sell.

Donetsk Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko has stated that the people’s republics intend to reclaim the entire territory of the former Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine, including occupied cities like Mariupol and Slavyansk

Alexei Mozgovoi, the radical commander of the Lugansk “Ghost Brigade” which is slamming shut the “Debaltsevo cauldron” on Ukrainian occupation forces, said in a February 1 appeal to the people of Ukraine: “For our part, we are ready to help our brotherly people. We pledge a united fight to overthrow this evil, whose true face is obvious to everyone. Today, we are ready to help liberate Ukraine, to construct a new society where people have the right to self-determination.

“Our goal is to remove the oligarchs and big business which destroy the economy that belongs to the people, and build a fair system, creating equal conditions and equal opportunities for all segments of the population.”

The leaders and people of the Donbass have every right to exploit the divisions within the imperialist camp to defend themselves, further their goals of liberating the primarily Russian-speaking southeastern region of Ukraine, and provide internationalist assistance to Ukrainian anti-fascists.

The global anti-war, anti-imperialist and workers’ movement has a responsibility to support their struggle and to oppose every manifestation of U.S.-EU imperialist intervention, including arming the fascist-oligarch regime in Kiev.

*****

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