By Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight online, Nov 30, 2014
This year, all three major Canadian political parties have expressed strong support for the elected government of Ukraine and have been harshly critical of Russian-speaking rebels in the eastern part of the country. That’s also been the tenor of the vast majority of Canadian media coverage, which has largely vilified Russian president Vladimir Putin’s role in destabilizing the country.
In the face of this broad consensus, a retired Vancouver aerospace worker and peace activist, Roger Annis, has worked tirelessly to offer a different perspective. He’s one of the editors of a new website called The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond. The articles and videos convey the impression that fascist forces within the Ukrainian government are waging war against their own people, even using cluster bombs to suppress democratic and cultural rights.
Annis, a long-time critic of western intervention in Haiti, spoke at the World Peace Forum in Vancouver in October about the significance of what’s happening in Ukraine. (View the video of his talk here.)
He began by calling the country “hallowed ground” where there was “a very distinct Ukrainian socialist revolution” coinciding with the Russian revolution in 1917 and 1918.
“It’s very important to see this distinctness of Ukraine and the dynamics of the struggle even today for social progress in Ukraine,” Annis emphasized. “Part of the struggle is a struggle for a national identity, national affirmation, social justice, language, and cultural rights. These things are incomplete today in Ukraine.”
He pointed out that more people died in Ukraine in the Second World War than anywhere else in Europe as terrific sacrifices were made by Ukrainian people against fascist invaders from Germany and other European countries.
A new war began last April, which Annis says the government in Kyiv is calling an “antiterrorist operation”.
According to him, it has resulted in “tremendous destruction” as the Ukrainian government has been bombing cities. “The humanitarian consequences have been very extreme,” he declared in the video. “These have been war crimes carried out today in modern Europe by a government with the backing of the European Union, NATO, Canada, [and] the United States.
This, in turn, has caused death and injury to thousands; upward of a million refugees have either fled to Russia or western Ukraine, Annis maintained.
Even though the New York Times and Human Rights Watch have highlighted the use of cluster bombs, there has been “not a peep from a member of Parliament about this”, Annis charged.
He acknowledged that the protest movement against the previous regime was in opposition to a “corrupt capitalist government”. But he claimed that the political leadership of this movement came from the “extreme right”.
And this gives Annis five reasons to be concerned.
“A government of war and austerity is in power in Kyiv since February 2014,” he said.
Secondly, he alleged that the rise of right-wing nationalism and fascism in Ukraine has resulted in fascists being appointed to cabinet. This is unlike in other European countries where the extreme right merely has a foothold in national assemblies.
Thirdly, Annis said there have been unprecedented attacks on democratic rights in Ukraine, including the banning of political parties and newspapers, “The right to protest is extremely restricted, especially if you’re protesting against the war,” he said.
Fourthly, all of this is advancing NATO’s footprint deeper into Eastern Europe. And finally, Annis claimed that the war in Ukraine is really a campaign against national rights throughout Ukraine, whose strongly centralized government gives little formal rights to local and regional governments or to national minorities.
It’s not a point of view that you’ll hear in Canada’s House of Commons.
Charlie Smith is the editor of the Georgia Straight, the news and entertainment online and print weekly newspaper in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on Twitter @csmithstraight.