In Digest, Ukraine

By Greg Butterfield, Workers World, Oct 12, 2015

Despite another promise to cease fire and withdraw heavy weapons from the front line, attacks by the Ukrainian military on the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics intensified in early October.

Apartment bldg burns in Donetsk on Oct 10 after being hit by Ukrainian shelling (photo on Colonel Cassad blog)

Apartment bldg burns in Donetsk on Oct 10 after being hit by Ukrainian shelling (photo on Colonel Cassad blog)

On Oct. 10, shells hit a residential apartment building in Donetsk city, killing one civilian and injuring another. The nine-story building was engulfed in flames and completely destroyed. (Donetsk News Agency, Oct. 10) See a video news report of the October 10 shelling, here.

Ukrainian shelling of the nearby village of Veceloye killed a Donetsk soldier and wounded two others. (Donetsk News Agency, Oct. 11)

“The situation in the DPR intensified suddenly this weekend,” said Defense Ministry spokesperson Eduard Basurin, who also reported that the villages of Grigorievka and Tavricheskoe were attacked. In all, 13 ceasefire violations by Ukraine were recorded on Oct. 10 (Novorossia Today, Oct. 12)

The following day, Ukrainian forces violated the ceasefire nine times, with Abakumovo added to the list of towns targeted for mortar and artillery attacks. (DONI News, Oct. 12)

It’s not hard to see what inspired the latest escalation of war crimes by Kiev.

U.S. Senate: $300 million for Kiev war crimes

On October 7, the United States Senate passed a $612 billion “defense spending” bill – that is, a war bill – for the 2016 fiscal year, which began October 1. Included in this bill, the brainchild of Republican Senator John McCain, is $300 million in direct military aid to the right-wing regime in Ukraine. Earlier, the House of Representatives passed a similar measure. (TASS, Oct. 7)

While it’s unclear at this time whether President Obama will sign this particular version of the “defense” bill, it’s largely irrelevant. Both Republicans and Democrats in Washington are committed to spending untold billions to continue U.S. wars for world domination, both direct and by proxy, as in Ukraine.

Up to now, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have preferred to keep so-called “lethal military aid” to Kiev hidden from view, through secret transfers or third countries loyal to Washington, such as NATO member Poland and Gulf monarchy Qatar. But Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Obama’s nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, have joined McCain’s call for direct arming of Kiev. (Wall Street Journal, July 9)

Meanwhile, lost from the discussion is an amendment introduced by Rep. John Conyers and passed by the House last June prohibiting the Pentagon from arming and training the openly neo-Nazi Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard.

After a “pilot program” training Azov personnel earlier this year, in September the commander of U.S. forces in Europe announced the expansion of the training program for active duty Ukrainian National Guard troops. (Stars and Stripes, Sept. 16)

The National Guard was set up after the right-wing coup in Kiev in February 2014 to integrate fascist gangs and paramilitary groups into the state apparatus. Now Washington sees it as the basis for an all-new, NATO-trained Ukrainian military.

The passage of the $300 million in military aid to Ukraine was another signal that Washington remains committed to propping up the criminal junta that it helped bring to power, continuing the war against the anti-fascist people’s movement that arose in response, and ultimately, regime change in neighboring Russia.

For over two decades, U.S. imperialism steadily marched toward its goal of busting up the Russian Federation and preventing its consolidation as a capitalist power independent of Wall Street and Washington. To this end, the NATO military alliance has been expanded to Russia’s borders. Domination of Ukraine, its integration into NATO, and the destruction of the Donbass resistance is a big next step in that strategy.

Donbass elections postponed

Coming off the gathering of world leaders at the 70th United Nations General Assembly in New York, the heads of state of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine – the so-called Normandy 4 — met in Paris October 2 for negotiations on the long-stalled Minsk 2 ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and the independent Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics of the Donbass region.

Some reports said that French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel took a harder-than-usual stance with Ukrainian oligarch/President Petro Poroshenko, putting pressure on him to enact constitutional changes and laws required by the Minsk agreements, such as special status for the Donbass region and amnesty for rebel fighters.

However, Poroshenko ultimately answers not to Berlin, Paris and the European Union, but to Washington and the IMF. And the Kiev junta’s rhetoric and actions since the Paris meeting have remained as belligerent as ever – such as a vote by the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, to legalize the use of foreign mercenaries in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. (TASS, Oct. 6)

The only tangible concession granted at the Paris meeting – and a worrying one – came from President Vladimir Putin, who agreed to use Russian influence to pressure the governments of Donetsk and Lugansk to postpone local elections scheduled for October 18 and November 1. (TASS, Oct. 6)

Donetsk leader Alexander Zakharchenko and Lugansk leader Igor Plotnitsky had announced the elections in mid-September in order to fulfill the new republics’ obligations under the Minsk agreements while Kiev stalled.

Since the republics are blockaded by Ukraine and the West and are dependent on Moscow for humanitarian aid and well as defense support, Donetsk and Lugansk had little choice but to comply with Putin’s request. The elections were postponed, with possible new dates projected for February, March or April 2016.

Even before the Paris talks, however, a dramatic change in tone of the official leadership of the Donbass republics was evident. Government statements and interviews with officials have struck an increasingly conciliatory note about the possibility of Donetsk and Lugansk being reintegrated into Ukraine, if only Kiev enacts its end of the Minsk agreement.

Many accounts, both official and anecdotal, confirm that the Novorossiyan People’s Army — formed from the anti-fascist people’s militias that rose up to defend Donbass from the Kiev regime’s onslaught in 2014 — is being restrained from responding to attacks by Ukrainian military and fascist “volunteer battalions,” even when they target civilians, as with the Oct. 10 shelling of the apartment building in Donetsk city.

Peace with junta: mission impossible

Of course, the people of the Donbass desperately want and need peace. According to the UN, more than 8,000 people have been killed since the start of Kiev’s “Anti-Terrorist Operation” last year . Most experts believe the number is far higher. Close to one and a half million people have been displaced by the war, with the majority fleeting as refugees to Russia and Belarus. Industry has ground to a halt. Poroshenko’s government has cut off all social payments, such as pensions, leaving many completely dependent on aid from the Russian government and private humanitarian initiatives.

But as Donbass leaders have frequently acknowledged, while affirming the importance of the Minsk negotiations, there is no possibility of lasting peace while the far-right coup regime of oligarchs, neoliberal politicians and fascists rules Kiev. Not only because the Poroshenko regime has never kept its promises — but because surrender of Donbass would mean genocide by the fascist paramilitaries against Russian-speaking and other national minority populations in the east, as well as communists and other political opponents of the junta.

The Minsk agreements also do not address the internal repressive regime in Ukraine. Rebellious eastern cities like Odessa and Kharkov are patrolled by fascist paramilitaries. Communist and anti-fascist symbols and ideas are officially banned. Political opponents and journalists are jailed, tortured and killed. Thousands of political refugees from other parts of Ukraine — today living and working in solidarity with Donbass — face trumped-up charges not addressed by the proposed “amnesty” law.

There is a great deal of speculation as to why Russia chose to force this concession upon the Donbass republics at this time. It almost certainly includes a desire to extend the Minsk process and delay any confrontation on Russia’s western border while its military is engaged in supporting the Syrian government’s war against ISIS and other CIA-backed forces in the Middle East.

But as the latest moves by Kiev and Washington show, there is no guarantee the enemy will honor these kinds of concessions, which ultimately may prove more harmful to the morale of those resisting fascist domination.

Ultimately, the struggle for a free and anti-fascist Novorossiya will be decided not by Kiev, Washington or Moscow, but by the people in Donbass and eastern Ukraine; their armed representatives, the anti-fascist militias; and the solidarity of struggling people around the world.


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