Ukraine: as military stalemate drags on, Russia has the diplomatic initiative
Despite the entry into the Ukraine of British and US “tactical advisors” and weaponry, aimed at shoring up the demoralised forces commanded (more or less) by the fascist junta in Kiev, there seems little immediate prospect of a decisive resumption of last winter’s stalled offensive against the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. However, the ultimate goal of NATO’s aggression, the destabilisation of Russia herself through border provocations and economic sanctions, has most certainly not been abandoned, and it is more important than ever for workers to stand in solidarity with Russia and the Donbass resistance.
The hammering received by both the Ukraine Army and the fascist volunteer battalions at the hands of the resistance last winter sent the “presidential” usurper Petro Poroshenko scuttling back to the negotiating table in Minsk. In February an agreement was reached (Minsk 2) which required a cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of heavy artillery and talks about autonomy. Since that time, the shelling of towns and villages by Kiev forces and their Nazi auxiliaries has sown death and destruction on a daily basis, all with the clear intention of wearing down the resistance and provoking Russia into furnishing NATO with a pretext for full-fledged military intervention.
On some occasions Kiev has ramped up the attacks to such a level as to raise speculation that a new military offensive was imminent. So, for example, in the first two weeks of March, the army started massive tank shelling of positions of the DPR militias in the locality of Spartak, resulting in much loss of life and material destruction. Yet this was not followed through by the army, suggesting again that this was just one more desperate attempt to provoke a military response from Russia. (“Ukrainian tanks start massive shelling of militia positions – DPR Defence Ministry”, TASS, 10 April)
Within the confines of this military stalemate, the killing and torture of civilians goes on, as documented for example by a recent Russian parliamentary delegation to the 132nd Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, held in Hanoi. One delegate, Valentina Petrenko, told the assembly that ” The world must learn the truth about torture in Donbass, we have documentary evidence of violence against and killings of civilians by Ukrainian law enforcement troops… These materials tell us about hundreds of killed civilians, show thousands of destroyed civilian facilities, residential buildings, apartments.” (“Evidence of torture in east Ukraine presented to Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly”, TASS, 31 March)
Thieves fall out
There are growing signs however that it is the junta and its imperialist backers that are displaying weakness and indecision, with the junta barely in control over its own allies, let alone able to make its writ run in the east. Consider for example the farcical stand-off between Poroshenko and Igor Kolomoisky.
When the Ukraine parliament sought to assert state control over Ukrnafta, an oil company in which the state owns 50% of the shares, it ran into problems. Kolomoisky, a wealthy businessman who owns 42% of the shares, had effectively been exercising managerial control, and did not care to relinquish the powerful position he had carved out for himself. After all, Poroshenko had already made him governor of Dnipropetrovsk, where he financed the “National Defence Force” to keep the province under Kiev’s control, whilst bragging that he would give a bounty of $10,000 to anyone who captured a Russian soldier in Ukraine. (No takers so far.)
So when parliament dared to challenge Kolomoisky’s control of Ukrnafta, the response was quick: guards in full camouflage gear, some carrying assault rifles, were deployed to defend the company’s HQ in Kiev. As Poroshenko yelped that no regional governor would be allowed a “pocket army”, his fellow oligarch smoothly replied that it was the company’s management, not himself, that had called in the troops, and that anyway they didn’t come from one of the volunteer military battalions that he supports.
Junta’s attack dogs out of control
And whilst oligarchs scrap over the nation’s rapidly depleting wealth, the freelance fascists upon whom the junta relies as ideologically driven attack dogs are proving an embarrassment even to their would-be masters in Kiev, threatening further to undermine morale amongst regular troops and threaten the survival of the junta itself. In one face-saving operation, Kiev is supposedly conducting an investigation into the behaviour of the Aidar battalion, disbanded under a cloud in March. Kiev’s stooge “governor” for Lugansk province, Gennady Moskal, reported that the Aidar battalion was out of control and needed to be replaced by regular forces (sidestepping the inconvenient fact that it was the reluctance of regular forces to slaughter their fellow citizens which compelled the junta to embrace irregular forces in the first place). According to TASS, ” Moskal said in his statement that a part of Aidar had long ago defected from the battalion and was engaged in looting, robbery, racketeering, auto theft and other crimes in regions controlled by the Ukrainian side. An attempt had been prevented to take an arsenal of weapons from the area of combat operations in Donbass to Kiev. The arms were meant for “destabilizing the situation” in the capital, Moskal said.” (‘Kiev launches investi-gation into Aidar battalion’s crimes’, TASS, 31 March) Clearly it is that last-mentioned threat of destabilisation which is really worrying the junta, rather than the routine killing of civilians, which is (unacknowledged) state policy.
France and Germany rock the NATO boat
The longer the military stalemate continues, the more the USA’s international ‘partners’ come under a double pressure: political pressure from Washington to keep widening the scope of sanctions against Russia, and economic pressure not to wave goodbye to such crucial trade relations as those with Russia and eastern Europe – especially in relation to the energy and defence industries.
Hollande has been tying himself in ever tighter knots over whether to notch up brownie points with Washington by refusing to supply Russia with two Mistral helicopter carriers as previously agreed, or stick by France’s contractual obligations and assert some degree of independence from the US. Hollande is currently trying to fudge it, saying the ships will be delivered when certain “preconditions” relating to the Ukraine are met. Moscow’s position remains clear cut: kindly deliver on contract or refund our money. With the crisis engulfing Europe, Hollande is understandably loath to kiss away the €1.2 billion deal.
Meanwhile, Hollande’s own head of military intelligence is busy telling the world that NATO is lying its head off about Russian “invasions”, that it is controlled by America and cannot be trusted. Spymaster General Christophe told a French parliamentary hearing that, contrary to received wisdom, French spies had failed to spot any preparations for a Russian attack whatever. “NATO announced that the Russians were about to invade Ukraine. But, according to French intelligence, there is nothing to corroborate this hypothesis – we determined that the Russians were deploying neither command posts nor logistical facilities, including field hospitals, needed for a military incursion.”
Germany too is giving short shrift to pleas from NATO to join its campaign to supply lethal weaponry to the Kiev junta. An article in the German newspaper Der Spiegel suggests that Merkel’s administration views as “dangerous propaganda” the wild talk emanating from such NATO leaders as Commander Philip Breedlove (sic). Confronted by the general’s hysterical ranting about the people’s militias preparing, supposedly with Russian help, “over a thousand combat vehicles” and possessing “sophisticated air defence” and “battalions of artillery” , Germany’s own spy service was tasked to check the figures. Their research revealed “just a few armoured vehicles” ! The suspicion in Berlin is that such falsified information is being disseminated in order to sabotage the Minsk peace process in which Russia, France and Germany took the initiative, peace talks which Der Spiegel reminds its readers were dismissed as “Merkel’s Moscow stuff” by Washington’s attack-dog, Victoria Nuland (‘Germany slams NATO European commander’s comments on Ukraine as ‘dangerous propaganda’ – Spiegel’, RT, 8 March, 2015).
Diplomatic efforts supported by Russia
As provocation piles on provocation, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov doggedly continues to urge a political solution to the crisis, keeping Germany and France engaged in the diplomatic process whilst the UK and US rattle their sabres. The ‘Normandy Four’ (Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine) met again on 13 April, in Berlin and agreed to set up working groups within the Contact Group, which comprises Russia, the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe), the Donbass republics and the Kiev junta.
It is noteworthy that the Normandy Four talks, in which US imperialism plays no direct role, took place on the eve of the G7 talks, a forum wherein Washington and Britain flex their muscles and from which Russia remains suspended. The likelihood is that the political heat generated within the talks will rival that generated by the protests without.
Meanwhile proof that the Donbass republics are determined to assert their independence on the world stage comes in some reported remarks of the foreign minister of the DPR. “ Foreign Minister Alexander Kofman – who confirms he’s having political discussions with members of some EU countries – says there are plans for a wide-ranging meeting in May, leading to the possible set up of an Institution of Unrecognized Nations which could include a lot of participants, from Donetsk and Lugansk to Catalonia and the Basque country. And Kofman is adamant. He’d rather see the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as an independent country, not as part of Russia. But first, the war Kiev – and Washington – are so obsessed on winning has to end” (‘The war has not started yet’, Pepe Escobar, RT, 30 March).
In a joint statement on 30 March the DPR and LPR made it clear that they would not consent to be treated as bystanders when it came to tackling the constitutional reforms envisaged by Minsk 2:“ The republics are setting up a commission that will be tasked to implement the provision of the complex of measures concerning reforms of the Ukrainian constitution and to align the republics’ constitutional laws,” the statement said. ‘We offer head of Ukraine’s constitutional commission , Volodymyr Groysman to set up a joint working group” (‘Kiev fails to fulfil Minsk agreements – LPR republic’ TASS, 1 April). They have had a similarly brisk way with those who wanted the fledgling republics to submit to electoral plans dictated by Kiev. The parliamentary speaker of the DPR, Andrey Purgin, spelt it out: “Purgin cautioned against trying ‘to impose unilateral decisions’ on the two eastern republics, noting that peace agreements reached in Minsk, Belarus, last month ‘envisage coordination of all decisions and draft regulations related to Donbass with representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics'” (‘Elections in east Ukraine must be coordinated with Donetsk, Lugansk heads – official’, TASS, 13 March 2015).
Clearly, the junta’s idea of ‘peacekeepers’, or of ‘constitutional reform’, could be expected to differ radically from that of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics. Lavrov has made it clear that the suggestion of introducing peacekeepers in Ukraine, as with any other suggestions that go beyond what was agreed at Minsk 2, could only usefully be discussed with the participation of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Through no choice of their own, the people of the Donbass have found themselves on the front line against imperialist aggression, an aggression which has as its goal no less than regime change in Moscow itself. With troops and weapons from the US and Britain now pouring into the Ukraine, bringing the British people into the most direct confrontation with Russia since 1919, it is more important than ever for workers to stand in solidarity with the Donbass resistance. It is only upon the steadfastness of that resistance that any just political settlement is to be found.
Victory to the heroic Donbass resistance!
No co-operation with imperialist war crimes