Kiev: political crisis still rages

kievWith its political crisis still unresolved, the IMF threatening to freeze its bail-out, the Dutch putting two fingers up to its European Association Agreement and the Donbas resistance still holding firm, the Kiev government is in deep trouble.

When the former Lithuanian-born economics minister, Aivaras Abromavicius, resigned in high dudgeon, complaining that the state-owned energy sector was being milked dry by oligarchs more concerned with filling their bellies than with sticking to the IMF’s privatisation schedule, it seemed that salvation was at hand in the form of US-born technocrat Natalie Jaresko. The plan was to raise her from finance minister to prime minister, making it easier to subordinate the political leadership to direct IMF diktat. But then the wheels fell off: Jaresko, instead of exchanging the finance portfolio for the premiership, disappeared from the cabinet altogether, and instead another of President Poroshenko’s oligarch buddies, Volodymyr Groysman, was slated for PM. After more pushing and shoving, the incumbent prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk threw in the towel and Groysman took the job. As a kind of consolation prize for the reformers, Jaresko’s former assistant, one-time Slovak foreign minister Ivan Miklos, is likely to slot into her old job in finance.

In fact a telling sign of the vassal status of Ukraine is its endless import of foreign luminaries, ironical given the frequent appeals to national pride heard from the Junta. In addition to the expat ‘technocrats’ who are shuffled around in the government itself, there has been a plethora of foreign ‘advisors’ invited in, including Tony Blair (“a true friend” says Poroshenko) and John McCain (who has vowed to ” do everything I can to stop Vladimir Putin’s unabated aggression“).

Underlying all the surface shenanigans around the formation of a workable cabinet is the tension between those ‘technocrats’, mostly foreigners, whose job it is to push through the neo-liberal reforms required by the IMF as the price for the bail-out, and the various rival gangs of home-grown exploiters whose prime concern it is to defend their own corrupt corner. Be it understood, there is no disagreement over the question of imposing ruthless austerity measures against workers, as is already happening in spades – just so long as the reforms do not infringe one jot on the power and privileges of the business elite. The IMF has reacted coldly to the political circus in Kiev, putting a $1.7bn loan instalment on ice. Meanwhile the US and the EU are also freezing billions of dollars in related financing.

Dutch vote against ratification

Adding to Kiev’s woes, the EU Association Agreement is only valid if all 28 member states ratify it, and the Dutch have just had a referendum on the question in which the No vote scored 61% on a turnout of 32%, easily clearing the 30% threshold required to render it valid. This is not the end of the story, as the referendum is only ‘advisory’. Luxembourg’s foreign minister has already thrown a lifeline to the pro-ratification Dutch PM Mark Rutte, suggesting that “Referendum is not an appropriate instrument to solve complex issues in a parliamentary democracy,” and Sweden’s Carl Bildt, who happens to be yet another foreign advisor on Poroshenko’s dance card, whipped out his pocket calculator to prove that “t hose voting No in Netherlands today are 0.006 percent of electorate in EU.”

But the fact remains that a single failure to ratify could scupper the whole deal.

This very public rebuff to Ukraine’s EU aspirations was made all the more galling given the frantic efforts that had been made by the EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker prior to the referendum to reassure Dutch voters that there was no chance of Ukraine getting into EU or NATO in the next 25 years. This neither mollified the Dutch nor softened the blow for those in Ukraine who fell for the original milk and honey promises, in exchange for which the country was consigned to being a vassal state of the West. Whilst Kiev dreamed of entering the charmed circle of Europe, imperialism sought only the subordination of Ukraine’s economy to Western monopoly capital and the establishment of a launchpad for provocations against Russia.

Political prisoners

Confronted with all these difficulties, Kiev’s response has been to continue to stall on implementing the Minsk agreement, thus prolonging the ‘frozen conflict’ in the east, and to fill the gaols with political prisoners. The Red Star over Donbas website recently featured just three of the many cases:

1. Two communists from Dnepro-dzerzhinsk, Sergei Tkachenko and Denis Timofeev have been held on trumped up charges since September 1, 2014. The police planted on them copies of the Novorossiya newspaper, a block of TNT and a grenade. Despite failing to make any of these charges stick, the pair remain in prison as the case drags on. What the pair are really ‘guilty’ of is acting as trade union activists, protecting the rights of workers at the Dzerzhinsky metallurgical plant, and making some enemies in the process.

2. Similarly the real ‘crime’ committed by Alexander Bondarchuk was his past history as head of the All-Ukrainian Union of Workers, in which capacity he organised and led many miners’ marches and strikes, and his current history as editor of the magazine Working Class. The phony charge on which he was held however was that, by reprinting in his magazine a couple of articles from Novorossiya, he had presented ” indirect calls for territorial change” i.e. separatism. After much legal wrangling, in the course of which it became obvious to all that no law had been broken, Bondarchuk was released on 28 December 2015, by which time he had been taken out of circulation for nine months.

3. One more case illustrates how wide the police throw the net. Elena Glischinskaya was the director of the New Wave TV channel in Odessa until her arrest on 29 April 2015 on charges of separatism and treason. The separatism charge was perverse in the extreme, given that in the early ’90s she was a regular on Ukraine independence marches. Her alleged ‘crime’ was that she used the TV station to reflect opinions about “the national-cultural identity of the area, covered spontaneous actions against the mobilization by local residents, and also raised the issue of strengthening the role of local self-government.” On the basis of these vague allegations, she remains in gaol, separated from her two young children and despite suffering a difficult pregnancy. After suffering one haemorrhage doctors recommended hospitalisation, but this was refused; she subsequently suffered a detached placenta. Since then she has alternated between hospital and a prison cell. This barbaric treatment is in reality a form of torture, perpetrated in the hope that Glischinskaya will be persuaded to make a statement incriminating others.

Fascism in the Ukraine

Meanwhile, whilst the Junta makes a mockery of the courts in order to silence dissenters through the prison system, it also relies crucially on the popularisation of neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist ideology to create a climate of fear and self-censorship. The Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) website includes the following chilling account of a neo-Nazi assault on a recent meeting to commemorate the Odessa massacre: ” April 10 marks the anniversary of Odessa’s liberation from Nazism during World War 2. This year, neo-Nazi thugs from the Right Sector, Svoboda, Automaidan and the Maidan Self-Defence attacked those who wanted to commemorate the event and destroyed the Memorial at Kulikovo Field to those who died in the House of Trade Unions on May 2nd, 2014. The day’s events started when neo-Nazi thugs, many in military uniform and wearing balaclavas, attack a crowd of a few hundred who had gone to the monument marking Odessa’s Liberation from Nazism to lay flowers and pay their respects. The clashes then moved to Kulikovo Field, where the massacre of the House of Trade Unions took place on May 2nd, 2014. At that time several dozen anti-Maidan protesters were killed as far right thugs set the building on fire. Relatives and friends of the victims had laid flowers and erected a simple memorial. Again, dozens of neo-Nazis gathered there and broke through police lines until they were able to destroy the memorial and burn the flowers and St George ribbons that had been laid there. The St George ribbon is a symbol of the struggle against Nazism during World War Two as it was used in the medal which was awarded to all those who took part in the fight.”

Fascists desecrate Soviet war memorials because they hope thereby to erase from memory the crushing defeat their forbears received at the hands of the Red Army and Partisans. Today’s neo-Nazis are right to fear that what the masses achieved once, they will achieve again.

Down with Poroshenko’s fascist junta!

Victory to the Donbas resistance!