The first week in June saw intensified military action in the Ukraine, as Kiev stepped up its violations of the Minsk ceasefire, simultaneously shelling Donetsk whilst accusing the resistance militias of posing a “colossal threat“. Yet so far from serving to damp down social unrest in crisis-stricken Ukraine, hard on the heels of this latest gratuitous act of state terror came a massive anti-Junta protest in Kiev, sparked initially by the draconian cuts in pensions.
The West’s real target: Russia
The sudden belated interest being shown by Washington in the Minsk process, with the State Department’s Kerry and Nuland dispatched respectively to Sochi and Moscow to put a foot in the door, has for its sole motivation the sabotage of any peace process that might threaten to sideline the yankee agenda. And that agenda remains one of confrontation with Russia right across the board, from the relatively trivial, like the attempt to parlay selectively highlighted corruption scandals around Fifa into a campaign to deprive Russia of her chance to host the World Cup in 2018, to the potentially deadly brinksmanship over the INF treaty.
Having kept up a drip-feed of unsubstantiated allegations about Russia’s supposed breach of the treaty (restricting the deployment of intermediate range nuclear missiles), Washington is now muttering about the need to further expand its missile shield, thereby risking setting in motion a renewed arms race or worse. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov gives a flavour of Washington’s primitive diplomatic style: “They only say, ‘You test-launched a rocket, you know what we are talking about.’ But this is not a serious talk. We will be ready to consider concrete evidence that gives Americans grounds to think that we violated something. We have formulated our rather concrete questions to the American side that we think that a number of actions it takes, including in the framework of deploying the global missile defence system, directly violate the INF Treaty… We are open for an honest, but specific, not unsubstantiated dialogue in order to remove any concerns.” (‘Russia does not intend to breach Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty – Lavrov’, TASS, 9 June 2015)
To be clear, those wild accusations against Russia are coming, not just from some rightwing maverick like John McCain running off at the mouth, but from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
So it is clear that the pugnacious noises coming out of the mouths of Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk are entirely in line with the authentic hectoring tone of US imperialism pursuing its own permanent interests (with the temporary assistance of whichever useful idiots for the moment fit the bill). The Junta is useful just so long as it works to an agenda which keeps raising the temperature against Russia, a country which annexes nothing, invades nobody and has nothing to gain from war.
The fascist Junta acts as Washington’s catspaw
In just the first week in June the Junta’s ceasefire violations resulted in another 21 reported deaths. Heavy artillery, banned under the Minsk Accords, were again used to shell both militias and civilians. As usual, these atrocities were excused on the groundless claim that “the Russians are coming“, with Poroshenko telling parliament that there is now “a colossal threat of the resumption of large-scale hostilities by Russian and terrorist forces”, with a phantom army of 9,000 Russian troops supposedly poised to swoop. (Shaun Walker, ‘Escalation of fighting in east Ukraine leaves ceasefire teetering on the brink’, Guardian, 4 June 2015)
In reality, the“colossal threat” to peace and stability comes from nowhere other than the escalating imperialist provocation brewing up on Russia’s borders. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov hit the nail on the head when he concluded that “The February Minsk agreements are constantly under threat because of the actions of the Kiev authorities, trying to walk away from their obligations to foster direct dialogue with Donbass.” (ibid)
Without prompting and encourage-ment from Obama, how would this pretend ‘president’ dare to trample all over the spirit and word of the Minsk agreements, bragging of his intention to reinvade the Donbass and Crimea (to Kerry’s apparent embarrassment but Nuland’s clear satisfaction) and contemptuously refusing to negotiate with the peoples’ republics of Donetsk and Lugansk? How would this fascist oaf dare to boast that “we will conduct dialogue with the Donbass, but with a different Donbass, a Ukrainian one,” were imperialism not geeing him up from the wings? And how else would the puppet prime minister Yatsenyuk scrape up the courage to say that he would talk to the representatives of the DPR and LPR “only once they are behind bars”? (posted on Slavyangrad, 2 June, ‘Ukraine will not engage in dialogue with the DPR and the LPR’)
And all this when the Lugansk People’s Republic’s representative on the Contact Group is bending over backwards to affirm the Republics’ willingness to discuss the possibility of remaining part of the Ukraine as independent entities, if only such a painful compromise could end the bloodshed.
War and crisis breed resistance
The Junta cannot fail to be aware of the unstoppable social crisis which is opening beneath its feet, intensifying as the neo-liberal ‘economic reforms’ demanded by the EU and IMF as a precondition for loans begin to strike at the root of the welfare of the masses, east and west. Yet if the hope was that winding up the war another notch would distract folk from their empty bellies and unheated homes, events on the street demonstrate the reverse.
On 1 June, the law passed last Christmas curbing welfare payments came into force. The scope of the act is breathtaking. As well as slashing the welfare provision of pensioners in general, the following groups are singled out for cuts: the disabled, people on social security, workers who tackled the Chernobyl disaster and families affected by Chernobyl contamination. To make the Junta’s historical sympathies crystal clear, welfare provision is in particular stripped from veterans of the Great Patriotic War, former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps and those in receipt of Soviet-era orders and titles.
In fact, however, these welfare cuts affect pretty much everyone in the Ukraine aside from a handful of oligarchs, as does the war of attrition dragging on in the east. The combined effect of the war and the economic privations has been to spark a ‘new Maidan’ protest movement, culmi-nating in a massive anti-government demonstration on Saturday 6 June. Up to 3,000 people braved police and fascist repression carrying placards proclaiming “We are hungry” and “Raise Pensions”. On the Sunday, some 100 protesters returned to the Maidan to set up tents, demanding that Poroshenko be held accountable for the state of the economy. A placard bore the slogan “Out with Yatsenyuk and his reforms”.
Whilst the political orientation of the so-called ‘Maidan 3’ is not yet clear (the slogans lacked precision and a lone Right Sector flag was reportedly sighted on one tent), the scalded reaction from the head of the SBU (Ukraine security service) suggested that the protests at the very least did not fit into the earlier US-approved template. Moaned Valentin Nalivaychenko, “It was provocative mimicking of the rightful protests of last year”, going on to claim that the protest “received funding, and with the aid of the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics, bought tents, a stage and tried to mimic the provocative rhetoric” – and all this without so much as a by-your-leave from the National Endowment for Democracy! (RT, “Masked attackers break up tent camp”, 8 June)
After masked thugs stormed the camp late on Sunday night, dismantling tents and dragging the occupants out by the feet, the SBU chief said he believed the informal ‘Maidan self defence’ organisation were responsible – and thanked them for “doing a good job”. However, if the Junta continues to turn its back on diplomacy, if the war grinds on without issue and if the economy implodes into a black hole of debt, it will take more than a few hired thugs to contain the social revolt to come.
Solidarity with the Donbass resistance
Meanwhile the People’s Republics hold their nerve. It was the firm rebuff given by the militias to Junta forces in September and February, supported diplomatically by Russia, that made possible the Minsk agreements in the first place, and it is in the same combination of militant vigilance and astute diplomacy that alone carries the seeds of a possible resolution of the conflict. More than ever it is the responsibility of the British working class to rally in support of the hard-pressed Donbass resistance, refuting the Russophobic war propaganda and resisting the siren voices in the trade union movement telling us “not to take sides” and to “condemn violence on both sides”. The RMT motion in support of the Donbass resistance, a motion which was accepted last year at TUC conference, should be dusted off and put into practice in an active class-wide campaign of non-cooperation with the NATO war effort against the Donbass and against Russia.
Victory to the Donbass resistance!