To hear Poroshenko talking recently, the ill-informed might mistake the usurping Ukrainian president for a man of peace. There he was on 20 May, telling a meeting of the National Security and Defence Council: ” I’d like to say once again there’s an absolutely clear position and it suggests there’s no getting Donbas back militarily” (‘Poroshenko admits Ukraine can get Donbas back only peacefully’, Tass, 20 May 2016). Then on 9 June he signed off a law promising over $120 million rebuilding the Donbas, with “considerable attention being paid to water supply infrastructure and sewage systems” (‘Poroshenko signs decree to disburse $120 million for restoration of Donbas’, Tass, 9 June 2016). What is going on? Has this chieftain of the ultra-nationalist regime in Kiev undergone a change of heart? Are we witnessing a thaw?
Minsk: Poroshenko plays with words
In a word: no. If the regime were truly taking the peaceful road, then it would get on and implement the Minsk accords to which it signed up back in February 2015, along with Russia, Germany and France. Instead, Kiev is playing games, trying to juggle the agreed Minsk timetable to suit itself.
Minsk includes provision for a ceasefire, negotiations over autonomy and elections in the Donbas. Only on completion of these earlier steps does Minsk speak of returning control of the border between Donbas and Russia to Kiev. As it has done consistently ever since the agreement was signed, the regime continues to filibuster and stonewall whilst the war takes its daily toll.
Poroshenko wants to put the cart before the horse, demanding immediate control of the borders before the other political requirements of Minsk have been met, notably the conduct of elections in the Donbas. He told a press conference in Kiev on 3 June that elections will only be possible after the deployment of an armed and expanded OSCE police mission (see ‘Poroshenko makes false claim about agreement on OSCE police mission in Donbas’, Fort Russ website, 3 June 2016). The regime’s clear hope is that such a transformation of the current OSCE monitoring team into an armed and dangerous international intervention force could help Kiev leapfrog the Minsk timetable and win at the negotiating table the victory it has failed to secure on the battlefield. As a Ukrainian MP supposedly representing the Donetsk region (who voted for him exactly?) guilelessly protested, “Handing the borders back to Ukraine would solve things in a second, but our western partners say first election and only then border” (Shaun Walker, ‘Freed Ukrainian pilot calls for talks with separatist rebels’, Guardian, 9 June 2016).
Just how such a suicidal step would ‘solve’ things for the citizens of Lugansk and Donetsk can easily be imagined – citizens whom Poroshenko bizarrely identified as ‘invaders’. Rhetorically he asked the press conference in Kiev, ” Can there be elections in the occupied territories of Donbas? Yes, there can. Can they be held now? They can if they are held by the invaders themselves. And neither we, nor the rest of the world will recognise these elections. ..” (‘Poroshenko: No armed OSCE police mission – no elections in occupied Donbas’, Unian website, 3 June 2016). To get around the fact that the issue of border control lies at the end of the Minsk process, not the beginning, Poroshenko pretends that his demand for a tooled-up intervention force is a natural extension of the ceasefire arrangements with which the process begins. He is eager to give the impression that Germany and France might endorse this falsification of Minsk, though with little in the way of corroboration yet forthcoming from Berlin and Paris. As for the OSCE itself, its secretary, General Lamberto Zannier, has made it clear that no such armed mission could be sent to Ukraine without full consensus of all the parties involved, including Russia. Russia’s representative to the OSCE, Alexander Lukashevich, has pointed out that ” All issues concerning the elections in Donbass, including their security, should be resolved within the framework of the Contact group with representatives of Donbas ,” and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that ” The assertion that the records of the talks of the Normandy Four contains some indication that the Russian side gave consent to the placing of the OSCE police mission are untrue ” (‘Poroshenko makes false claim about agreement on OSCE police mission in Donbas’, Fort Russ website, 3 June 2016).
Poroshenko’s seeming promises of cash to rebuild the Donbas are clearly intended only for the fantasy-future Donbas of his dreams, a Donbas back under the jackboot of the ultra-nationalist regime in Kiev. Besides, as he told Ukrainian TV back in October 2015, ” The international coalition will help us finance restoration of infrastructure in Donbas, it will not be a burden for Ukrainian taxpayers” (‘Poroshenko says international community will help restore Donbas economy’, Novorossia Today website, 5 October 2015). So in Poroshenko’s dream, a Donbas surrounded on the west by Kiev’s stormtroopers and on the east by OSCE ‘peacekeepers’ will be rebuilt at nil cost to Kiev’s exchequer. Dream on.
Poroshenko is no man of peace, as the citizens of the Donbas can attest. Whilst he prates of rebuilding the Donbas, shells continue to rain down on the Donbas. To pick a day at random, on 14 June, in the space of just 24 hours, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) was shelled 488 times [by a regime, let us remember, that is totally bankrupt in economic terms]. Kiev forces opened fire at Zaytsevo, Yasinovataya, Spartak and numerous other targets, using shells, grenade-launchers and small arms. The DPR passed over the data on all these ceasefire violations to the OSCE, just as it does on a daily basis (‘Donbas militia report 488 cases of shelling DPR over 24 hours’, Tass, 14 June 2016). The human consequences of this kind of ‘low-level’ warfare are hard to imagine and simply do not get reported in the West. Leaving aside the appalling toll in immediate death and destruction, there is the endless mundane grind of survival as basic social infrastructure is degraded by the constant shelling. In Gorlovka, for example, 450 dwellings were deprived of their gas supply after recent shelling.
And whilst the regime displays its stormtrooper credentials on the eastern front, back in Odessa, Right Sector and Azov fascists were given free rein by the police to blockade the Russian Consulate and terrorise guests who had been invited to celebrate Russia Day. Acting with complete impunity, a thug from something styling itself the ‘Black Sea Formation of Gaidamak’ boasted, ” We blocked entry to the Consulate, no one will get in there. We want to at least identify supporters of the aggressor country.”
The Russian Consul General said that the Consulate was pelted with eggs and potatoes, as insulting slogans were chanted against Russia. A number of gallows were borne aloft, and guests were forced to kneel down and ‘shout that they are guilty before Ukraine.’ Similar fascist stunts against the Consulate took place in March of this year when thugs wearing balaclavas and camouflage uniforms used baseball bats to attack cars with Russian diplomatic licence plates. Meanwhile those who murdered 48 people in the Odessa Massacre of May 2014 remain on the loose, enjoying immunity. A farcical ‘investigation’ added insult to mortal injury by fingering 22 people as instigators of the disorders – all of them anti-Maidan supporters! As always, fascism blames the victims (‘Attack on Russian Consulate General in Odessa is dirty, coward action – Russian Ministry’, Tass, 11 June 2016).
What made the Minsk accords possible in the first place was the resolute resistance raised by the militias of Donetsk and Lugansk. Twice the Kiev forces have sought to crush this resistance militarily, and twice they have been fought to a standstill. Each defeat opened the possibility for talks, but on each occasion the obstinacy and double-dealing of the Kiev regime have needlessly prolonged the war.
Victory to the Donbas resistance!