On 5 September Moscow proposed a draft resolution for the UN, to send lightly armed UN peacekeepers to protect OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) monitors patrolling the front line between the Donbass republics and the Ukraine military.
From Poroshenko the response was predictable. The junta said Moscow’s proposal was “strange”, rejected the obvious requirement that both Kiev and the eastern republics would have to agree to the deployment, and insisted that peacekeepers be tasked to patrol the Russian border as well. In other words, UN troops would only be acceptable to Kiev if they acted as an occupying army acting on behalf of the junta, delivering by ‘diplomacy’ what the junta had failed to achieve on the field of battle.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed out that the kind of operation Poroshenko was demanding would in any case go against what had previously been agreed by Kiev itself. Deployment of any missions at the Russia/Ukraine border would contradict the Minsk Agreements, and, in any case, before any kind of deployment could go ahead it would need to be cleared by both sides, i.e. Kiev and the Donbass (‘UN peacekeepers at Russia-Ukraine border in Donbass “off the table” – Kremlin’, Sputnik, 22 September 2017).
Less than two weeks after Putin’s initial proposal, the Ukraine and US delegations informed Russia that they were unwilling to work on Russia’s draft resolution because they had too many objections to it, and anyway Kiev might have a counter-proposal to deploy peacekeepers in the Donbass. Following a time-worn track, the junta just stonewalled and the US backed it up.
Minsk: Poroshenko goes through the motions
Poroshenko pretends to be all for implementing the Minsk agreement, but somehow his words never materialise into deeds. A while ago Ukraine adopted a law which, if enforced, would confer a special status on the Donbass, opening the way for political negotiations on autonomy for Donetsk and Lugansk. However, the law was never enforced. Now Ukraine has just renewed the law for a further one-year term, winning praise from the US special representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, for supposedly taking steps to achieve peace. Yet the reality is that the junta no more intends to enforce its own law this time around, than it intends to honour any of the other undertakings it entered into in Minsk.
European reactions to Russia’s initiative were not uniformly hostile. Whilst the EU’s envoy to Russia, the Lithuanian right-winger Vygaudas Usackas, voiced the official EU line that the EU does not link the deployment of UN peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine to the gradual lifting of sanctions against Russia, different noises could be heard from the German foreign ministry. What the incoming foreign minister will have to say is yet to be seen, but the outgoing one, Sigmar Gabriel, made his view of Putin’s proposal very clear: “We might disagree on the particulars of the mission. But it would be insane not to sit at the negotiating table to discuss the idea and its implementation.” What’s more, he said, if the mission delivers a truce, “we will have to start talking about lifting sanctions.” Broadening the scope, Gabriel asserted that “We have partners and allies, the Americans amongst them – but we are a continent that must also ensure that we are not a mere appendix of international politics” (‘”Europe should not be an appendix of international politics” – German FM’, RT, 21 September 2017). It seems that, for one wing of the German bourgeoisie at least, it is intolerable that Germany’s own interests should take second place to US policy in Ukraine – especially when that policy appears to be hostage to the whims of an ultra-nationalist junta that is in complete denial about reality.
Some in eastern Europe are finding Kiev’s reactionary antics hard to stomach too. Romania and Hungary have both protested about a law that Ukraine passed early in September forbidding teachers to teach in any language other than Ukrainian. Hungary’s Foreign Minister raised the issue at an EU foreign ministers meeting, pointing out that the new education law “violates the association agreement sealed between the EU and Ukraine” and proposing that the EU association agreement should be reviewed (‘Hungary to ask EU to review Ukraine ties over minority languages law’, RT, 10 October 2017).
Meanwhile, whilst the Kiev junta paints itself into an ever tighter corner, Ukraine is exhibiting all the signs of a society in meltdown. Three and a half years on from the fascist massacre in Odessa, Ukrainian ‘justice’ has got just as far as holding a trial. But this trial was not arranged to seek justice for the anti-Maidan protestors who had been targeted by the death squads, but rather to blame the victims themselves! This proved too rich even for the judge, who cleared all nineteen defendants, declaring that “There is no evidence to prove that the accused were guilty of the stated crimes. In fact, the prosecution did not even try to present any evidence,” going on to suggest that the accused had simply been helping police maintain control.
Outraged at this unwonted display of judicial honesty, a fascist lynch mob which had been camped outside the courthouse charged the riot police and military in an attempt to break into the building and stop the cleared defendants from leaving, The fascists “charged at the human wall, releasing pepper spray into the officers’ faces, who replied with tear gas sprays of their own… The pattern of clashes was repeated several times, and at one point an activist unloaded the contents of a fire hydrant into a riot policeman’s face.” When the defendants finally managed to get out of the building, two of their number were again arrested, this time on charges of “inciting separatism” (‘Ukrainian nationalists battle police outside court after anti-Maidan activists declared “not guilty”’, RT, 19 September 2017). Such is the triumph of ‘European values’ and the ‘rule of law’ in Ukraine today. With the ultra-nationalist Kiev junta in danger of being out-Hitlered by the same fascist forces upon whose good offices it relied to hoist it into power in the first place, a social explosion cannot be far off.
The return of Mikheil Saakashvili to Ukraine on an avowed mission to rid the country of corruption shows just how politically unstable the country has become. Saakashvili, veteran flag-bearer of Western-engineered colour revolutions, first came to notoriety as president of his native Georgia, in which office he launched the disastrous attack on South Ossetia and Abkhazia which necessitated Russia’s successful intervention and the humiliation of Georgia’s military. When things got too hot in Georgia, he applied for, and was granted by Poroshenko, citizenship of the Ukraine. (Meanwhile back in Georgia he is wanted on corruption charges). Initially he enjoyed Poroshenko’s patronage and was elevated to the governorship of Odessa, but it seems that he stepped on the wrong oligarchic toes and was stripped of his citizenship as abruptly as he was granted it. Then in September this year, after a farcical comedy of errors involving buses, trains and bomb-scares, Saakashvili forced an entry back into the country via Poland, promising to lead a popular movement to root out corruption. When he got to Kiev he happened upon a demonstration involving thousands of doctors complaining about the catastrophic state of affairs in healthcare, with doctors owed more than $4m in back pay. He promptly hijacked the demo to launch his populist movement, and since then has been travelling round the country drumming up support for his campaign and vowing to challenge Poroshenko for the presidency.
Flying in the face of government threats to arrest Saakashvili and pack him off to Georgia to face charges, Poroshenko’s own prosecutor-general, Yuriy Lutsenko, announced that he would not be arrested whatever the president might say and was free to go wherever he chose, stating “Saakashvili cannot be extradited from this country while he has a residence permit or other document that he has filed” (Kim Sengupta, ‘Tensions erupt between former allies as Mikheil Saakashvili challenges Petro Poroshenko for Ukrainian presidency’, The Independent, 17 September 2017). And yet Lutsenko, previously jailed on charges of embezzlement and abuse of office, and lacking any prior legal experience, had been appointed top prosecutor by no less than – Poroshenko!
And whilst the fascists on the street denounce the fascists in the junta, and the corrupt stir up campaigns against corruption, Ukraine’s oligarchs continue to look after state business – which it turns out includes gun running and sanctions busting. According to an investigation by Amnesty, Ukrinmash, a Ukrainian state arms exporter, entered into a contract in 2014, along with a shell company in London and another company based in the UAE, to run $169m worth of weapons into South Sudan, fuelling the civil war there in breach of the UN arms embargo. The cache was to include thousands of machine guns, mortars, RPGs and millions of rounds of ammunition. Amnesty International has now called on Ukraine to cease supplying arms to South Sudan (‘UK: Amnesty exposes illicit US$46m South Sudan arms deal brokered under government’s nose’, Amnesty, 25 September 2017).
So it is that, whilst Poroshenko blames Russia for all Ukraine’s problems and continues to stall on Minsk, the country descends ever further into a stew of violence, corruption and poverty, the bitter fruits of becoming a vassal state of imperialism.