With only a handful of fascist diehards still holed up in the Azovstal steelworks, the one-time stronghold of the Azov fanatics in the southern port city of Mariupol has fallen at last. For months the fascists had sabotaged all efforts to evacuate the civilian population from the war zone, preferring to have them remain in the city and serve as hostages and human shields. However when it came to the crunch, the cowardice of the battalion commanders revealed itself when they opted to desert the poor deluded souls under their command and make good their own escape. Sadly for them, the helicopter sent to airlift them to safety was itself shot down over the Black Sea.
Ukraine has been used and abused by its ‘friends’ in the West. They subordinated the country’s national interests to those of imperialism, bankrupted its economy, shackled it to IMF debt slavery, groomed the monster of Banderite fascism to stalk the land, egged Kiev on to a vicious eight-year military campaign of genocide against the people of the Donbass and finally exposed the Ukrainian people to the inevitable backlash which such intolerable behaviour ultimately elicited. Having incited Kiev to pick a fight with Russia, the US slipped away leaving the regime to face the music. Tragically it is the Ukrainian masses who will suffer the most.
When it became clear that the supposed ‘defence of the nation’ was in the shaky hands of a demoralised and disintegrating army, supplemented by neo-Nazi militias like the Azov battalion whose military expertise consisted primarily in kidnapping civilians and using them as hostages, and an assortment of jihadis and soldiers of fortune, not excluding some from the UK – then it was from the outset obvious that the Kiev junta must face defeat, and would be best advised to sue for peace and save further bloodshed. But whatever most Ukrainians might think about it, that does not suit Zelensky’s ‘friends in the West’, who are ready to fight to the very last drop of blood – Ukrainian blood that is. And the longer Britain, the US and the rest of the imperialist pack can keep pouring endless amounts of very expensive weaponry into the bottomless pit of the Ukraine war, then the longer can the admission of defeat be postponed and the more scope there remains for imperialist war propaganda to try to get a grip on the collective psyche of the imperialist homelands. Above all, imperialism needs to soften up public opinion ahead of the coming wars with Russia and China.
Now that Mariupol can no longer function as a fascist rallying point, the combined forces of Russia and the Donbass can concentrate on the culminating task of their armed struggle: the liberation of the Donbass from the Nazi jackboot. As Moscow has frequently explained, the real objective of the special operation was never to occupy cities, annex territory or harm civilians. Rather, it was and is to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, to the benefit of Russians and Ukrainians alike. Here is what the Russian defence ministry reported on 30 March: “The first stage of the special military operation conducted by the Russian Armed Forces in Donbass and Ukraine was planned to force the enemy to concentrate its forces, means, resources and military equipment to hold on to high populated areas in these directions, including Kiev. To bring them down on the battlefield and, without storming these cities to avoid civilian casualties, inflict such a defeat on the armed formations of the Kiev regime that it would not be able to use these forces in the main direction of our Armed Forces in Donbass.” In the weeks of preparation for the liberation of the Donbass, hundreds of bombing raids every night have wiped out fuel and ammunition dumps, effectively demobilising tanks and trucks. The enemy’s navy and air force barely exist now. In short, preparations are clearly far advanced for the liberation of the Donbass.
The degree of consternation in the West when confronted by the intolerable sight of Russia calmly completing the tasks it has set itself may best be measured by the mounting hysteria of the propaganda attacks on Russia, with the imperialist media throwing caution to the wind as their fabrications start to strain the credulity of even the most gullible.
The closer Russia gets to accomplishing its mission, the wilder and more outlandish the lies are becoming. Still currently the favourite lurid tale doing the rounds concerns the events that unfolded in Bucha, a suburb of Kiev through which the Russians passed en route back east. The Russians left Bucha on 30 March. The following day the Mayor of Bucha, Anatoliy Fedoruk, announced that the Russians were all gone, mentioning nothing untoward.
Over the next two days, however, with the arrival of security officials, sudden dramatic ‘news’ broke. The fascists issued a video depicting a horrifying scene of civilian bodies lying in the street, some apparently shot whilst their hands remained bound. This atrocious scene was the work of the Russian army, the Ukrainian defence ministry claimed.
What nobody explained, however, was the strange silence of the mayor on 30 March concerning these supposed events taking place under his very nose. How could he fail to notice the mayhem in the street, leaving it up to the security personnel to ‘find’ the grisly scene on their arrival days later?
The picture grew more confusing when it was noted that some of the victims wore white armbands, thought to signify neutrality.
What now seems most likely is that those white armbands were effectively a death sentence, marking their wearers out as pro Russian ‘collaborators’. This was the conclusion that was reached by former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who cited an announcement from the Ukrainian National Police to the effect that Ukrainian militants were heading for Bucha on 1 April to purge and eliminate those they deemed to be collaborators. All the local residents who had interacted with the Russians were considered guilty by the Ukrainian security forces. Ritter also referenced video footage showing a senior Ukrainian politician advising people to stay at home because a purge was underway.
None of the above considerations could dissuade the whole media circus from milking the phoney Bucha story, which was just the job for portraying the Russian forces as a gang of violent and brutal psychopaths. The imperialist lie machine never lets the facts get in the way of a good Russia-bashing story. But reality keeps breaking through the tissue of lies, as is ably documented in an article by Kit Klarenberg posted by the Grayzone on 3 April concerning the alleged airstrike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol on 9 March:
“A key witness to the widely publicised incident at the Mariupol maternity hospital has punctured the official narrative of a Russian airstrike on the facility, and raised serious questions about Western media ethics… On March 9th, shocking news of a deliberate Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, began spreading widely via social media and news outlets.
“But newly released testimony from one of the incident’s main witnesses punctures the official narrative about a targeted Russian airstrike on the hospital. The witness account indicates the hospital had been turned into a base of operations by Ukrainian military forces and was not targeted in an airstrike, as Western media claimed. Her testimony also raised serious questions about whether at least some elements of the event were staged for propaganda purposes – and with the cooperation of the Associated Press…
“Mariana Vishegirskaya, a pregnant resident of Donetsk who was present at the maternity hospital during the widely reported incident, has evacuated from Mariupol and is now speaking out. Photos showing a bloodied Vishegirskaya fleeing the building with her personal belongings became a centrepiece of coverage of the attack.
“In a video reviewed by The Grayzone which began circulating via Telegram April 1st, Vishegirskaya offers a clear and detailed account of what took place on and in the days leading up to March 9th. The witness begins by noting how many residents of Mariupol attempted to evacuate following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, but says authorities ensured it was ‘impossible to leave.’
“On March 6th, with the birth of her child impending, she checked into maternity hospital number three, the city’s ‘most modern’ facility. She was not there long before the Ukrainian military arrived and evicted all the hospital’s patients, as they sought access to the building’s solar panels, one of the last remaining sources of electricity in the besieged city.
“‘We were moved to the only small maternity hospital left. It had only one small generator… Husbands of women in labour settled in the basement and cooked meals for us on the street. Residents of neighbouring houses also brought us meals,’ Vishegirskaya says. ‘One day soldiers came. They didn’t help with anything. They were told the food is for women, how could they ask for it? They replied they hadn’t eaten in five days, took our food and said, ‘you can cook some more’.
“On the night of the 8th, the pregnant women slept peacefully as there were ‘no shootouts.’ The next day, the soon-to-be mothers heard a shell explode outside. Vishegirskaya ‘instinctively’ covered herself with her duvet, but still, shattered glass from a nearby window cut her lip, nose and forehead, though she says it was ‘nothing serious.’
“‘After the second explosion we got evacuated to the basement,’ Vishegirskaya recalled. ‘We proceeded to discuss whether it was an airstrike. They said it was no airstrike. So our opinion got confirmed. We didn’t hear the airplane, they didn’t hear it either. They told us it was a shell. After the first two explosions there were no other explosions.’
“As she waited, she noticed ‘a soldier with a helmet’ taking pictures of her, and demanded he stop, ‘because obviously it was not a good time for that,’ and she did not want to be photographed in her current state. The soldier complied. Back upstairs, the same individual began filming her and others again, refusing to stop until his subjects had demanded several times he do so.
“Vishegirskaya’s husband later told her the man wasn’t a soldier, but an Associated Press correspondent, one of many on the scene at the time. She believes these journalists had been there ‘from the beginning,’ as they were ready and waiting outside to snap the woman being led away on a stretcher, the first to emerge from the building in the wake of the shell attack, ‘as soon as she came out.’
“The next day, after her baby was delivered via caesarean section, the same Associated Press staffers interviewed her, asking her to describe what happened. They enquired point blank if an airstrike had taken place, to which she responded, ‘no, even the people that were on the streets didn’t hear anything, nor did anyone.’
“Later, when she was in safer ‘living conditions,’ Vishegirskaya began scouring the internet, attempting to track down the interview. She found ‘everything else’ the Associated Press staffers recorded – but not her denials that an airstrike had occurred…
“The number of people who lost their lives in the maternity hospital incident, and precisely how, are… conundrums. In a televised address that evening, Zelensky claimed three individuals, including a child, had been slain via ‘airstrike,’ while others remained trapped under rubble. The next day, though, Donetsk regional government chief Pavlo Kyrylenko said zero deaths had been confirmed, and there were no confirmed injuries among children” (‘New witness testimony about Mariupol maternity hospital “airstrike” follows pattern of Ukrainian deceptions, media malpractice’).
Perhaps for Ukraine the end of the war, or this phase of the war, is in sight. But the other war – the economic war of sanctions initiated by Washington against Moscow – has only just begun, and will have repercussions which will affect the whole world, a world that is already in the grip of a massive overproduction crisis.
It seems that the member states of the EU are determined to make a bonfire of their own economic interests by shutting down their access to cheaper coal and gas from Russia, tying themselves into a dependency on overpriced LNG from the US. In the case of Germany, against all reason, the NordStream2 pipeline has been indefinitely blocked. Meanwhile in the UK Liz Truss declares with delight that our sanctions regime is in (suicidal) lockstep with both the EU and the US, hardly delivering on the national independence that Brexit promised.
China on the other hand has denounced the sanctions against Russia, thereby boosting the morale of those who, pricked by economic necessity, seek to challenge or evade third-party sanctions. International relations forged in the immediate context of resistance to American sanctions bullying may settle into more durable bonds later on, as the move from a unipolar to a multi-polar world gathers pace and there is a gravitational shift from Washington to Beijing and Moscow. The war in Ukraine may come to be seen as a significant milestone on that road.