By Paul Roberts
Last Thursday’s (17 July) air disaster, in which a Malaysian Airlines jetliner crashed near Ukraine’s border with Russia, killing all 298 people on board, is likely to be the result of a missile fired from the ground – a commercial plane tragically caught up in the war Kiev and its imperialist backers are waging against Ukraine’s eastern regions.
Regardless of who may have actually fired the shot, it is evident commercial flight paths over eastern Ukraine have been endangered by the Kiev regime’s aerial bombardment of eastern cities and towns. Whether it was pro-autonomy fighters hoping to fend off further Ukrainian Air Force attacks or Kiev creating a ‘false flag’ incident is unlikely to be definitively established for some time.
Irrespective of any truth the US, with its British echo, want to galvanise public opinion against Russia, press Germany and France to toughen EU sanctions against Russia and increase support for Kiev’s offensive against eastern Ukraine. They are more than willing to falsify evidence and invent total fabrications – just as the US and Britain did over Iraqi weaponry in 2003 to ‘justify’ invading that country.
Imperialist propaganda is supporting Kiev’s February coup-installed government conduct a relentless struggle to crush the opposition in Ukraine. Across the country the pro-autonomy movement is being systematically repressed. And for the past three months a brutal military assault has been waged against cities in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk where the populations want autonomy.
In these regions the population opposes the coup-installed regime and supports armed resistance against it. Kiev’s strategy is to terrorise the people into giving up, by attacking heavily populated areas of cities with fighter jets and artillery. It has destroyed much of the east’s infrastructure and cut off the population’s gas, water and power supplies. Hundreds of civilians have been killed and tens of thousands displaced by this military offensive.
Three weeks ago the local self-defence forces in the east were ousted from their previous strongholds in the eastern cities of Slaviansk and Krematorsk. So now Kiev’s military focus is on uprooting the resistance still controlling the largest cities in east, Donetsk (population one million) and Lugansk (population 400,000), so they are under attack.
The resistance forces have no air-force nor a large army to fight Kiev’s much larger NATO-equipped forces, but have successfully defeated some Kiev military units.
As described here and here on this website, imperialism’s project is to advance NATO’s bases and weaponry in to Ukraine, to maximise Western military pressure on Russia. But such an ending of Ukraine’s neutral alignment, to participate in an anti-Russian military alliance, is widely opposed across east and south Ukraine. People in these regions politically identify more with Russia than with the West, hence the huge support for autonomy from Kiev.
In western Ukraine a majority effectively supports aligning with imperialism against Russia. The fundamental democratic solution to this division within Ukraine’s population is to let every region determine its orientation. Ukraine would then divide, but the current war and repression could be avoided.
Russia has been seeking a compromise with the West, not the partition of Ukraine, and would like to negotiate for some autonomy for the east. Putin arranged for the Russian Council of the Federation to repeal its earlier authorisation of possible deployment of Russian troops into Ukraine and its state media has reduced supportive coverage of the resistance.
However the US and, following its lead, Kiev are not interested in making any concessions. Imperialism plans to consolidate the control of the west it seized in February and is orchestrating with Kiev the offensive to extend that control across the east. Eastern opposition to Kiev’s adoption of the IMF’s agenda makes it more difficult to impose the neo-liberal economic policies that will savagely attack the entire population’s living standards. So Kiev’s military policy is to crush the opposition. No negotiations are being offered and any ceasefire is only temporary, as the objective is the opposition’s unconditional surrender. Given this approach the outcome of this struggle will ultimately be decided militarily.
Petro Poroshenko was installed as President, following the rigged 25 May ‘election’ in which no serious candidate defending continued Ukrainian neutrality was able to stand. He is a billionaire oligarch who benefited from the privatisation and plundering of the state-owned economy of the Soviet era.
Politically this coup-installed government is a coalition of pro-Western neo-liberals and Ukrainian nationalists including the neo-fascist parties. The latter are the descendants of the militias that collaborated with the Nazi’s 1941-44 occupation of Ukraine.
Today’s far-right forces constitute the core personnel in the offensive against the opposition. Neo-fascist ministers have called for internment camps to ‘filter’ the regime’s opponents and for resettlement of the mutinous eastern populations.
Since May’s reinstatement of compulsory military service, many conscript soldiers have refused to fire on civilians. So a ‘National Guard’, drawing heavily on the fascist political movements and militias, has been formed. This is the backbone of the ‘Anti-Terrorist Operations’ against the east, whose battalions are renowned for their extreme-right politics and Nazi era emblems.
The industrial regions in the east are Ukraine’s most proletarian areas, with the Donbass being Ukraine’s principal coal mining and steel area. This is where opposition to Kiev’s political and economic direction is most widespread and people have taken up arms. Within this area the regions of Lugansk and Donetsk overwhelmingly voted in referendums on May 11 for political independence, following which they declared their autonomy from Kiev. They have been seeking federation within Ukraine but with a degree of self-government sufficient for them to implement more progressive economic and political policies. The leadership of the Union of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics supports socialisation of the basic means of production, nationalisation of the banking sector and the removal of the oligarchs running the country.
Whilst proletarian forces are the core of the resistance, in contrast, the key social bases of Ukrainian nationalism are petty-bourgeois and declassed elements of society. The Maidan movement is not just pro-Western but also explicitly anti-socialist and has destroyed monuments to Lenin across the country.
Outside the resistance controlled areas in east Ukraine, opposition political forces face extreme repression, with their activities effectively outlawed. They are assaulted by neo-fascist gangs, the police and the judiciary. Political kidnappings and disappearances are taking place. Journalists and political activists are being attacked.
Across the provinces of Ukraine’s south and east there is widespread opposition to the Kiev regime. But where there are no local armed self-defence forces the cities and towns have effectively become occupied by an assortment of nationalist paramilitary groups sent in by Kiev to crush any signs of opposition. In Odessa and Kharkov there are now many political prisoners and dozens of pro-autonomy activists have been killed by fascist militia, including the 42 murdered in May inside the Odessa trade union headquarters that was set on fire.
An anti-war conference held in Yalta in Crimea on 6 and 7 July bought together more than 100 people from across Ukraine. It discussed the imperialist offensive and called for urgent international solidarity with Ukraine’s pro-autonomy movement.
Progressive people in the West should demand an immediate ceasefire, an end to Kiev’s military offensive and that NATO stops its manoeuvres in Ukraine.
In Britain the Stop the War Coalition is campaigning against NATO’s new cold war with Russia. The forthcoming protests against NATO’s summit in Newport should be widely built, including the mass demonstration on 30 August (details from STWC here and CND here). Also the activities of the campaign Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine should be supported.
NO TO WAR NO TO NATO
Saturday 30 August: Mass demonstration
Assemble 1pm at the Civic Centre Car Park
March through central Newport – ending at Westgate Square for a rally