Asia Times’ roving correspondent Pepe Escobar just returned from a reporting trip to the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the pro-Russian enclave in the Donetsk Oblast province of eastern Ukraine. The area’s been the scene of heavy fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military. Escobar traveled to Donetsk at the invitation of Europa Objektiv, a German-based non-governmental media project. He traveled at his own expense.
I’ve just been to the struggling Donetsk People’s Republic. Now I’m back in the splendid arrogance and insolence of NATOstan.
Quite a few people – in Donbass, in Moscow, and now in Europe – have asked me what struck me most about this visit.
I could start by paraphrasing Allen Ginsberg in Howl – “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.”
But these were the Cold War mid-1950s. Now we’re in early 21st century Cold War 2.0 .
Thus what I saw were the ghastly side effects of the worst minds of my – and a subsequent – generation corroded by (war) madness.
I saw refugees on the Russian side of the border, mostly your average middle-class European family whose kids, when they first came to the shelter, would duck under tables when they heard a plane in the sky.
I saw the Dylan of Donetsk holed up in his lonely room in a veterans’ home turned refugee shelter fighting the blues and the hopelessness by singing songs of love and heroism.
I saw whole families holed up in fully decorated Soviet-era bomb shelters too afraid to go out even by daylight, traumatized by the bombings orchestrated by Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operations”.
I saw a modern, hard-working industrial city at least half-empty and partially destroyed but not bent, able to survive by their guts and guile with a little help from Russian humanitarian convoys.
I saw beautiful girls hangin’ out by Lenin’s statue in a central square lamenting their only shot at fun was family parties in each other’s houses because nightlife was dead and “we’re at war”.
I saw virtually the whole neighborhood of Oktyabrski near the airport bombed out like Grozny and practically deserted except for a few lonely babushkas with nowhere to go and too proud to relinquish their family photos of World War II heroes.
I saw checkpoints like I was back in Baghdad during the Petraeus surge.
I saw the main trauma doctor at the key Donetsk hospital confirm there has been no Red Cross and no international humanitarian help to the people of Donetsk.
Oktyabrski neighborhood, bombed hospital
I saw Stanislava, one of DPR’s finest and an expert sniper, in charge of our security, cry when she laid a flower on the ground of a fierce battle in which her squad was under heavy fire, with twenty seriously wounded and one dead, and she was hit by shrapnel and survived.
I saw orthodox churches fully destroyed by Kiev’s bombing.
I saw the Russian flag still on top of the anti-Maidan building which is now the House of Government of the DPR.
I saw the gleaming Donbass arena, the home of Shaktar Donetsk and a UFO in a war-torn city, deserted and without a single soul in the fan area.
I saw Donetsk’s railway station bombed by Kiev’s goons.
I saw a homeless man screaming “Robert Plant!” and “Jimmy Page!” as I found out he was still in love with Led Zeppelin and kept his vinyl copies.
I saw a row of books which never surrendered behind the cracked windows of bombed out Oktyabrski.
I saw the fresh graves where the DPR buries their resistance heroes.
I saw the top of the hill at Saur-mogila which the DPR resistance lost and then reconquered, with a lone red-white-blue flag now waving in the wind.
Top of the hill at Saur-moglia
I saw the Superman rising from the destruction at Saur-mogila – the fallen statue in a monument to World War II heroes, which seventy years ago was fighting fascism and now has been hit, but not destroyed, by fascists.
I saw the Debaltsevo cauldron in the distance and then I could fully appreciate, geographically, how DPR tactics surrounded and squeezed the demoralized Kiev fighters.
I saw the DPR’s military practicing their drills by the roadside from Donetsk to Lugansk.
I saw the DPR’s Foreign Minister hopeful there would be a political solution instead of war while admitting personally he dreams of a DPR as an independent nation.
I saw two badass Cossack commanders tell me in a horse-breeding farm in holy Cossack land that the real war has not even started.
I did not see the totally destroyed Donetsk airport because the DPR’s military were too concerned about our safety and would not grant us a permit while the airport was being hit – in defiance of Minsk 2; but I saw the destruction and the pile of Ukrainian army bodies on the mobile phone of a Serbian DPR resistance fighter.
I did not see, as Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe international observers also didn’t, the rows and rows of Russian tanks and soldiers that the current Dr. Strangelove in charge of NATO, General Breedhate, sees everyday in his exalted dreams invading Ukraine over and over again.
And I did not see the arrogance, the ignorance, the shamelessness and the lies distorting those manicured faces in Kiev, Washington and Brussels while they insist, over and over again, that the entire population of Donbass, traumatized babushkas and children of all ages included, are nothing but “terra-rists”.
After all, they are Western “civilization”-enabled cowards who would never dare to show their manicured faces to the people of Donbass.
So this is my gift to them.
Just a howl of anger and unbounded contempt.
(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
Saint Yulia Tymoshenko with friend Victoria Nuland
by Stephen Lendman – March 26, 2014
Her leaked phone conversation was damning. She spoke with former Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council deputy secretary Nestor Shufrych.
She called for turning Russia to ashes.
Weeks earlier, Assistant Secretary of State for European and European Affairs Victoria Nuland was caught red-handed on tape.
Her leaked conversation circulated on You Tube. It’s more evidence of America’s dark side.
She and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussed regime change. Current putschist prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was named as a Washington favorite.
The leaked video was damning. It’s four minutes long. It’s titled “Maidan puppets.” It refers to Kiev’s Independence Square.
In early March, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet’s conversation with EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton was leaked.
He was heard saying “there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition.”
Maybe more damning leaked conversations will follow. Don’t expect scoundrel media coverage.
Tymoshenko is a billionaire mega-thief. She heads the fascist Batkivshchya/All-Ukrainian Union (Fatherland) party.
She and neo-Nazi Svoboda co-founder Andriy Parubiy co-led Washington’s 2004 Orange Revolution. He heads Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council.
She was an illegitimate Orange Revolution prime minister. At the time, Western officials praised her as a force for democracy and freedom. So did media scoundrels.
She was imprisoned for embezzlement and serious “abuse of public office.”
Charges included illegally diverting $425 million meant for environmental projects into pension funds. A second case involved stealing around $130 million for personal use.
Putschist extremists illegally freed her. She has presidential aspirations. She may head Ukraine’s illegitimate government after sham May elections.
At one time, evidence showed she had nearly 300 secret foreign bank accounts. Over a dozen remain open.
She controlled Ukraine’s United Energy Systems. Former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko awarded it monopoly rights to import Russian natural gas.
He profited handsomely for doing it. In 2004, a US court convicted him of money laundering, theft, and hiding funds in foreign accounts.
His indictment called his crime “part of a conspiracy (related to) receiv(ing) money from companies owned or controlled by Tymoshenko, including United Energy Systems, in exchange for which (he) exercised his official authority in favour of (her) companies.”
Tymoshenko was up to her ears in wrongdoing. Perhaps she remains so. She’s a mega-crook.
US prosecutor Martha Moerosch cited “evidence that companies controlled by Tymoshenko took part in the schemes for transferring money to Lazarenko’s accounts.”
“There were bank statements” proving it, she said. Prosecutors found Tymoshenko funds worldwide.
Ukrainian analyst Orysia Lutsevych said as Orange Revolution prime minister, “she did nothing to reform the economy and establish rule of law.”
“Instead, she focused her attention on infighting inside the Orange Revolution in order to prepare her presidential race.”
“Most (Euromaidan protesters) were not demanding her release.” Her shady business practices earned her the nickname “gas princess.”
Her leaked phone conversation took place on March 18. She was caught saying she wants to mass-murder Russians. She wants Putin dead.
Media scoundrels reported nothing. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and others were silent. Russia bashing lies drown out important truths. It’s standard presstitute practice.
RT International broke the story, headlining “Time to grab guns and kill damn Russians – Tymoshenko in leaked tape.”
Her vitriol was extreme. She urged scorched earth where Russia now stands, said RT. She said: “It’s about time we grab our guns and kill those katsaps (a derogatory Ukrainian term) together with their leader.”
She confirmed the call’s authenticity. She did so via Twitter, saying:
“The conversation took place, but the ‘8 million Russians in Ukraine’ piece is an edit.”
“In fact, I said Russians in Ukraine – are Ukrainians. Hello FSB 🙂 Sorry for the obscene language.”
Shufrych’s press service went into damage control mode overdrive. It lied calling the tape fake. According to korrespondent.net, the “conversation didn’t take place,” it said.
It followed Putin signing the Crimean reunification treaty. It kickstarted what culminated days later.
Tymoshenko was enraged. Her inflammatory comments followed. She called what happened “really beyond all boundaries.” Her comments expressed rage to kill.
If she was in charge, she said, “there would be no f…ing way that they would get Crimea then.”
Shufrych said Ukraine “didn’t have any force potential” to keep Crimea. Tymoshenko said she would have found “a way to kill those katsaps.”
“I hope I will be able to get all my connections involved. And I will use all of my means to make the entire world raise up, so that there wouldn’t be even a scorched field left in Russia,” she added.
Referring to Putin, she said she’s ready to “grab a machine gun and shoot that m…erf…er in the head.”
She’s like Washington-installed fascist ultranationalist putschists running Ukraine. She belongs in prison. They have no legitimacy whatever. They represent mob rule.
They risk civil war. They risk spreading it cross-border. They risk confrontation with Russia. They risk the unthinkable. They threaten world peace.
Obama embraces them. He supports what demands rejection. They’re a rogue’s gallery of societal misfits. They’re hugely dangerous. They make mafia bosses look saintly by comparison.
They run an important central European country. It nearly matches France in territorial size. It’s almost double the size of Germany. It’s larger than Britain, Italy or Spain.
It’s important industrially. It’s called Europe’s breadbasket for good reason. It’s dark soil is the continent’s richest. It has over 130,000 square miles of arable land.
Its other resources include iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, sulfur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, and timber.
Western corporate interests plan to exploit them. They want Ukraine strip-mined for profit. Banks and other financial interests want its wealth stolen. IMF indebtedness assures taking it from ordinary Ukrainians.
The worst of conditions awaits them. They’re headed for greater than ever impoverishment, unemployment and deprivation. How they’ll react remains to be seen.
On March 23, RT International reported “(m)assive anti-Maidan rallies (across) eastern Ukraine…” They reject Kiev putschists.
They want referendums deciding their future. Thousands rallied in Kharkov (Ukraine’s second largest city), Donetsk, Lugansk, Odessa and elsewhere.
Residents want Ukraine federalized. They want local authority free from fascist Kiev rule. Many favor joining Russia. It remains to be seen if Western Ukrainians begin acting the same way.
A previous article discussed reports about US private military contractors operating in Ukraine. Perhaps Academi (formerly Xe Services/Blackwater USA) forces are involved.
They’re mercenaries. They’re hired guns. They’re trained to kill. They operate extrajudicially. Academi maintains close CIA/Pentagon ties.
On March 2, Voice of Russia (VOR) headlined “Ukrainian leadership to hire US mercenaries to suppress eastern regions – source,” saying:
“Private military company (operatives) will be in charge of suppressing protest movements in Eastern Ukraine…”
Itar-Tass was cited. It named Greystone Limited. It provides “protective services.” Its personnel include former law enforcement agency and military operatives. They’re skilled in the art of killing. It’s owned by Academi/formerly Blackwater USA.
VOR reported Itar-Tass saying “Ukrainian authorities believe that the Security Service is not able to suppress the protest mood and neutralize the leaders and activists of the pro-Russian movement in the eastern regions.”
Illegitimate putschist president Alexander Turchinov believes it.
VOR reported a Ukrainian Security Service representative saying “it was decided to attract foreign mercenaries, who will serve as political police and state security protection.”
Kiev appointed billionaire oligarchs running Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk regions urged getting guns for hire involved. Perhaps they’re now operating in Eastern Ukrainian cities.
Separately, RT International headlined “Notorious Ukrainian nationalist militant shot dead in police raid.” Aleksandr Muzychko (aka Sashko Bilyi) was named.
He was killed in Rovno. It’s in western Ukraine. He coordinated ultranationalist neo-Nazi Right Sector elements.
They include paramilitary extremists. They were centrally involved in Euromaidan violence. Their ranks include thousands.
They wore hoods and helmets. They used fire bombs and other tactics. They performed sniper killings. Dmytro Yarosh is a Right Sector leader. He’s way over-the-top.
He openly boasts about “…fighting Jews and Russians till I die.”
He calls Russia Ukraine’s “eternal enemy.” He said war between both countries is inevitable.
Muzychko’s killing appeared other than what was officially reported. He was a wanted man. Perhaps others like him await the same fate.
According to Ukrainian First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Yevdokimov, he was shot resisting arrest.
His elimination appeared more like a political assassination. He and likeminded extremists were used to seize power.
The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to approve a Russia-drafted resolution to support the Minsk agreements, reached by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine last week.
The resolution was submitted to the UNSC by Russia on February 13, a day after the Minsk deal was agreed on. It is aimed at endorsing and executing the Minsk agreements. The document also expresses concern over the continuing violence in eastern Ukraine, and stresses the importance of resolving the conflict peacefully.
“After the unprecedented diplomatic efforts last week, Ukraine has a chance to turn a dramatic page in its history,” said Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin, who expressed “gratitude” towards the other parties for endorsing the document.
Moscow would aid “in full” the realization of the agreement, he added.
The resolution calls for a “total ceasefire” and a “political solution” that respects the “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
Despite the unanimous vote on the resolution, a number of UN Security Council delegations keep selectively interpreting the new Minsk agreement, Churkin said.
“We are disappointed with the discussion, because some of our colleagues have gone on the usual rhetoric route, often the rhetoric was not harmless. Especially harmful in the present circumstances is an attempt to rewrite the Minsk agreement,” the Russian diplomat told the council.
Churkin urged the warring parties in Ukraine to create proper security conditions for the OSCE monitoring mission in the conflict zone and Debaltsevo, in particular.
“It is because of the continued shelling of cities, that the Minsk Agreement of September did not last as originally planned. Indeed, the OSCE observers should work including in the area of Debaltsevo, but in order to do so, they must be provided with security. We all have to remember that these are unarmed people, although in armored vehicles, but still without certain security conditions, it is difficult to expect that they will be able to effectively control something there,” said Churkin.
LIVE: UN Security Council discusses Ukraine
Streamed live on Feb 17, 2015
The Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations addresses the President of the Security Council in New York over the Ukrainian crisis at the 7384th Security Council meeting. The delegation of the Russian Federation requested urgent consultations regarding the situation in the country.
(CNN)Ukraine’s military said Wednesday that 80% of Ukrainian armed forces have now pulled out of a strategic railroad hub that’s been the focus of bitter fighting with pro-Russian separatists.
The two sides have been battling for weeks for control of Debaltseve, and continued conflict there has undermined a truce that apparently went into effect Sunday, raising concerns it is all but dead.
The ramifications for the West are huge because the 10-month-long conflict in eastern Ukraine has hiked tensions with Russia to a level not seen since the end of the Cold War, affecting trade and raising the specter of Russian expansion into Eastern Europe.
CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh called the loss of Debaltseve a huge blow to the Ukrainian government and a win for the separatist militants, who regarded it already as their territory when the front lines for the ceasefire were drawn. It’s not yet clear how Kiev will respond.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in a taped statement, said Ukrainian armed forces in the area had left Debaltseve according to plan and that Kiev was waiting for two remaining columns to pull back to the new defensive line.
“Debaltseve was under our control, there was no encirclement, and our troops left the area in a planned and organized manner with all the heavy weaponry,” he said, according to his office.
Poroshenko said in his conversations with U.S. and European Union leaders he had called for “a firm reaction from the world to Russia’s brutal violation of the Minsk agreements,” referring to the ceasefire agreed upon in Belarus.
The President, wearing a camouflage jacket, said he was on his way to the front line to meet with some of the soldiers who have pulled back. “I will be honored to shake their hands,” he said.
Ukrainian defense spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a Kiev news conference that the “organized retreat” from Debaltseve should be complete “within hours.”
The official news agency of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, DAN, earlier quoted separatists as saying there had been a large handover of weapons to the separatist forces in Debaltseve.
Deserted Ukrainian positions
CNN’s Paton Walsh, who is near Debaltseve, said deserted roads in the area are strewn with the wreckage of what, only hours earlier, were Ukrainian military positions.
A CNN team passed a checkpoint that had been obliterated as well as an armored personnel carrier that seemed to have been hit by a large explosion. What appeared to be the bodies of two Ukrainian soldiers could be seen there.
Only kilometers away from Debaltseve, the kind of intense shelling that would be expected with bitter fighting could no longer be heard.
It’s not clear where the civilians who were trapped by the conflict will go now, Paton Walsh said. The separatists have said they may try to evacuate them later, he said, but they would have to pass through areas that are still contested.
Speaking after news of the withdrawal, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia to withdraw its forces from eastern Ukraine.
“I urge Russia to withdraw all its forces from eastern Ukraine, to stop all its support for the separatists and to respect the Minsk agreement … and to also use all its influence on the separatists to make them respect the ceasefire,” he told reporters in Riga, Latvia.
Russia has steadfastly denied allegations by Kiev and the West that it is sending heavy weaponry and troops over the border into eastern Ukraine.
Lavrov: Don’t use Debaltseve as an excuse to derail peace process
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow that Russian President Vladimir Putin had tried to highlight the danger to thousands of Ukrainian troops encircled in Debaltseve before the ceasefire agreement was signed, but that Poroshenko had denied they were trapped.
The main goal now must be to save the troops’ lives, he said.
Lavrov suggested that outside Debaltseve, the weekend ceasefire had taken hold. “Across all conflict lines we can see hostilities have ceased and heavy armor started to be moved,” he said.
He urged Kiev and the West not to try to use the situation in Debaltseve as “an excuse to derail the process,” saying such reasoning had been used in the past to hinder peace efforts.
OSCE monitors insist on access to Debaltseve
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is tasked with monitoring the ceasefire and a supposed withdrawal of heavy weapons by both sides to create a buffer zone, has not been able to gain access to Debaltseve because of the continued conflict.
The chief monitor of the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, Ertugrul Apakan, said Tuesday that he was “profoundly disturbed” by reports from the town. His monitors plan to try to gain access again Wednesday.
“I am especially concerned about the civilian population of the town,” Apakan said. “The sides have a duty to them as well and to each other to adhere strictly to the ceasefire.
Ukraine: Russia has ‘full control’ over separatists05:37
“I condemn any attempts to create new facts on the ground, and so to change the basis on which the latest package of measures has been agreed.”
He pointed the finger at the separatist leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk, saying that they had effectively denied the OSCE monitors access to Debaltseve, and urged them to end their offensive and allow “unfettered access.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Wednesday that the separatists’ actions in Debaltseve were “a clear violation of the ceasefire” and called for the OSCE observers to be allowed in.
“The separatists must stop all military activities. Russia and the separatists have to immediately and fully implement the commitments agreed to in Minsk,” she said.
“The EU stands ready to take appropriate action in case the fighting and other negative developments in violation of the Minsk agreements continue.”
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on all parties to abide by the truce, and issued a statement expressing “grave concern at the continued fighting in and around Debaltseve, Ukraine, which has resulted in numerous civilian casualties.”
In a call with Poroshenko, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden warned that if Russia continues to violate the Minsk agreements, “the costs to Russia will rise,” according to a White House statement.
Lavrov dismissed Biden’s words as “just another example of how the American position is not constructive.”
Village under fire
In the beleaguered village of Shyrokyno, Ukrainian forces are struggling to keep control of territory.
Mortar shelling and small arms battles broke out in Shyrokyno on Wednesday morning. Two Ukrainian soldiers were injured, Dmytro Chalov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s army in the Mariupol sector, told CNN.
Violence in Ukraine02:21
“Right now, only about a third of the village is under our control,” a machine gunner named Yury told CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen a day earlier.
Oleg Shiryayev, commander of Ukraine’s East Corpus battalion, said the ceasefire “is a farce.”
“The fighting is continuing now the way it did before,” Shiryayev told Pleitgen. “They continue to attack us, shell us; they use artillery, mortars.”
But it’s impossible to tell which side is responsible for breaking the ceasefire in Shyrokyno.
To some residents, it doesn’t matter.
“The fighting is very heavy. All the windows (of) our house are broken,” one woman said. “It is very terrifying. We saved all our lives to buy our house, and now we have nothing.”
CNN’s Lindsay Isaac, Nick Paton Walsh, Emma Burrows, Holly Yan, Khushbu Shah, Claudia Rebaza and Diane Ruggiero contributed to this report, as did journalists Victoria Butenko and Azad Safarov.
A German channel uses the wrong photos when covering the Ukrainian crisis on air. German television channel ZDF published a photograph of Russian tanks in eastern Ukraine, which in reality were Russian tanks on patrol in South Ossetia in 2008. RT’s Peter Oliver reports. READ MORE: http://on.rt.com/12gowa
If russian tanks were in Ukraine, kiev and those Bandera lovers would be 6 ft under the ground within a week. Ladies and gentlemen… The western shills who openly advocate war with russia are playing with fire, will they fight on the front line? No. They will sit on their computers whilst you will fight for them. And western media has not mentioned once, the CIA usAID overthrow of a democratically elected president. If ukraine wants peace, they must recognise Novorossiya, like NATO did with Kosovo.
Ukrainian parliament passes law allowing army deserters to be shot
Ukraine’s parliament has passed a law which authorizes commanding officers to use physical force against army defectors. It comes as the latest military draft has seen a lack of enthusiasm on the part of potential soldiers.
Ukraine’s parliament voted on Thursday with 260 MPs in favor – only 226 votes were needed to pass the law. The new article 22(1) added to the charter regulating service in the armed forces of Ukraine states that commanders “have the right to personally use physical force, special means, and weapons when in combat” against soldiers who commit “criminal acts.”
Under criminal acts the law lists “disobedience, resistance or threat to use force against the commander, voluntary abandonment of military positions and certain locations of military units in areas of combat missions.”
An explanatory note to the document says that currently there are mass violations of military discipline, in particular, desertion from units and drinking alcohol, as well failure to execute commanders’ orders.
In late January, a new Ukrainian military draft for 2015 came into effect. This one is the fourth wave of mobilization since Kiev launched a military operation against militias in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.
It was expected to see 100,000 people joining the army in three stages throughout the year. However, the country’s Defense Ministry said on January 31 that nearly 7,500 Ukrainians are already facing criminal charges for evading military service.
The Ukrainian president’s adviser, Yury Biryukov, cited statistics, showing that desertion surprisingly was primarily a problem in western Ukraine, traditionally seen as a hotbed of anti-Russian sentiment.
The Ukrainian president went as far as signing a decree on additional measures to ensure a successful draft in 2015. A major provision is temporary restriction on leaving the country for men eligible for military service.
“The Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine parliament] has authorized the shooting of army deserters. By doing so they are risking shooting the whole army: people don’t want to participate in a bloody venture,” said the head of Russia’s Lower House of Parliament Committee for relations with the CIS bloc, Leonid Slutsky, on his Twitter.
Kiev began a military assault on eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions in April 2014, after they refused to recognize the country’s new, coup-imposed authorities. Following a period of calm and hopes that the Minsk negotiations conducted in September 2014 were bearing fruit, Kiev launched a new assault on the militia-held areas on January 18. Since then, eastern Ukraine has suffered constant shelling. Among the latest incidents, a hospital in Donetsk was hit on Wednesday. Local authorities said more than 15 people were feared dead in the attack. According to UN estimates, over 5,000 people have died since the conflict started.
The editorial in the New York Times we attach below is the first belated acknowledgement that the only way of saving Ukraine and ending the war is by conceding federalisation to Ukraine’s eastern regions.
We do not know for sure whether this editorial reflects official US thinking. However, the probability is that it does.
Firstly, it is not unheard of for the US government to float ideas in this way through editorials in the New York Times. The New York Times is regularly chosen to do this because of its reputation and because it is widely read abroad. The British government used to use the Times of London in the same way.
We have previouslyreportedthe concerns of some officials within the US government at the way in which the Ukrainian crisis is leading US relations with Russia into an impasse.
It is at least possible that with the war going disastrously wrong for Kiev and with the US administration looking increasingly short of options, the US administration is now trying to find a face-saving way out by finally embracing the federalisation solution that the Russians proposed last spring. If so then this editorial, which will surely be read in Moscow, is intended as as an olive-branch.
The following words give the clear impression that a concrete offer has been made to Moscow through diplomatic back-channels. The carefully chosen words clearly convey the sense that the authority of the US government lies behind them:
“Russian officials have suggested that Moscow has no interest in annexing eastern Ukraine, the way it grabbed Crimea, but rather seeks a Ukrainian federation in which the pro-Russian provinces would have relative autonomy, along with assurances that Ukraine will not move to join NATO.
There is definitely potential for negotiations there……..
Tempting as it is to focus on punishing Mr. Putin, the greater objective must be to end the fighting so that Ukraine can finally undertake the arduous task of reforming and reviving its economy. Toward that end, the West must make clear to Mr. Putin that if a federation is his goal, the United States and its allies will actively use their good offices with Kiev to seek a workable arrangement.”
Poroshenko has just issued anotherstatementruling out federalisation. This also suggests we are looking at an actual behind-the-scenes offer.We have alreadyexplainedwhy for Maidan talk of federalisation is anathema. Poroshenko’s words suggest he knows of the US initiative and is trying to scotch it and to make his opposition to the idea clear before Secretary Kerry flies to Kiev as he is due shortly to do.
Moscow and the rebels are however unlikely to take up the offer.
The Russians pushed strongly for federalisation of Ukraine’s eastern regions following the February coup. On 17th April 2014 a Statement was agreed by the US and Russian foreign ministers, John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva, and was signed by the EU and the Ukrainian government, that called for constitutional negotiations between the various Ukrainian parties. These were obviously intended to lead to a constitutional settlement that would have led to federalisation. Many people in the Donbass at the time of the independence referendum of 11th May 2014 appeared to support the idea.
What was offered (and declined) in Spring 2014 may however no longer be on the table in Winter 2015.
Since the federalisation idea was floated last Spring there has been a murderous war in the Donbass causing massive devastation and loss of life. Russia has been subjected to two rounds of sectoral sanctions. There has been a relentless propaganda campaign against Russia, the rebels and Putin himself. It is difficult to believe that all of this has not caused views to harden since the spring.
Promises of constitutional negotiations like the ones made in Geneva on 17th April 2014 and in Minsk on 5th September 2014 have come and gone. No negotiations have however taken place. Given that Kiev is dead against them, after all that has happened it is very doubrtful the rebels or the Russians now believe they ever will. Nor are the Russians likely to be in any sort of mood to believe in US assurances that “if federation is the goal, the United States and its allies will actively use their good offices with Kiev to seek a workable arrangement”.
What made sense in the Spring, when it was proposed to prevent a war, may anyway no longer make sense in the Winter, after the war has already happened. After so much violence it is barely conceivable that the rebels or the people of the Donbass who support them would now agree to be part of a federation that left them within Ukraine, especially now when they are on the brink of victory.
If this is correct, then it looks like the US and its allies have missed the bus.
The text of theeditorialthat appeared in The New York Times on February 2nd, 2015:
The fighting in eastern Ukraine hasflared up again, putting an end to any myth about the cease-fire that was supposed to be in force since September.
Though the Russian economy is staggering under the twinned onslaught of low oil prices and sanctions — or, conceivably, as a result of that onslaught — President Vladimir Putin has sharply cranked up his direct support for the rebels in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, while continuing to baldly deny it and to blame all the violence on the United States.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is broke, and without the military means to move against the Russian-backed rebels. Most of the victims are civilians who struggle with hunger and dislocation in the rubble of the combat zones and die in the constant exchanges of shells and rockets.
The eruption of fighting in recent weeks, which was not supposed to happen until spring, has given new force to pleas to the Obama administration to give Ukraine the means to resist Mr. Putin — in money and in arms.
Certainly the United States and Europe should increase their aid to Ukraine and explore ways to expand existing sanctions against Russia. NATO’s commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove, is said to support providing weapons and equipment to Kiev. And Secretary of State John Kerry is said to be open to discussing the idea. But lethal assistance could open a dangerous new chapter in the struggle — a chapter Mr. Putin would quite possibly welcome, as it would “confirm” his propaganda claims of Western aggression.
So far, President Obama has cautiouslypledged to helpUkraine in every way “short of military confrontation.” Yet with sanctions and diplomacy making no headway against Russian aggression, it is imperative that the United States and its allies take a new look at what would bring Russia to a serious negotiation.
The first question is, to negotiate what? Along with denying the direct involvement of his troops in eastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin has not made clear what he is trying to achieve. Russian officials have suggested that Moscow has no interest in annexing eastern Ukraine, the way it grabbed Crimea, but rather seeks a Ukrainian federation in which the pro-Russian provinces would have relative autonomy, along with assurances that Ukraine will not move to join NATO.
There is definitely potential for negotiations there. Yet the latest rebel attacks have focused on Mariupol, an important port on the Black Sea, and on expanding the rebels’ control to areas that would give their self-proclaimed “republics” greater military and economic cohesion. And that speaks to long-term rebel occupation.
Tempting as it is to focus on punishing Mr. Putin, the greater objective must be to end the fighting so that Ukraine can finally undertake the arduous task of reforming and reviving its economy. Toward that end, the West must make clear to Mr. Putin that if a federation is his goal, the United States and its allies will actively use their good offices with Kiev to seek a workable arrangement.
But if the evidence continues to accumulate that Mr. Putin and the rebels are carving out a permanent rebel-held enclave in eastern Ukraine, à la Transdniestria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia, he must know that the United States and Europe will be compelled to increase the cost.