BY JOHN STUDER
Moscow has deployed more than 1,000 troops, with tanks, armored carriers, anti-aircraft equipment and other armaments, to aid pro-Russian government separatist forces in the two eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin faces internal opposition among working people and a substantial section of the country’s capitalist ruling class.
The imperialist governments of America and Europe have threatened to inflict further financial sanctions on Russia, but have ruled out direct military intervention for now. “Ukraine is not a member of NATO,” U.S. President Barack Obama said Aug. 28. “We don’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine.”
“There have been 3,000 to 4,000 [Russian troops] in our ranks,” Alexander Zakharchenko, the newly installed “prime minister” of the separatists’ so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, said in an interview on Russian state television Aug. 28.
Russian trucks transporting troops and weaponry have been hauling away industrial machinery looted from Ukrainian factories in areas under separatists’ control.
Equipment to make early warning radar equipment was removed from the Donetsk Topaz plant, high-precision equipment was taken from the Tochmash military-industrial complex in Makeyevka and entire production lines were removed from the Luhansk Cartridge plant.
In a threat to the southern border city of Mariupol, Russian troops crossed the border and seized the town of Novoazovsk on the Azov Sea. The occupying troops distributed written instructions to residents, Ukrayinska Pravda reported, ordering them not to “obstruct the free movement of Russian troops,” and to communicate only in Russian so the “peacekeepers would not misunderstand your intentions.” They also instructed residents to turn in names of those who were “participants of Maidan, activists of civil rights groups and leaders of ethnic minority groups,” and to “show [the Russian troops] how happy you are to see them.” The Maidan refers to the mass mobilizations centered in Kiev’s Maidan Square that overthrew pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych in February.
Thousands in Mariupol have protested Moscow’s incursion, including by forming a human shield around the city. Workers have volunteered to help build trenches and other fortifications. Steelworkers from the Metinvest plant in Mariupol, which employs 27,000 workers, have been welding anti-tank barriers and preparing for combat.
“This is our gem,” Ilya, a Metinvest worker, told Reuters, referring to the plant. “The Russians would like to either seize it or render it unusable, so we will prevent them.”
Protests spread in Russia
While the Kremlin denies direct Russian intervention in Ukraine, overwhelming evidence points to the contrary. Ella Polyakova, leader of the Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg, told the Russian press Aug. 26 her group had compiled a list of more than 100 soldiers killed in Ukraine and hundreds more injured. The group, which dates back to Moscow’s war in Afghanistan, has strong moral appeal. Two days later the Russian Ministry of Justice placed the group on its “foreign agent” registry.
“The ruling regime in Russia has dragged the country into a fratricidal war,” the new Organizing Committee of the Russian Anti-War Movement said in a statement in Moscow Aug. 28. The group called on mothers to “demand the return of your children to Russia if you find out that your son has been sent by the command to fight in Ukraine.”
Because one-person pickets don’t require government permits, a number of protest actions have been carried out by individuals, including a number of prominent artists, writers and others. “War against Ukraine is a disgrace and a crime,” said the poster held by writer and journalist Viktor Shenderovych as he picketed in Moscow.
Nadia Tolokonnikova, one of the members of Pussy Riot who had been imprisoned for protests against Putin, posted a picture of a small stuffed bear on Red Square holding a Ukrainian flag, next to a set of tires like those erected on Maidan months earlier, with the caption, “Glory to the heroes, silently someone answered.”
Miners defend Ukraine, jobs
Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, the Ukrainian government has begun to impose a series of sharp cuts in government expenses, targeting jobs, wages and social benefits. Some 38 state-owned mines are up for closure or sale.
“While separatists in the Donbass are destroying businesses and people, the Ministry of Energy and the Coal Industry of Ukraine are destroying the industry and economy of the state,” Mykhail Volynets, chair of the National Union of Independent Coal Miners of Ukraine, told a Kiev Round Table meeting Aug. 22.
Volynets had just returned from a tour of eastern mines, many of which have been closed by separatists.
“Miners have risked their lives to keep production going,” he said. “The miners at the Faschevskaya mine kept working while the separatists controlled the area. Three weeks ago they were driven out. The miners saved the mine, pumping out water that threatened it.
“But they hadn’t been paid since June,” he said. “Are the bosses trying to force them out on strike?”