“According to the latest information I have received from our intelligence, 70 percent of Russian troops have been moved back across the border,” Poroshenko said in a televised address to his cabinet Sept. 10.
He said his government was also working on a bill that would assign “special status” to parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces currently under separatist control, but pledged that they would remain part of Ukraine.
Though Putin denies Moscow’s direct involvement, the invasion and supply of heavy weapons are widely confirmed by workers and combatants in Ukraine, as well as by relatives of soldiers, veterans’ groups and others inside Russia.
The pro-Moscow forces reneged on an agreement to allow a safe corridor for encircled Ukrainian troops in Ilovaisk to withdraw Aug. 29. As the Ukrainian troops left they were attacked and hundreds were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
The Russian troops “don’t take risks. They see us and bomb in a square,” Panzer, a Ukraine volunteer fighter south of Ilovaisk, told the New York Times. “They bomb everything in that square, our positions, a village, homes, everything. We can do nothing; we don’t have artillery.”
While pro-Moscow forces pushed Kiev’s forces back, Ukrainian troops still control a number of eastern cities recently taken from separatists, including Slovansk and Kramatorsk.
Russian troops move south
The Russian regime also sent military units across the southern border, seizing Novoazovsk, opening the possibility of future moves on Mariupol, a port city of half a million and home of the Ilyich iron and steel mill, which employs 27,000 workers.
“We are maintaining production, while people are shooting at each other only kilometers away,” Alexander Ilarionov, a smelter production manager, told Reuters, saying that the workers are prepared to defend the plant and the city.
Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine faces opposition in Russia from both working people and a substantial section of the country’s capitalist ruling class.
Lev Shlosberg, publisher of Pskovskaya Gubernia in western Russia, was brutally attacked and hospitalized after he began investigations into the deaths of dozens of soldiers from Pskov, Russia, who were sent to Ukraine.
The paper printed a recorded conversation between Russian troops in Ukraine in which a soldier says that 80 Russian troops were killed by shelling Aug. 20.
The body of Anton Tumanov, 20, was delivered Aug. 20 to his mother, Elena Tumanova, in Kozmodemyansk, Russia. He was killed in battle in Snizhne, Ukraine, east of Donetsk.
Tumanov joined the Russian army in June, after searching for months for a job. He worked temporary jobs in construction and at a car plant in Moscow and Nizhniy Novgorod, but couldn’t find steady work, his mother told Novaya Gazeta.
“‘God forbid, they’ll send you to Ukraine,’ I told him,” Tumanova said. “He told me the army wouldn’t be sent to Ukraine.”
Members of his unit, the 18th Motor Rifle Brigade, formation 27777, were sent to Ukraine disguised as Ukraine separatists, Tumanov’s fellow soldiers told his mother. Tumanov was one of 120 killed and 450 wounded Aug. 12.
“No to war in Ukraine!” and “Let us not allow Afghanistan 2.0!” read the signs carried by veterans of the Russian war in Afghanistan in Bryansk, near the border with Belarus.
“How will we look the Ukrainians in the eyes if the war ends tomorrow,” said Vladimir Barabanov, who served in Afghanistan from 1986 to 1988 and is head of the Bezhitsky district Afghanistan veterans’ organization.
The Russian Anti-War Movement, formed in Moscow in late August, issued a statement Sept. 6 pointing to the growing number of soldiers who have died in Ukraine “that the government takes pains to cover up” and urging the soldiers’ mothers to speak out.
“This bloody war is not being waged for the ‘Russian world,’ as the Kremlin propagandists try to convince us,” the group said. “It is being waged to punish the people of Ukraine who rose up against Yanukovych the thief.” Viktor Yanukovych, former pro-Moscow president of Ukraine, was brought down in February by mass demonstrations and street battles, known as the Maidan, the name of the square in Kiev where the actions were centered.
Putin sees czarist continuity
Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine has been backed by both ultra-right and petty-bourgeois leftists, ranging from Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France to the Workers World Party in the U.S. At the same time, Putin has made it clear that he sees his actions in Ukraine in continuity with the imperial invasions and wars of Russia’s czarist rulers.
In a speech to the Seliger 2014 10th National Youth Forum in Tver, Russia, Aug. 29, the Russian president attacked V.I. Lenin and the Bolshevik Party for the overthrow of the czar and leading the workers, farmers and soldiers to power in 1917. “In the First World War, the Bolsheviks wished to see their Fatherland defeated,” Putin said. “And while the heroic Russian soldiers shed their blood on the fronts in World War I, some were shaking Russia from within and shook it to the point that Russia as a state collapsed. … This was a complete betrayal of national interests.”
Tatars active in politics in Crimea have faced harassment since the peninsula was forcibly annexed by Moscow in March. Most Crimean Tatars, who, as an entire people were rounded up by the regime of Joseph Stalin and deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia in Russia in the 1940s, are strong opponents of Moscow’s occupation.
Leaders of the Tatar Mejlis (council) have been special targets of the Russian secret police and Crimean authorities. Moscow banned former Mejlis central leader Mustafa Dzhemilev from entering his Crimean homeland for five years in April. About 100 Tatars who blocked roads in May protesting Moscow’s refusal to allow Dzhemilev into the country were slapped with fines. Some now face criminal investigations for “extremist behavior.”
On Sept. 4, 15 riot and local cops showed up at the homes of several families in the Nizhnegorsk district, claiming they were searching for weapons and drugs, but only confiscating books and religious literature.
Since Russia took over, Crimean authorities have also searched schools, looking for titles on a list of more than 2,000 books that are banned in Russia.
On Sept. 9 a half dozen plainclothes cops entered the boarding school for gifted students in Tankove, heading straight for the library. They seized three books and wandered around the school demanding that all Crimean Tatar national symbols be taken down.
That same day 30-40 students gathered on the steps of the Crimean Industrial Pedagogical University and sang the Ukraine national anthem in protest against the appearance of the speaker of the Moscow-imposed Crimea State Council.
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