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Vol. 78/No. 13      April 7, 2014

Moscow troops grab Crimea,
US sanctions target workers
(front page)
KIEV, Ukraine — Russian troops took over the last of 189 Ukrainian military bases in Crimea March 23 as part of their seizure of the peninsula and have taken up threatening positions along Ukraine’s eastern border.

Meanwhile, the imperialist powers of America and Europe imposed financial sanctions, for which working people of Russia will bear the brunt. And Washington beefed up joint military maneuvers in the Black Sea with a number of former Soviet republics and other governments in central and eastern Europe.

Col. Yuli Mamchur, former head of the last Ukrainian base in Crimea, had become a symbol of resistance to the Russian annexation for his refusal to evacuate the air force barracks. He was whisked into Russian custody after he and the troops under his command finally surrendered the Belbek base in face of overwhelming force.

“A uniform is not for sale. You cannot buy it. You cannot sell it,” Ukrainian Capt. Aleksandr Lantukh told reporters outside the base in Belbek a day after it was taken by Moscow, reported the Washington Post. Most of the troops on the base remained loyal to Ukraine.

But Ukraine’s interim Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh, who resigned after Moscow snatched Crimea, said only about one-quarter of Ukrainian troops stationed throughout Crimea are expected to leave the peninsula and remain under Ukrainian command, with most of the rest joining the Russian military, reported McClatchy news service.

About 12 percent of the population in Crimea is Tatar, an oppressed nationality that has lived there for centuries. “Nearly 30 percent of Crimean Tatars voted in favor of reunification with Russia,” Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev of the new pro-Moscow Crimean government announced March 18, two days after a rigged referendum there. Temirgaliyev also said Crimean Tatars will have to vacate part of their lands.

“Considering that only 0.54 percent of Tatars actually voted; it’s disingenuous to say that 30 percent supported Russia,” a reader commented online in response to Temirgaliyev’s statements as reported in the Moscow Times.

“My family is in Crimea and I am very concerned,” Lenara Smedlyaeva, who works at a Tatar restaurant near the Maidan here, told the Militant.

“I try to visit my family every three months, but I don’t know if that is possible now,” said Smedlyaeva, who works with Crimea SOS, an organization of Crimeans in Kiev. Her grandmother was deported by the Russians during World War II, she said, when the Soviet government of Premier Joseph Stalin forcefully expelled the entire Tatar population from Crimea; nearly half did not survive the exodus.

“My grandmother was deported on May 18, 1944, to Perm in the Urals,” Smedlyaeva said. “She spent the next 45 years in the south of Russia working in the forests as a laborer, a very hard job. Our family was so glad when she returned to the Crimea in 1989.”

Top NATO commander Philip Breedlove described Russian military forces conducting maneuvers along Ukraine’s eastern border March 23 as “very, very sizable and very, very ready,” reported Reuters. Moscow has its eyes not only on eastern Ukraine, but Transdniestria, which declared independence from Moldova in 1990 and lies some 300 miles from Ukraine’s eastern border. The speaker of parliament there has called for the province to be incorporated into Russia.

Interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has called for decentralization of power in eastern Ukraine in an effort to blunt Russian designs and provocations there.

Donetsk Mayor Oleksandr Lukyanchenko is among many political figures in the east who support Yatsenyuk’s calls for greater regional powers while opposing any Moscow-engineered referendums for closer ties with Russia.

Washington has imposed sanctions on 20 individuals and a major bank in Russia. “Billions of dollars were wiped off the value of companies linked to some of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs yesterday as the effect of U.S. sanctions on President Vladimir Putin’s ‘inner circle’ shook the country’s financial sector,” reported the Financial Times.

Russian Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Belyakov told a local business conference in Moscow March 24 that “the economic situation shows clear signs of a crisis.” The ruble is down 11 percent against the dollar this year.

Washington reinforced joint naval and air exercises in the Black Sea, adding at least a dozen F-16 fighters jets. The March 21-April 4 maneuvers, which had been planned since 2013, involve the militaries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, as well as Turkey, Belgium and NATO representatives.

Moscow has stepped up economic pressure on Ukraine, sealing the border to most trucks, raising prices of natural gas pumped in from Russia and shutting down a chocolate factory in southern Russia owned by Ukrainian capitalist Petro Poroshenko, who announced plans to run for president of Ukraine in the May 25 elections.

The government of Ukraine has requested $15 billion in loans from the International Monetary Fund to maintain bond payments and stave off financial collapse. IMF officials are demanding Kiev slash 20 percent from its budget, cut energy subsidies, devalue its currency and take steps to squeeze higher “productivity” from the working class as conditions for the loan package.
Related articles:
Miners in Ukraine discuss fight for sovereignty, rights
Coverage from coal region near Polish border
SF rally protests Russian occupation of Crimea
Contribute to ‘Militant’ reporting team in Ukraine
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