The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 30      August 25, 2014

Separatist forces retreat,
splinter in east Ukraine
(front page)
Separatist paramilitaries have retreated from more than 75 percent of the towns and villages they had seized in eastern Ukraine with backing from Moscow following mass mobilizations that overthrew President Viktor Yanukovych in February and marked a key turning point in defense of the country’s national sovereignty.

Once in control of areas in the east, armed separatists simply sowed social chaos and appealed for Moscow’s intervention. In the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, “armed separatists haven’t managed to take over the local government,” the Aug. 11 Politico magazine said. “Their reign is a partial occupation, based on individual buildings their gunmen have seized and camped out in, and roadside checkpoints.”

Over the past week paramilitary forces have fled from Yasynuvata, a central rail hub in Donetsk province, as well as Krasnyi Luch, Pervomaisk, Kalynove and Komyshuvakha in adjacent Luhansk.

Igor Strelkov, a Russian military intelligence officer who proclaimed himself defense minister of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, declared a “state of siege” in Donetsk Aug. 4 and announced he was now the “military commandant.”

Alexander Borodai, another Russian with ties to military intelligence who had proclaimed himself prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, announced his resignation Aug. 7.

As the separatists retreat the regime in Moscow continues to seek ways to destabilize Ukraine. On Aug. 12 a convoy of 280 trucks left a military base in Russia for Ukraine, carrying what Moscow said was 2,000 tons of “humanitarian” aid for residents in Luhansk who have been without electricity or water for more than a week as Ukrainian forces tightened their encirclement of the city.

Ukrainian government spokespeople have denounced Moscow’s move. “Russia’s cynicism knows no bounds,” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Aug. 13. Moscow dispatches aid, he said, while they are responsible for people’s misery by supplying weapons and fighters to the separatists.

Ukrainian officials have said the aid could be delivered if it’s inspected by Ukrainian border agents, transferred to control of the International Red Cross for delivery, and not handed over to paramilitary forces.

“I’m happy to see them gone,” Tamara Yarontseva told the Wall Street Journal Aug. 12, after separatists had been driven out of Siversk, one of many eastern cities liberated in recent weeks.

Some residents there yelled at Ukrainian soldiers as they entered the town. But most welcomed them as they began restoring electricity and water supplies and removing mines left behind by fleeing paramilitaries, both soldiers and local workers told the Journal.

As separatist paramilitaries have been fracturing and retreating, they have blamed Moscow for not invading Ukraine to aid them. But the government of President Vladimir Putin faces opposition to invasion among both a large section of the capitalist rulers and working class.

This opposition is augmented by the country’s growing economic crisis and imperialist financial and trade sanctions. Oil and natural gas make up 68 percent of Russia’s total exports and account for more than half the government’s budget. Crude oil prices worldwide hit a nine-month low Aug. 12. Food prices are rising. Some $75 billion in capital has fled the Russian economy in the first six months of this year, more than in all of 2013.

Moscow fears contagion

Moscow’s biggest fear is contagion at home from the mobilizations in Ukraine. Supporters of greater autonomy for Siberia called for an Aug. 17 “march for federalization of Siberia” in Novosibirsk.

BBC reported that in the face of government threats to shut down reporting about the march, online media sites were full of discussion of the protest, including people comparing it to the Maidan mobilizations in Ukraine that brought down the pro-Moscow regime.

The government has banned the march.

Opponents of Russian government interference in Ukraine called an anti-war rally in Moscow Aug. 12. Authorities banned that action as well, but dozens showed up nonetheless. Surrounded by cops and riot police, they marched through the streets and placed flowers and candles outside the Ukrainian Embassy.

Ukraine economy weakens

Ukraine’s capitalist economy, under pressure from Moscow, has deteriorated.

Construction is down 9 percent; manufacturing, 5 percent; export, 5 percent; and imports, 18 percent. Unemployment increased to 9.3 percent in the first quarter of 2014. The International Monetary Fund and other foreign investors are demanding sharp reductions in state allocations for social services and imposition of higher taxes, especially those that fall hardest on working people, seeking to make the country more attractive for capital investment.

To maximize profits, mine bosses continue to attack safety conditions on the job. Eighteen miners were injured and two are missing after a gas explosion and fire hit the Skakhtoupravleniye Pokrovskoye coal mine in Krasnoarmeisk in eastern Ukraine Aug. 12.

Meanwhile, the Kiev government dropped a proposed law Aug. 14 that, on the pretext of “national security,” would have given the president the power to ban or restrict media coverage, including on the Internet, and limit production or circulation of printed material. The National Union of Journalists in Ukraine and others had protested the law, saying it would restrict free speech and open the door to censorship.  
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