The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 42      November 24, 2014

Moscow steps up separatist
proxy war in Ukraine
(front page)
The shaky cease-fire reached in September between the Ukrainian government and separatist paramilitary forces backed by Moscow in the country’s east is unraveling. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, tasked with monitoring the cease-fire, reported Nov. 11 that 43 unmarked military trucks from Russia were seen traveling to Donetsk towing howitzer artillery and multi-launch rocket systems.

Working people in Ukraine, the vast majority of whom oppose separatist attacks on the country’s sovereignty, face growing unemployment and boss attacks driven by a sharp economic crisis. The Ukrainian government is pressing to slash mining jobs by selling off or shutting down state-owned mines, cutting social benefits and carrying out other “austerity” measures to shore up profits of Ukrainian capitalists and meet loan conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund.

The Russian economy, heavily dependent on oil and gas exports, is being squeezed by expanding oil production from the U.S. and Washington’s allies in the Gulf kingdoms. As a result, world oil prices have tumbled 21 percent from a high of $101 per barrel in June to $79 on Oct. 14. Moscow’s 2015 budget is based on selling oil for $100 a barrel. Capital has been flowing out of Russia and the ruble has fallen 8 percent in the last week alone.

Moscow also faces the bite of U.S. and European Union economic sanctions on Russian individuals, banks and corporations.

Workers have borne the brunt of the imperialists’ economic squeeze. Food prices, for example, have skyrocketed, with meat and poultry rising nearly 17 percent a year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to the imperialist moves by challenging Washington’s unipolar domination,” ordering Russian military aircraft to probe European and U.S. air defenses on a scale not seen in a decade and sending a new wave of troops, tanks and artillery into eastern Ukraine.

In a widely reported Oct. 24 speech at the Valdai Club conference in Russia, Putin said the Cold War “world order” and the understanding between Washington and Moscow that defined it are no more. He blamed Washington for seeking global hegemony and said shifts of this magnitude “usually have been accompanied by if not global war and conflict, then by chains of intensive local level conflicts.”

Putin claimed Washington instigated the popular mobilizations in Ukraine that toppled the Moscow-backed regime of Viktor Yanukovych in February. “If Ukraine wants to keep its territorial integrity,” Putin said, “they need to understand there is no sense in holding onto some village or another.”

Moscow has also announced major expansion of propaganda outlets worldwide, including RT television and Sputnik radio. To push Moscow’s spin on events, the RIA Novosti news bureau office in Kiev will have a staff of 100.

The cease-fire agreement in Ukraine included a common election for representatives across the entire country. The vote was set for Oct. 27. But armed separatist in parts of the eastern provinces blocked Ukrainian elections, instead organizing their own on Nov. 2. In the so-called People Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, residents were told they had to vote to receive “social cards,” which would be necessary in the future to receive pensions and other government benefits. Moscow delivered hundreds of tons of potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables that armed units sold at low prices at voting stations. Balloting was overseen by armed militia.

“There are elections where you choose between A and B, and then there are the more difficult ones where you choose between A and A,” Aleksandr Prokhanov, a Russian who said he advises Donetsk Premier Aleksandr Zakharchenko, told the New York Times.

No elections were held in Crimea, which has been under Russian occupation since February.

The big losers in the Ukraine vote were rightist parties as well as groups that backed Moscow’s intervention. Right Sector received 1.6 percent of the vote, not enough to be represented in government. For the first time in decades, not a single candidate was elected from the pro-Moscow Communist Party.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian government figures released Oct. 30 report a 5.1 percent contraction in gross domestic product during the third-quarter. And much of the country’s industrial heartland in the east has been brought to a halt by fighting and destruction.  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home