The monthslong battle by Ukrainian toilers fighting to beat back Moscow’s bloody invasion and defend their national independence is now focused in the country’s eastern and southern regions.
Moscow has massed its ground forces and is making costly gains in the Ukrainian Donbas, using murderous artillery bombardment to reduce areas to rubble. The vast majority of working people there are being forced to flee, mainly westward to safer Ukrainian cities.
After multiple attacks on the main cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv ended in heavy losses for Russian forces, despite superior firepower and facing falling troop morale, Moscow pulled back and moved its assault to the east. It has the advantage there of shorter supply lines from Russia and flatter terrain.
Rifts are widening among NATO-member nations as the main imperialist powers on the European continent seek ways to force the courageous Ukrainian fighters to stand down and make concessions. For these capitalist regimes the key is to halt the war’s destabilizing effects on their markets and profits. Along with the imperialist ruling families in Washington, each European government pursues the interests of its own capitalist rulers first, foremost and always.
While professing to back Ukrainian sovereignty, many in Washington and European capitals look to battlefield realities to push Kyiv to make concessions to Moscow. Much of the capitalist media has slashed coverage of the invasion and Ukrainian resistance, claiming readers are losing interest.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claims Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine — the vast majority of working people there — back Moscow’s occupation. But the simple fact is the Russian onslaught has driven tens of thousands to leave by any means necessary, overwhelmingly deeper into Ukraine, to escape from their “liberators.” In areas already occupied by Moscow’s troops, like in southern Kherson, protests and refusal to cooperate with their occupiers continue.
After Russian shelling destroyed an apartment block in Slovyansk in the Donetsk region, killing her elderly relative, Elena Valentivna told the June 18 Washington Post, “I’m Russian but I’m for Ukraine.”
Ukrainian resistance continues
Workers across Ukraine have thrown themselves into defending their country, despite obstacles — like new anti-labor legislation and strictures on political rights — put in their path by Ukraine’s capitalist government. (See accompanying article on contributions by Ukrainian rail workers.)
Speaking at a St. Petersburg forum June 17, Putin denounced the far-reaching sanctions imposed by Washington and other western powers as an “economic blitzkrieg against Russia.” He insisted these measures were “more harmful” to the capitalist rulers who imposed them, pointing to spiraling inflation and economic crises internationally. His regime is banking on flagging support for Kyiv amid “war fatigue” in western capitals.
For weeks, concentrations of Russian troops have besieged Severodonetsk, the capital of Ukrainian-controlled territory in the Luhansk region, and its twin city across the river, Lysychansk.
Hundreds of civilians remain in Severodonetsk, most of which has been pulverized. They’re holed up with Ukrainian forces in bunkers underneath the Azot chemical plant in what was the city’s industrial area. As in the earlier siege of Mariupol, where civilians and Ukrainian forces retreated into the reinforced basements of the Azovstal steel works, they are resisting Russian calls to surrender.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev repeated Moscow’s overall goal in the war June 15. He boasted that “Ukraine might not exist at all” in a couple of years.
The new and self-serving moods of “war fatigue” sweeping the capitalist rulers in Washington and Europe threaten to ease Putin’s path.
The leaders of the largest states in the European Union — Germany, France and Italy — finally visited the Ukrainian capital June 16. Despite their assurances, and that of Washington, that badly needed armaments are on the way, they brought little new to the table. Apart from Paris’ offer of six additional howitzers, no new assistance was offered to Kyiv. Along with the president of Romania, they made a show of backing, with strings attached, Kyiv’s bid to become a member of the EU in the distant future.
Kyiv’s stocks of Soviet-era ammunition are running out. Russian shelling and missile attacks on rail lines and other infrastructure have reduced the arms flow from the west that the Ukrainian army is increasingly dependent on.
Washington has promised the most arms to Ukraine, followed by Warsaw and London, but only a fraction has been delivered. After Kyiv asked for 300 multiple rocket launchers, Biden ballyhooed his agreement, but approved a grand total of four, none of which have actually arrived. And he ruled out longer-range missiles that could “provoke” Moscow.
Latvia, with a population of 1.8 million and an economy the size of Vermont, has delivered more weapons to Ukraine than Germany, France or Italy.
French President Emmanuel Macron says Putin must not be “humiliated,” hoping to assure the possibility of talks in the near future over the fate of Ukrainian workers and farmers, talks he seeks a role in to defend the interests of French imperialism. Rome has also floated a “peace” plan.
There is ongoing unrest and more partisan resistance by working people in areas that have fallen under Moscow’s boot over the last few months. Their will to fight back is far from broken.
And there is opposition to Putin and his war inside Russia and occupied Ukrainian territory. A protest June 15 in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic was organized by wives of soldiers conscripted there by Moscow at the outbreak of the war. One woman said their husbands were supposed to return on June 6, but they have not been heard from since. And, despite promises, “for four months there were no payments to us.”
Natalya Poklonskaya, who became Putin’s chief prosecutor in Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, was fired from her government job June 13 after speaking out against the invasion of Ukraine. She said it was a “catastrophe” with “entire cities destroyed” and “millions of refugees.”
“The Socialist Workers Party calls for Moscow’s troops out of Ukraine, all of Ukraine!” Chris Hoeppner, SWP candidate for U.S. Congress from Pennsylvania, said June 21, while joining striking Canadian National rail workers in Montreal. “And we oppose the punishing economic sanctions imposed by Washington and other imperialist governments that — regardless of who they target — fall hardest on Russian working people. These are an obstacle to building the working-class solidarity crucial to mobilizing the class forces capable of driving Moscow out of Ukraine.”