Determined to defend their country’s sovereignty, working people in Ukraine have pushed back assaults by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces. The bloody consequences of the war are fueling the struggle between working people and Putin’s capitalist government, with resistance growing among soldiers, who the regime uses as cannon fodder.
An open letter condemning officers’ conduct of the war was sent by members of the 155th marine brigade of Russia’s Pacific Fleet to Oleg Kozhemyako, governor of the Primorye region in Russia’s Far East on the Sea of Japan, where the troops are based.
“As a result of the ‘carefully’ planned offensive by the ‘great generals,’ we lost about 300 people killed, wounded and missing in the course of four days,” the marines wrote, describing the unit’s assault on the village of Pavlivka in the Donetsk region of Ukraine in early November. Officers sacrificed troops’ lives to get medals, they said.
The same brigade suffered heavy losses during Moscow’s failed offensive to take Kyiv earlier in the war. In an unusual step, Russia’s defense ministry issued a statement denying the allegations.
Aleksei Agafonov was called up, one of 570 men from Voronezh, in southwestern Russia Oct. 16. On Nov. 1 he was part of a battalion under Ukrainian fire in Luhansk. “I saw men being ripped apart in front of me. Most of our unit is gone, destroyed. It was hell,” he told the press. “And many who survived are losing their minds.”
“On the very first day they put the draftees on the front line,” says Inna Voronina, in a video made by soldiers’ wives from Voronezh to protest the treatment of their husbands. “The command left the battlefield and fled.”
In the republic of Chuvashia, more than 100 soldiers have gone on strike after Putin’s security forces broke up a protest they held over the nonpayment of wages. Live-fire practice at the center has been canceled and the armory locked.
In another video shot at a training center in Kazan, the nearby capital of Russia’s Tartarstan region, a crowd of recently drafted men is seen berating Maj. Gen. Kirill Kulakov. Soldiers had told commanders they would not fight because they’d endured weeks of water shortages and scarce rations, and are supplied with rusty old guns. Kulakov called the police and then retreated as soldiers chanted “Shame on you!” and “Let’s go home!” Chants of “Down with Putin’s regime!” can also be heard.
Putin attacks urban centers
Putin is hoping his bombardment of Ukraine will increase pressure on Kyiv for talks and to cede territory. By Nov. 4 Moscow’s airstrikes left 4.5 million people without heat or power.
But the blackouts have strengthened the resolve of working people. “We will be standing until the end,” child care center owner Hanna Andriyenko in Kremenchuk told the BBC. Despite difficulties providing care during power outages she keeps the center open. Under lighting provided by cellphone flashlights, Yana Petrova continues to lead salsa classes. Putin’s war “is stressful for people,” she said, but “I’m not going to stop dancing, because it really saves us.”
As Ukrainian forces battle closer to Kherson in the south, Moscow’s occupation administration has been moved to Skadovsk on the Black Sea coast. A local nurse, Tetiana Mudryenko, 56, was publicly hanged by occupying forces after she denounced police collaborators and called out, “Skadovsk is Ukraine!”
Putin hopes for ‘war fatigue’
The largest war between two state powers in Europe since the second world imperialist slaughter is causing realignments among capitalist powers across the world and deepening conflicts between bourgeois parties, including in Eastern Europe.
In Prague on Oct. 28 tens of thousands of people joined an anti-government rally under the nationalist banner “Czech Republic First.” Speakers blamed soaring prices on the government’s backing for Ukraine and called for talks with Moscow over fuel supplies. A similar number joined a pro-government demonstration two days later.
President Joseph Biden warned Kyiv not to rule out talks with Putin. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Nov. 7 that conditions for opening talks with Moscow must include returning all territory seized by Putin’s invasions.
Some 30 liberal Democrats in Congress wrote to Biden Oct. 24 urging him to explore “all possible avenues” for direct talks with Moscow to seek a “rapid end to the conflict.” Cosigners included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, from the socialist wing of the Democratic Party. They withdrew the letter after criticism from fellow Democrats.
Along similar lines, the ANSWER Coalition and the People’s Forum are holding a public meeting, “The Real Path to Peace in Ukraine,” Nov. 19 in New York. Demanding that Washington impose “peace” talks on Kyiv, this current is lending back-handed support to Putin’s invasion.
“The Socialist Workers Party calls for Russian forces to get out of Ukraine, all of Ukraine, immediately,” Joel Britton, SWP candidate for governor of California, told the Militant Nov. 7. “The SWP also opposes the sanctions imposed by the U.S. government on Russia, which fall heaviest on working people.
“Behind their facade of caring for Ukrainian sovereignty, the only real concern of Washington and its allies is their profits and strategic interests in the region,” the SWP candidate said. “We call for U.S. forces and their nuclear weapons to get out of Europe.”