Back battle for Ukraine national independence

By Roy Landersen
January 15, 2024

President Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow has stepped up its murderous rain of airstrikes against heavily populated areas of Ukraine. But working people there are determined to defeat his invasion and defend their independence. In recent months hundreds have protested to demand more government resources be used to strengthen the fight to defeat Moscow’s war.

In its biggest aerial barrage so far, Moscow launched 122 missiles and dozens of drones against Ukrainian cities across the country Dec. 29.

Ukrainian air defenses shot down most of the rockets and drones, but at least 41 civilians were killed, some 144 injured and more are buried under rubble. Moscow claims its targets are military but a maternity hospital, apartment blocks and schools were among buildings damaged.

The government in Kyiv retaliated with a drone attack Dec. 30 on Belgorod, a Russian provincial capital 19 miles from the Ukrainian border, causing casualties. Putin cynically uses assaults like this to claim Ukraine is the aggressor. The Ukrainian government does not see working people in Russia as an ally that can help bring an end to Moscow’s murderous assaults.

A Ukrainian cruise missile attack destroyed a Russian warship in the Crimean port of Feodosia Dec. 26. In the past four months, such attacks have taken out a fifth of Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet, breaking Putin’s attempted blockade of Ukrainian wheat shipments, part of his regime’s efforts to cripple the Ukrainian economy.

Moscow’s forces still occupy 18% of Ukraine, including Crimea, and last year’s Ukrainian counteroffensive has stalled.

Kyiv protests: ‘Drones, not parks!’

“It’s better to buy drones than build a new park!” and “The more money we spend on the army, the faster Ukraine will win this war!” chanted 500 young Ukrainians protesting outside the Kyiv City Council Dec. 14. At similar actions in Odesa, Lviv and other cities, working people are demanding that officials channel funds into the country’s defenses.

“At a time when our friends, parents and acquaintances are dying at the front, we have more pressing matters than rebuilding roads and beautifying parks,” Kateryna Zaderey told The Associated Press at the action.

Protests began in Odesa when a few dozen people demanded money allocated for repairing a courthouse be spent on the fighting instead. Workers despise the theft and corruption that mark the capitalist government in Ukraine. Outrage had swept Kyiv months earlier when three people died in a missile attack because they were unable to enter a locked-up bomb shelter despite city officials allocating $32.5 million for the maintenance of the shelters.

“It’s a question of the nation’s survival,” Iryna Ignatovych, a founder of the protest group Money for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told the New York Times in Kyiv. “Russia is a very big country with a lot of resources. Ukraine is not so big, so in order to win we must redirect all our efforts to help our military. The rear must support the front.”

In contrast to Ukraine, where working people volunteered to join the fighting at the front, in Russia opposition to the war continues to percolate.

‘Our men are dying for nothing’

The Way Home is a Russian organization of wives, mothers and other relatives of soldiers calling for the return of their loved ones and an end to Moscow’s mobilization. It released a video plea Dec. 28 by a soldier’s widow decrying the invasion of Ukraine.

Maria Ishkova from St. Petersburg spoke out in the Moscow-occupied Ukrainian city of Berdiansk where she planned to celebrate the New Year with her husband. She hadn’t seen him since he was one of 300,000 reservists called up in Putin’s mobilization in September 2022.

“I came on my own to the Zaporizhzhia region to greet the New Year with my husband,” said Ishkova. “Today … his comrades called me and said that he died.

“What I want to tell everyone who is fighting for their beloved men … [is that] there is no time left because every day can become fatal, and it most likely will. Fight for them at this very moment, do everything possible,” she said. “I want to tell you that people here don’t need this [war]. Our men are dying for nothing.”

The Way Home gained attention Nov. 7 when its members protested in Moscow calling on the Kremlin to rotate mobilized men out of the frontlines. The government accuses the organization of having ties to the U.S. and other imperialist powers.

“They call us traitors to the motherland,” the mother of one soldier told the Washington Post Dec. 28, “How can we be treated like this?” Her son and fellow soldiers were held in a squalid military prison for a week after refusing to storm an enemy position. She wrote letters to officials to protest their treatment, “but only received bureaucratic replies.

“I have not participated in rallies, street protests, but I think very soon I will agree to do so.”