Author: jmbojcun

Kryviy Rih miners prepare to strike

Kryviy Rih miners

From the website of Avtonomniy Opir (Autonomous Resistance): http://opir.info/);

translated by Marko Bojcun

On 27 November the workers at the Kryviy Rih iron ore company Sukha Balka announced the beginning of a struggle against the owner of the mine – the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. The miners are convinced that the owner is deliberately destroying the mine. They are preparing to call a strike.

In 2007 Sukha Balka was bought out by the corporation Evraz, owned by one of the most influential businessmen of the Russian Federation Roman Abramovych. From the first days of Russian aggression against Ukraine the mine’s owner has pursued a policy of the most rapid exploitation of the mine’s potential and then its closure.

The profits of Evraz Sukha Balka in 2014 were 840 million hryvnia (60 million Euros) While the volume of production at the mine has been rising constantly the mine managers have been economising on mine maintenance and safety, requiring the miners to pay for their safety equipment themselves. Miners are being summarily and illegally dismissed from work, the workday of remaining miners grows longer, their tasks and responsibilities multiply thus making accidents all the more likely. Despite a high rate of inflation wages are not indexed and the incidence of premiums and bonuses not being paid out is growing.

The miners are convinced that in the current situation of the Russo-Ukrainian war Abramovich is preparing to liquidate the mine once he has exploited it and the miners to the maximum degree possible. The miners know that the iron ore they mine leaves the country for sale in Russia via the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. A significant part of the profits are invested in enterprises of the occupying power. More than one hundred workers at Sukha Balka did swervice in the ATO zone or are presently defending Ukraine in this zone of military conflict. Many of them are volunteers.

Ukrainian miners don’t want to work at all for the income of Russian oligarchs and contribute to financing these “people’s republics”.

For these reasons the miners decided at a meeting on 27 November to prepare for a full-scale legal strike. If the demands of the workers for an improvement in their work conditions are not met they will then proceed to a struggle for the nationalisation of the mine.

We, the trade unionists of this iron ore plant, the movement Autonomous Resistance, the Kyiv left and social activists, call upon you to unite in solidarity with the miners of Kryviy Rih and to support them in their struggle against oligarchic capital.

Contact: 0669597804 – Denys; Lviv – 0633591618 – Serhiy; Kryviy Rih – 0967715459 – Oleksandr.

Following the campaign in support of the miners: http://opir.info/ https://vk.com/club32440788

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The miners are no-one’s rent-a-mob

Presidium of the Miners' Congress in Kyiv, 21-22 April 2015

Presidium of the Miners’ Congress in Kyiv, 21-22 April 2015

Miners portrayed as Akhmetov’s pawns

In the past days a campaign has been underway in Ukraine to discredit the ongoing coal miners’ protests in Kyiv. It has now found its way onto the pages of the international press, including the Financial Times April 27 issue (“President tackles oligarchs’ stranglehold on the economy” by Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv). The campaign, initiated by people close to President Poroshenko, claims that the miners’ protests are merely part of an elaborate plan by Rinat Akhmetov to preserve the monopoly position of his corporation DTEK in the Ukrainian coal mining and electricity generating sector. In other words, the miners are Akhmetov’s “rent-a-mob” and their own demands count for nothing.

This attempt to reduce the miners to the status of pawns in the hands of Ukraine’s richest man can be traced to a blog posted on April 24 by Mustafa Nayem, People’s Deputy to the Verkhovna Rada from the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, tv personality and a prominent journalist during the Maidan. http://blogs.pravda.com.ua/authors/nayem/55397eabd8918/  Nayem asserts that after the recent downfall of Ihor Kolomoisky, Akhmetov rode into town to defend his own business interests; and instead of armed guards, he has brought the miners with him. Akhmetov is portrayed as intent on in blocking reform of the energy sector so as to maintain his monopoly position. Thus, the current miners’ protests and their third congress in Kyiv, their “attacks” on the president and their demands for the resignation of coal and energy minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn – all of this, says Nayem, is meant to destabilise and deflect the government from its reformist course.

DTEK general director Maksym Tymchenko and his senior colleagues, it is claimed, have prepared a long term strategy for the company’s survival, which calls for whipping up fear among miners about the imminent bankruptcy of their industry and the wholesale loss of jobs; fomenting a “revolt” by the miners and workers at thermal and nuclear power stations; mounting an attack on the “professional incompetence” of the Minister of Mines and Energy Demchyshyn; pointing out a line of corruption running from Demchyshyn to Poroshenko; and attacking the government for continuing to import Russian coal while asking for the assistance of western governments to stand up to Russian aggression.

Mustafa Nayem offers us in his blog a scanned copy of the alleged DTEK strategy document, entitled Krepost’ – Fortress, with the sections alleging the involvement of miners in the company’s survival plan highlighted in red. No-one has independently verified the authenticity of this document, as far as I know.

Nayem further reveals that he has himself turned to the Procurator General, the Interior Ministry and the Security Services to investigate the claim that DTEK has been involved in whipping up workers’ protests against the government and interfering in government business in order to protect its business interests.

Nayem says that DTEK holds a monopoly position on the market for coal used to generate electricity, supplying 67% of the coal burned at thermal power stations. However, Akhmetov’s appointees to the government’s anti-monopoly and energy regulation commissions have consistently understated DTEK’s real position in the thermal coal and electricity generation sectors, thereby allowing it to evade government attempts to break up the monopoly.

In 2014 DTEK charged 1,100 UAH per tonne for its coal; this year DTEK has raised its price to 1,500 UAH. Insofar as the coal miners employed by DTEK have not enjoyed a penny increase in their rates of pay, the increased cost can only be attributed to the fact that DTEK has outstanding loans of $3bn. With the collapse in the exchange rate between the Ukrainian currency in which DTEK collects its profits from coal and electricity and the US currency in which it must repay these loans Akhmetov is shifting the burden of his company’s indebtedness onto the Ukrainian taxpayer by raising the domestic price of coal. Thus, argues Nayem, Akhmetov is fighting off both a default to his international creditors and a break-up of his monopoly position by the government by bringing the miners out onto Kyiv’s streets to destabilise the government.

Miners unite in Kyiv

The coal miners have been mounting local strikes and protests for five months. Their most recent protests in Kyiv and their congress saw members of both miners’ unions – the Independent Union of Miners and the Union of Mine Workers – close ranks for the first time in many years. This important development seems to have alarmed the government sufficiently to seek to discredit them.

The miners’ congress on 21-22 April was called to address the crisis in the mining industry. The organisers invited the President and the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada to address them and to respond to the miners’ own plan to save the industry. None of them came; only the minister of energy and mining industry showed up, and he was neither acquainted with the miners’ plan nor could he answer straight-forward questions put to him by the miners’ delegates.

While in Kyiv this past week the miners have been put under pressure by the local authorities, the sylovyky (agents of the interior ministry and the secret police) as well as titushky (gangs of hired thugs). http://www.kvpu.org.ua/uk/news/6/3985/shakhtari-–-ne-ti-lyudi,-yaki-prodayutsya

The miners’ demands have remained consistent. From the start they have called for clearing up months of wage arrears, protecting their pension and invalidity benefits from the cuts set out in the current state budget, preventing the closure of mines and saving their jobs. They have been demanding that the government invest sufficiently in the state owned mines to ensure a secure supply of coal to electricity generating stations, rather than buying coal and electricity from abroad, in the first instance from Russia, at significantly higher prices than for domestic coal and electricity.

Miners’ demands are political

The issue at hand is by no means an economic one alone. The Ukrainian state is already dependent on Russia for natural gas and nuclear fuel. And it is at war with Russia. The miners see in the decision of the Ukrainian ministry of energy and coal to import electricity from Russia and then to subsidise the cost of electricity it sends into Russian occupied Crimea as a further sign of betrayal not only of the miners, but also of the country’s energy security. They are demanding that the government strengthen its own security by maintaining the coal mines on territory it still controls in the Donbas, as well as those in the Volynian-Lvovian Basin in the west of the country. That makes a lot of sense. At present, there is not a penny in the 2015 state budget for the maintenance of these mines, whereas 1.2bn UAH is allocated for their closure. That doesn’t.

The attempts to intimidate the miners and politically manipulate their grievances have now led the Free Union of Medical Workers (head: O.O. Panasenko) to appeal for actions of solidarity with the miners. The union has called upon its branches to meet and consider “the formation of workers’ committees at enterprises, institutions and organisations and the organisation of protests for the protection of Ukrainian statehood and the defense of citizens’ constitutional rights”. (http://www.kvpu.org.ua/uk/news/6/3983/zayava-vpmpu)

It is undoubtedly the case that the government is literally fighting for its life with diminishing resources and that, after Kolomoisky, Akhmetov’s revenue streams and his allegiances are now in its line of fire. In the midst of this fight it is very convenient for Poroshenko’s camp to brand the miners as Akhmetov’s rent-a-mob. It refuses to acknowledge that the miners are losing confidence in the government’s ability to safeguard not only their livelihood, but the country’s independence. And that they have a plan to defend the country’s energy security.

The miners should be heard.  Here is what the Independent Union of Mine Workers say. Judge for yourself.

Declaration of the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine 

24 April 2015

History shows that the miners’ movement has always been one of the preconditions for democratic change in Ukrainian Society. The miners’ strikes in 1989-90 were one of the forces that brought down the Soviet Union.

The coal mining industry is in a critical state, to which it has been brought by erroneous decisions of the government and the oligarchs which contradict the national interests of Ukraine. One of these decisions is to close the mines en masse.

Today the miners are compelled once again to stand up in defense of Ukraine’s independence, this time with respect to its energy sector.

As a result we are seeing the systematic rise in arrears of wages owing to the miners, loss of jobs and growth in unemployment across the country. No real steps have been taken to suppress corruption in the energy sector.

In the conditions of a hybrid war, when war is fought not just on the military front but also on the economic and informational fronts, Ukraine is buying coal and electricity from the occupying power and thereby it supports it and not its own industry. Moreover, the coal is purchased from Russia at a price that is much higher than the Ukrainian price. According to the contract for the supply of electricity to Crimea, a subject of the Russian Federation, a contract signed with the agreement of V(olodymyr). Demchyshyn, the minister of energy and coal industry (of Ukraine), Ukraine is buying electricity at an inflated price from Russia and selling it to Crimea at a discounted price.  So Ukrainians are paying out of their pockets for the difference by way of increased utility tariffs for households and communal services. It is clear that certain forces are interested in this set-up, so as to ruin the Ukrainian coal industry and to leave Ukraine permanently dependent on its aggressor-neighbour for its energy supplies.

That is why the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine have come today to the walls of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) the President’s Administration and the Ministry of Energy and Coal Mining with their demand that corruption in the coal industry be suppressed, that the minister whose is trying to completely wreck the energy sector be dismissed, to carry out reforms and save Ukraine’s energy sector.

However, the mass media are publishing only unflattering photographs of protest meetings and negative articles about “Akhmetov rent-a-mobs”, trying to discredit the miners and in this way shift the focus of attention away from the immediate problems facing the fuel and energy complex.

The Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine is an organisation that defends the interests of miners and of the Ukrainian people, and it works for the development of the energy potential of the country. We have never and will never work in the interests of oligarchs, business or political forces.

The Ukrainian miners are mobilising themselves today in order to defend the coal mining sector and to prevent corrupt forces from ruining the energy potential of Ukraine.

M. Volynets, Head of the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine

Translated by Marko Bojcun from the original on the website of the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine: http://kvpu.org.ua/uk/news/6/3982/zayava-npgu-shhodo-protestiv-shakhtariv

KAGARLITSKY, THE WAR AND POLITICAL CORRUPTION

A Critique of the ‘Red Putinist’

Republished from the 21 April 2015 posting on the website of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign http://ukrainesolidaritycampaign.org/2015/04/21/kagarlitsky-the-war-and-political-corruption/

A person of influence on the thinking of the western left on Ukraine has been the Russian writer Boris Kagarlitsky Director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements.  Whilst the pro-war views of the Moscow based Kagarlitsky have been accepted without criticism in some quarters – in contrast the views of actual members of the Ukrainian labour movement on Ukraine have been given no such level of recognition.  Published below exclusively by the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign is an important critique of the ‘Red Putinist’ Kagarlitsky from Nihilist Ukrainian left-wing website and activist network.

Original by Volodymyr Zadyraka  (31.03.2015) Translated from Russian by Hrytzko Chorny

Kagarlitsky Nihilist

Kill, Kill, Kill

Already last year Kagarlitsky encountered criticism of his pro-Kremlin and pro-war position towards Ukraine. The Ukrainian-Russian left activist, Denis Denisov has written an open letter in which he stated that he is ending his collaboration with one of the website belonging to Kagarlitsky’s media group Rabkor.ru. The young Crimean Trotskyist cited his profound conviction that Kagarlitsky’s political line hinders peace in Ukraine. At that point Rabkor.ru was forced to formulate its views more precisely, which is typically done by Kagarlitsky himself. It should be noted that Denisov’s letter was addressed to Kagarlitsky directly as the de facto editor of the web portal. In its reply to Denis Denisov the ‘editorial board’ of Rabkor.ru write:

‘The end of the civil war in Ukraine can be achieved by way of a radical political reform, by way of equal determination of all peoples and regions constituting the country, by way of a dialogue between the parties to the conflict. But this, in turn, is not possible until the Kiev government recognises its own defeat in its war against the revolting South-East. But until the former is not prepared to do so, and continues the war, relying on support from the West, there is no way towards peace other than resistance. If the Russian government is presently supporting this resistance, then this must be used. Never mind that this support is completely inadequate and not especially genuine — if it were not for the growing pressure from society and for the growth of the self-organising movement of solidarity with Novorossia on the territory of Russia, we would already have witnessed a deal between the Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.’_

Let’s begin from the fact that the set phrase ‘the revolting South-East’ is rather a propaganda cliché than a reflection of reality. The wider ‘South-East’, or the so-called Novorossia, about which Putin began speaking publicly from the middle of 2014, has not, in fact, materialised. At the time this was first mentioned, the Kremlin propagandists spoke about eight or nine oblasts which would separate from the centre and become the counterweight to ‘historical Ukraine’ in the North-West of the country. In the majority of the potentially rebellious regions this project has foundered.

As we can see, for Kagarlitsky peace can only come after the defeat of Kiev. By ‘equal determination’ we can surmise Putin’s idea of federalisation of Ukraine — The right of one region, governed by self-appointed opportunists, to impose its position on the vast majority of the population of Ukraine, which is categorically opposed to any closer relations with Russia. It is notable that at that point the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) were Russian passport-holders. In other words, Russian imperialists would have received veto power in the internal and external politics of Ukraine. As we can see, in the text there is not only the Kremlin’s ideological clichés, but a call to use the ‘support’ of Russia. Note that the ‘editorial board’ of the site managed by Kagarlitsky points to the ‘self-organising movement of solidarity with Novorossia’ — here the author is stating something he himself simply cannot, in all honesty, believe.

The main organisation that stands behind the wiping up of Russian military hysteria, the National-Liberation Movement, is not only an extreme rightwing nationalist group, but an organisation that receives money from the Kremlin and is led by Evgeny Fedorov — a Duma MP from the ruling United Russia party. In 2014, this good soldier of Putin became famous for calling for an assault on the remaining liberal media. Even before the crisis in Ukraine, he publicly put forward an initiative to withdraw from the Russian constitution the clause barring state ideology and the priority of international law above the Russian law, having called the Constitution a ‘colonial utilisation manual’. Fedorov’s assistant is a certain Andrey Kovalenko, who heads the Moscow branch of the far right organisation Eurasian Youth Union, which is part of the wider Eurasian Movement headed by Aleksandr Dugin, who became infamous for his earlier statement that ‘Ukrainians must be killed, killed, and killed; I tell you this as a professor’. Kovalenko’s organisation had received hefty financial support from the Kremlin long before the outbreak of the war. Instead of ‘self-organisation’ we see, in fact, a structure that unites the ‘ideological neighbours’ of Russian nationalists (this is the way the EYU is categorised by the human rights organisation ‘Sova’) and Russian paleo-conservatives under the wing of the Kremlin.

Kovalenko himself has become celebrated for a video in which he calls on Putin to issue his command to ‘fetch’ (as to a dog — HC).

Similarly, extreme rightwing and nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and Communist Party of Russia (KPRF) have become instrumental in such “self-organisation”. These parties declare their oppositionist credentials but have long since become part of the system of government. The leaders of these political parties, Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov, are playing the roles of raving lunatics who are meant to underline the relative sanity of Putin. In other words, the ‘editorial board’ of Rabkor.ru recommends supporting the Russian nationalists, who are ‘seemingly’ forcing the Kremlin’s hand towards intervention and military support. In other words, Kagarlitsky’s site is in effect calling for the support of a movement that is even more reactionary than the Kremlin. He is calling SPECIFICALLY for a military defeat of Ukraine. Is this really a way towards peace? Somehow it does not seem so.

Kagarlitsky’s Hawkish “blindness”

The Polish socialist and Ukraine specialist, Zbigniew Kowalewski, in his article “Ukraine: Russian White Guards in the Donbas” laments Kagarlitsky’s fantasies:

’[On April 22, Boris Kagarlitsky affirmed  that “the successful uprising of hundreds of thousands (and perhaps millions) of people in eastern Ukraine is not to be explained on the basis of Russian interference”. An uprising of hundreds of thousands, even millions? Even the propaganda of the Russian regime aimed at people abroad, with the channel Russia Today in the forefront, is a thousand times more measured. On the international left, almost nobody knows Russian, and even less Ukrainian; so when the left wants to know what is happening in Ukraine, it finds itself in a catastrophic situation. So as not to depend on the Western media, it is condemned to have recourse to the English-language propaganda of the Putin regime and to that of the so-called “anti-imperialist networks” which are pro-Russian (often “red-brown” or downright brown) as well as what is translated into English by the journal Links – a site, to be precise, which has provided publicity for Kagarlitsky’s writings concerning this great mass uprising that does not exist.’

We can only imagine that Kagarlitsky, the refined intellectual, has been so deeply engaged in academic Marxist research that he simply is unable to notice the imperialist foreign policy, the fascism-infiltration of society and the managed nature of the militarist hysteria in Russia. Yet, it is difficult to agree that he does not know. Marxism is a materialist framework, which cannot ignore facts of political life, and must study them. High theory and ‘dialectics’, removed from practice, are signs of idealism; the machiavellian adjustment of reality to previously formulated conclusions points to ultimate subjectivism and an anti-scientific nature of any such theory. This may, in fact, be described as ideology (in Marxist terms), i.e. a form of false-consciousness. We are, therefore, not dealing with Marxism, but with plain-and-simple anti-Marxism.

Thus Kagarlitsky, the enemy of the left, does not only see an uprising where there is none, but fails to see the right wing extremists in front of his nose. In the West he acts on behalf of the reactionary imperialist policy of Russia preferring to mask his relationship with the pro-Kremlin rightwing extremists. For example, on 27 August 2014, Boris Yul’evich (Kagarlitsky — HC) took part in an public meeting in London, entitled ‘How to stop the spread of war’, alongside Tariq Ali, Lindsay German, Jeremy Corbyn, Owen Jones, Francesca Martinez, Stafford Scott, Kate Smurthwaite, and Christian Fuchs. Anton Shekhovtsov, a scholar of Russian and Ukrainian rightwing extremism notes:

’In Russia, however, Kagarlitsky prefers different company. …Kagarlitsky took part in a meeting of Russia’s far right Florian Geyer Club (Third Reich’s 8th SS Cavalry Division, which was deployed on the Eastern front in 1943–44 – HC), which is headed by a rightwing islamist Geydar Dzhemal. This Club is often frequented by Russian fascists, such as, for example, Aleksandr Dugin, Maksim Kalashnikov and Mikhail Leontiev, the Sweedish anti-Semite Israel Shamir and the Italian national-Maoist Claudio Mutti, among others.

Kagarlitsky (and Richard Brenner) also took part in the conference ‘Global Crisis and the Conflict in Ukraine’, which took place in the recently annexed by Russia city of Yalta on 6–7 July 2014. One of the organisers of the conference was the Institute of Globalisation and Social Movements (founded and led by Kagarlitsky — HC). The other organiser of the conference — the extreme nationalist ’New Rus’’, headed by Alexey Anpilogov — recently hosted another conference, entitled ‘Russia, Ukraine, New Russia: Global Problems and Challenges’, which included among its invited guests such foreign fascists as Frank Kreilman (Flemish Interest), Luk Michel (Belgian far right national-Bolshevik party ‘Pati Communautaire National-Européen’), Márton Gyöngyösi (Hungarian extreme rightwing or neo-Nazi party Jobbik), Roberto Fiore (Italian extreme rightwing party ’Forza Nuova’), Mateusz Piskorski (Polish populist rightwing party Samoobrona), and Nick Griffin (the far right British National Party). (Although only Piskorski and Fiore managed to come on this occasion).

Kagarlistky and far-right

Last year Shekhovtsov also published in his blog a photo in which seated at the same table at a drinking establishment are Kagarlitsky with Alexey Belyaev-Gintovt (prominent member of Aleksandr Dugin’s International Eurasian Movement), Yevgeniy Zhilin (leader of the extreme rightwing militia Oplot), Konstantin Krylov (far right politician, one of the organisers of the Russian Social Movement — Russia), right-conservative publicist Yegor Kholmogorov and Ukrainian journalist Aleksandr Chalenko. The latter now lives in Moscow and calls for a full-scale Russian occupation of Ukraine, reassuring his Moscow interlocutors and readers that Ukrainians will not put up serious resistance and will quickly learn to live with the policies of the military forces. The main thing is to capture Kiev quickly enough.

In the more recent period the Kagarlitsky-controlled Rabkor.ru has often published interviews with and reports about meetings with the monarchist leader of some Russian far rightists, Igor Strelkov-Girkin. This is the same White Guard who, last year, helped to capture Sloviansk and whom his own companion in arms ‘people’s mayor’ [of Slovyansk — HC], [Vyacheslav] Ponomaryov, accuses of theft and executions. This war criminal and reactionary is labelled as ‘White Guard Leftist’ by the website. Strelkov himself considers any sign of opposition to the authorities in Russia in the classic terminology of conspiratorial thought:

’All “outbursts” of discontent in Moscow or St Petersburg are secretly financed form abroad. Of course, “money for the revolution” is not given to the marionettes directly by their masters. This money is issued by the local (“democratically oriented”) sponsor-oligarchs… since their interests are inseparable from the Jewish-Anglo-Saxon international capital, of which it is just a branch.’

Kagarlitsky has been friendly with the hawks who propagate aggression and war, and it would not be unwise to assume he is a hawk. Moreover, the Institute of Globalisation and Social Movements, headed by him, is backed financially by the Russian government. Aside from the Institute, Presidential Grants were also given to the Centre for Political Technologies (the foundation tasked with developing the ‘conservatism for development’ doctrine), foundation St Petersburg Politics, and Institute for the Urban Economy. Apropos the category of ‘youth projects’, the most significant financing from the government has been allocated to the pro-Kremlin biker club Night Wolves.

Russian national-socialism needs money, and the state of the property owners needs a reactionary ideology. The Kremlin hands out the money, but it does not need to call itself ‘conservative’. Selective blindness to the state’s true intentions is not a hindrance as long as what you do is provide the ruling party with what it needs and service those needs accordingly. Leftists engaged in this kind of game are not only not hampering the regime, they are its auxiliary feature.

Solid Relations

The love affair between Kagarlitsky and the Kremlin has been developing over a long period now, and we can identify milestones in this relationship by a dotted line. Such revelations should really be followed by well publicised scandals.

In 2008 Kagarlitsky wholeheartedly attached himself to the militaristic hysteria of the war against Georgia. At the time, the mainstream press called the people of Georgia ‘rodents’ [a play on the name of the nationality, gruzin, using the similarly sounding Russian word, gryzun, meaning rodent). The government called them ‘American marionettes’. Saakashvilli’s political gambling and overestimation of the country’s armed forces resulted in Georgia’s defeat. While Russia engaged in purposeful destruction of infrastructure in South Osetia, set fires to nature reserves, condoned ethnic cleansing of Georgian in the area, for Mr Kagarlitsky this was ‘anti-imperialist’ war of Russia against the US. As in the case with Ukraine, this Russian national socialist says a lot about the West but chooses to keep silent about the imperialist interests of Moscow.

In 2009 there was a scandal around Rabko.ru. One of the employees of the project reported that the site has a direct relationship with Mr Gorshenin, who is connected withe the Presidential Administration and who, moreover, received a personal letter of thanks from [Sergey] Sobyanin [presently the mayor of Moscow, previously the head of Presidential Administration and before that the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia — HC] for his positive input into the election of Medvedev as the country’s President. Nobody seems to have paid any attention to this fact. For Moscow and its political atmosphere this is not especially sensational; among the capital’s Byzantine intrigues and insidious unscrupulousness receiving money from th government for ‘anti-capitalist’ activities has long ago become the norm. If you talk to Russian leftist about principles and ethics, you will soon learn many new and interesting things, such as that the majority of left-wing organisations have at one time or another been directly or indirectly involved in corruption. Those who try to diversify their sources of financing, or who are especially keen to maintain some principles may soon find themselves in prison.

Just before the Maidan protests began Kagarlitsky spoke out against European association. His arguments would typically boil down to a claim that closer ties with the EU would result in the destruction of the Soviet industrial base in Ukraine. The problem is that this base is already utterly destroyed and no money has gone into its renovation. The Eurasian Customs Union would prolong agony of this process of destruction, but it would not provide chances for Ukraine to develop along the lines of a capitalist economy. The high energy consuming, backward economy of Ukraine would collapse one way or another, and the Kremlin’s ’Russian World’ is not a solution to this problem but, at best, an attempt to put it on the shoulders of the following generations.

This is what was written on the eve of the Maidan by a Ukrainian literary Marxist:

Soviet manufacturing was not, even during its height, the most advanced in the world. And, over the last 22 years technological progress has not stood still; all these industrial mastodons have become even more outdated. For example, Ukraine still produces steel using an ineffective, open hearth process. Ukraine is the leader of steel production smelted in this fashion, and there are still 35 open hearth ovens which produce 9 million tonnes of steel per year. Metallurgy is the basis of Ukraine’s export. Also, according to Rosstat, 18.1% of the heat and steam networks are dilapidated and highly prone to accidents, as are 38.2% of the water network. The depreciation of fixed capital stands at 74.9%

In this sense Kagarlitsky is defending not the interests of the workers, but those of the oligarchs. The latter have a choice as to when to leave this situation, should they see it fit: when it becomes completely impossible to sell the products manufactured at their factories they will transfer their assets into liquid form and invest the capital into something else. Most likely outside the country. And, they will incur minimal costs in doing so: after all, the assets they acquired during privatisation were valued at nearly nothing. On the other hand, the results of such ‘management’ and transactions of their assets will befall all those who depend on the fate of the Ukrainian manufacturing.

It would be great if Western leftists could put on a wig and dark sunglasses, go to Russia and listen to the way Kagarlitsky, during his outing with the aforementioned crowd, speaks with a completely straight face about the good appointment that awaits him from the Kremlin soon. But this is unlikely. Kagarlitsky, like other ‘leftwing intellectuals’ massage the ‘anti-imperialist’ souls of their Western leftists, who understand the significance of geopolitics and imperialist contradictions, but who do not at all care about the lives of actual Syrians or Ukrainians, if that blood isn’t spilled in accordance with their (racist) views of what the will of these people ought to be in accordance with their formulations. All these Arab and Slavic barbarians are not worth the time that would be spent on them in conversations. On the other hand, translating Putin’s political theses into the ’Marxist’ language, Kagarlitsky and other such “Eastern European left-wing experts” help them come to terms, with European racist indifference, with the fate of the victims of ‘anti-imperialist’ regimes and ‘understand’ the Russian Emperor.

Kolomoisky’s fall undermines Poroshenko as well

President Poroshenko dismissed Ihor Kolomoisky as governor of Dnipropetrovsk oblast on 25 March. It took the form of a public resignation before television cameras – polite, yet humbling for Kolomoisky. The president thanked him for his work, stressed the need to maintain peace, order and unity in the country and expressed his confidence “that you remain a patriot of Ukraine, a patriot of Dnipropetrovsk”.

Kolomoisky’s dismissal comes hard on the heels of the government reasserting control over the state-owned oil company Ukrnafta and its transit subsidiary Ukrtransnafta. For years Kolomoisky effectively controlled the company and made handsome profits from it through his monopoly over oil refining in Ukraine (at the last functioning refinery in Kremenchuk), his lease of oil storage facilities to the state and, crucially, his use of the 42% stake he holds in Ukrnafta to block board decisions that damaged his own interests. Thus he succeeded in preventing the government from collecting billions of dollars in dividends from the company’s earnings.

How to explain Kolomoisky simultaneously losing his governorship and his grip on a major state-owned business? Is this the opening shot of a definitive separation of big business from government as some pundits in Kyiv and abroad hope and predict it will be?

Two other dramatic events took place on the day Kolomoisky was dismissed. National television broadcast the arrest at a Cabinet meeting of Serhiy Bochkovsky, head of the State Emergency Service and his deputy Vasyl Stoyetsky, where they were handcuffed and led away. They were charged with rigging tenders for the purchase of oil products for the Service, the proceeds from which passed via a private company offshore to Jersey and into Bank of Cyprus accounts in their names. And the Cabinet also brought criminal charges against Oleksiy Kryvopishyn, head of South Western Railways for what Premier Yatseniuk called “plundering the country”. Kryvopishyn’s arrest came swiftly, on the morning after Maksym Blank, acting head of its state parent company Ukrzaliznytsia, had his automobile torched.

On the same day Interior Minister Anatoli Avakov announced investigations were underway into the conduct of Ihor Shvayka and Andriy Mokhnyk, members of the Svoboda party who served respectively as Ministers of Agriculture and Ecology in the previous government. Premier Yatseniuk also reported to the Cabinet that investigations had been completed into the conduct of the taxation authorities and several state economic agencies, whose leaders would soon be brought to justice.

The Poroshenko-Yatseniuk team are out to convince their Western creditors they are serious about driving out corruption from government and the economy and meeting the conditions of their IMF loan. Another important motive is to staunch the outflow from a state budget haemorrhaging from tax evasion and an array of corrupt schemes while a ruinous 40% of that budget is going to pay off a state debt equivalent to 95% of the country’s annual GDP.

However, Kolomoisky’s dismissal was triggered mainly by the government’s fear of incipient warlordism: that it could lose its monopoly over armed force to powerful figures like Kolomoisky who have sponsored volunteer battalions and private security agencies over the past year. Andriy Parubiy, Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, recently pointed to the ongoing build-up of troops and armour in Crimea and on the eastern border as well as the mounting accusations coming Moscow and Donetsk that Kyiv is breaking the terms of the Minsk II Accords as signals that the separatists will soon reignite the war. http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2015/03/24/7062545/

Still without any appreciable military support from its western allies the government urgently needs to control the available armed forces, including the volunteer battalions. The recent initiative of several volunteer battalions to set up their own “co-ordinating centre” in Dnipropetrovsk heightens its fears. Kyiv is now insisting these battalions either merge with the regular armed forces or disband.

Now, Ihor Kolomoisky deployed his own armed men to gain entry into Ukrtransnafta offices in the night of 22-23 March, and again to seize control of Ukrnafta headquarters in Kyiv the next day. He boasted that he could put 2,000 armed men onto the streets of Kyiv if he needed to. Kolomoisky said these fighters were not members of the volunteer battalions he had organised and equipped in Dnipropetrovsk oblast. But that is irrelevant: Kolomoisky was calling into question the state’s monopoly on the use of armed force in the very heart of the capital. And with a new round of war in the offing Kyiv cannot afford to be challenged in such a way.

As he dismissed Kolomoisky Poroshenko insisted there will be no “pocket armies”. The heads of the State Security Service SBU and the Interior Ministry ordered all private security firms operating in the country to be disarmed. To which Kolomoisky has apparently acquiesced, including in Odessa oblast where armed security personnel sponsored by him have been working since May 2014 to maintain order. http://www.depo.ua/ukr/politics/kolomoyskiy-postavit-shah-poroshenku-v-harkovi-ta-odesi-23032015225400

In his entire year as governor of Dnipropetrovsk, Kolomoisky spent only a few days there He left the governing to his deputies while he worked in Geneva and Kyiv. In Geneva he took care of his businesses. In Kyiv he worked to extend his political influence over Odessa and Kharkiv, the second and third biggest cities of the country that lie on either side of the war zone.

Both cities have been targeted for bombings, economic sabotage and separatist agitation that Ukrainian security services attribute to Russia-sponsored groups. In the wake of the Odessa tragedy on 2 May last year Ihor Palytsia was appointed governor of Odessa oblast and ordered to head off a separatist rebellion there. Palysia,, a businessman active in the oil sector and a Deputy to the Verkhovna Rada, is a close associate of Kolomoisky.

Kolomoisky has long standing ties with Hennadiy Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv and once a member of the Yanukovych clan. Rumour has it that after Yanukovych was ousted Kolomoisky helped Kernes to keep his mayoralty on condition that Kernes kept the separatists out of Kharkiv. However, Kernes did not break his ties with Mykhailo Dobkin, former governor of Kharkiv oblast under Yanukovych. And Dobkin in turn maintains ties with Viktor Medvedchuk, the prime Ukrainian confidant of Vladimir Putin and Putin’s chosen interlocutor between the separatists and Kyiv. In short, Kolomoisky has until now held the line for Kyiv in three strategic cities and their surrounding oblasts.

Vitaliy Pyrovych writes in the website depo.ua, cited above:

Now Kolomoisky may wash his hands of Odessa and Kharkiv…Kernes can start to play his game again…..If Poroshenko has decided that he doesn’t need Kolomoisky for the struggle against separatism, then he better be sure that (interior ministry chief) Avakov and (SBU head) Nalyvaichenko are able to fill the vacuum that will appear after Kolomoisky’s departure. So in the first stage of his war with Poroshenko Kolomoisky will likely keep up a passive resistance, letting things unravel in Odessa and Kharkiv, but keeping hold of Dnipropetrovsk…”

Perhaps that is too cynical a view about Kolomoisky. But the problem lies not with Kolomoisky alone, but the entire ruling elite. This government has been renovated democratically twice, by presidential and parliamentary elections. Yet the elite relies on its own big beasts to hold the country together. Kolomoisky is only one of several who were appointed oblast governors and charged with retaining the central government’s control over the regions. This strategy became an essential part of the president’s vertical chain of command that runs parallel to all levels of elected government.

However, this kind of strategy works only if the president can maintain the co-operation and loyalty of the oligarchs. Like their predecessors Poroshenko and Yatseniuk have been keeping them onside with privileged access to markets and state revenues. That practice now comes up against the demands of the IMF to clean out corruption and put state finances in order.

It will be hard for Kyiv to find an oligarch to match Kolomoisky’s commitment and muscle. Rinat Akhmetov is unacceptable because he bet both ways on the war in the east and so cannot be trusted to stay on side. And Dmytro Firtash, head of the Employers’ Federation of Ukraine which unites the producers of 70% of the country’s GDP, is quietly building his own project to challenge Poroshenko’s chosen course. Still under house arrest in Vienna at the behest of the Americans, he is using his time in exile to cobble together an international coalition of German, Russian and Ukrainian capitaliststhe so-called Agency for Modernisation of Ukraine. He has the leadership of the Federation of Trade Unions working alongside him. Firtash now poses as “the party of peace”, aiming to broker a historic compromise over Ukraine’s sovereignty between the Germans and the Russians and so end the war and resume the transnational business as usual. http://www.fru.org.ua/ua/events/international-events/yes-ukraina-ta-rosiia-perspektyvy-stvorennia-iedynoho-rynku

Slavery in the “DNR” and “LNR”

Inaugural Congress of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Donetsk People's Republic, 21 February 2015

Inaugural Congress of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Donetsk People’s Republic, 21 February 2015

The report below appeared under the title above on the Facebook page of the Ukrainian association Liva Opozytsiya – Left Opposition https://www.facebook.com/liva.opozicya (accessed 24 February 2015). Tranlation by Marko Bojcun

The Federation of Trade Unions of the “DNR” (Donetsk People’s Republic) http://www.osps.dn.ua/ was formed this weekend amidst all the pomp and circumstance reminiscent of the era of stagnation (the Brezhnev years – MB). Of course, at the core of this rotten formation are the bureaucrats of the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU). Loyal to the Ukrainian oligarchs the FPU has agreed to be their instrument of control over the workers in the territories seized by the separatists. So now we can stop thinking about the development of an independent trade union movement in these “people’s” republics. The Independent Miners Union at the Barakov mine has already come up against the force of the Instruction “about the prohibition of registration of independent unions” (http://npg.social/title/275/).

The draft Law of the “DNR” entitled “On trade unions, their rights and guaranteed activities” contains obstacles in the way of independent trade unions: it is forbidden to form a trade union if it has less than 50 members. Apart from that, there is no recognition that a trade union becomes one from the moment its statutes are adopted.

Freedom of expression is restricted: according to the “DNR” law any mass media outlet can have its license withdrawn for mentioning a “prohibited” organisation. One needs to get state registration in order to distribute a newspaper with a print run of more than 100 (one hundred) copies.

“There are no independent trade unions in the LNR (Luhansk People’s Republic) nor will there be” confirms Mykola Koziuberda, head of the Independent Miners Union at the Nikanor Nova mine (Luhansk Coal Association). Koziuberda has fled his home because of threats against him (see interview with Koziuberda published in this blog – MB)

Protests in the “DNR” are criminalised: its criminal code punishes slander and insult of government officials.

There is a “Labour Code” being prepared in the DNR which has a clearly pro-capitalist character (http://lug-rescomroo.info/?p=277). Under its demagogy about “a republic without oligarchs” a criminal regime is being formed which not only violates the right to work, but excludes the very possibility of struggle for the rights of labour.

The Luhansk People’s Republic doesn’t need independent unions and registering them is now prohibited

An interview with Mykola Koziuberda , Head of the Independent Union of Miners at the Nikanor Nova mine of the Luhansk Coal Association.

The interview was taken on 24 February 2015 by Oleh Vernyk, Head of the All Ukrainian Independent Union Defense of Labour- Zakhyst Pratsi. Translation by Marko Bojcun

 

O.V. Mykola, we have received information that you had to leave Luhansk Oblast because of direct threats made on your life. Is that true?

M.K. Yes, its true. Right now I’m staying in Poltava Oblast. I have to say that several threats were made on my life, including from officials of the LNR (Luhansk People’s Republic). These threats were linked directly to my activities as leader of the independent miners union at the Nikanor Nova mine.

O.V. Tell us a little about the situation at your mine, how things have developed there.

M.K. The director of the mine issued an order on 27 July 2014 to stop work at our mine. Approximately 300 people were left with full time jobs out of 1500 miners and support staff. The miners at our mine haven’t been paid since August 2014. The bank cards into which our miners get their pay have been blocked. In February this year the accounts office at the mine paid out one month’s wages – for last November. That’s all we’ve gotten up till now.

During this time the Nikanor Nova mine is one of a very few belonging to the Luhansk Coal Association which hasn’t stopped working and has suffered practically no damage from the war in Luhansk. The mine produces coal for electricity generating stations, which is needed by everyone regardless of the current position of the front.

 O.V. A few words about your independent union?

M.K. We were officially registered in the town of Zorynsk, Luhansk oblast on 14 April 2000. At the peak of our growth our independent miners union had over 600 members, that is approximately half of the work collective belonged to it.

We experienced heavy repression from the mine management over the years after we were formed. Workers received bonuses and the best times for leave on the condition they resigned from our independent union. Our union committee adopted resolutions many times calling for the removal of the mine director from his post in connection with frequent violations of the labour code. However, all our attempts were stopped by the Ministry and the law enforcement authorities. Eventually we succeeding in getting the resignation of the director who had by then become completely shameless. But the situation did not change in a qualitative way after that.

By the summer of 2014 there were 220 members left in our independent union.

O.V. Mykola, scanned copies of documents appeared on the Internet recently which testify to the prohibition of registration of independent trade unions in the LNR.

In particular the Independent Miners Union at the M.P. Barakov mine belonging to the Krasnodon Coal Association has put up onto its site (http://npg.social/title/275/  ) a scanned copy of its correspondence with the official organs of the “Luhansk People’s Republic” in which they are refused registration on the grounds of the Instruction of the LNR Minister of Justice A.V. Shubina, dated 20/1/2015: No. 8 – OD “On the prohibition of registration of independent trade unions on the territory of the Luhansk People’s Republic”.

This material evoked a strong civic reaction in the trade union milieu of Ukraine, in Europe and around the world. A number of “left wing” publications which support the DNR and LNR projects have been quick to declare these documents are “fakes”. Can you comment on this situation?

M.K. This is all true and the document is genuine. Moreover, I have personal experience of the leaders of the LNR not even wanting to hear anything about a social dialogue with independent trade unions. They rule out the very possibility of forming such unions in the LNR.

For example, in my capacity as head of the Independent Miners Union at the Nikanor Nova mine I met with Ihor Plotnycky, the LNR leader on 5 November 2014. I wanted to find out how the LNR leadership views the issue of co-operation between the government and the independent unions. Plotnytsky gave me no understandable reply, but advised me to meet and consult on this question with Oleh Akimov, Head of the so-called “Federation of Trade Unions of the LNR”.

This “federation” was formed with the support of the LNR authorities on the basis of the Luhansk Oblast Section of the so-called “official” unions – the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU). During my meeting with Mr Akimov I was told that independent unions had nothing in common and even more so today they have nothing in common with his “Federation of Trade Unions of LNR”.

That same day, 5 November 2014, I was told point blank the following during my meeting with Dmytro Leonidovych Liamin, LNR Minister for Fuel, Energy and Coal industry, a man I have known for many years:

“We don’t need rebels, and you are a well known rebel (buntar) and you are just trouble”…..I will come to you and rip your head off”.

At this meeting I was told clearly and in no uncertain terms that there is only one official trade union in the LNR: the “Federation of Trade Unions of the LNR” and no others. Therefore, they are not going to register independent trade unions.

After Debaltseve: government and volunteer battalions seek different military solutions

Semen Semenchenko

Semen Semenchenko

The debacle at Debaltseve in the days following the Minsk II accords has given rise to two major developments: the Ukrainian government is seeking a European Union police mission to help it hold the line against the separatists and their Russian backers; and seventeen volunteer battalions have established a joint leadership and headquarters to make them a more effective fighting force. Both developments stem from the same recognition of the military inferiority of the Ukrainian side facing an adversary that is ready and willing to press forward into new territory. Both developments pose a military solution to this inferiority. But they differ insofar as the first seeks more external support to correct the military imbalance while the second seeks domestic changes to do the same thing.

The military solution from within

The announcement of a new joint leadership came from Semen Semenchenko, leader of the Donbas volunteer battalion, People’s Deputy elected to the Verkhovna Rada and deputy chairperson of the Rada’s Committee on National Security and Defense. In a series of posts on his Facebook on February 18 and 19 https://www.facebook.com/dostali.hvatit?fref=ts Semenchenko reported first on the difficult exit of Ukrainian troops from the Debaltseve encirclement, that an initial 167 wounded were taken to Artemivsk, and that “many dead” were left behind. He then fiercely criticised the military and political leadership for the debacle:

“This is not evidence of Russian superiority, but of mass heroism of the people’s army and the volunteer battalions and the gross incompetence, if not more, of the top leaders of the army.

What went wrong in Debaltseve? The same as before. We had enough forces and resources. The problem lay in the command and co-ordination. They were not up to the mark. There is a lack of personal responsibility. Simply stated, Muzhenko must go (Viktor Muzhenko, Chief of Staff and Commander of the Armed Forces). In the footsteps of Heletey (Colonel General, Minister of Defense from July to October 2014) …The Chief of Staff should be brought to justice…

The second problem concerns lying. If you utter a white lie in war time to save people’s lives or to prevent panic, then its admissible. But if you lie to save your own ass, its unacceptable. People are paying for that with their lives. We pay.

Donetsk Airport – a lie. Ilovaysk – a lie. Uhlehirsk – a lie. Lohvinove – a lie. That Donestsk airport and Debaltseve have no strategic significance – lies.”

On the following morning, February 19, Semenchenko gave his reaction to Poroshenko’s press conference about the evacuation from Debaltseve, comparing Poroshenko’s claims about its well organised character and the modest level of casualties and fatalities to the more damning reports he was receiving from officers and soldiers coming out of the encirclement. He insisted that Poroshenko was deliberately misinformed about Debaltseve, that he was the victim of

“fakes concocted specially for the President…produced and distributed by a narrow group of people trying to protect their influence over the president despite all their mistakes, failures and crimes…..They deceive you about the number of dead…of wounded…of the real level of co-ordination of the army…they deceive you when they report the capture of settlements that have in fact not been captured”.

The leaders of 17 volunteer battalions have decided to establish their own joint leadership and headquarters because of the incompetence, corruption and treason they see taking place in the highest ranks of the armed forces command and the intelligence services. (on treason see: http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2015/02/19/7059184/ ). The battalion commanders hold these people above all as responsible for the series of military defeats suffered from IIovaysk to Debaltseve, and they can no longer trust them to send their volunteers into battle. The battalions’ own joint leadership wants to filter, evaluate and inform such orders before obeying them.

The new leadership is headquartered in Dnipropetrovsk and has appointed an initial staff of 35 people.

They insist that the headquarters for the volunteer battalions is not a parallel or alternative or competing authority to that of the Armed Forces General Staff, but rather a supplementary institution that will maintain discipline of its forces, organise better their provision, co-ordinate their military resources and operations, provide additional sources of intelligence from the field and advise the Armed Forces General Staff. The volunteer battalions, they say, will obey the Armed Forces command and carry out its orders.

Equally important, the new headquarters will offer an independent channel of intelligence and advice to the President, in effect an alternative to what he already gets from the state institutions.

Immediately after the joint leadership and headquarters were announced, Ukrayinska Pravda http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2015/02/19/7059155/ published statements from several battalion commanders and paramilitary group leaders declining to take part in the initiative. They said that it challenged the authority of the armed forces command and undermined the unity of the forces themselves. Semenchenko responded to what he saw as “the wild hysteria” generated in social media by the announcement by insisting their joint leadership will not compete with the armed forces command, it is not intended to put pressure on the president, nor will it conduct its own separate war.

The volunteer military movement is splitting under the pressure of these developments. Some whole battalions as well as separate units breaking away from their battalions are going over. So there is a new crack opening up in the already fragile unity of the military forces. It has arisen directly in response to defeats they suffered in the field that battalion leaders and the rank and file attribute to the incompetence, corruption and treason at work inside the military, political and bureaucratic echelons of the Ukrainian state. The army is a microcosm of society and the same view about what’s wrong with the Ukrainian state is widespread today across civil society as well. It is most evident at the intersection between civilian and military life: in the growing evasion of and even resistance to conscription http://gazeta.dt.ua/internal/hto-zrivaye-mobilizaciyu-v-ukrayini-_.html .

The military solution from without

The Poroshenko-Yatseniuk coalition government has sought military support from its western allies for some months now. But until last week there were never any requests for foreign troops on Ukrainian soil. When asked on the eve of the Minsk negotiations in February whether his government would accept peace-keeping forces in Ukraine, president Poroshenko declined, arguing instead that all Ukraine needed was to control its own border with Russia and for foreign fighters to leave, and then international peace keepers would be unnecessary. This position changed cardinally after the Debaltseve debacle. A meeting of the Council of National Security and Defense (RNBO) on 18 February took a decision to put to the Verkhovna Rada a proposal to approve an appeal to the European Union and the United Nations to send an EU police mission to patrol two borders – the section of the Russian-Ukrainian border that Ukrainian authorities are prevented from reaching by the separatist forces, and the front line of fighting between the separatists and the Ukrainian forces further to the west.

The proposal is not for a UN peace keeping force because Russia as a member of the UN Security Council can veto such a proposal, or on the other hand insist on Russian peacekeepers taking part in that force. President Putin had said at Minsk that he was not opposed to a UN mission, so presumably Kyiv is already on alert that Russia may wish to strengthen its presence in Eastern Ukraine in such a way, as it did in Georgia with its own “peace keepers”after it won the short August 2008 war. An EU police mission, on the other hand, could not by definition have Russian participation. Kyiv makes this point by saying that Russia as an aggressor state cannot partake in a peacekeeping mission in the same theatre.

The significance of this proposal is twofold. First, it signals Ukrainian leaders’ recognition that they cannot get access to all of their common border with Russia nor can they rely on their own military forces to hold back further advances of the separatist movement. And second, they are prepared to become even more reliant on external support – this time military force – as a counterweight to the challenge posed by the separatist movement and their external backers.

These two major developments of the past week cannot be reconciled. They cannot co-exist and each contribute somehow to strengthen Kyiv’s hand against its adversary. For one, Poroshenko and his close circle of sylovyky will not long tolerate a bifurcated chain of command, especially one that weakens their control over the volunteer battalions, which are their most motivated and battle hardened forces. For another, the European Union will not even contemplate sending any kind of peace keeping or peace-making force into a zone where all sides have not agreed to cease fighting. And there still isn’t sufficient evidence yet that the pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian volunteer battalions want to end the fighting, even if Kyiv and Moscow do now.

The solution cannot rely on military force alone

The wider problem, however, is that greater military capacity from within Ukrainian society or from without cannot on its own prevent further defeats and losses of territory by the Ukrainian side. Unless Russia stops backing the separatists. The current state of the Ukrainian armed forces alone demonstrates quite convincingly that the Ukrainian state’s leaders are also failing on several other critical fronts – ideological, social and economic – to rally the society and put up an effective national resistance to Russian imperialist aggression. The state of Ukraine will survive for some time in some shape or form. But if it proves incapable of defending the right of the Ukrainian people to their national self-determination it will become an even more dependent state – beholden to the West and to Russia. In the long run they could impose a settlement on the Ukrainian people that is based on a common transnational interest that satisfies the ruling classes of Europe, Ukraine and Russia. And that kind of solution would serve rather well some powerful members of the Ukrainian establishment like Rinat Akhmetov, Viktor Medvedchuk and Dmytro Firtash, to name the most likely deal makers.

The Ukrainian people deserve better than that. But where will an effective strategy and leadership of national resistance come from?  And who will embark on a radical transformation of the rotten political, social and economic order, and in a time of war?

Poroshenko announces orderly evacuation from Debaltseve, while Ukrainian soldiers reported breaking out on foot.

Soldiers leaving Debaltseve. Photograph by Anastasia Stanko

Soldiers leaving Debaltseve. Photograph by Anastasia Stanko

(Updated 18.2.2015 at 1300h London time)

President Poroshenko spoke before the cameras on 18 February at Boryspil airport in Kyiv before flying off to the front near Debaltseve. He announced that 80% of all the forces in Debaltseve have been evacuated, with only two more units to come out. He claimed there had been no encirclement, the army units were evacuated in an orderly manner, and that they brought with them their military equipment, including tanks, vehicles and heavy artillery.

Poroshenko further charged separatist and Russian forces with refusing to allow OSCE monitors into Debaltseve so that they could not attest to the readiness of the Ukrainian armed forces there to withdraw their heavy artillery, as agreed under the new Minsk accords. He went on to say that the successful evacuation demonstrated the battle readiness of the armed forces, who had refused to surrender, but had given their opponents “a kick in the teeth” before getting out. A new front line has been established further to the west.

Earlier, in the morning of the same day the following report was published by Hromadske (Community Television) http://www.hromadske.tv/politics/ukrayinski-viiskovi-vikhodyat-iz-debaltsevogo/

Ukrainian soldiers are leaving Debaltseve. The news was reported by journalist Anastasia Stanko, working for Hromadske Television. The troops started leaving at six in the morning. A lot of them are leaving the town on foot along the road to Artemivsk, where they are being picked up by other Ukrainian units.

All of the departing units fought their way out, with their scouts breaking the path for them. Members of the Kryvbas battalion say they haven’t eaten for five days. They were surrounded in Novohryhorivka and were under constant mortar fire. According to them the village “was wiped off the face of the earth”.

…..According to these fighters not all Ukrainian formations have been able to get out of Debaltseve.

Attention has focused for days on the encirclement of several thousand Ukrainian troops in Debaltseve. How could this happen? Who is responsible for allowing it to happen, and why has there been no adequate response or effort to back up the encircled soldiers?

On Tuesday 17 February Semen Semenchenko, Donbas battalion commander and elected parliamentary deputy made an urgent appeal https://www.facebook.com/dostali.hvatit/posts/903690739665701?fref=nf&pnref=story to President Poroshenko to take decisive action to break the encirclement:

The situation in Debaltseve has deteriorated seriously in the past several hours. That which could have been done yesterday can no longer be done today. Any further delay in taking decisive action will prove very costly. Just by maintaining our current positions we won’t achieve our aims, but rather we could come into catastrophe. I cannot for a number of reasons, above all reasons of a military nature, enter into a public discussion about the real balance of forces. I don’t want to conduct an information war with the General Staff and demonstrate who is misinforming society and the Commander-in-Chief (Poroshenko). This is not the time for this, its time to join our forces.

As (Donbas) battalion commander, People’s Deputy and first deputy speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security and Defense I demand decisive action to break the blockade around the ATO forces in the Debaltseve district and to straighten out the front line.

… I appeal to the Commander-in-Chief and ask him to adopt immediately a decision to strike A POWERFUL COUNTER-BLOW against the Russian-terrorist armies, to lead out the encircled forces and to straighten out the front line. The main thing is to preserve the core fighting units. We are ready to implement any order. We will not allow any panic, but the time has come to act.

On the same day the deputy head of the President’s Administration Valeriy Chaliy http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2015/02/17/7058926/ promised vaguely that there would be “a precise and active” response on Wednesday to the separatists’ violations of the cease fire. Chaliy as was reported to say that the separatist and Russian fighters were trying to prevent the withdrawal of troops planned for 17 February from the front. If he was being reported accurately Chaliy could have been signalling Poroshenko’s readiness to withdraw the Ukrainian forces from Debaltseve, as opposed to a counteroffensive.

According to Dmytro Tymchuk http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2015/02/18/7058935/ the separatists are concentrating their forces and armour overwhelmingly onto Debaltseve. Ukrainian forces there have been been unable to break out or be supplied from without for six days – i.e. since the day the Minsk II accords were signed.

It would appear that Ukrainian leaders made a big blunder by believing that the separatists and their Russian backers would stop in their tracks and not keep pressing on this strategic transport and communications hub, which they had almost completely encircled already by 13 February. Or that somehow Poroshenko could successfully bring Western diplomatic pressure to bear on Putin to get the separatists to stand down. It quickly became obvious that wouldn’t work.

The separatists of the DNR and LNR are not restrained by either of the agreements they signed in Minsk. Aleksandr Zakharchenko stated the day after the Minsk II agreement that his republic seeks complete independence. He also threatens to widen the war in the direction on Kharkiv.

Although Debaltseve is not mentioned in the Minsk II agreement, it was one of the most bitterly disputed and unresolved issues at the talks. Putin told his interlocutors in Minsk he was fully informed about the situation at Debaltseve; and then at a press conference in Budapest on 17 February he urged Ukrainian leaders “not to prevent the soldiers in the Ukrainian armed forces from laying down their arms”. http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2015/02/17/7058921/

In the coming hours and days attention will be focused on assessing the evacuation Poroshenko announced at the airport today: what have been the fatalities and casualties in and around Debaltseve; how many troops have left and how many were taken prisoner; and how much of their still intact weapons and equipment did they manage to bring out with them. And what impact do these developments have on securing or scuttling the ceasefire, the planned withdrawal of heavy artillery from the front and the exchange of prisoners of war.

 

Minsk II: Land for a ceasefire, but not for peace

The “Package of measures to implement the Minsk Accords” (see the full text in Russian http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2015/02/12/7058327/ ) agreed in Minsk on 12 February contains thirteen clauses and an explanatory note. Let’s go through them one by one and ask ourselves what they mean.

  1. An immediate and comprehensive ceasefire beginning at 00h on 15 February.

A contradiction in terms: one cannot have an immediate ceasefire that will start in three days time. The Russian delegation insisted on this date, arguing that since the negotiations in Minsk extended from Wednesday into Thursday, the originally proposed date for a ceasefire on 14 February should also go over to the next day. The real reason: for the forces of the Donetsk Peoples Republic and Luhansk Peoples Republic to have enough time to capture Debaltseve, which is the hub of ALL electrified rail transport, the railway hub for the coal and steel industries, and the point through which passes the main highway linking Donetsk and Luhansk. With Debaltseve in their hands, in addition to the 500 square kilometres of territory they have taken since September, the DNR and LNR forces have a territory that is more economically viable and a transportation infrastructure through which Russia can supply them.

So the real purpose of this clause is not to have a ceasefire, but a final escalation of the fighting.

  1. Beginning at the latest by the second day after the ceasefire and to be completed within 14 days the withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides and the creation of security zones of 50km free of artillery; of 70km free of artillery of 100mm calibre or greater; and 140 km free of tactical missile systems, such as Twister, Hurricane, Tornado. For Ukrainian forces the point from which withdrawal is measured is the present line of hostilities; for the DNR and LNR forces it is the line established by the September 2014 Minsk Accords.

The security zones will be free of artillery and missile systems but not infantry. This means that the separatist forces will control territory up to the present line of hostilities. And the territories on both sides of the border will remain militarised.

  1. The OSCE to monitor and verify the ceasefire and withdrawal of weapons.

The OSCE has 350 officers in the region. Together with its support staff the mission totals about 1000 people. The OSCE has acknowledged that it cannot monitor the 500 km border between Russia and Ukraine, that it cannot guarantee its own officers’ safety in many separate parts of the conflict zone and therefore does not even venture into them.

  1. Within a day after the ceasefire for a discussion to begin about the modalities for organising under a Law of Ukraine “On the special order of local government in some areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions” elections to local government in the affected regions, and for the Verkhovna Rada to confirm in law within 30 days the territories covered by that law within the boundaries established by the September 2014 Minsk Accords.

The law in question, intended to decentralise power and authority to the parts of Donestsk and Luhansk at war with Kyiv, was adopted by the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) in October last year in fulfilment of one of the conditions of the September 2014 Minsk Accords. The leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics then ignored this law and organised their own referenda and elections according to their own rules, which led President Poroshenko to withdraw the law in question. The question arises: will the DNR and LNR leaders ignore this law again, or take it merely as recognition of their right to autonomy under whatever rules they choose?

Because this clause of the February 12 Package of Measures applies to territories “within the boundaries established by the September 2014 Minsk Accords”, it does not extend to the new territories captured by the separatists since September 2014. So whose law will govern the establishment of local self government in them?

  1. The provision of pardons and amnesties by the prohibition of prosecutions against people who have taken part in the events in the affected areas.

This has been a demand of the separatist leaders who foresee themselves exchanging the gun for the briefcase and becoming “normal” politicians and businessmen. They want to feel safe wherever they go. But what about people who have committed war crimes, who have kidnapped, tortured and killed prisoners, both civilian and military? Ukrainian law covering such crimes applies to Ukrainian combatants in the conflict. Why should combatants on the other side be exempted?

  1. The release and exchange of all hostages and prisoners of war.

How will people find out what’s happened to members of their own family who are missing? Hostages and prisoners are to be exchanged “all-for-all” within five days of the ceasefire. But then there will be people still looking for lost relatives and friends. Will full lists of captives be published by all sides, including those who died in captivity? Will the Russian government provide a list of its prisoners, its own soldiers missing in action, its own dead soldiers and where they are buried?

  1. Provide for the access, delivery, storage and distribution of humanitarian aid in the affected region “on the basis of an international mechanism”.

The long-standing demand of the Ukrainian side is that all humanitarian aid deliveries be supervised by the International Committee of the Red Cross so that such aid does not serve political or military purposes, but is distributed to those in greatest need regardless of their allegiances or place of residence. 

  1. The restoration of all socio-economic relations under Ukrainian law, including the payment of pensions and benefits, the timely payment of utility bills and the renewal of taxation.

This clause identifies a necessary requirement to rebuild and reintegrate a war torn region into the wider national economy ands social structure. However, the intention of the leaders of the DNR and LNR is not to integrate, but to separate the territory they control from the rest of Ukraine. So this clause means that the Ukrainian state is committed to devoting a portion of the taxes it raises to rebuild the local economy and cover the costs of pensions and benefits the DNR and LNR are incapable of providing and that the Russian state is hard pressed to provide in its current economic difficulties.

  1. Restore full control over the state border of Ukraine by the government throughout the conflict zone, which should begin on the first day after the local elections take place and should be completed after a comprehensive political settlement (local elections in the individual regions of Donetsk and Luhansk on the basis of the Law of Ukraine and constitutional reform) by the end of 2015, subject to paragraph 11 of these Measures – in consultation and agreement with the representatives of individual regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the framework of the Tripartite Liaison Group. 

According to this clause, the Ukrainian state can gain control of its side of its border with Russia only after it cedes control of territory in a “comprehensive political settlement”, including a constitutional guarantee of these regions’ self rule, and only then no sooner than the end of 2015. By which time the DNR and LNR will have consolidated their control right up to the border they are supposed to cede control of to the Ukrainian state?

  1. The withdrawal of all foreign armed forces, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under the supervision of the OSCE. Disarmament of all illegal groups.

On the day these present Package of Measures was agreed Russia moved more heavy armour across the border towards Debaltseve. The OSCE by its own admission is incapable of monitoring and verifying implementation of this clause. The border with Russia will by these Measures stay open and unsupervised by the Ukrainian state until the end of 2015.

  1. A constitutional reform in Ukraine with the entry into force by the end of 2015 of a new constitution, intended as a key element of decentralization (taking into account the characteristics of individual areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, as agreed with representatives of these areas), as well as the adoption of the permanent law on the special status of the individual areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in accordance with the measures specified below in Note [1], by the end of 2015. (See note.)

First, the adoption of a new constitution in a democracy is the prerogative of the people, not of their leaders. A national leader agreeing to a new constitution in the course of negotiations with foreign powers makes a mockery of the principle of popular sovereignty.

The Note below discloses the full weight of this constitutional commitment. It shows that Poroshenko has promised to the DNR and LNR (but to no other part of the country) a wide ranging special status within Ukraine that will include their own armed forces, public prosecutor, courts, exemption from Ukrainian national law, active support for the development of close relations with neighbouring Russian provinces (but no reciprocal commitment to the substantial Ukrainian minority living in those Russian provinces) and the active and substantial material support of the central state for their socio-economic and cultural development.

All that is missing here is the full right to form their own foreign policy, for some such right is already partially granted with respect to their relations with the Russian Federation.

  1. Matters relating to local elections will be discussed and agreed with the individual regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the framework of the Tripartite Liaison Group. Elections will be held in compliance with the relevant standards of the OSCE, with monitoring by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

This clause recognises an enhanced right of the DNR and LNR to determine how elections to government of their regions will take place, and gives representatives of the Russian Federation and the OSCE in the Tripartite Group a role in the process as well.

  1. To intensify the activities of the Tripartite Liaison Group, including through the establishment of working groups to implement the relevant aspects of the Minsk Agreement. These working groups will reflect the composition of the Tripartite Liaison Group.

The Russian state, alongside the Ukrainian state, the DNR, LNR and the multilateral OSCE, becomes a permanent party to the ongoing resolution of this conflict.

The Note:

Such measures, in accordance with the Law “On a special order of local government in some areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” will include the following:

– Exemption from punishment, harassment or discrimination of individuals associated with the events that took place in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– The right to linguistic self-determination;

– Participation of local governments in the appointment of public prosecutors and courts in the affected areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– The possibility for the central executive authorities to conclude with the relevant local authorities an agreement on the economic, social and cultural development of individual areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– The State shall support the socio-economic development of individual areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– Assistance from the central government for cross-border cooperation of individual areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions with regions of the Russian Federation;

– The creation of people’s militia units on the decision of local councils in order to maintain public order in the affected areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– The powers of local council deputies and officers elected in pre-term elections called by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine according to this law cannot be terminated.

The document was signed by the participants of the Tripartite Liaison Group:

Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini

The second President of Ukraine LD Kuchma

Ambassador of the Russian Federation, Ukraine MU Zurabov

AV Zakharchenko

IV Plotnitsky

The Presidents of France, Ukraine, Russia and the German Chancellor also adopted a declaration of support for the implementation of the Package of Measures to Implement the Minsk Accords.

We’re in the army now?

soldiersThe recruitment campaign to the Ukrainian armed forces is is going considerably worse this year than it did last year. The reasons for this, according to Yuriy Butusov writing in Zerkalo tyzhnia (http://gazeta.dt.ua/internal/hto-zrivaye-mobilizaciyu-v-ukrayini-_.html) are the following:

  1. At least 50 percent of the posts in the state administration at the oblast, city and district levels remain unfilled. The state administration “vertical”, whose members are appointed directly by the President, shares responsibility with armed forces commissars for recruitment.
  2. The armed forces commissars “are massively infected with corruption and incompetence”. In an effort to address these problems defense minister Stepan Poltorak has ordered that wounded veterans of the ATO campaign be appointed as commissars. So far only two have been appointed. Many commissariat posts remain unfilled. There is no monitoring of the characteristics and quality of recruits nor reporting of such incidents as drunkenness and insubordination in the ranks.
  3. The armed forces are responsible for identifying who should be conscripted, but they don’t have an adequate data base nor even sufficient computers to establish and operate such a data base. All such information is on paper.This makes it impossible for the armed forces general staff to select, equip and train specialised units for front line operations, even though there are thousands of soldiers and officiers who have already had active service in war fighting and peace keeping operations and have received additional training in the armed forces of Ukraine’s western allies.
  4. Contract soldiers’ pay, last set in 2012, has been seriously eroded by inflation. Although premier Yatseniuk and president Poroshenko have both stated that soldiers fighting in the ATO zone will be paid 1000 UAH 0 (65 euros) a day, this amount does not yet figure in the current pay scales approved by the government.
  5. The Ukrainian state does not have an up-to-date military doctrine and strategy of defense, even though it will soon be a year since the war broke out. Without such a doctrine and strategy, it is difficult to define the specific recruitment , training and equipment needs of the armed forces.
  6. The structure of the armed forces of Ukraine is ineffective and unsuited to war fighting. There are 1,400 different military units, but less than 100 of these are combat units; the rest are auxiliary and support units. Of the 300,000 personnel in the Ministry of Defense, 230,000 are soldiers, but less than 70,000 of them – i.e. about 30% – have seen any combat in the ATO zone since April last year. More than half of those recruited have been assigned to support units for the ATO or fighting units that have not yet been in combat.
  7. Russia’s State Duma passed a law in January that permits foreigners to serve in its armed forces. There is no such provision in Ukrainian law, and so volunteers from abroad, with the exception of a few who were granted Ukrainian citizenship, fight in Ukrainian units without legal status or rights under law.
  8. Military training is inadequate. Recruits are not taught elementary tactics, nor even to shoot properly. Independent training by recruits themselves is prohibited. As a result soldiers go into battle lacking confidence in their individual and collective abilities, their capacity for initiative in the field, etc. While in training recruits have little, if any, ammunition to practice with. Once they are in combat situations they receive plenty of it. However, they haven’t been trained in its proper use and so at the slightest panic they shoot off all their ammunition aimlessly “into the white sky”.

Yuriy Batusov concludes his article with the most serious shortcoming, to his mind, of the armed forces and the current mobilisation:

“This is the problem of trust in the authorities and the military leadership. No independent experts, nor even parliamentary control, were involved in the development of this mobilisation. Some officials, especially in the General Staff, treat their area of responsibility like a feudal fiefdom. This is not just my own subjective thinking – its the common position of all foreign military experts and NATO experts who for almost a year have been trying unsuccessfully to build an effective co-ordination between the General Staff and the Ministry of Defense.

The people require a professional approach to the resolution of the problems of state, a professional government authority. And so, when we talk about the failure of this mobilisation, every politician and every general has to confront the reasons for it, one on one – with themselves in front of the mirror.”