By a combination of military pressure and double-dealing, backed up by the West, Kiev still hopes to make its writ run in the Donbass. Meanwhile, the failure of the Kiev junta either to stabilise the economy or to make progress on the military front is sparking a massive popular revolt in the west of the country, for the moment under the dominant influence of the fascist Pravy Sektor (PS).
Fascist thieves fall out
Poroshenko’s would-be cunning plan to go through the motions of passing a spuriously Minsk-friendly bill through the parliament whilst simultaneously preparing further aggression against the Donbass was a bridge too far for the limited intelligence of PS to grasp, who at once cried treachery. When, at the end of August, parliament passed the first reading of constitutional amendments to decentralise some powers to regional governments, this piece of window-dressing to keep the OSCE happy was taken at face value by the PS and Svoboda, who at once took to the streets, massing outside the parliament and blocking traffic.
In the ensuing fracas, at least one Ukrainian serviceman was killed and over a hundred were injured by batons, tear gas, smoke bombs guns and even grenades.
This was only the latest violent revolt against the junta’s authority in which PS has featured prominently.
As Lalkar noted recently: “Poroshenko is obliged to deal with increasing disaffection within the fascist camp, having to divert forces from the Donbass frontline to deal with an armed rebellion by Pravy Sektor (PS) forces right in his own backyard, close to the borders with Poland and Hungary. On Saturday 16 July, a full-scale battle erupted in the far-west town of Mukachevo after PS fighters confronted men loyal to a local politician who had criticised their activities.
“The gun and grenade attack sparked fighting that continued all weekend, with official Ukraine forces eventually hounding the PS militia back to their bases in the surrounding countryside. At least two PS fighters were killed and seven people were injured, whilst two police cars were torched by grenade launchers.” (Ukraine – imperialism ups the ante, Lalkar, September 2015)
Despite all these challenges to the authority of his junta, Poroshenko dares not tackle the rebel leaders head-on, instead leaving them at large to foment further trouble and expose to view the degenerate depths to which Ukraine’s humiliating role as servile Nato vassal is taking the country. Every kind of reactionary is joining the rat swarm – even Islamic State is finding a ready welcome in the nationalist ranks, according to a report in the Daily Beast.
In the last year, says the report, dozens of Chechen fighters have slipped into the Donbass to fight alongside PS, in the Sheikh Mansur Battalion. Having been trained by Islamic State and unleashed against Syria, they continue to serve imperialism in the Ukraine.
“The commander pointed at a young bearded militant next to him: ‘Mansur came here from Syria,’ Muslim said. ‘He used IS as a training base to improve his fighting skills.’” The report quotes one local politician in Mariupol as saying “I feel more comfortable around Muslim and his guys than with our mayor or governor.” (Chechen jihadis leave Syria to join the fight in Ukraine by Anna Nemtsova, 4 September 2015)
Junta drags its feet on Minsk
It is important to grasp that these ructions are not about a ‘respectable government’ in Kiev plagued by ‘irresponsible’ ultra-nationalist factions, as some pretend. Rather, the ructions are within the whole fascist camp of which the junta itself is a fully paid-up member, with every faction blaming every other for the parlous situation into which imperialist manipulation has plunged the whole country.
Try as Poroshenko may to convince himself and everyone else that “We have won confidence, the attitude towards Ukraine is different from what it was a year ago. We complied with our obligations in initiating the constitutional process,” nobody on any side is fooled.
For their part, the political leaders of the Donbass people’s republics continue to make clear their willingness to move forward with the Minsk process, provided only that Kiev stops violating the ceasefire and dragging its feet over making the necessary parliamentary preparations for negotiations on autonomy to proceed.
The snail’s pace deliberately adopted by Kiev in implementing the political side of the Minsk agreements has created a situation where the original deadline for completion by the end of 2015 is no longer feasible, requiring an extension into 2016. Yet, in flat contradiction of earlier statements by Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine’s representative in the Trilateral Contact Group, Poroshenko has ruled out any extension, thereby demonstrating the cynical contempt underlying his flirtation with Minsk diplomacy.
As the representative of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, noted: “Pyotr Poroshenko does not have any plan of executing the Minsk agreements, he acts in a confused, inconsistent way. Yesterday he disavowed words of his representative Leonid Kuchma that Minsk-2 execution terms may be extended.” (Pushilin: delay in execution of Minsk agreements caused by actions of Ukrainian president, TASS, 12 September 2015)
And as in turn the Lugansk People’s Republic’s representative to the contact group has made clear, it will simply not be possible for Kiev to implement the Minsk agreement in its entirety by year end. Vladislav Deinego explained that, under Ukrainian law, constitutional amendments have to be executed in two distinct phases, by two consecutive sessions of the parliament. The Kiev parliament “was through one phase but the amendments it adopted had not been agreed with representatives from the self-proclaimed republics, which fact was a violation of the Minsk agreements. If he [Poroshenko] thinks he can hold two Verkhovna parliament sessions by the end of 2015 – God help him. But we should be realistic. It is technically impossible to completely implement the Minsk-2 package this year.” (Lugansk envoy says it is impossible to implement Minsk-2 peace deal in 2015, TASS, 11 September 2015)
Instead of addressing these realities, the junta is now playing around with election dates to put another spoke in the diplomatic wheel, assisted in this charade by the West. The OSCE, in disregard of its supposedly independent status, has refused an invitation from the Lugansk People’s Republic to monitor its local elections due on 1 November, on the illogical grounds that Kiev had already asked for monitors to observe elections on 25 October in the parts of Ukraine that it controls.
Kiev brags that no elections will be held in the Donbass until the junta regains control of the border with Russia. Yet under provision 9 of the Minsk agreement, the process of Kiev regaining control of the border can only begin after local elections have been held in the Donbass. The OSCE cannot be ignorant of this clause, yet are ready to endorse the junta’s flouting of Minsk whilst withholding monitors from elections in the Donbass – preparatory to denouncing those same elections as ‘flawed’ after the event, no doubt. (Ukraine’s PM sceptical about Minsk agreements, TASS, 12 September 2015)
Whistling in the dark
Meanwhile, the junta’s forces continue to ramp up the military pressure on the Donbass. Whether this pressure will make a qualitative shift into a third offensive is a question we are not equipped to answer, though at the time of writing informed sources suggest that an autumn offensive, if it is to happen, would need to be broached by the back end of September, before the muddy season sets in.
However that may be, any future offensive will be conducted in the full knowledge, not only that the previous two broke their backs on the Donbass resistance, but that the junta’s ability to assess the real military situation, then or now, is admitted to be worse than useless by the head of Ukraine’s own General Staff, Viktor Muzhenko. He told a journalist that 90 percent of the information garnered by Kiev’s intelligence apparatus “appeared untrue”, then paid the Donbass resistance an unintended compliment, complaining that it was waging an “active disinformation operation”.
It seems that part of Kiev’s problem is a tendency to believe its own propaganda. Unwilling to give the resistance the credit for having held out so long against massive odds, the junta has ended up making a laughing stock of itself as it fishes out of a hat the astronomical numbers of Russian fighters it imagines to be hiding in the shadows.
For the first half of this year Poroshenko’s Big Lie was that about 9,000 Russian soldiers had invaded the country. Then suddenly in June he used an interview with an Italian journalist to replace this with a still Bigger Lie, claiming that “On Putin’s order, there are 200,000 men and an arsenal of armoured vehicles, sophisticated missile systems and anti-air arms amassed in our territory.” This latest ‘triumph’ for Kiev’s spy networks jars strangely with the grudging testimony from the OSCE that it has yet to spot any Russian military personnel or vehicles crossing into Ukraine.
To be fair, though, Kiev does not lag so far behind its paymasters in Washington in this respect. In May, the US permanent representative to Nato, Douglas Lute, addressing the Friends of Europe forum in Brussels, was in pensive mood. “We should all ask ourselves: why is it that we know so little really about what is going on in Donbass. I mean, frankly, I read more on social media about what is going on in the Donbass than I get from formal intelligence networks.” (90 percent of Kiev’s Donbass intel last summer ‘appeared untrue’ – Ukrainian General Staff, RT, 30 August 2015)
Whether at the negotiating table or on the battlefield, the heroic people of the Donbass deserve the warmest support from workers in Britain.
Victory to the Donbass resistance! No support for the fascist junta!