February’s blunt warning from IMF chief Christine Lagarde that Kiev will have to make a “substantial new effort” to push on with the austerity and privatisation programme if it wants to hang on to the $40bn bail-out has been interpreted by the Financial Times as “a huge turn round for the IMF, which along with the US has been among the biggest backers for the government in Kiev”. (IMF warning sparks Ukraine pledge on corruption and reform by Neil Buckley, Roman Olearchyk and Shawn Donnan, 10 February 2016)
The problem is that the same oligarchic clique upon which the West counts to advance its imperial interests cannot get its snout out of the trough long enough to implement the ‘reforms’ the IMF demands. That is why one foreign-born technocrat after another has been parachuted into ministerial office in order to wrestle the economy back onto the straight and narrow.
It was the sudden and acrimonious resignation of one such technocrat, the Lithuanian-born economy minister Aivaras Abromavicius, that prompted Lagarde’s gloomy intervention. He made a very noisy exit, accusing the president and prime minister of blocking reforms and getting their own mates into lucrative posts in the state-owned energy and defence sectors.
Since then, another technocrat (and former fund manager), US-born finance minister Natalie Jaresko, has emerged as the West’s favourite to take over from Arseniy Yatsenyuk as prime minister. At first, President Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk went along with this, but, more recently, perhaps as the memory of Lagarde’s stern warning faded, they have been talking up the prospects of another of their oligarch cronies, Volodymyr Hroysman, the Speaker in the rada (Ukrainian parliament). It is thought unlikely that Jaresko would serve under him.
A crippled economy
Meanwhile, as Poroshenko fiddles, the Ukrainian economy burns. Currency instability, the decline of effective demand and the dislocation of war have resulted in a mass exodus of western companies.
Large western oil and gas corporations have closed down their Ukraine branches. Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil came to Ukraine to extract shale gas, then pulled out again quickly. Analyst Alexander Okhrimenko laments: “It is really hard to make money in the Ukraine now. General instability, military actions in the east, chaos with taxes … They have amended the tax code as many as four times lately.” (Mass exodus of foreign businesses from the Ukraine by Olga Samofalova, The Saker, 1 Februry 2016)
Western banks, too, are closing down their subsidiaries. Many businesses that still hang on do so only because they can find nobody to buy them out. Prices of imported goods are rocketing whilst consumers’ spending power is through the floor. As for the national currency, the hryvnia, in the period 2014-15 it was devalued by nearly 300 percent.
In an attempt to keep a lid on the social upheaval sparked by the imploding economy and the endless war, political repression has been intensifying. The banning of the Communist Party of Ukraine has recently been followed by the suppression of the independent Gamma TV.
The Morning Star reported: “Gamma TV first came under political pressure following the January 2014 Maidan coup that overthrew the elected government, but it continued broadcasting – much to the chagrin of the western-backed government and its far-right allies.
“But now the cabinet of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has found another way to shut down the station – by selling off its radio frequency to a 4G mobile phone firm. A communist statement at the weekend argued that Gamma was being targeted for its refusal to ‘broadcast fascism and nazism’ in contrast to the ‘oligarchic channels’.” (Ukraine: communists slam independent TV channel’s closure, 8 March 2016)
Kiev’s dirty war
As for the undeclared war that Kiev continues to wage upon those whom it ostensibly considers to be its own people, recent reports suggested that, whilst there was as yet no indication of a new offensive, there has been a significant increase in shelling, as well as the use of small arms, machine guns, grenade launchers and mortars – all of which are, of course, in breach of the official ceasefire to which Kiev is a signatory.
The recent announcement by defence secretary Michael Fallon that Britain is to sign a new 15-year defence pact with Ukraine, under which Britain will supply the Kiev junta with more military training, joint exercises and intelligence operations, is designed to stiffen Ukrainian morale and encourage the junta to keep stalling on implementation of the Minsk 2 accords of February 2015. (See Britain signs new defence pact to help Ukraine in Russia confrontation by Ben Farmer, Telegraph, 18 March 2016)
At the most recent meeting of the Normandy Four, Germany and France proposed that elections in the Donbass should be held by June 2016. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov noted that Russia was prepared to back this proposal, but “the Ukrainian side has asked that this is not insisted on, and as a result no consensus has arisen”. (Briefly on some important matters by Colonel Cassad, Slavyangrad, 6 March 2016)
Meanwhile, rather than tell the truth about the nightmare of fascism, slump and war into which the western engineered Maidan ‘revolution’ has plunged Ukraine, imperialist propaganda has instead concentrated its efforts on transforming the defendant in a Russian murder trial into a latter-day Joan of Arc or Mother Teresa. President Obama, the key to Guantanamo still safe in his pocket, has called for the release of Nadezhda Savchenko.
On 17 June 2014, two Russian journalists from the all-Russian state television and radio broadcasting company (VGTRK), named Anton Voloshin and Igor Korneliuk, were visiting a checkpoint in Metalist, in the Slovianoserbsk region in the east of Ukraine, when it came under mortar attack from Ukrainian artillery. Voloshin was blown to pieces on the spot, and was only later identified from body parts; Korneliuk was taken to Lugansk regional hospital with severe injuries, from which he died after 35 minutes in the emergency room. Korneliuk left a wife and young daughter.
Artillery attacks of this kind rely heavily upon ‘spotters’ – people on the ground who can supply the coordinates of intended targets. Ukrainian pilot and servicewoman Nadezhda Savchenko was charged in a Russian court with complicity in the murder of the two journalists, by reason of having acted as the spotter who facilitated the Metalist attack.
According to the prosecution, Savchenko admitted having directed artillery fire at the checkpoint, though she later retracted the confession. When apprehended, she was said to be in possession of a topographic map of the area, binoculars, mobile radios and mobile phones – in short, all the tools of the spotter’s trade.
Suggestions by the defence that she should be treated as a prisoner of war have been rejected on the basis that the Kiev authorities have never declared a war and the charges Savchenko faces are criminal.
Far from being some well-meaning or misguided amateur getting out of her depth in a war zone, as some would portray her, Ms Savchenko has an impressive military record for one so young. She is reportedly the only woman to have flown the Sukhoi SU-24 bomber and the Mil Mi-24 helicopter.
Nor, however, is hers a case of a professional soldier with no interest in politics. The fascist Aidar battalion with which she chose to serve has a record so nasty that even Newsweek carried a report of Aidar forces carrying out Islamic State-style beheadings in eastern Ukraine.
One Aidar battalion commander even bragged to an Amnesty International researcher: “It’s not Europe. It’s a bit different … There is a war here. The law has changed, procedures have been simplified … If I choose to, I can have you arrested right now, put a bag over your head and lock you up in a cellar for 30 days on suspicion of aiding separatists.” (Amnesty International briefing, 8 September 2014)
The verdict of the court, announced on 22 March, was a prison sentence of 22 years. It should be noted that, throughout the trial, Savchenko’s defence team were more concerned with milking the last drop of Russophobic propaganda out of the case than with seriously addressing the evidence against their client or considering how her best interests might be served. As one commentator pointed out, the reason for this unprofessional approach becomes clear once you look at who is paying the fees of the defence team.
“It was not Savchenko who paid but Polish foundation ‘Open Dialogue’, which was ‘founded on the basis of experience and contacts obtained during the Orange revolution in Ukraine in 2004’. It funded Euromaidan and itself is sponsored by funds that are close to the US government.
“The founder and president of the foundation, Lyudmila Kozlovskaya, said that any lawyer working with the foundation is obliged to act according to its instructions. The interests of the client, apparently, are not taken into account.” (Savchenko’s case: crime and punishment, Slavyangrad, 13 March 2016)
This helps to explain all the self-defeating theatrics, the stop-start hunger strikes, the screaming abuse and the middle-finger salutes to the judge – none of which were best calculated to improve her hopes of leniency from the court but all of which were in fact stage-managed to fool Simple Simons in the West. It is not for nothing that Savchenko’s impresario (sorry, defence lawyer) has been Mark Feygin – a man who previously orchestrated the defence of Pussy Riot.
In its struggle for domination, imperialism habitually goes into battle with a gun in one hand and a book in the other. Formerly, the book would be the Bible; in more recent times it is the holy gospel of ‘freedom and democracy’.
So, whilst Fallon sends more British troops in to bolster the junta militarily, the British embassy in Kiev stumps up the cash to fund no end of worthy-sounding ‘civil society’ projects professing to “help Ukraine make progress on reform, improve communications, support national reconciliation and deal with the humanitarian situation”.
The Ukrainian catholic university, for example, has been given £82,152 to run a project called “Conflict in media, media in conflict: communicating sensitive issues by means of the media”, while something called the Media Reforms Centre NGO has received £100,080 for a project about the “struggle against misinformation and disinformation about events in Ukraine”.
Another NGO was given £69,916 to run a project that “aims to reduce negative perception of Ukraine’s democratic development amongst the communities affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine”.
And so the list of beneficiaries rolls on inexorably, with projects to “reduce conflict-generating narratives”, projects to celebrate the “diversity, enthusiasm and dynamism of young Ukrainian reformers”, and even a projects on “private property protection and business activities on/within the occupied [!] Crimean peninsula”. (UK-funded projects in Ukraine 2015-16 by British embassy in Kiev, Gov.uk, 13 October 2015)
The project that best exemplifies what really lies behind all this fuzzy mood-music is the “Ukraine peace-building school”, coming in with a £402,000 price-tag. What mean-spirited brute would cavil at a project committed to “develop public communications to resist the information war and atomisation of society” and “run peace-building education events to help deal with a traumatic and divided past”?
Yet a video of an event run by the ‘peace-building school’, posted on the SARU (Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine) website on 4 March, brings us back down to earth with a bump.
The post explains that the event, entitled “Stepan Bandera: myths and reality”, “brought teachers from the Ukrainian peace-building school together with leading Ukrainian army officers, local citizens, teachers and children in an ideological lecture about Ukrainian Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.”
The keynote speaker was from the committee of state ideology (a body run by the executive committee of the rada). Here is how the speaker went about “dealing with a traumatic and divided past”. “Today – probably not for the first time in Donetsk region – but for the first time in the town of Krasnoarmeisk – we are holding this kind of event. And during the event we should do our part to refute the myths – Soviet myths – about the fighters for the independence of Ukraine.
“We should do everything so that the truth about Stepan Bandera and those he surrounded himself with, their path of self-sacrifice, be known to every Ukrainian.
“We invited here not only local citizens, but also history teachers, school librarians – those who should convey to the children the real history, and not a mythology imposed by the Soviet government.” And much more of the same fascist bilge. (UK government whitewashes the fascist Bandera cult in Ukraine)
In short, the self-announced purpose of the school is to falsify history, glorify the Nazi collaborator and pogromist Stepan Bandera, spread lies about the Soviet Union and support the continued war of national oppression against the people of the Donbass. That is what the British embassy is funding, that is what Fallon’s troops are supporting and that is what we are fighting.
British troops out of Ukraine; victory to the Donbass resistance!