Volodymyr Zelensky begins to show his true colours

As Ukraine’s new president scurries between imperialist leaders, the country’s economy continues to nose-dive.

Lalkar writers

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Lalkar writers

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Ukrainian elections, which returned a TV comedian for president, raised as many questions as eyebrows. The winner, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been said in many quarters to represent a bright ‘new direction’ for Ukraine, a ‘breaking of the mould’, and a ‘new dawn’ – in short, all the usual nonsense uttered by imperialism when it backs every horse in the race and its young gelded colt ends up winning.

Far from having had any significant impact on underlying antagonisms in Ukrainian society, Zelensky beat the incumbent Petro Poroshenko because he polled better (as an unknown quantity) in the Russian-speaking south and east than his rival. The Atlantic Council, a thoroughly disreputable organisation with perfectly bourgeois credentials, issued its own frank assessment:

“Poroshenko wasn’t able to get more than 15 percent in any of the eight oblasts that comprise the east and south. By contrast, in the seven western oblasts – including Transcarpathia and Chernivtsi, which were outliers and voted like the east and south – he averaged 37 percent of the vote, which was more than three times greater than his 11 percent in the east and south … in the core Galician oblasts (Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil), Poroshenko won 51 percent of the vote. Zelensky, meanwhile, scored big in the east and south (87 percent and 85 percent, respectively), but was less impressive in the west (60 percent).

“In fact, the results of the first post-election survey in Ukraine show that the regional disparities have not gone anywhere, and a similar picture emerges when we disaggregate polling data by ethnicity and language. Asked to choose between the EU and economic ties with Russia and the other former Soviet republics (except for the Baltic states), 82 percent in the west opted for Europe. In the east, only 37 percent favoured the EU; 30 percent in the government-controlled parts of the Donbas; and 25 percent in the south.

“On Nato, 76 percent in the west wanted to join the alliance. In the east, the Donbas, and the south, the corresponding figures were 32, 21, and 23 percent, respectively. Only 14 percent of western Ukrainians had a positive view of Russia, while in the south that figure was 74 percent. Those who had a favourable opinion of Russian president Vladimir Putin accounted for 2 percent in western Ukraine; in the Donbas it was 30 percent.” (One Ukraine? Think again by Roman Solchanyk, Atlantic Council, 13 June 2019)

New president calls for deepening sanctions on Russia

Once he was in position, Zelensky dismissed Ukraine’s parliament (the Rada), called for new elections, and headed straight for his campaign headquarters on Boulevard Leopold III (HQ office of Nato) and the office of the president of the European Union. In a display of subservience to western imperialism, the young statesman Zelensky then visited President Emmanuel Macron in France and Chancelor Angela Merkel in Germany.

With both Macron and Merkel, he begged for a continuation of sanctions against Russia, and with Merkel in particular he pleaded for the economic fate of Ukraine, which now hangs on Nord Stream 2, the soon-to-be completed gas pipeline from Russia that will completely bypass Ukraine and cost the Ukrainian state billions in revenue.

Such a friend of the Ukrainian people is German imperialism that Merkel graciously comforted Zelensky by saying: “I have repeatedly said to the Russian president that for me the issue of Ukraine being a transit country for gas is essential, so very, very important and President Putin has always stressed to me that he understands that.” (Putin knows we want Ukraine gas transit to continue, says Merkel, Reuters, 18 June 2019)

These remarks must have been anything but reassuring for the new president.

Such is the grip that western imperialism has on the Ukraine that Zelensky’s behaviour in Europe was nothing short of an outright incitement to Russia, and risks economic suicide for Ukraine. In an interview published by Germany’s Bild newspaper, Zelensky stated that sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union in 2014 should be expanded:

“My attitude is simple and clear. Sanctions are the only means to liberate the occupied region and restore our territorial integrity and sovereignty, and return them to our people. If this does not work, the mechanism must be expanded.”

Zelensky also said that Nord Stream 2 threatened “the energy security of Europe and Ukraine”. (US announces $250m in military aid to Ukraine, Al Jazeera, 18 June 2019)

Chancellor Merkel, whilst mouthing platitudes about the rebellious regions that were formerly part of the Ukrainian republic, the Donbass and Crimea, essentially did nothing to rescue Zelensky and the Ukraine from Nord Stream 2. And how could she when German imperialism is so desperately in need of the Russian gas?

Currently one-third of Russian gas exports to the EU cross Ukraine, which receives gas transit revenues as a result. Nord Stream 2 will bypass Ukraine, routing instead via the Baltic Sea, while TurkStream will offer a route south of Ukraine through the Black Sea.

Ukraine’s best option would be to strive for good relations with Russia, but under the grip of imperialism it looks as if the country is doomed. It has a faltering economy, with key industries such as coal and steel also suffering badly as a result the deterioration in relations with Russia. The potential of a further blow to the gas transit revenues will hit the country exceedingly hard. Russian president Vladimir Putin, despite endless provocations, has promised that Russia will continue to supply gas through Ukraine so long as the Ukrainians allow this to remain economically viable.

Zelensky’s aggressive posturing in Europe will do little to encourage the Russian side to renegotiate favourably the existing transit arrangements, which run out in December this year. Whilst Ukraine remains in the clutches of imperialism, it is helpless to re-establish friendly relations with its most economically important neighbour.

US imperialism offers nothing but war and … a name change

In exchange for keeping Ukraine in a most unenvious economic and military position, the United States took measures to satisfy the most banal Ukrainian chauvinism as a gesture of goodwill. The US Board on Geographic Names, or BGN, has changed its English spelling of Ukraine’s capital from Kiev to Kyiv, and the good news was announced by the embassy of Ukraine in the US in a statement on 13 June:

“This decision is extremely important and gives impetus to also correct the official name of Ukraine’s capital outside of the United States,” the statement reads.

The embassy stated that the US BGN had considered changing the English name in the database after receiving an appeal from Valeriy Chaly, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States. (Kyiv not Kiev: US changes spelling of Ukrainian capital by Toma Istomina, Kyiv Post, 13 June 2019)

Not to be outdone by the gratuitous display of friendship coming from the BGN, the military officers in the Pentagon announced in June that the US would provide Ukraine with naval training, as well as sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, radars and night vision equipment. According to the statement, the donation is part of a series of Pentagon payments totalling $1.5bn to the country since 2014.

These weapons are being provided in the hope that Ukrainian sons and daughters will continue to be well stocked in a war against their Russian brothers waged on behalf of US imperialism.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Carla M Gleason, said: “The United States remains committed to helping Ukraine … to strengthen democratic civilian control of the military, promote command and control reforms, enhance transparency and accountability in acquisition and budgeting, and advance defence industry reforms.” (Al Jazeera, op cit)

In exchange for the blood of Ukrainian children the Pentagon graciously promises to liberalise the red tape preventing greater spending by the Ukrainian army on US weapons and hardware. Is there no end to the special privileges endowed upon the friends of US imperialism?

Three Russians and one Ukrainian to face MH17 murder charges

Meanwhile, on 19 June, international media reported that four suspects will face murder charges for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Three of the defendants are Russians, and one is Ukrainian. A sham trial is due to start next March in the Netherlands, with evidence collected by all the involved parties excluding Russia.

The suspects were named as Igor Girkin, a former colonel of Russia’s FSB spy service; Sergey Dubinskiy, employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency; and Oleg Pulatov, a former soldier with the GRU’s special forces spetsnaz unit. All were Russian soldiers previously sent abroad.

Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko is the fourth man. He is said to have commanded an anti-fascist military combat unit in the city of Donetsk.

Igor Girkin is reported as having been minister of defence in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), and the commander of the DNR when the plane was shot down on 17 July 2014. Sergey Dubinskiy apparently served as Girkin’s deputy in the DNR, and Oleg Pulatov was reported as being Dubinskiy’s deputy. Leonid Kharchenko was under their command, according to the Dutch investigators.

The investigators were reported by media as saying that the soldiers “formed a chain linking the DNR with the Russian Federation”. The Guardian and others reported that this ‘link’ was how the separatists obtained heavy equipment from Russia including a Buk rocket launcher, which they say was used to fire at MH17.

Such is the ‘strength’ of the murder case that the investigators were reported as having to explain: “The accused did not ‘push the button’ themselves.”

Reports explained the methods by which these investigators had gathered enough ‘evidence’ to bring murder charges, including “interviewing witnesses, analysing satellite images, and sifting through phone calls”. Many pages are said to be transcripts taken from online chat rooms, and from military enthusiast and re-enactment websites where some of the accused are said to have left a trail that indicates their guilt.

If such evidence was not preposterous enough, it was admitted in passing that the area of investigation in eastern Ukraine was still inaccessible to the team, which led to one individual, Mr Westerbeke, saying such a situation had made “the process difficult”, although not so difficult that murder charges cannot be brought against four Aunt Sallys.


POSTSCRIPT: Continuing media crackdown

Rabochaya Gazeta (the first issue of which was released in August 1897) is a Ukrainian newspaper giving social and political news.

On 18 April 2019, the Kiev regional administrative court commenced hearing a lawsuit filed jointly by the ministry of justice and the security service (SSU).

Under the law ‘On condemnation of the communist and national socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and the prohibition of the promotion of their symbols’, the justice ministry accused the paper of publishing articles by politicians quoting the works of VI Lenin and Karl Marx, and of mentioning the specific achievements of Ukraine during the Soviet period.

The CPGB-ML sends greetings to all the brave journalists and progressive political forces associated with this journal, and extends our heartfelt admiration for their determined struggle against the reactionary forces in Ukraine.