President Putin’s declared objectives of demilitarisation and denazification look likely to be fulfilled.
The imperialist media are working flat out rubbishing Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, one minute pretending to detect signs of the intervention getting bogged down and the next claiming that a rapid advance of the Russian military is multiplying civilian casualties. Judging from the few glimmers of light that penetrate the fog of war, neither scenario is valid.
The ‘failure’ of the Russian army to enter and occupy cities in fact follows a plan familiar from the Syrian liberation war: cities are encircled, humanitarian corridors opened up for civilian evacuation and the terrorists (Islamic State then, Azov fascists now) isolated and dealt with, with the minimum harm caused to innocent civilians.
Sadly, as was also the case in Syria, the terrorists do their utmost to ‘dissuade’ evacuation, especially evacuation to the Russian Federation, preferring to hang on to would-be evacuees for use as human shields. And the imperialist media stand ready at hand to blame the failure of evacuation efforts on Russian shelling, ‘further proof’ that Russia is subscribing to a ‘genocidal campaign’ against the Ukrainian people.
A blog posted by Slavyangrad, a source sympathetic to the Donbass cause, notes: “Only foreign hostages were released by the terrorists in Sumy. They are trying to prevent anyone from going out in the direction of the Russian Federation. The Russian ministry of defence estimates more than four million people are being held hostage by Ukrainian terrorists.”
Wherever they are able, the fascists have continued to target civilians. On 14 March, for instance, Ukrainian armed forces attacked Donetsk city centre with a Tochka-U tactical missile carrying a cluster warhead, which exploded to kill and wound dozens of shoppers. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described the bombing as “a barbarous act of terror” in which “the Kiev radicals have again shown their true face”.
The devastating results of this cynical tactic have been playing out in Mariupol, where the sabotage of evacuation plans is resulting in a mounting toll of human misery. As we go to press, however, the tide would seem to be turning even in this stronghold of the Azov fascists, who are turning tail and being routed under the encirclement and persistent advance of Russian and Donbass troops.
Time and again we see that it is the Banderist ‘nationalists’, and the imperialist puppet masters who stand behind them egging them on, who are the true enemies of the Ukrainian people, happy to see them dragged into a civil war stirred up by foreign imperialist powers in order to keep them bound to the west both economically and militarily.
These latter-day followers of the notorious Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera want to reverse history. Instead of the Red Army beating the living daylights out of the Nazis, they hope for a rematch, only with the opposite outcome. They will fail.
Contrary to all the ‘ultranationalist’ bluster of Azov and the Right Sector, it is not Bandera and his stunted progeny who best represent the proud history of Ukraine, but the millions of Ukrainians who fought cheek by jowl with the heroes of the Red Army to rid the world of fascism.
They are the true patriots, and this is well understood by most if not all Ukrainians – just not the ones selected to dribble russophobia down BBC microphones. When Soviet war memorials are desecrated, this is an attack upon the revolutionary legacy, not alone of the 40 percent for whom Russian is the mother tongue, but of all decent Ukrainians.
Demilitarisation and denazification
Moscow has clearly stated just what it plans to do in Ukraine, and what it does not.
“Moscow is not aiming to overthrow the current leadership in Ukraine, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, amid the ongoing military campaign in the neighbouring state. ‘Its objectives don’t include occupation of Ukraine, destruction of its statehood, or the toppling of the current government. It’s not directed against the civilian population.’
“The spokeswoman reiterated that Moscow wants to defend the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, which broke away from Ukraine shortly after the 2014 coup in Kiev. She added that Russia seeks the ‘demilitarisation and denazification’ of Ukraine.”
Demilitarisation is relatively straight forward, systematically destroying or expropriating all concentrations of heavy weaponry. Denazification is a more complex operation, given the fact that the fascist militia of Azov and Right Sector have long since been amalgamated with the regular Ukrainian army, fascists occupy many high government posts, and at the street level the youth are targeted for brainwashing at nazi summer camps and the like.
The Slavyangrad blog reports: “Pacification measures similar to those conducted in the Caucasus are being carried in Kherson and Zaporozhe provinces – collecting arms, identifying demonstration organisers, and arresting Ukrainian military and intelligence officials and agents,” affording us a glimpse of the painstaking efforts being made to separate the sheep from the goats – a process which is unfolding even as the war is at fever pitch.
Propaganda from the west is now trying to paint puppet president Volodymyr Zelensky as a heroic figure, the plucky leader of a democratic Ukraine standing up against the Russian bear. The west carefully airbrushes over the western-backed fascist overthrow in 2014 of the elected president Viktor Yanukovych, which gave rise first to the Poroshenko presidency and then in 2019 to that of Zelensky.
The passage of time and serial charade of sham elections have done nothing to restore democracy since the people of the Donbass are simultaneously denied their right to secede from Ukraine and yet remain disenfranchised within a country that claims them as citizens but denies them civil rights. Worse, a country which doesn’t think twice about subjecting men, women and children to eight years of artillery attacks against hospitals, schools and basic infrastructure, with over 14,000 deaths so far.
Zelensky won the presidential election on a peace ticket, promising to talk to Moscow and end the war, but it soon became evident that, when push comes to shove in Ukraine, real political power rests, not with parliamentarians, governments or even presidents, but with the fascists who infest every corner of the state as well as mobilising at street corner level.
Imperialism has helped to foster fascism as the ideology best suited to act as catspaw against Russia. But having lost 27 million souls to the Nazis in the Great Patriotic War, Russia has no illusions about how to deal with them now.
Shortly after Zelensky became president, Dmytro Yarosh, cofounder of the Right Sector and commander of the fascist Ukrainian Volunteer Army, boasted that the Minsk Accords, rather than being a diplomatic route to a peaceful solution to the war, securing a genuine ceasefire and opening the way for negotiations about autonomous status for the people’s republics in the Donbass, were only of any use as a delaying tactic.
Minsk, he said, was just “an opportunity for manoeuvre. But no more. The implementation of the Minsk agreements is the death of our state. They are not worth a drop of blood of the guys and girls, men and women who died in this war. Not a drop.”
He went on to offer what amounted to a direct death threat to the new president: “Zelensky said in his inaugural speech that he was ready to lose ratings, popularity, position … No, he would lose his life. He will hang on some tree on Khreshchatyk – if he betrays Ukraine and those people who died in the revolution and the war.” (Zelensky and the fascists: ‘He will hang on some tree on Khreshchatyk’, Moon of Alabama, 5 March 2022)
By Autumn 2019, it was becoming clear that Zelensky was effectively under the thumb of nazi pressure. A piece on Grayzone tells the story: “In a face-to-face confrontation with militants from the neo-nazi Azov Battalion who had launched a campaign to sabotage the peace initiative called ‘No to Capitulation’, Zelensky encountered a wall of obstinacy.
“With appeals for disengagement from the frontlines firmly rejected, Zelensky melted down on camera. ‘I’m the president of this country. I’m 41 years old. I’m not a loser. I came to you and told you: remove the weapons,’ Zelensky implored the fighters.
“Once video of the stormy confrontation spread across Ukrainian social media channels, Zelensky became the target of an angry backlash. Andriy Biletsky, the proudly fascist Azov Battalion leader who once pledged to ‘lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against semite-led Untermenschen’, vowed to bring thousands of fighters to Zolote if Zelensky pressed any further …
“Though Zelensky achieved a minor disengagement, the neo-nazi paramilitaries escalated their ‘No Capitulation’ campaign. And within months, fighting began to heat up again in Zolote, sparking a new cycle of violations of the Minsk agreement. By this point, Azov had been formally incorporated into the Ukrainian military and its street vigilante wing, known as the National Corps, was deployed across the country under the watch of the Ukrainian interior ministry, and alongside the national police.” (How Ukraine’s jewish president Zelensky made peace with neo-nazi paramilitaries on front lines of war with Russia by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal, 4 March 2022)
And whilst nazi cut-throats pressured Zelensky from one side, secretary of state Antony Blinken and his notorious under-secretary Victoria Nuland kept up the pressure from Washington, so the president was ground between two stones, constantly urging him onward.
By the spring of 2021, the Ukrainian president was poking the Russian bear in earnest, announcing that Ukraine intended to take Crimea back by force. He quietened down in the face of Russian military manoeuvres. But in December that year he was in parliament pinning a Hero of the Ukraine medal on a Right Sector leader. And Dmytro Yarosh popped up again to brag that he had now been elevated to the position of advisor to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Ukraine.
In February 2022, OSCE observers reported a sharp increase in ceasefire violations in the Donbass, corroborating reports suggesting a build-up of artillery consistent with a new all-out war against the Donbass. And on 19 February, Zelensky gave a speech at a security conference in Munich, dropping broad hints that Ukraine might pull out of nuclear weapon talks, raising the spectre of a nuclear-armed fascist threat right on Russia’s border.
Three days later, the Russian president finally recognised the Donbass people’s republics and a few days after that the special military operation began.
By ratcheting up sanctions against Russia the west is certainly having an effect on its target. Yet even before Russia has spelt out the full scope of its own counter-sanctions, the unintended consequences of the west’s declaration of economic war are already starting to be felt, sowing the seeds of further dissensions within the imperialist camp.
The sanctions campaign, habitually presented as common to the whole international community, is in fact the preserve of a global minority. Not only are China, the DPRK, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela not joining the economic siege, but to date no countries in Asia, Africa, the middle east or Latin America want any part in it.
Banning Russian planes from US and European Union airspace will certainly dislocate the steady flow of Russian commerce, but the tit-for-tat closure of Russian airspace to western air traffic will mean that US and EU flights to Asia, normally routed via Russian airspace, will be forced to make a time-consuming and expensive detour. This in turn will give a competitive edge to the Asian airlines that are welcome to carry on using Russian airspace – an own goal for the sanctions warriors.
Banning oil imports from Russia promises to be a spectacular example of shooting oneself in the foot. Not only will the subsequent price hikes hit the US public hard, it will also deepen the divide opening up between the US and the EU – countries whose economies depend on oil and gas from Russia.
In particular, it is questionable how long Germany can afford to persist in cutting off its nose to spite its face before buckling under pressure from industry to open the delayed Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Jihadis, resistance and biological weapons
Despite all the wishful projections of the bourgeois media, it soon became clear that this was not a classic case of a homegrown resistance movement confronting a foreign invader, but rather of a fascist state confronting an anti-fascist army.
Reported sightings of jihadis assisting the Banderites suggest that Kiev is happy to draft in mercenaries from anywhere, but will they be enough?
Western politicians and media are certainly desperate to create the conditions for a prolonged war of attrition by what they present as ‘Ukrainian resistance forces’ against Russian occupation. To this end, the Russians are being presented as imperialists of the worst kind, and their careful ground operation is being dressed up as an aggressive bombardment of the type we are used to seeing imperialist forces conduct in the middle east – accompanied by a barrage of fake stories and faked photographs of their supposed ‘atrocities’ to dupe those in the west who have not yet become inured to such tactics.
The truth, however, is quite otherwise. Russia’s methodical ground invasion has been carried out in such a way as to preserve both infrastructure and life. The armed forces are its clear target and are slowly but steadily being surrounded and neutralised. All army personnel who lay down their weapons and refuse to fight with the fascists are being facilitated in returning to their homes. Known fascists and war criminals will be taken to Russia and put on trial, at which point evidence of their infamy will no doubt be made available to the world.
In such a situation, no amount of armaments thrown at the citizens is likely to succeed in transforming them into a united national force against their not-so-evil occupiers, and attempts to beef up Ukraine’s committed nazis with international recruits have been similarly unsuccessful.
Just as the flood of European arms into Ukraine has served merely to transfer funds from western treasuries to western arms dealers, with the weapons themselves being regularly captured and destroyed by Russian forces, western volunteers have turned out to be a gaggle of drugged-up bully-boys, without discipline or organisation, turning tail as soon as they come face to face with a well-equipped and organised opponent.
A decade of exposure to ultranationalist russophobic propaganda may have duped some in the western parts of Ukraine into believing that Bandera is their national father, the EU is their friend, and Russia is their enemy, but such sentiments are by no means universal. Across the territories still held by the fascists, the beatings of ‘collaborators’ show plainly that even in the Galician heartlands the people are not united in their hatred of Russia.
Meanwhile, the Russian presence on the ground has brought to light the existence of US-controlled biological research laboratories on Ukrainian soil.
When Russia called a session of the United Nations security council to expose this, the USA at first denied the very existence of such laboratories, and then said okay, but they are for research not warfare. Yet Russia was able to publish documents showing that Kiev had been ordered urgently to eliminate traces of what was deemed as a biological weapons programme, financed by the Pentagon!
Russia told the security council that the Kiev regime has permitted its own people to be treated as guinea pigs for biological weapons research, spreading viruses via birds and bats. Clearly, Russia is more concerned about the health of Ukrainians than are ‘their own’ fascist leaders.
Nato and the EU to blame for all the suffering
Moscow made it clear that its objectives, whether by diplomacy or combat, were simple: the freedom of the Donbass people’s republics to secede, respect for the decision taken by the Crimeans to join the Russian Federation, a guarantee that Ukraine would give up on Nato membership and a commitment from Nato to cease its eastward expansion.
The failure of the west to seriously discuss these security needs since they were articulated by Russia last December, with Blinken blustering that it was up to Ukraine if it wanted to apply for membership, was what made Russia’s military intervention inevitable, alongside Zelensky’s threats to acquire nukes and his massing of Ukrainian troops for a full-scale invasion of the Donbass republics. (What I got wrong and why by Patrick Armstrong, Russia Observer, 18 March 2022)
War could have simply been avoided had Zelensky’s government refused to listen to the gung-ho advice coming from Washington, egging him on to confrontation with Moscow.
How much disruption and suffering might have been avoided had Zelensky only piped up a little earlier with the suggestion that neutral status with security guarantees for Ukraine could be an alternative to Nato membership – not a million miles from what Moscow required in the first place. He confided to his TV audience: “Regarding [joining] Nato, I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago, after we understood that Nato is not prepared to accept Ukraine.”
But it would be unfair to put all the blame for this fatal refusal to deal with reality on Zelensky. In the run-up to the invasion, he had already started trying to dissuade his US backers from making a hot war out of a diplomatic crisis. But while Zelensky was edging towards negotiations on security guarantees, Blinken and Nuland would not take yes for an answer and pulled the rug out from under his feet.
Hindsight also prompted a similarly belated concession from senior EU minister Josep Borral: “There are moments in which we could have reacted better. For example, we proposed things that we could not guarantee, in particular Ukraine’s accession to Nato. This was never realised. I think it was a mistake to make promises that we could not fulfil.”
Little comfort to the Ukrainians who had to live with the consequences.
As this war sputters to a close, it is Nato and the EU that should be called to account by the Ukrainian people for the devastation it has caused.
America has used and abused Ukraine, reducing the former powerhouse of the USSR to the role of a servile imperialist catspaw against Russia – no more than a stick with which to poke the Russian bear.
It is now a broken stick, no longer fit for imperialist purposes.