By Roger Annis, April 27, 2015
I recently returned from a reporting tour to the war zone of eastern Ukraine. I traveled to Donetsk city and region with a media tour group organized by concerned citizens in Russia and Germany.
My first published report of our visit appeared on April 21. One of my travel colleagues and the other Canadian on the tour, Halyna Mokrushyna, has just published her first report. Like me, she will be writing much more on the visit.
We issued a press release on April 21 announcing our visit and findings. The release went to mainstream and alternative media across Canada, inviting them to interview us. We wrote invitations directly to some CBC programs and have encouraged invitations for us to speak at academic institutions and public forums.
Our trip coincided with Canada’s decision announced on April 14 to send 200 soldiers to western Ukraine. They will join soldiers from the U.S. and UK in backing the ruthless war that the government in Kyiv has waged during the past year in the east of the country. Canada’s decision should send alarm bells ringing for Canadians, if the larger picture of the war has not already done so.
The decision of Canada to send soldiers (on a so-called training mission) has fractured the silence or complicity of editors in Canada’s mainstream media over the war in Ukraine. Excellent commentaries on Canada’s decision have been published in the past several weeks by David Pugliese (Ottawa Citizen and National Post), Thomas Walkom (Toronto Star), Lysiane Gagnon (La Presse and Globe and Mail), and Scott Taylor (Chronicle Herald–Halifax). Curiously, little on the subject has been published in alternative media.
Since our return to Canada, I have been interviewed on CFAX radio station in Victoria BC (podcast of April 24, first item), on W2 Media Mornings (Vancouver Cooperative Radio) and on Global Research News Hour. We hope for more interviews in the days and weeks to come.
Worsening conditions in Ukraine
As New Cold war.org is reporting, the political and economic situation in Ukraine is rapidly worsening. While the intensity of military action by Kyiv has lessened since the ceasefire signed on February 12 of this year (Minsk-2), the fact that Kyiv refuses to recognize or negotiate with the rebel forces in Donbas region bodes very badly for a political resolution of the conflict and raises the spectre of a return to war.
Several journalists were recently assassinated in the streets of Kyiv (reports here and here). Others are in jail. This year, a string of political figures from the Party of Regions government overthrown in last year’s coup have died in mysterious circumstances.
A website ‘hit list’ called ‘Peacemaker’ has appeared, publishing the names, addresses and other personal information of people deemed “enemies of the state”. The list enjoys the endorsement of high officials in the Ministry of the Interior (police) of Ukraine.
The government has banned political symbols associated with communism and with the long history of Soviet Ukraine. This will accelerate the jailings and kidnappings of antiwar and anti-austerity activists. The banning law has led academics otherwise sympathetic to last year’s Euromaidan “revolution” in Ukraine to issue a sharp condemnation of it. They are calling on President Poroshenko not to enact the law, but in practice, vigilante demolition of historical monuments and attacks on political and social protests are accelerating.
The Verkhovna Rada has approved martial law should Kyiv resume full-out war in eastern Ukraine. All that remains is for President Poroshenko to make the declaration. But again, martial law in all but name presently rules in Ukraine.
Economically, the Ukraine government is on the verge of default. Its economic sovereignty was surrendered last year to the IMF and the European Union in the form of an economic “association” agreement with Europe. The surrender of Ukraine’s political sovereignty is further accelerated by the arrival this month of some 1,000 soldiers in western Ukraine from the U.S., UK and Canada and by the call of President Poroshenko for foreign soldiers he calls “peacekeepers” to occupy eastern Ukraine. Rebel forces in eastern Ukraine emphatically reject foreign soldiers on the territory of Ukraine. They point out that Article 10 of Minsk-2 expressly prohibits that.
The people of Ukraine are not taking this lying down, though the conditions for political protest are becoming more and more difficult. Coal miners from western Ukraine are presently in the streets of Kyiv protesting the non-payment of their wages and the failure of the government to invest in their industry. There was a large antiwar protest on April 22 in front of the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, under the theme “We are not cattle”.
New Cold War.org will shortly publish some of the results of a recent survey of Ukrainians conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology showing that a majority of them want to see negotiations with the rebel movement in eastern Ukraine. They accept that forms of political autonomy for the east are necessary.
A recent article written from Kharkiv (Ukraine’s second largest city) and published in the Christian Science Monitor underscores how volatile is the political situation throughout eastern Ukraine. Dissatisfaction with Kyiv is intense. This is also true in southern Ukraine. For example, the government is dispatching several thousand additional police and soldiers to Odessa (fourth largest city) in anticipation of protests marking the one-year anniversary of the Odessa Massacre of May 2, 2104 in which at least 48 people were murdered in a rampage by extreme-right forces that descended on the city from central and western Ukraine.
The deterioration of the situation in Ukraine has been evident since the coup of February 22, 2014. But some on the international left are failing to understand events and react accordingly. They are stumbling over the scope and the implications of the EU and NATO political and military offensive that accompanies Kyiv’s war
The Russophobia of Western governments and media is a powerful ideological force. Their thesis that Russia is a major belligerent in the Ukraine conflict and has imperial designs on the country is factually wrong but somehow finds favour in the left and liberal political spectrum. This is a due to the legacy of the decades-long, post-World War 2 Cold War, a legacy of ignorance and shallow analysis of the Soviet Union. This continued into the period of transition of the Soviet Union back to capitalism since 1990-91.
Thankfully, cracks in the ideological foundation of the EU/NATO offensive are appearing more and more. I have already mentioned the cracks in Canadian media. New Cold War.org is full of similar examples from other countries. These are shedding light on the extreme-right and fascist paramilitaries that are being integrated into the regular Ukraine armed forces and National Guard, thereby making them eligible for training and arming by the aforementioned U.S./UK/Canada forces.
A member of an earlier visit to Donetsk organized by the same tour group as ours has published the second of his articles. Jon Hellvig is a regular contributor to Russia Insider. Find his articles from Donetsk here. My first published report has been translated to Portugese and published in Brazil on Revista Opera.