Two new items on the situation in Ukraine, which will have profound implications for the geopolitical situation, and not only in Europe. First, a sign that those in eastern Ukraine have little sympathy with the protesters in Kiev and western parts. This comes from a blogger’s report on an attempt by a right-wing group of 200-300 to seize government buildings in Odessa, on the Black Sea. Answering a call to ‘stop the Nazis’, thousands of citizens of Odessa turfed them out, aided by the police. After an hour’s standoff, the group dispersed with their tails between their legs. The governor of the Odessa region has called on people to offer a citizen’s guard of the local administration buildings, which they seem to be doing.

Second, a debate between Stephen Cohen and Anton Shekhovtsov, the former a specialist in Russian studies and politics, and the latter a researcher at the University College London. Unexpectedly, Shekhovtsov takes the ‘democracy’ line, arguing that the protesters seriously want to link up with Western Europe in the name of ‘freedom’ and so forth. Cohen, by contrast, calls this half-truth an ‘untruth’. He blames the EU for precipitating the crisis, for the EU insisted that there could be no three-way deal, between Ukraine, the EU and Russia (as Putin suggested). Instead, it was to be EU or nothing, with NATO military lines. Not only would it destroy any form of liberal democracy in Ukraine, with the EU supporting the overthrow of an elected government, but it would have been an economic disaster for Ukraine, since the EU was offering an austerity package. Not hard to see why it was rejected.

More importantly, who runs the show? For  Shekhovtsov, it’s the moderates of the Euromaidan, with a few marginal right-wing elements who are quite limp. For Cohen, on the other hand, the evidence points tellingly to the far right. Their position:

They hate Europe as much as they hate Russia. Their official statement is: Europe is homosexuals, Jews and the decay of the Ukrainian state. They want nothing to do with Europe. They want nothing to do with Russia. I’m talking about this—it’s not a fringe, but this very right-wing thing. What does their political activity include? It includes writing on buildings in western Ukraine, “Jews live here.” That’s exactly what the Nazis wrote on the homes of Jews when they occupied Ukraine.

The debate gets quite heated towards the end, but what interests me the most is Cohen’s point that there really is a civil war under way in Ukraine already. The moderate leaders (Vitali Klitschko and others) have lost control of the streets. They have told the rioters to stop attacking police with Molotov cocktails (filled with napalm) and to vacate the occupied buildings. But the rioters have refused, as they have refused any possible deal. ‘And the street will not stop, partly because—I’d say largely because—the street in Kiev is now controlled by these right-wing extremists. And that extremism has spread to western Ukraine, where these people are occupying government buildings. So, in fact, you have a political civil war underway’.

Cohen points out what I have mentioned earlier: that there are really two Ukraines already. ‘One tilts toward Poland and Lithuania, the West, the European Union; the other toward Russia. … This is what every public opinion poll has told us since this crisis unfolded, that about 40 percent of Ukrainians want to go west, 40 percent want to stay with Russia, and, as usually true in these polls, 20 percent just don’t know or they’re not sure’.

(ht cp and ll)

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