Look what happens when you stay away from the incessant news cycle for a day or two: suddenly two universes are created. In those two universes, two very different Ukraines emerge, two Vladimir Putins, although only one plane has crashed. In one universe, ‘Vladimir Putin breaks his silence on MH17 crash’ – so proclaims the liberal Sydney Morning Herald (part of the Fairfax media chain). The hard-working journalists at this paper seem to have sourced their story from Agence-France Presse, which claims to have ‘200 desks in 150 countries’. For some reason, these 200 desks have missed the fact that Putin first broke the news to Obama a few days ago, then spoke with Najib Razak, the Malaysian prime, Rutte in the Netherlands, Merkel in Germany … and then, well down the pecking order, that embarrassment of a ‘leader’, Tony Abbott, who is still huffing and puffing and trying to look important on the world stage. He may actually believe that he forced Putin to ‘break his silence’. Meanwhile, Putin has been saying for some days now that a proper and impartial international investigation should be undertaken (here and here) and that people shouldn’t rush to rash conclusions and use the crash for narrow political goals (also herehere and here – perhaps a little self-castigation on that one). Of course, no one actually believes what any politician says, but that doesn’t mean they don’t speak.

If I stay away for a few more days, perhaps another universe or two will be created.

Everyone is keen to blame someone else for the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine today. But you have to ask: who in their right mind would fly over an area where anti-aircraft weapons are in daily use? Only the day before, the armed forces of the independent republics of eastern Ukraine shot down two Ukrainian air force planes, and damaged another. One of them was flying at a high altitude, trying to avoid anti-aircraft fire. (In fact, the Ukrainian armed forces are losing the battle, with quite a number of planes shot down and troops surrounded.) Both the Ukrainian army and the independents have the Buk missile systems, which can reach 24,400 metres, way above a passenger plane height limit. And what government would declare its skies safe for passenger planes, as the Kiev regime did, when all this going on? Anyway, the tragedy was probably a mistake by one side in the conflict, thinking the plane was either Ukrainian or Russian.

But the conflict does reveal that rarely if ever is there a purely ‘civil’ war. In Ukraine, NATO and US advisors, equipment and personnel have been present for months, especially the notorious mercenary outfit, Academi (Blackwater until 2009). So you can hardly blame Putin for sending personnel and equipment to aid the separatists. Any of the ‘civil’ wars in memory always seem to be microcosms of international conflicts – the Spanish Civil War and the Russian Civil War after 1917, are perhaps the two most telling examples.

What has been achieved as a result of the Maidan coup in the Ukraine?

1. Hundreds of people shot, burned and slaughtered; thousands wounded.

2. Trashing of its own cities (Kiev, Odessa, Mariupol, Slavonic)

3. Loss of Crimea through a referendum.

4. Potential loss of eastern Ukraine.

5. Visits by CIA boss Brennan and US Vice President Joe Biden at crucial turning points.

6. Oligarchs have increased their power.

7. What’s left of the economy is systematically being destroyed.

8. Hitherto unseen levels of corruption.

9. Debt has spiralled out of control.

10. Credit rating has been reduced to CCC (trash status).

11. Value of Ukrainian Hryvnia has plummeted by 50%.

12. Delays and non-payment of salaries to state and municipal enterprises.

13. Drastic reductions in pensions and social benefits.

14. Reductions in child benefits.

15. Sharp jump in inflation from 0.5% to 15%.

16. Gas prices through the roof.

17. Petrol prices have skyrocketted.

18. Taxes raised, including more than 120% on housing services.

19. Significant increases in the cost of public transport, particularly in Kiev.

20. Increases between 25% and 42.5% on alcohol and tobacco (this is really serious in the Ukraine).

21. Medicines taxed with VAT.

22. Significant increase in electricity tariffs.

23. People called on to donate  5 Hryvnia personally to the army.

24. Ukraine agrees to be dumping ground for Europe’s radioactive waste.

(ht ll)

What is it like to live in a country torn apart by civil war – at an everyday level? A few glimpses from correspondence with some friends in different parts of Ukraine:

You caught me just at the moment when I am thinking about what is happening and how to “tell” you about it, trying again and again to understand what is happening. In place of the period when people could not tear themselves away from the TV, not to “miss” the truth, we have come to the period of non-news (TV, talking to each other). Many have not slept for some time and continue to take tranquilizers. Unfortunately, intolerance increases and therefore it is dangerous to express an opinion different from the one imposed. “Searches” happen, for anyone supporting a separatist-federalist position; nationalism appears even at the household level … I never could have imagined that people could turn into animals so quickly.

Suspicion and fear are gaining momentum, manifested in everyday life. Some of it is still non-systemic and can be perceived as misunderstanding. But wiretapping of telephone conversations now happens, and among the population, even among friends, are many informants. They ask supposedly random questions: “Were you there? And you do not want to leave?” … Many are worried about their relatives who participated in the referenda in the south-east. My aunt [who lives there] said that, despite the threat to life, she had not seen so many people come out for a vote in recent years.

But who is who? Today I witnessed a scene: two young men were talking near a car with its doors and windows open. The driver of the car shouted that they were Muscovites (Russian) and do not speak the language. So one of the young men leapt upon the driver and hit him several times.

It does not surprise me what is happening. This has been “brewing” since the 1990s. Then they “crushed” Crimea and the Donbass, but the problem is by no means solved. What do we have now? Accumulation of Capital; revival of impoverishment; a nation based on Russophobia; an aggressive minority insolent through the support of its foreign backers. The blind worship of everything foreign, kowtowing to the so-called Americans and Europeans has always irritated and annoyed me. I think that this worship has a long history, going back at least to the time of Peter the Great. And so, today’s oligarchs live in Western Europe, and come here only to earn money … But what does merging with Europe mean? Perhaps all we are allowed is to “merge in ecstasy” with Euro-Atlantic values. Then arguments are irrelevant.

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)

More material from the Ukraine. First, from the earliest days these lovely lads have been doing security work for the protesters in the central square in Kiev:

Ukr 01

Armbands with Ukrainian swastikas, I believe. A necessary item of the ‘security guard’ wardrobe. And to spread the word of a white, Christian Ukraine, they read from and have read to them the xenophobic ‘Voice of Blood’. More here. The combination of a tanking economy, high youth unemployment and active far right groups – working hard for quite some time – seems to have provided the basis for what is happening now.

Ukr 03

Second, some western and a couple of central regions have declared independence. Or rather, a number of ‘people’s councils’ have done so. Further, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv have banned the communist party. Meanwhile, those of the Donbass and other regions in the south-east have the resources and are quite ready to use them to defend their own interests. The breakup of Ukraine seems to be on its way, unless someone acts quickly.

Two friends from Kiev have sent me some of the latest, expressing the feelings of those who are horrified by what is happening.

One hints that the far right senses a chance for a coup. On Saturday, the leaders of the rioters – known as the ‘three little pigs’ (Klitschko, Tyahnybok and Yatsenyuk) – rejected offers from the President, with two of them to be given the positions of Prime Minister of Ukraine and Deputy Prime Minister of Humanitarian Affairs. Instead, the hit squads of the rioters stormed government buildings in Ternopil, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Zhitomir, Khmelnitsky, Lviv, Lutsk, and Rivne, demanding the local governors resign. They have also established ‘people’s commandants’. Knowing that they simply don’t have the numbers to win government, the only way is to work for a coup. Hence the constantly changing demands – reject Russia and turn to the EU, resignation of the president, and end to corruption, and so on. None of these are primary, for only the seizure of power counts.

The rioters may be claiming to represent the majority, even calling for a general strike. But they don’t, points out this comrade, and their calls are ignored The majority of people in Kiev, and especially the populations of Crimea and the eastern regions, do not support the rioters. These people are calling for an end to atrocities, an end to funding areas from the which the rioters come, and the imposition of martial law.

So why oppose the rioters and appear to support a government that is pretty corrupt (but then, so are nearly all governments)? The ragtag movement that the rioters represent is clearly feared to be far worse. Another comrade expresses what are probably the widespread opinions of most of those watching events unfold in discomfort and apprehension. Neither the government nor the rioters can be trusted. While the government is corrupt and uses underhand methods, the rioters are worse, for they are led by the ultra-right and entice many people into aimless violence against the riot police. If the economy was bad even before the crisis, now it’s even worse. Better to stay with the devil you know, I guess.

The big question is why the government hasn’t simply called in the army and crushed the riots. Stun grenades, tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets really don’t work in this situation. My suspicion is that it would lead to the breakup of Ukraine, but perhaps that’s already happening: a small western rump of mostly ethnic Ukrainians may become a new pseudo-state (actually like most of those tiny countries in Europe that really shouldn’t be states) and a larger eastern Ukraine that is much close to Russia.

(ht ll and ys).

Ukr 01a

Peaceful protest of concerned citizens? So much of the press around here would have us believe that the bunch above are out to burn some candles and sing songs of peace, for the love of Ukraine.

Actually, they are part of Svoboda, the All-Ukrainian Union, which is the leading force in the riots and has other groups under its direction. Svoboda used to be known as the Social-National Party of Ukraine, and their Führer is Oleh Tyahnybok. Apart from speaking of the ‘Russian-Jewish mafia’ that is supposed to be running Ukraine, he has openly praised the pro-fascist parties during the Second World War, which actively assisted the Germans in rounding up Jews and communists, and took part in the slaughter of 100,000 Poles. He and his party are anti-Jewish, anti-communist, and anti-Russian. Their base is in parts of Western Ukraine.

Actually, the protesters are flying the flag of that same party from the Second World War, the Ukrainian National Army (UPA), the military wing of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). It’s the red and black one:

Ukr 02a

And if you have a look at some of the pictures here, you’ll see the kind of weaponry they have assembled. One of my comrades in Kiev points out that the innocent looking Molotov cocktails actually have napalm in them:


So, the far right sees a glimmer of a chance to seize power, since they’ll never get it any other way. Of course, the EU among others is giving them all the support they want – wouldn’t be the first time. What is surprising people in Ukraine is that the government hasn’t cracked down on these neofascists earlier. In the Crimea and the eastern regions there have been rallies and meeting (somehow we don’t hear about those) demanding that the government act more decisively.

After recently witnessing yet again the devastation caused by neo-classical economic ideologues in the USA and by the European Union, I can’t help wondering:

Why would anyone think that the economic model touted so vigorously by ideologues in the USA and elsewhere is beneficial?

Why would anyone even consider joining the EU? Ukraine is a case in point here, with second class affiliate membership dangled out, alongside the usual threats and vague promises. Already the vicious economic measures the EU’s grey managers like to use are in evidence, but the government is standing firm in its refusal. That makes Ukraine join Belarus in aligning itself with Russia. Anyone who imagines the EU is a good deal is deluded.

Gotta love this: as I write, above Australia on the medal tally are leading sports nations such as:

1. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka North Korea) – four gold medals

2. Kazakhstan – three gold medals

3. Ukraine – two gold medals

Hmmm … isn’t one of these communist and the other two former communist countries? Oh yes, then there’s China pissing on the USA.