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(en) France, Organisation Communiste Libertarie (OCL) - Courant Alternatif, CA #239 - Ukraine: a rather warm winter (fr, pt) [machine translation]

Date Sun, 27 Apr 2014 20:05:56 +0300

Independent since 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine is seen today in the center of a geopolitical dispute involving one side the European Union and the United States (through the allies NATO) and other Russia. ---- For the European Union it is a challenge, will she be able to protect and rebuild this country to the brink of economic crisis? NATO, led by the United States, expanding more and more since the end of the Cold War, has a real opportunity in the wake of the fall of the pro-Russian Ukrainian government of Yanukovych to nibble a little more former countries of the Eastern bloc. ---- For Russia, this is a step backwards. The 2004 Orange Revolution had put the pro-European power, but the situation was restored in 2010 following the victory of the "Party of Regions" (the party of Yanukovych.) A return to Ukraine in the Russian camp is no longer possible now. Russia must now fight a battle to preserve what can be and maybe even increase to a certain extent its regional and global influence.

Lately Russia has played its political map brilliantly, with the biggest win of the proposed dismantling of the Syrian chemical arsenal, counteracting any potential intervention by NATO. Russia had, for the first time since the end of the Cold War hindered the actions of the United States, it had failed to do during the breakup of Yugoslavia, for example. It also showed intransigence during the conflict with Georgia in 2008. Small reminder of the facts: Saakashvili, the Georgian president, with the blessing of its U.S. ally, launched an offensive to regain control of South Ossetia. Many Russian soldiers stationed in the region under UN mandate and living in the region are Russian citizens killed during the initial attack. Russia decides to intervene militarily. Result, ten days later South Ossetia but also Abkhazia, another region beyond the Georgian authority, have become real puppet states led by Moscow.

But this conflict is not only based on power struggles between the superpowers. It is rooted in extreme nationalism coupled to the memory of a past too often painful. To understand the problem we must go back a little bit.

A little history on Ukraine ...

The path of Ukrainian independence is long. This area has long been coveted by the great powers around. Between the ninth and thirteenth century, the Principality of Kiev (also known as Kievan Rus') is mistress. The Mongols then take control of the region, but in the fourteenth century Poland supplants. In 1649, Ukraine became independent shortly after the Cossack revolution, but in 1764, seeking an outlet to the South Seas, Russia definitely takes the control of the region.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 puts the country with fire and sword. White armies control most of the country at the beginning of the conflict. Southwest, Romania occupies Bessarabia and Bukovina. We see the creation of the People's Republic to the west and southeast are the anarchists Makhnovism managing the region. For the Bolsheviks, the conquest of Ukraine, real granary for Russia is paramount and the majority of the country came under their control in 1919. At the end of the same year, the Polish-Soviet war broke out. After three years of conflict, peace is signed and west of Ukraine is then under Polish control.

From 1931 to 1933, the Soviet Union, after the first five-year plan and because of the collectivization of land that goes wrong, experiencing great famines. The particularly high number of victims in Ukraine (some estimates suggest up to 5 million victims), and the management of the crisis by the Soviet government, gave it a name: Holdomor, literally meaning "death by starvation" in Ukrainian. This famine is seen by some as a Soviet genocide programmed specifically for the people and the Ukrainian nationalist aspirations. While others argue that the famine hit with an equally severe gravity some Russian or Kazakh regions. But we will not dwell on this debate. The important thing is to understand that the Ukrainian people, Holdomor is indeed orchestrated by Russian genocide. Today memory is still fresh in the minds of many Ukrainians.

World War II has again change the borders of Ukraine during the partition of Poland in 1939. On 22 June 1941, the German army invaded the Soviet Union. Almost all of Ukraine was conquered by the end of the year. Part of the population, especially farmers who had their land confiscated during collectivization, welcomes German army as liberators. The OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) works at first fully with the German army. This organization is rooted in already existing pre-war groups and created by Ukrainian refugees in Western Europe. By the 1930s, they receive significant support from the government of the Third Reich. But their independence aspirations fall quickly into conflict with the Nazi ideology, and in 1942 the German suppress by force the OUN. Ukrainian nationalists fighting since both against the Germans against the Soviets that show which gradually Soviet territory lost at the beginning of war. The Soviet victory over the Germans did not terminate the Ukrainian guerrillas. The OUN continued the fight, but the Soviet government is too important. In the late 1950s the insurgency is defeated. In 1954, Crimea, then part of the Russian Soviet Republic, is given as a gift to Ukraine to celebrate the 300th anniversary of its unification with Russia. Transfer at the time very insignificant now becomes important.

And the Crimea ...

Crimea, a peninsula of more than 25,000 km2 (slightly smaller than Belgium) flowing into the Black Sea recently made headlines in the media. It is home to nearly two million people. A census made in 2001 the population of the cutting so: 58% Russian, 24% Ukrainian and 12% of Tatars (the remaining 6% are of different origins).

His story is also very hectic and this region has seen its share of battles. In ancient times, many Greek counters settled there. The region then passed under Roman control, and the barbarian invasions do not spare. It is during these invasions as Tatars, trying to escape the Mongols settled in the Crimea mountains around the thirteenth century. In the fifteenth century, they embrace Islam (Sunni) and form the Crimean Khanate which will last until 1783. Their main ally and protector is the Ottoman Empire, with which the slave trade is flourishing. These slaves come from during the looting raids as Moscow in 1571.

At the end of the eighteenth century, Russia, seeking an outlet to the South Seas, definitely takes control of Crimea and Russification of the territory is therefore established. It is from this moment that Sevastopol is also the main port for the Russian Navy in the Black Sea. Russian expansionism south ends after the defeat in 1856 during the Crimean War. During this conflict, coalition, mainly Anglo-French, landed on the peninsula and capture Sevastopol after a siege of nearly a year. Fighting during the Second World War are also very important. The Germans conquered the peninsula in 1942. During the occupation, a number of Crimean Tatars are incorporated into the Tatar Legion, an auxiliary unit of the Waffen SS. This collaboration will cost Tatars almost total deportation of the population in Central Asia since 1944. It was not until 1967 that a decree removes accusations of collaboration. Tatars can then return to Crimea, although they receive no help for it the Soviet government.

Note that there were also Tatars engaged in the Red Army and units as well as Georgian Turkmen, Ukrainian, but also Russian and even served in the German army.

The period of the Cold War caught in Ukraine an important place on the strategic and political spectrum. Of its geographical position, a strong military presence is maintained by the Soviets, so it was not until 1996 that Ukraine terminates transfer to Russia for destruction, the last atomic weapons Soviet times present in his country.


Ukraine declared its independence on 24 August 1991. Majority Russian-speaking regions also vote for independence. There is still a percentage of voters well below the rest of the countries in these regions. It should be noted that according to the 2001 census, more than 17% of the population is officially Russian. It is mainly clustered in the east and Crimea. With no other port large enough to house the navy, and with the agreement of Ukraine, Russia maintains a military base in Sevastopol.

Leonid Kravchuk became the first president of Ukraine in 1991. Leonid Kuchma replaced in 1994. His presidency was marked in November 2000 by the "scandal tapes." Oleksandr Moroz, an opposition politician, accused the president of being involved in the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze. A campaign under the name "Ukraine without Kuchma! "Is then launched and the popularity of Kuchma fall drastically. The United States and Europe support the opposition, Russia continues to support the government in power. Here we have the first signs of a confrontation "east-west" for the domination of Ukraine.

On 21 November 2004, Viktor Yanukovych (pro-Russian) is elected. The pro-European opposition crying scandal. This is the beginning of the "orange revolution" (orange being the color of the opposition party) that lasted nearly 15 days. Headed by Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, protest gains in intensity. Under pressure from protesters, the Supreme Court annuls the election on November 21 and new elections are held. On December 26, the Yushchenko won with 52% of votes.

It should be noted a certain resemblance between the Orange Revolution and events in Serbia in 2000 or 2002 in Georgia, where pro-Russian governments are replaced by pro-European government in the wake of major social movements (funded and in each case supported by the United States).

Yushchenko is in power, but his government is very unstable and conflict between Yulia Tymoshenko and her taint his regime. Even more serious is the economic and political offensive launched by Russia through Gazprom. Between 2005 and 2009, Russia does not enjoying the pro-European policy of Ukraine, plays its grip on gas. This is without price increases, accusations and threats (sometimes materialized) to supply it puts pressure on Ukraine. Europe, particularly the countries of the east, with only a few weeks of reserves, is indirectly but deliberately also affected by this crisis.

In 2010, taking advantage of the internal conflicts of the ruling party, Yanukovych won the election. The new government tries to tighten the screws to avoid a second Orange Revolution. It centralizes more power and in 2011, Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to 7 years in prison for abuse of power.

In November 2013, the signing of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine is rejected by the government under pressure from Russia. This is a trigger for events in Ukraine in recent months the item.

It starts!

The protests are growing from a few thousand protesters November 21, 2013 to hundreds of thousands 24.'s His sometimes very virulent protests and dozens injured as well there are in the ranks of the protesters as the police. On November 26, the government is trying to ease tensions and declares that the agreements to be signed with Europe are still on the table. In the West, many messages of support to the demonstrators emerging from various governments.

Protests spread to the rest of the country. The Independence Square in Kyiv (Maidan) is invested by the pro-Europeans. We see floating Ukrainian and European flags. In the mass, we also see a number of flags consisting of two horizontal stripes, one red and one black. These colors are those of the extreme right, some groups even claiming the OUN. The presence of the extreme right is also very well organized makes the situation even more confusing. Different currents and groups of the radical left, both in Ukraine and in Russia are divided on the issue. But some groups, such as Ukraine free trade unions have actively participated in events and self-organization of the Maidan square structures.

Comrades involved in these events have reminded us that any time the nationalists were involved in the revolts taking place in the Russian sphere of political influence, whether in Poland in 1863 and Budapest in 1956. In their opinion, the active participation of the left in these movements are really popular is vital.

The presence of the extreme right has been very little media coverage in the West, while the Russian side, eg on Russia Today (RT), the extreme right made headlines. We note that Russia Today is an international chain of Russian television, close to the government, broadcast in English, Spanish and Arabic. It is equivalent to France 24, Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC, or to some extent the Chinese CCTV. Russian needed a medium that can compete with those already in place and the creation of RT (2005) is not trivial. At the time of the Cold War, to intervene or interference in a country simply justified as opposed to the other block. But since the late twentieth century must innovate. The dissolution of Yugoslavia is a perfect example. Here the Western media effectively reach passing the cause of independence as just among the population for example.

But back on the Maidan square. On the evening of November 30, the Ukrainian special police Berkut empty with extreme violence instead after shuffling the waves of cell phones. The EU delegation called the Ukrainian government not to use force and Jeffrey Payette, U.S. ambassador in place, threat and warns that there would be serious consequences if the situation does not change.

Early December sees the first occupations of public buildings, the Maidan site is reoccupied. It installs tents and barricades. Self-defense forces are created, organized opponents. On December 8, the statue of Lenin market Bessarabsky is reversed. Are planted instead a Ukrainian flag and a black and red flag of the extreme right. The offices of several newspapers and opposition parties are invested and ransacked by the police. 11, before sunrise, the place is surrounded. Clashes continue until dawn, calls for help from the circled are heard, and within hours thousands of people arrived as reinforcements. The police finally rejected.

The camp is more important, the barricades are repaired after the clashes of the night, makeshift hospitals are set up to treat strokes and frostbite. The rest of the country is not spared and events are also held in many other cities, such as Kharkiv or Lviv. Refusal of police order is reported also. Discussions involving the opposition and the government are taking place. Small concessions are made by the government, such as the release of some imprisoned demonstrators, but there is still a significant censorship during retransmissions of these discussions in the media. The opposition maintains that nothing has been done to meet its demands.

The government is in crisis, several figures of the government are to withdraw their position at the request of Yanukovych, some are accused of abuse of power for the Suppression of the square. This is not enough to calm the opposition. December 15, that is in front of nearly 200,000 demonstrators U.S. Senators Christopher Murphy and John McCain addressed the crowd and renew the message of support from their country.

Russia, feeling that his ally is losing the game, tries to help as she can. Yanukovych goes to Moscow and agreements are signed. He promised 15 billion euro bonds belonging to Ukraine will be redeemed by Russia and the price of gas will be lowered. Mykola Azarov, then Prime Minister, contends that without this support, the country would quickly sank and should have declared bankruptcy. On 29 December, we demonstrate to the personal residence of the President more than 10km from Kiev. A convoy of cars was organized by AutoMaidan, a branch of the protest movement that uses their vehicles, whether to barricade the streets, help convey protesters hotspots at various police attacks or to refuel instead Maidan.

On 1 January 2014, is a torchlight procession of nearly 15,000 people that is organized to commemorate the birth of Stephan Bandera, emblematic figure of Ukrainian nationalism but controversial for his collaboration with the Nazi regime. Maidan is always busy despite pressure from the police. When the power is off, standby generators are installed. We organize the collection of waste and refueling occupants food and wood for heating.

On 15 and 16 January the government passed new laws. Criminalization of the methods used by the opposition is established. Prohibition to hide or to cough up, install a tent in public or to the "revisionism" of the fascist World War II crimes. When several European officials resent these new laws, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Leonid Kozhara, said that these laws already exist in many European countries.

17, internal crises are increasing in power when the army chief of Ukrainian land, Hennadiy Vorobyov, is removed from office after losing the confidence of Yanukovych.

The confrontation continues in the freezing cold, the number of injuries and deaths increases each side. Far-right groups call to arms while the government refuses to admit the use of firearms by the police, although protesters are sometimes found riddled with bullets. It should also be noted that there are in the government camp groups, supported and funded by the government, acting since the beginning of the crisis against the revolutionaries, the dirty work is often entrusted to them.

January 25, feeling the situation to escape completely, Yanukovych has several key positions to the opposition, amnesty for occupants of different buildings and a profound change in the constitution. It would even be willing to dissolve the Azarov government if the proposal is accepted. The opposition says it leaves the proposal on the table without accepting for the moment.

The Ministry of Justice is briefly occupied the 27th and demonstrations become violent also Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhya, Cherkasy and Sumy with many arrests.

The situation in the camp Yanukovych and Azarov further deterioration resigned on January 28. 30, there is a prominent figure in the movement AutoMaidan tortured but alive after missing for over a week. This abduction case is not unique in the Ukraine to the point where some comparisons have been made with the death squads in Latin America.

February 18 is marked by serious fighting when demonstrators attempted to march on parliament. Gunshots sound, the dead are dozens, injured hundreds, and that as well in a camp in the other. The day after a state of emergency is de facto implementation. Checkpoints are installed, public transport and schools closed. The Minister of Home Affairs, Vitaly Zakharchenko, allows the use of lethal weapons against the demonstrators.

It is finished with Yanukovych ...

But to everyone's surprise, Yanukovych (and much of his cabinet) flees to Russia on the night of February 21. The opposition won the battle. A new government is formed with leaders of major groups and part of the opposition. The former president, who is safe in Russia, is accused of mass murder.

The new government faces many challenges. The new leadership of Ukraine would return to normal as soon as possible. But tens of thousands of people who have battled for months in extreme conditions, which have been able to create self-organizing structures and self-defense, have warned that they will raise their camp after the elections scheduled on May 25 While the right is always present (though divided), comrades of Free Trade Unions formed workers militias in cities like Kiev or Kirovograd.

Russia also all these events echo. Although the coast Popularity Vladimir Putin has never been so high, many events were held across the country against his almost monarchical power. Punishment is very heavy and thousands of anti-Putin protesters were arrested.

In Ukraine, the reaction to the fall of the pro-Russian government did not not wait. Recall that nearly 17% of the Ukrainian population is Russian, and in some regions this proportion rises to 70%.

Pro-Russian demonstrations took place in several cities such as Donetsk, Odessa or Sevastopol. Russian flags are hoisted in place of Ukrainian flags. You can read the flyers and banners that the new Ukrainian government is composed of fascist collaborationist Ukrainian allusions to the Second World War are heard. But wherever the pro-Russian show, opponents defending the integrity of the Ukraine are also present.

In Donetsk and Luhansk, the regional administration buildings are invested in early March by pro-Russian and a new administration is in place. But in the days that followed, the police (now in the camp of the pro-European government new) launches the attack and takes the situation in hand.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, denounced the chaotic situation that exists in eastern Ukraine. In the United States there is already talk of a potential casus belli from Russia for intervention in Ukraine.

But ... not conflict

The situation in the east of the country now seems under control. This is against a different story in the Crimea. Pro-Russian demonstrations take place in Kerch and Sevastopol. Despite the anti-fascist slogans chanted during these events, a number of yellow and black flags (referring to the flag of Tsarist Russia) are visible. These colors are used by extreme right movements in Russia. February 26 in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, one fights between pro-Russian and anti-Russian. Tatars, who carry with them the memory of their deportation in 1944, are also in the street. The conflict rises in intensity when armed and well-organized pro-Russian militia installed a checkpoint on the road from Sevastopol to the regional capital. The next day, the Isthmus of Perekop is secured by units from the special forces Berkut police, dissolved by the new government but working against the present one. Men belonging to the Night Wolves (equivalent Russia Hells Angels) keep administrative buildings in Sevastopol for the Russians. Militiamen equipped with Russian also secure Simferopol airport.

Washington warns Russia against any attempt to interfere in the Crimea. But on March 1, the de facto prime minister Crimean Sergei Aksyonov, calls on Russia to come back and secure peace in the region. Russia responds to the call by formally authorizing the use of armed forces on the territory of Ukraine. Leaving their base in Sevastopol, Russian soldiers surround a number of Ukrainian barracks. Ships of the Russian fleet are also the blockade of several ports sheltering boats Ukrainian war. On 2 March, the admiral of the fleet Ukrainian Denis Berezovsky, changed sides and allegiance to the new Crimean authorities. A day later, it was the turn of an entire air base, the 240th Tactical Aviation Brigade, 800 men strong, to change sides, but 45 MiG-29 only four are truly operational. On 4 March, the Russian media out the figure of 5,000 soldiers who defected, taking with them all their equipment. The days we are confronted, usually without exchange of shot, to bring down the barracks still in the hands of the Ukrainian army.

In Kiev, we create the National Guard. This force, which should reach 60,000 men, officially must "ensure the safety of the state, defend the borders and eliminate terrorist groups." But what are the real motives behind the National Guard? You can see by this action the need to create a politically and ideologically reliable military unit, as it would be quite possible if the situation in the east of the country were to go wrong for Ukrainian, a number of units would change camp also. The second reason is to channel and reintegrate thousands of people who took up arms during the events on the Maidan square. The new government is afraid of their potential, the people have proven what he can do and the new government wants to avoid at all costs that happen again. The aid promised by the European Union that also happen dropper until the situation is not standardized. It is therefore an urgent need for the new government to reinstate this revolutionary potential. This is of course not a new phenomenon: the power has always tried, with varying degrees of success, this kind of operation.

March 16, Crimea vote favorably with 90% yes to detach from Ukraine and Russia back. Western countries, and even, to a lesser extent, China, condemn this action. The West accuses Russia of outright annexation, the media even compare this action to the actions of Nazi Germany and the Sudetenland during the Anschluss of Austria. Russian side, the media use the same tactics. We see in Crimea large posters calling for a vote on March 16 with one hand, Crimea filled with a huge swastika (representing the new government in place in Kiev), and on the other side, Crimea flying the flag Russian.

Distribution of new Russian passports in the peninsula has already begun. Some Ukrainian bases still resist. Several Russian and Ukrainian figures are then struck penalties from Americans. The next Russia responds and does the same. In Europe, some countries, remembering cuts in the supply of Russian gas are still reluctant to go too far and upset the Russian bear.

In addition to these exchanges of political coups, some growing military power is in both camps. But this is very symbolic: a squadron of American planes sent to Poland hunts, missions aerial surveillance at the border of Kaliningrad or sending a destroyer in the Black Sea. Russia also responds and sends a few planes in Belarus. We are also witnessing an unprecedented media exercises conducted by the Russian army, and that in both camps. For Westerners, these exercises are shown as preparations for a comprehensive invasion of Ukraine and it is perhaps not quite true, they are indeed a show of force on the part of Russia, of hence their great coverage in the Russian press.

But after a confrontation is no doubt and it is very unlikely that the new Ukrainian government wants to "die for Sevastopol."

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