The “Ukraine crisis” is a long-planned operation

What is now known as the “Ukraine crisis” in the international media is hardly a properly Ukrainian phenomenon. The first uses of this phrase go back to the pro-European protests that started in November 2013 and ended with a revolution that ousted former president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. Yet even if the initial pro-European protests could be considered an internal Ukrainian development, their trigger lay beyond the country’s borders.

It was Russian foreign policy that has always been directed at preventing Ukraine from leaving Russia’s sphere of influence. Since the annexation of Crimea in March, “the Ukraine crisis” seems an increasingly misleading concept. Especially because [highlight]the plans to annex Crimea and support separatists in Eastern Ukraine were designed by the Russian authorities several years ago[/highlight] and have little to do with the defence of ethnic Russians allegedly threatened by the new Ukrainian authorities.

We heard this story before, 75 years ago, when the Soviet Union invaded Poland under the pretext of protecting ethnic Ukrainians and Belarusians from the advancing army of the Third Reich. It was only in 1989 when the Soviet authorities admitted the existence of the secret protocol of the Nazi-Soviet Pact that was signed on the 23rd of August, 1939, and implied the division of Poland, Romania, the Baltic States and Finland into Nazi and Soviet “spheres of influence”. It was Soviet expansionism initially supported by the Third Reich, rather than a concern about ethnic Ukrainians and Belarusians, that was the first and only reason of the Soviet invasion of Poland.

Nazi-Soviet division of Europe
Nazi-Soviet division of Europe

Russian university textbooks on geopolitics published since the late 1990s routinely questioned the territorial integrity of Ukraine and, especially, the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Since the 1990s, Russian top officials regularly visited Crimea and spoke about the republic’s integration with Russia in future. In 2008, then Mayor of Moscow Yuriy Luzhkov was denied entry in Ukraine for his earlier speech about the “return” of Sevastopol, the major port in Crimea, to Russia.

For the Russian authorities, the “colour revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine that brought to power pro-Western governments in 2003-2004 was a sign that these countries were willing to leave the Russian sphere of influence choosing liberal democracy over semi-authoritarian kleptocracy. President Vladimir Putin perceived these revolutions as a direct threat to his rule: if Russian citizens see that post-Soviet countries such as Georgia and Ukraine can successfully modernize and democratize, then they may want the same for Russia – and this would dramatically undermine the authoritarian regime that Putin and his elites have built. Hence, Putin’s task was to subvert democratic governments in the neighbouring countries to prevent them from successful modernization.

(left to right) Vladimir Yakunin and Igor Sechin, two of the most influential representatives of the siloviki group
(left to right) Vladimir Yakunin and Igor Sechin, two of the most influential representatives of the siloviki group

Most importantly for him was to prevent former Soviet countries from joining NATO. Despite the fear of NATO that Putin and his colleagues from security services (or siloviki) inherited from the Soviet times, the expansion of NATO in the 1990s and 2000s posed a very different threat to what was claimed by the Kremlin. [highlight]It had nothing to do with Moscow’s official line that NATO expansion near Russian borders was a danger to Russia’s national security. Rather, the organization’s system of collective defence secured member states’ sovereignty and territorial integrity, and this made it impossible or, at least, very dangerous for Russia to pursue its expansionist agenda.[/highlight]

Russian expansionism has always been veiled by the rhetoric of concern about “Russian compatriots” in neighbouring countries. A year after the Ukrainian “Orange revolution” in 2004, Putin lamented about “tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots” who had “found themselves outside Russian territory”, and claimed that “the collapse of the Soviet Union had been a major geopolitical disaster of the century”.

It was in 2005, when the Kremlin’s siloviki revitalized their support for pro-Russian separatists in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. That year, the organization “Donetsk Republic” – a Russian proxy in the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine – was created. Its leaders went to Russia in 2006 to participate in the summer camp of the Eurasian Youth Union that was established in 2005 with the money from the Presidential Administration of Russia on the initiative of Aleksandr Dugin, major ideologue of the Russia-led Eurasian Empire, and Vladislav Surkov, then deputy head of the Presidential Administration. This summer camp was aimed at further indoctrination of the activists and training for fighting against democratic movements in the neighbouring states. Instructors from security services taught methods of espionage, sabotage and guerrilla tactics. Among the participants of the summer camp was Andrey Purgin, who is now “First Prime Minister” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”.

(from left to right) Oleg Frolov, currently a member of the "parliament of the Donetsk People's Republic", and Pavel Zarifullin, former leader of the Eurasian Youth Union, in the summer camp in 2006
(from left to right) Oleg Frolov, currently a member of the “parliament of the Donetsk People’s Republic”, and Pavel Zarifullin, former leader of the Eurasian Youth Union, in the summer camp in 2006

A political discussion of possible NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia in 2008 prompted Putin to lift the veil on Russian plans concerning Ukraine. It was at the Bucharest NATO meeting when Putin told then President George Bush: “You don’t understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? Part of its territories is Eastern Europe, but the greater part is a gift from us”. In his official speech at the same meeting, Putin even suggested that rapprochement with the West might result in Ukraine’s loss of statehood.

For the Kremlin, the ideal “solution of the Ukrainian question” (Plan A) was to integrate Ukraine into the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia that would be transformed into the Eurasian Union in 2015, and, consequently, prevent the country from signing an Association Agreement with the EU. [highlight]If Ukraine did not cooperate in this regard, then the Russian invasion of Ukraine would be Plan B.[/highlight] In September 2013, when the Ukrainian authorities still discussed the prospects of signing the Association Agreement with the EU, Putin’s aide Sergey Glazyev explicitly stated that if Ukraine signed the Agreement, Russia could no longer guarantee Ukraine’s status as a state and could intervene “if pro-Russian regions of the country appealed directly to Moscow”. The Ukrainian revolution that set the country on the pro-European course was a signal for Moscow to launch that Plan B.

[box]

“We don’t want to use any kind of blackmail. This is a question for the Ukrainian people,” said Glazyev. “But legally, signing this agreement about association with EU, the Ukrainian government violates the treaty on strategic partnership and friendship with Russia.” When this happened, he said, Russia could no longer guarantee Ukraine’s status as a state and could possibly intervene if pro-Russian regions of the country appealed directly to Moscow.

“Signing this treaty will lead to political and social unrest,” said the Kremlin aide. “The living standard will decline dramatically … there will be chaos.”

[/box]

The Kremlin and its propaganda machine depict the annexation of Crimea as an act of defending ethnic Russians, and the current conflict in Eastern Ukraine – as a Ukrainian civil war. This narrative cannot be any further from the truth. What has been going on in Ukraine since February 2014 is an operation that Russia developed several years ago for the event of Ukraine willing to become a part of the family of European free, democratic nations.

[hr] Originally published on Anton Shekhovtsov’s blog

Lithuanian consul murdered by Russian-backed terrorists

Lithuania’s Honorary Consul in Luhansk was murdered today by Russian-backed terrorists. Shortly after the announcement, a tweet was sent out by the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Linas Linkevicius, saying that the consul, Ukrainian businessman Mykola Zelenets, was “kidnapped and brutally killed by terrorists.”

“We lost a sincere friend of Lithuania and Ukraine […] who had a lot of plans for the development of the two countries, including cultural and business ties. We condemn this crime and we believe that it will be investigated and those responsible prosecuted and punished persons.” the Ministry said in a written statement.

The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite also expressed her condolences. “I am shocked by the news..myself and the people of Lithuania on behalf of the deceased to express condolences to the family and loved ones, ” said the President.

According to the Lithuanian Ambassador to Ukraine Peter Vaitiekűnas, Zelenets was kidnapped 12 days prior by a group of armed terrorists, his whereabouts since unknown. He was then shot.

Update:

Below is the official statement by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

[box]

Abduction and murder of the Honorary consul of Lithuania in Luhansk Mykola Zelenets was confirmed today. This tragedy happened as result of criminal actions of the Russia-backed terrorists. At their hands suffer residents of Donbas region, hundreds of citizens of Ukraine and other countries of the world have been murdered.

We extend our condolences to the relatives of the deceased and to the friendly people of Lithuania.

We will take all efforts to bring those murders to justice.[/box]

Mykola Zelenec © cxid.info nuotr.
Mykola Zelenets © cxid.info nuotr.

Putin’s useful idiots and little ribbentrops in Europe

By Anton Shekhovtsov

The Ukrainian revolution that started from pro-European protests (Euromaidan) in November 2013 and eventually ousted former president Viktor Yanukovych in March 2014 turned Russian president Vladimir Putin’s blood cold. There were two major – political and geopolitical – reasons for Putin to be terrified.

First of all, with his antagonism towards mass protests, which his regime systematically crushes in Russia itself, Putin feared that Maidan – which, after the “Orange revolution” in 2004, has become a name for a successful popular protest – could be somehow transferred to Russia and cause problems to his rule.Second, the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, which was the initial demand of Euromaidan, could effectively pull Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence. Furthermore, through the rapprochement with the West, Putin feared that Ukraine might wish to join NATO – an organisation that never ceased to strike terror into the hearts of Russian nationalists and military “hawks”.

What happened in March, when Russia invaded and annexed the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as well as starting its open covert operation in the Eastern parts of Ukraine, was sudden but not entirely unexpected. Have not Russian university textbooks on geopolitics been questioning the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine since the late 1990s? Did not Putin say, in 2008, to former US president George Bush that Ukraine was not “even a state” and that “the greater part” of it had been a “gift” from Russia? Did not Putin, through one of his mouthpieces, Sergey Glazyev, warn, in September 2013, that the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU could lead to the intervention “if pro-Russian regions of the country appealed directly to Moscow”?

American fascist Lyndon LaRouche, his wife and colleague Helga-Zepp LaRouche and current Putin's aide Sergey Glazyev, then Russian parliament chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, June 2001
American fascist Lyndon LaRouche, his wife and colleague Helga-Zepp LaRouche and current Putin’s aide Sergey Glazyev, then Russian parliament chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, June 2001

The Russian invasion and the Kremlin’s support – including arms, money and manpower – ofpro-Russian right-wing extremists in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts have drawn condemnation from the EU, but this condemnation was not unanimous. While the mainstream political forces – conservatives, social-democrats, Greens and liberals – criticised the Russian aggressive interference in Ukraine, the radical right-wing and left-wing parties largely approved of it. The vote in the European Parliament on the 17th of March 2014, when it adopted the “Resolution on Russian pressure on Eastern Partnership countries and in particular destabilisation of eastern Ukraine”, has been revealing: out of 49 MEPs who voted against the resolution, 20 MEPs represented the far right, 26 MEPs – the left and the far left, and 3 MEPs were coming from generally Eurosceptic parties.

Historically, the strategic alliance between the far right and the (far) left is nothing new, as well as the annexation of a territory of another sovereign state. Thus, the similarities with the late 1930s were too obvious to ignore: the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that divided territories of Central-Eastern Europe into Nazi and Soviet “spheres of influence” and the consequent Nazi and Soviet annexations of these territories. Putin’s appeal to Russia’sCouncil of Federation of the Federal Assembly “to use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine” reminded of the statements made both by Adolf Hitler following the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 and by Soviet chief CommissarVyacheslav Molotov on the eve of the Soviet invasion of Poland: all of them invaded these sovereign states on the grounds of protecting co-ethnics.

There are various reasons why the EU-based far right and (far) left are willing to endorse and approve of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
European left-wingers, who rightly deserve – recalling the phenomenon of Western sympathisers of the Soviet Union during the Cold War – the title “useful idiots”, see in Russia a force that can challenge the alleged geopolitical unipolarity and the domination of liberal political economy. Being unable, due to their marginal role in national politics, to implement socialist and communist ideas in their home countries, they look at Russia as their last hope, despite the fact that Russia is not even a capitalist, but a kleptocratic, state.
Front National's leader Marine Le Pen in Moscow, June 2013
Front National’s leader Marine Le Pen in Moscow, June 2013

The far right’s reasons to support Putin are partly similar. Like the left, most of the EU’s far right parties despise the US as the dominant power in the world. Yet, for the far right, the US is also the “hotbed” of multiculturalism and multiracialism – the ideas and practices which the far right strongly oppose in the EU. Parties like the French National Front, Hungarian Jobbik, British National Party, Austrian Party of Freedom, Greek Golden Dawn and some others also praise Putin for turning Russia into a “truly sovereign” state that does not reckon with any other world power. And, obviously, Russia’s positioning as the last remaining bastion of traditional moral values does not fail to impress the far right who seem to not distinguish between the Kremlin’s posture and the shoddy reality of Russian mainstream culture.

What these little ribbentrops also fail to understand is that Putin is cooperating with them only to undermine and corrupt their countries. Of course, their strategic goal is mutual: theKremlin and the European far right want to weaken or even abolish the EU. The far right cherish the utopic idea of returning to a nation state to bring back a mythic sense of national belonging. Putin, however, wants something very different, something which can be achieved by following a maxim “divide and rule”. Through undermining the EU politically, binding the EU countries to Russia economically, Putin aspires to turn Russia into a super power.

In the world where Russia indeed secures a role of a super power, European countries will become Russia’s economic vassals. When Putin talks about “a unified Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok”, one may remember the words of Belgian National Bolshevik Jean-François Thiriart who dreamed of the “Euro-Soviet Empire” and “Europe as far as Vladivostok”. These ideas may be attractive to some elements of the European far right, but for Putin, in his own vision of a space “from Lisbon to Vladivostok”, there is no Europe as we know it. This space will be called “Eurasia”, a kleptocracy extended from Vladivostok to Lisbon.

In this ominous reality, liberal democracy, rule of law, human rights, economic freedoms, equal opportunities and progressive values will be eliminated – as they have largely been eliminated in today’s Russia. The Kremlin will not need to invade European countries with Russian tanks: economic and political corruption is a weapon more clandestine, powerful and, eventually, virulent than conventional arms. The EU may be no bowl of cherries, butPutin’s useful idiots and little ribbentrops in Europe do not imagine what Putin has in store for them.

[hr] Originally published on anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.com, republished with permission

Fighting breaks out in Luhansk, Ukrainian forces move in

By Mat Babiak

The battle for Luhansk is reportedly underway.

Ukrainian forces are closing in on Russian-backed insurgents in the city of Luhansk, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council (RNBO) spokesman Andriy Lysenko said at a press briefing in Kyiv on Friday.

Map of Luhansk
Map of Luhansk

The head of the NGO “Right Cause,” Dmitry Snehirev whose information came from witnesses and group members, told UNIAN correspondents that street battles had broken out in Luhansk, and that the Ukrainian military took control of the regional hospital and the surrounding area. “And just within the last 2 hours of street battles are closer to the city center,” said Snehirev.

Multiple media outlets have disseminated a source in the regional state administration via Ukrainian News, stating that forces involving the National Guard had been fighting in Leninskyi district.

In addition, Obozrevatel reported a posting on the Luhansk – Our City Facebook page which cited a source in the Armed Forces, who says the situation is complicated by “terrorists shooting indiscriminately  into residential areas.” “In fact, the militants have turned the whole of Luhansk into a fortified area. It is not just the militia. On the side of the [Luhansk People’s Republic] fight professional soldiers,” reads the posting. Ostro, a local news outlet, has also compiled eyewitness reports from social media chatter but did not state independent verification.

Despite these reports an official source in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) refused to confirm these reports to Ukrainska Pravda at this time. However, the headquarters of the Russian-backed militants in Luhansk claimed to have captured a group of National Guardsmen in a Luhansk suburb.

Earlier today a column of Russian reinforcements, witnessed by western journalists and confirmed by NATO, entered the Luhansk region as part of an ongoing stream of Russian forces and equipment over the porous border. Yesterday, leader of the Luhansk separatists Valeri Bolotov resigned from his position citing injuries sustained in battle.

[hr]Photo via Informator

Live on Twitter: Journalists confirm invasion has begun

Did long predicted invasion of mainland Ukraine “officially” just start? UK journalists Shaun Walker (Guardian) and Roland Oliphant (Telegraph) seem to think it has, seeing Armored Personnel Carriers with official Russian plates cross the border. Various other journalists documenting the situation have photographed columns of tanks and other heavy military vehicles heading in the direction of the border.

(last updated Aug 15, 10:45am EST)

 

“A column of armored vehicles (12 pieces) goes towards the Ukrainian border.”

This article will be updated as the situation progresses on Twitter.

Luhansk Republic leader Bolotov resigns due to injury

Self-proclaimed leader of the Luhansk People’s Republic Valeri Bolotov has resigned from his post. The news follows a similar departure from the Donetsk Republic’s militant commander Igor Girkin.

Bolotov confirmed that he was leaving due to an injury, however, his resignation coincides with Luhansk’s encirclement by Ukrainian forces. According to AFP, Ukrainian forces “completely surrounded the rebel bastion of Luhansk by cutting the last road linking the city to the Russian border.”

Bolotov's announcement
Bolotov’s announcement

“I decided to temporarily leave the post of the head of the People’s Republic of Lugansk. The consequences of my injury do not allow me to continue work from this post for the benefit of Luhansk in a difficult war,” said Bolotov. “I am from Luhansk, this is my home, and I will continue to fight for our common ideals. I am sure that our struggle will be a success,” he said.

He recommended current ‘defense minister’ Igor Plotnitsky take his place.

Bolotov, a Russian native but raised in Luhansk, was a Ukrainian citizen before taking up arms in separatism. A former Soviet soldier, he worked as a manager at a meat factory before leading a group of terrorists to seize the Security Service building in Luhansk, raiding its armoury.

'Strelkov' resigns from post following news of severe injury

Following yesterday’s tumultuous and contradictory news that Donetsk terrorist leader Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, a former Russian agent, had been “seriously injured” in a battle near the MH17 crash site in the Torez area, former Donetsk Republic (DPR) ‘prime minister’ Alexander Borodai has told Russian media that Girkin has resigned from his post as “minister of defense.” The DPR’s ‘council of ministers’ approved Girkin’s resignation, “in connection with his transfer to another job,” said the press center for the DPR. Borodai denied that Girkin had been injured yesterday, but did not give a reason for his disappearance.

I just recently parted with Igor, he’s all right. You probably already know it as well as I do, he resigned from his post. Already there is a new Minister of Defense for the DPR. Just like all the members of the government, except for me and Alexander Zakharchenko, he has been dubbed acting ‘Tsar’- that’s his call sign.

The real name of the ‘Tsar’, according to the DPR press center, is Vladimir Kononov, whose job as chief of defense will be approved tomorrow by the separatist ‘Supreme Soviet’. Girkin will also be recommended to the position of “First Deputy Minister/Chief of General Staff” at tomorrows meeting.

Speaking at a press conference, ‘people’s governor’ Pavel Gubarev said Kononov was “recommended as an old and reliable volunteer,” and declined to comment on Girkin’s alleged injury. If Girkin was indeed last seen in the Torez-Snizhne area, this would imply he was far away from the city of Donetsk, closer to Luhansk Republic forces. With Ukrainian forces strengthening their positions around the city, it’s possible a new military leader was needed.

Update:

It appears Girkin is still missing in action

Igor Girkin reported "seriously injured"

Igor “Strelkov” Girkin is seriously wounded. This is what was reported by the separatist media outlet, Novoros Inform. The short briefing cites a source in the leadership of the New Russia (‘Novorossiya’) separatist group.

“Igor Strelkov was seriously wounded. This is what was reported by a source in the leadership of New Russia. The condition of the Minister of Defence of the [Donetsk Republic] DPR – severe”, – the report says.

Self-declared Deputy Prime Minister of the Donetsk Republic, Andrei Purgin, could not directly confirm the report, but did admit that Girkin had recently been in an area of intense combat.

“I do not have accurate information. But most likely it’s true. According to my information, he was not in Donetsk, and near Shakhtarsk, Torez and Snizhne. In this area is very intense fighting,” he told Russian state media ITAR-TASS.

Denis Pushilin, who served as the ‘Prime Minister’ of the DPR before resigning and returning to Moscow, issued a video address confirming the news.

Separate DPR representatives, Vladislav Brig and Sergei Kavtaradze, issued identical statements calling the report “nonsense” in a talks with the Russian media outlets RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS, respectively, which both labelled as an attempt at deliberate disinformation. The press office of the DPR would not confirm either. Former Ukrainian MP Oleg Tsarov also weighed in, saying he was not injured, though this was prior to the statements of Purgin and Pushilin.

This story will be updated as information develops.

Ukraine agrees on international humanitarian aid to Luhansk

Following Russia’s announcement that it would be involved with the Red Cross in delivering humanitarian aid to Ukraine, questions surfaced on whether the action was unilateral, or with international support, or if the action would simply serve as a pretext to invade the country.

The ‘humanitarian’ convoy will specifically be aid for the city of Luhansk, delivered by international agents.

It will not include soldiers, and in addition to Ukrainian approval, has the backing of U.S. President Barack Obama, AP confirmed.

“I hope that in the very nearest future this humanitarian action will take place under the authority of the Red Cross,” Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said.

“We’ve agreed on all details with the Ukrainian leadership,” Lavrov reiterated.

President Poroshenko issued a statement on his Facebook account, acknowledging the action which will include the EU, the United States, Russia, Germany and other partners:

[quote]The Donbas requires international assistance, because the terrorists deliberately destroyed the entire infrastructure of the region[/quote]

Meanwhile, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Kyiv said they did not know anything about the humanitarian convoy set to enter the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) then issued a statement on its website:

[box]

Due to the complex humanitarian and social situation in the Donbas, Ukraine President Poroshenko took the initiative to send to Luhansk Oblast an international humanitarian aid mission. In addition to goods, prepared by the Ukrainian side, the mission will also include an international component and, in particular, humanitarian assistance provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United States, the EU and Russia.

Admission of humanitarian goods to Ukraine will be subject to the legislation of Ukraine and international law, and subject to the measures used by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Ukraine and the whole world community. Logistical support of the international humanitarian relief mission, including its delivery and distribution, will be provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Ukraine. It is important that humanitarian aid be distributed exclusively among the civilian population of Luhansk region, which for a long time suffered from the actions of illegal armed groups and terrorism.[/box]

Stepanivka completely destroyed by Russian 'Grad' rockets

The village of Stepanivka was completely destroyed by rocket salvos originating from beyond the Russian border, reported the press center of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO).

Stepanivka, in Donetsk oblast, is located roughly 9km from the border. Grad rockets have a launching distance of up to 40km.

According to the report, nearly 1,000 people lived in the village.