Russophobia doesn’t exist

Russophobia doesn’t exist, but fear and hatred of Putin’s regime does.

Vladimir Putin and his supporters have made the struggle against what they see as Russophobia a cornerstone of their ideology, Yevgeny Ikhlov says; but if one examines the characteristics they offer for this phenomenon, it is clear that Russophobia as such does not exist. At the same time, fear and hatred of Putin’s regime very much do.

The importance of this ideological theme to the Kremlin has been underscored, the Moscow commentator says, by the fact that immediately after Putin made his remarks about it, the World Russian Popular Assembly insisted that Russophobia included any attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church.

In defining the term, Ikhlov continues, the Russian Popular Assembly advanced five assertions regarding Russophobia, all of which he says are at the very least problematic. It asserts that the Russian people are being “subjected to Russophobia, they are the victims of genocide in Ukraine, they are a victim people, they are a divided people, and they have an identity which is being blurred.

Before considering each of these in turn, the commentator notes that the claim that an attack on the Orthodox Church is an attack on the Russian people is simply wrong. “Orthodoxy is not a church of the Russian people … moreover, it is not an exclusive attribute of ‘the Russian world.’” Asserting otherwise undermines “the very idea of the universality of Orthodoxy.”

The assertion that there is ethnic hatred toward Russians as such in the contemporary world is without foundation, Ikhlov says. The only place where one could speak about this would be in the Baltic countries, “but this is a manifestation of the most ordinary migrantophobia and diasporaphobia, which Russians also display.

Around the world, people recognize Russian culture as “a great world culture,” and Russians “have not encountered even that hostility which for long years surrounded Germans after the first and especially after the second world war.” Those who assert otherwise do not know what they are talking about.

The fact that there exists “fear and hostility to the Putin government” and that this is spreading and intensifying is quite another matter, Ikhlov says. A century ago, “every literate individual could clearly distinguish between the regime of Nicholas I and the Russian people and Russian intelligentsia.”

Thirty years ago, people found no difficulties in distinguishing bvetween the Russia of Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn and Russian communism. “And now,” Ikhlov says, they have no problem recognizing that the Russia of Boris Nemtsov is something entirely different than the Russia of Vladimir Putin.

Confusing or conflating “fear before the imperial policy of the Kremlin and the authoritarian mentality of the people with hostility toward Russians as an ethnos” is simply foolish nonsense, Ikhlov suggests.

The second plank in the attack on supposed Russophobia is that ethnic Russians are, it is said, being subjected to genocide in Ukraine.” There is no truth to that, and the word genocide should be used with care rather than tossed about whenever one wants to blacken opponents and play the victim.

Russians can claim to be victims, Ikhlov says; but most often and most seriously they have been victims of other Russians rather than of foreigners of one kind or another. But they are not a victim people in the sense that the Jews and Palestinians, Armenians and Tutsis are, and they should not claim otherwise.

Nor is it correct to label the Russians “a divided people,” as many of those now talking about Russophobia do. It is true that the collapse of the USSR in 1991 left many ethnic Russians beyond the borders of the Russian Federation, but “over the last quarter century much has changed” and the Russians in these countries are now “classical examples of a diaspora.”

Finally, Ikhlov argues, there is no evidence that Russian national identity is being blurred. “On the contrary, Russians very clearly set themselves apart from other ethnoses of the empire, having unwritten but in no way less obligatory criteria of what is required from a non-Russian to be recognized as a Russian,” even if various groups of Russians often fight about that.

Ukraine’s anti-Communist law should be rewritten, but not scrapped

The recently published open letter on Ukraine’s ‘anti-communist law’ has weighed into a heavily emotive debate. We could consider the law from the point of view of the ammunition it will give Ukraine’s critics, but I do not think this should be a key consideration. If their use of the repeal of Ukraine’s regional languages law (which never happened) is anything to go by, the trolls at 55 Savushkina street will have this woven into their technical tasks for the next few months, irrespective of whether it is ever signed into law. Russia has dictated Ukraine’s affairs quite enough, one would think

There are some points on which this letter hits the nail on the head. Where was the rigorous political debate in the Rada on such potentially divisive issues? Also, that the law creates a vaguely defined offence of denying the legitimacy of Ukraine’s struggle for independence in the twentieth century. Vaguely defined laws on which individuals could be arbitrarily lynched are a post-Soviet model of justice which surely has no place in today’s Ukraine. The offence of denying the criminal character of the entire Soviet regime from start to finish is also fraught with risks, although I think the examples given of potential offenders amount to mere thought experiments. This poor quality of legislative practice shows that Ukraine still lacks a culture of constitutionalism, and President Poroshenko should indeed send lawmakers back to the drawing board to pass a better law which better addresses these concerns. But the essence of what Ukraine is attempting to do here must not be discounted.

I first moved to Kiev in 2006, living first near Arsenalna, then Nyvky out in the suburbs, both on the metro system. Using the metro regularly there brings you face to face with the Soviet legacy, from small hammer & sickles in metal grills to the garish representation of Lenin and his sayings at Teatralna. I always hated it, and I also hated the seeming indifference of most locals to it. Even amongst the more active, nobody really raised this issue. The moderator of one pro Ukrainian language Facebook page was more concerned with a small Russian language sign at Palats Sportu station (only retained as it was part of the station’s original design) than de-Sovietization. For me the latter was far more important.

The Lenin menagerie at Teatralna was finally removed last year, and I was overjoyed on a visit back to Kiev to see it gone. Perversely, it is this exact display which is pictured atop the open letter itself on the Krytyka webpage. It’s common for western visitors to Eastern Europe to wonder why countries in the region saw the need to rip up their communist monuments. After all, it’s part of their history, they say. But as we all know, history is written by the victors, and in 1922, after a civil war which ravaged Ukraine, that’s what the Bolsheviks were. This regime not only built its own monuments but destroyed royalist monuments, churches etc. and, ultimately, their monuments were designed as symbols of central power, prescribed history, control and obedience. How can a country build a democratic mindset with monuments glorifying totalitarianism everywhere?

So in many ways the gist of the law is actually correct. Retaining Soviet detritus has been too costly to Ukraine’s societal development, and people’s indifference unhealthy. The law also bans Nazi symbols. Again, the law should bear in mind Ukraine’s needs, not Russia’s, and I think there’s a much more searching debate to be had about what’s acceptable and what isn’t. To me, the black and red flag should be permissible, Wolfsangels and other SS symbols etc. should not be. It’s difficult to apply a consistent standard across both the Nazi and Soviet periods as they are so vastly different in scope.

The most important desired outcome is freedom for independent historians, academics and journalists. Remember, by the way, that it was Yanukovych who closed the KGB archives in 2010, aiding the mythologization process in Western Ukraine, boosting the Svoboda party and creating a foil for the pro-Russian ‘anti-fascist’ constructs that the Party of Regions was using. When you have Ukraine sympathizers writing things like “so it is established fact that the UPA slaughtered tens of thousands of Poles? I don’t think so” (some here in Warsaw can tell you they lost family members at the hands of the Ukrainian insurgents), you realize the importance of the work of these historians.

Holodomor remembrance is a good example of the power of education. Not so many years ago the average Ukrainian knew little in concrete terms about what had happened to their country in the 1930s. The bringing to light of historical evidence has brought about the right kind of response, one of reverence and remembrance in which all public figures participate (leaving aside the more specific question of genocide). The fear of the mythologizing of history in Ukraine, as in Russia, is a legitimate one. Ukraine shouldn’t follow Russia down the path of pseudo-history.

Is there an alternative to smashing or bulldozing Lenin statues and other monuments? Perhaps. Hungary’s’ Statue Park is an example Ukraine could follow. What they do in former East Germany with Karl Marx in Chemnitz (complete with giant winter scarf!) is a perfectly sensible thing to do in the context of the free world safely inside the EU and NATO. But in Ukraine the monuments underline a medieval understanding of power which makes them much more problematic to retain. Another risk is that Soviet monuments can be reactivated as symbols by subversives or invaders. The reconstruction of a Lenin monument in occupied East Ukraine reminds us of their value to the opponents of a free Ukraine.

Perhaps the most damning criticism that could be made of the law is that it is in a way a cop out. If Communism was so bad, when will Ukraine act on lustration for the crimes of the Soviet period (not to mention for the Kuchma and Yanukovych eras)? The open letter is a thoughtful contribution to this difficult discussion. Although signed by one or two dubious figures it is also signed by many more respected and knowledgeable academics with Ukraine’s best interests at heart.

Monuments and street names to those who weren’t Ukrainian & killed Ukrainians is inclusivity Ukraine can do without.

The debate about de-Sovietization must by necessity move into controversial territory. Should it be only street names such as Lenina or Kominterna which should be changed? Should street names such as Heroiv Stalingrada (Heroes of Stalingrad) be changed purely because they contain, and indirectly venerate, the name of one responsible for the deaths of millions of Ukrainians (I’d like to see it renamed Heroes of Donetsk Airport instead)? The argument the open letter makes is for inclusivity of those across Ukraine, but surely, as someone has suggested, that inclusivity could be found in countless numbers of local figures worth celebrating. Monuments and street names to those who weren’t Ukrainian & killed Ukrainians is inclusivity Ukraine can do without.


By , originally published on Chicken in Kiev

 

Russia ‘de-Ukrainizing’ population of Crimea, occupation census shows

The number of people in Crimea identifying as ethnic Ukrainians has fallen by 232,000 between the 2001 census conducted by the Ukrainian government and the 2014 census conducted by the Russian occupation authorities, a decline that has reduced the percentage of ethnic Ukrainians on the peninsula from 24.0 to 15.1 percent.

That contributed both to a decline in the total population of Crimea from 2.4 million to 2.285 million over the same period and to an increase in the ethnic Russian share of the population from 60.4 to 65.3 percent as well, according to data presented by Andrey Illarionov.

In order to understand that these are not natural shifts but the result of what Illarionov calls “the catastrophic factor” of the Russian Anschluss, he presents data on the total numerical and annual percentage changes of these two ethnic groups for the preceding (1989-2001) inter-censal period and those of the most recent one (2001-2014).

In the earlier period, the number of ethnic Russians declined from 1.64 to 1.45 million with annual percentage declines of 1.0 percent while the number of ethnic Ukrainians fell from 626,000 to 457,000 with annual percentage declines of 0.7 percent. But in the latter one, Russians increased by 0.2 percent while Ukrainians fell by even more, 3.9 percent a year.

In the course of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, “the ethnic composition of the population of Crimea was subjected to significant changes, the Russian analyst continues, the most important of which during that period was “the demographic catastrophe which affected the Crimean Tatars.”

But “the main event of the beginning of the21st century has become the demographic catastrophe which has affected ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea,” when over the last 15 years they have lost 40 percent of their total and seen their share of the total population of the peninsula fall from 24 to 15 percent.

According to Illarionov, “one can with a high degree of certainty assert that the qualitative changes in the ethnic composition of the population of Crimea took place in the course of the seven or eight months preceded the last census,” that is, “between February 27 and October 14, 2014.”

“The reduction of the population of any ethnic group of such a size over such a short period of time typically is caused by political events of an extraordinary character,” he points out, “by wars, famine, deportation, mass emigration or genocide. With the exception of periods of the civil war and World War II, such rates of reduction in the numbers of the population of this or that demographic as were seen in Crimea in 2014 were not seen in the last century.”

“In this case,” Illarionov says, “the sharp decline in the number of Ukrainians in Crimea was called forth evidently both by the mass departure of Ukrainians from Crimea and the conscious change by some of them of their official ethnic self-identification.”

And to appreciate just how large those two factors are, he suggests, one could compare the number of ethnic Ukrainians in fact with the number of ethnic Ukrainians who would have been in Crimea at the end of 2014 if the same rates of change from the previous inter-censal period had continued.

If that had been the case, there would have been 524,000 ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea, not the 180,000 fewer that the Russian census takers recorded in October 2014. That difference, he concludes, is a useful and appalling measure of “the cost of the Putin adventure for the Ukrainians of Crimea.”

Ukrainians ‘called us occupiers,’ returning Russian insurgents tell media

Many commentators have speculated that Moscow faces a potentially serious problem when those who have gone to fight in Ukraine return to Russia with their anger and their military skills, the Kremlin may face a more immediate danger: those returning are undercutting Russian propaganda about what is happening in Ukraine.

Today, Yekaterinburg’s independent online news agency reported that “about 180” volunteers from the Urals returned from Ukraine today and are telling their families, friends and the media that “local people [in Ukraine] called us occupiers,” an epithet that calls into question Moscow’s messages.

The returnees were led by Vladimir Yefimov, the spetsnaz veteran who recruited them to go to Ukraine in the first place. When they left for Ukraine in March, they formed “the largest official local group of volunteers since the declaration of the armistice. Only half returned today; the rest continue to fight in the guard of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

“We worked in guard posts and went on patrol,” Yefimov said. “There were no serious battles,” only occasional shooting and provocations. But the weather in the Donbas was terrible and everyone suffered with the flu, heart problems and lung infections.

He added that he and his men “had become disappointed in the Donetsk People’s Republic to which they had gone initially because of its ‘duplicitous leadership’ and the attitudes of the local population.”

“According to Kyiv law, we are terrorists. According to a Madrid court, we are also terrorists. According to the law of the Luhansk Republic, persons who are not included on the lists of its armed forces are also members of illegal armed formations. And if one takes money for service there, then we become mercenaries” under Russian law, Yefimov said.

But it was the attitude of the local people in Luhansk, he said, that really repelled him. “They are clearly drawn to Ukraine. They pay taxes to it. And the local population in some places calls us occupiers. We simply lost the desire to work in this republic and transferred to the Donetsk People’s Republic” where the situation is “much better.”

Yefimov told the Yekaterinburg journalists that he had had to pay for the train tickets of his men back home because of a quarrel he had with his original sponsor: That individual objected to the fact that he had named him during a media interview despite the fact that he wanted to remain anonymous.

Despite all this, Yefimov said, he “plans to prepare a new group of volunteers” and has already found 40 who are ready to go. But his words about how the people of the Donbas really view “Russian volunteers” like himself are likely to have a bigger impact on future events than anything he or they might do in Donetsk.

Why Valentina Lisitsa was fired

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has become subject to divided opinions over its recent decision to fire American pianist Valentina Lisitsa, a prominent musical figure born in Soviet Ukraine of Russian descent who has since become known for her vitriolic online campaigns supporting the Russian war effort.

TSO president and CEO Jeff Melanson has responded on the controversy, saying that the decision was based on Lisitsa’s provocative comments overshadowing past performances. Lisitsa, for her part, has defined her rhetoric as “satire and hyperbole” that she uses to “combat lies.”

This issue has since devolved into a matter of freedom of speech, and whether the TSO was right to act.

While the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is free to hire and fire who they choose as a private entity, critics are slamming the move to disassociate from Lisitsa as a violation of “freedom of speech.” More problematic has been the media response, which has entirely missed the provocative nature of her political commentary.

Russian media is framing Lisitsa’s stance as being “anti-Kyiv,” while the National Post has headlined her commentary as simply “denouncing neo-Nazis,” with CTV and The Globe & Mail further muddying the issue to be over mere “political views” “against the current Ukrainian government.” Rabble.ca says the issue was with her “anti-war views” and the Globe also says she ‘opposes the civil war.’

The truth of the matter is radically different and justifies why so many people have been offended by her over the past year.

To understand the postings below, it’s important to note that her references to “Nazis” are meant to be pejorative, and not in political terms. Over 3 million Ukrainians were murdered during the Holocaust, and Nazi occupation spanned the entire country. Referring to them as “Nazis” is meant to be strictly offensive, and not related to actual Nazi leanings, current or historical.

Her public position has also been contradictory or hypocritical, saying she was proud of the “magnificent revolution” in Ukraine on her post-firing Facebook statement, but called it an ‘illegitimate’ “west-sponsored coup” days prior.

We won’t go over every objectionable tweet in this article (they are publicly viewable). Some iconize Russian terrorist leaders accused of summary executions mass graves, one trivializes the Germanwings crash, others threaten NATO & U.S. troops, and one even mocks Down Syndrome awareness.

She is a supporter of war denial, toeing the  Kremlin line that Russia never invaded Ukraine – an indisputable fact at this point. She has spread conspiracies of ‘Ukrainian concentration camps’, saying in one: “In a new European Ukraine, the camps will give the subhumans [ethnic Russians] condemned to the gas chambers an opportunity to offset their carbon footprint.” She insisted on a CBC radio interview that her statement was true, but naturally, it was an internet hoax.

In the past, Ms. Lisitsa has also come out in support of a controversial New York art exhibit sponsored by Russia’s far-right and connected to Alexander Prokhanov, a notorious anti-Semitic conspiracist.

Suffice it to say, her views are varied.

Be the judge

This is one of the more widely cited tweets because of its racist nature. Here she is mocking Ukrainians wearing traditional attire as “tribal” with a sarcastic jab implying that the practice of doing so is primitive.

 

In two other tweets Lisitsa (remember, she says she is ‘anti war’) says Ukrainians are infected and need to be “cured” with a Russian invasion (“folk medicine”). In a separate instance she wishes Ukrainians a “speedy recovery” and suggests ‘strong medication’ while posting a picture of Holocaust victims. It’s up for interpretation if she implied Ukrainians need a dose of Zyklon-B, or if picturing Buchenwald victims was a specific reference as many were subject to human experimentation; or if she was illustrating Russians as victims to Ukrainian aggression, trivializing the Holocaust. All interpretations are offensive.

 

This isn’t her sole invocation of the Holocaust. In June she criticized Jewish-Russian opposition leader Gary Kasparov by blaming “Western democracies” for the Holocaust itself.

 

Aside from the xenophobic jab below where she implies that Ukrainian isn’t a real language (‘pardon’), she attaches a picture calling Jewish Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky a kike. The actual Ukrainian translation of the shirt (which may also be a photoshop) is meant to be an ironic form of “Jewish enemy,” and in Russian is a re-appropriation of two anti-Semitic and anti-Ukrainian terms to play on Russian prejudices, and is explained in depth here and here. Her contempt extends to pro-Ukraine Israelis.

 

In opposition to her professed anti-war stance, Lisitsa took issue with U.S. troops showing solidarity in Estonia recently, and suggested that Russia would defeat them in war. She pairs this with pictures of Soviet soldiers marching Nazi (‘NATO’) POWs and tearing down NATO and Ukrainian flags.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 6.16.35 PM

Lisitsa also calls for Ukrainians to take up arms against ‘Rothschild debt collectors.’

 

In a now-deleted tweet, Lisitsa publishes in Ukrainian: “This is more correct: Dear [ethnic] Ukrainians! I will never get tired of reminding you that you are dog shit. Thank you for your attention.” To clarify my translation, the quote directly says “conscious Ukrainians” (‘svidomi’), commonly used as a slur by Russians who refer to Ukrainians as “svidomites.” The term disparages “self aware” Ukrainians, that is to say, those who identify as ethnic Ukrainian and not as a sub-group of Russians. Thus, she is both referring to Ukrainians as ‘defective‘ and, of course, ‘dog shit.’ To belabor this point, the person she is tweeting to, n_marmaleykina, posted a graphic featuring Gabonese tribesmen with the caption “conscious savages.”

And in one bizarre instance photoshopped a pro-Ukrainian user’s tweet to mislead her followers.

Final thoughts

Did objection to the above violate Lisitsa’s rights? Naturally, it’s difficult to say her right to express herself was violated since she is a pianist, and not a public speaker.

Barring the fact that Lisitsa is not a Canadian citizen, and nobody is prohibiting her from speaking in any capacity on her own time (her social media following has, if anything, grown), Canadian hate speech laws give a good example why sometimes limits are necessary. As Canadian lawyer David Butt points out, “our constitution protects not only free expression, but multiculturalism and equality as well. So to read the constitution holistically, we cannot permit one protected freedom to undermine other rights and freedoms enjoying equal status.” Secondly, “the Supreme Court recognized the insidious impact of propaganda campaigns that gain social traction and incrementally dull our rational faculties and empathy. Perhaps paternalistic, but the court is saying sometimes we need to be protected from our baser and stupider selves.”

And it is these types of hate-laced propaganda campaigns that Ms. Lisitsa participates in that the TSO simply doesn’t want to promote or be associated with – and that is their right.

Offensive Language: Putin began his verbal attack on Ukrainian statehood in 2004

Vladimir Putin stopped using the preposition “v” or “in” Ukraine in 2004, reverting to the older form “na” or “on,” in official government documents, an indication that the Kremlin leader did not view Ukraine as a country but rather as a Russian borderland, according to Andrey Illarionov.

Editor’s note: This is similar to the distinction in English between ‘Ukraine’ and ‘the Ukraine’ with the Russian “on Ukraine” being an archaism equivalent to ‘in the Ukraine’. See articles in TIME and Business Insider for more on the subject.

From the time he became president in 2000 through March 2004, Putin used the preposition “v” exclusively in official documents he signed, but beginning on April 5, 2004, he shifted to “na” and since Putin returned for his third term, such documents have used “na” exclusively.

In his own speeches, commentaries and responses to questions, Illarionov points out, Putin has gone from using “in” in 87.5 percent of the cases in 2002 to 70 percent in 2007 to 15.4 percent in 2012 to 8.2 percent last year, thus ever more often replacing it with the “on” and thus showing his lack of respect for Ukraine’s status as a state.

Since April 5, 2004, 99.4 percent of the official documents Putin has signed which refer to Ukraine have used “on” rather than “in.” Most of these 11 exceptions reflect either statements about the past or about the work of specific Russian officials of various kinds in Ukraine, he says.

“The last time the grammatical form ‘in Ukraine’ was used in official documents of the Kremlin was about five years ago on July 1, 2010,” concerning the presentation of an award to the head of ITAR-TASS in Ukraine. And that order was signed by then-President Dmitry Medvedev.

Since that time, “in” has not been used in the official documents of the Russian president and his administration even once. “In 2011-2015, 100 percent of the cases have used the form “na Ukraine,” Illarionov reports.

233176_600Graph 1: Use of “on Ukraine” (red) versus “in Ukraine” (green) in official Russian use, 1910-2008
Graph 2: Use of “in Ukraine” (blue) versus “in the Ukraine” (red) in English books, 1910-2008

This allows one to conclude, the Russian analyst says, that the decision to shift from “in” to “on” was taken “in the period between March 1 and April 5, 2004” – quite possibly immediately after Putin’s winning a second term as president and thus an indication of his intentions toward Kyiv at that time.

Certainly by April 16, 2004, Putin had made a decision to shift gears with regard to Ukraine. On that date, Illarionov recalls, Putin told the Ukrainian President Viktor Medvedchuk, “You know our position.” Working with Ukraine is “the top priority and the most important for us.”

“But however that was, the beginning of linguistic aggression by denying the statehood of Ukraine by the Russian authorities begins in March-April 2004,” Illarionov says. That was before the beginning of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in that year and long before July 2013 when Putin began his hybrid war against Ukraine.

“In other words,” Illarionov concludes, “the decision about the denial of the statehood of Ukraine was not provoked by any real actions of Ukrainians, be they from the Ukrainian authorities or Ukrainian society. This decision was taken by Putin personally, independent of the situation in Ukraine and as a result of his own ideas and in correspondence with his own plans.”

10 reasons why Ukraine’s Donbas is not and will not become a Northern Ireland

At a time when many commentators are seeking to explain what is going on in Ukraine by searching for analogies with other places and events, it is useful to be reminded of the limits of at least some of these comparisons as Bogdan Butkevich does in an article entitled 10 Reasons Why the Donbas will Not Become Ulster.

The Fourth Power analyst points out that “journalists and publicists, especially those who are pro-Russian, love to draw parallels between the war in the Donbas and the conflict in Ulster, thereby attempting to show that the war in Ukraine is a civil war,” but there is no factual basis for such claims.

The civil conflict in Northern Ireland lasted “more than 40 years” while the one in the Donbas was provoked by Moscow and is now directly supported by its troops, turning what the Russian side liked to claim was a “hybrid” conflict into “an ordinary war of conquest,” according to Butkevich.

That is obvious if one makes a serious comparison of the two, and he offers ten ways in which the two are very different:

1. The History of the Question.

The conflict in Northern Ireland has its roots in the English conquest of Ireland in the 12th century and the subsequent colonization of the northern countries by British people, almost all of whom were Protestants. The war in the Donbas is totally dissimilar. Until the mid-19th century, “this territory was practically empty.” It acquired importance because of industrial development, something that attracted people from throughout the Russian Empire and USSR regardless of ethnicity and who were mixed together once they got there. Indeed, the term “Donbas” is “more an economic than a political one,” let alone “a cultural or ethnic” description.

2. The Causes of the Conflict.

The struggle in Northern Ireland was between Catholics who wanted to join the Republic of Ireland and the Protestants who “by manipulating the law and using the support of London” were able to prevent that. The Catholics turned to terrorist actions, and the Protestants both responded directly and forced London to send troops to try to suppress the rising. The Donbas was and is different. A privileged economic zone in Soviet times, it has suffered economically since then. The oligarchs in the region and the pro-Moscow Party of the Regions used it to try to retain power in Kyiv. When that didn’t work, Moscow intervened.

3. The Typology of the Conflict.

“The conflict in Ulster is a civil war with internal causes and a logic of development,” Butkevich says.  “The war in the Donbas is in essence an invasion by Russian under the form of inciting a civil conflict.” But it is not a civil conflict in the sense that the one in Ulster is.

4. The Mentality of the Population.

“Irish Catholic, Protestant Englishmen and Protestant Irishmen are a settled population in Ulster.” Their views have been fixed by centuries of historical experience; they are not subject to radical and rapid change.  The majority of the people of the Donbas have been there no more than two or three generations; they are typical of “new arrivals” in that they have not formed specific “traditions, views and worldviews” and are more subject to the influence of propaganda.

5. The Religious Issue.

The divide between Catholics and Protestants forms the basis for the divisions in Northern Ireland.  There is no such divide in the Donbas, despite efforts by Russian propagandists to spark one.

6. The Nationality Question.

In Ulster, this is the key division, but in the Donbas, it isn’t. Ukrainians and Russians “are fighting on both sides,” and “the chief role in the conflict is played not by nationality but by worldview factors,” with those supporting a liberal democratic order being for Ukraine and those supporting “national conservatism” backing Russia.

7. Foreign Interference.

Although the IRA received some support from abroad, “the conflict was entirely internal. But in the Donbas, “from the very beginning, Russia took the most immediate part in exacerbating it” and finally “introduced regular units of the Russian army,” making the conflict into an ordinary war of conquest.

8. Type of Military Actions.

“The Ulster conflict is a classical example of terrorist guerilla war, that is, of war in the city, primarily by means of the conduct of terrorist actions. “The conflict in the Donbas as a result of Russia’s efforts very quickly grew over into a full-scale war with regular military units involved.

9. Weapons and Tactics.

In Ulster, the basic weapons were personal arms and explosive used to carry out terrorist attacks; in the Donbas, the main weapons are heavy artillery and tanks used to carry out aggression or defense against it.

10. The Number of Victims.

Over almost 40 years of conflict in Northern Ireland, an estimated 3,000 to 8,000 people were killed or less than 250 per year on average at most. In the Donbas, the number of killed is more than 5,000 and may be as much as 10,000 – and that in one year, not 40.


Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The pact between Donetsk separatists and Ukraine’s richest man

A former leader of Ukraine’s separatists and terrorist organization, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), has come forward with information that links the group to a pact forged with Ukrainian billionaire Renat Akhmetov that has so far protected the port-city of Mariupol and his business interests in the region.

According to Alexander Borodai, a Moscow native who was instrumental in both the Russian invasion of Crimea and insurgency in Donetsk, Akhmetov has struck a deal with the DNR that has put him in a “favorable” position.

Akhmetov currently has many enemies in the Kyiv establishment, Borodai explains, namely rival oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. Ukraine also has a limited number of ports, the largest being in Odesa, which is consequently controlled by Kolomoisky – who he says would never allow Akhmetov to operate there. The only means of exporting goods would then be via Mariupol, the port city said to be the next target of Russian-backed forces.

Mariupol has not been taken by the DNR because of an ongoing agreement between its leadership and Akhmetov. Borodai confesses that DNR forces left the city so “so that he can export products from the occupied territory” and that he has become an oligarch financing the separatist region.

“Therefore, the only option to safely operate business for Akhmetov [is for] Mariupol to remain under the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.”

The agreement between the two parties stipulates that, in exchange for protection, Akhmetov provide ‘humanitarian aid’ to the DNR and continue to pay the salaries of his employees, “who are nationals of the DNR.”

Borodai also dismissed suggestions that products from occupied eastern Ukraine could just as easily be exported internationally via an intermediary in Russia.

“No one of the Russian oligarchs will take it. Firstly, Russia is full of such products (iron and steel), it has nowhere to go,” and said that importers could easily trace the origin of the goods.

“And even if we did, they need Akhmetov’s salaries and aid, which if cut off would result in famine.”

Ultimately, the Donetsk insurgents can’t count on outside investment and needed a man who already held a vested interest in the region, making Akhmetov the perfect choice. For his part, Akhmetov has been forced to play both sides, fearing he could lose his liquid assets to Kyiv and physical assets to Donetsk, and with one food in each, unable to move.

The war has been an imperial revolution in the name of ‘Great Russia’

In addition, responding to the deteriorating situation in the occupied region, Borodai says that nobody promised the Donbas a “social revolution,” and that the ‘revolution’ in the Donbas is not a social-economic one, but “imperial and national, in the name of Great Russia.”

Recap

Last summer Donetsk militants and local supporters marched on Akhmetov’s Donetsk residence, but held back from raiding the compound after armed men from current DNR leader Alexander Zakharchenko’s Oplot group intervened. Others have called to nationalize his vast properties as penalty for refusing to ‘register’ his businesses and pay ‘taxes’ to the insurgent group.

DNR militia guards Akhmetov's compound

In August, Akhmetov’s Donetskgormash heavy machine factory was converted into a military repair workshop for the DNR. Other property has since fallen under their control. Representatives under Akhmetov have denied operating under the DNR, but factory workers have continued working the floors of the occupied factories.

Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, is often accused of links to organized crime in the country and notoriously bankrolled deposed president Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions. In a 2006 U.S. diplomatic cable, then U.S. Ambassador John Herbst referred to Akhmetov’s Party of Regions as “long a haven for Donetsk-based mobsters” and called Akhmetov the “godfather” of the Donetsk clan. Andrew Wilson, a scholar specializing in Ukrainian politics, categorized Akhmetov as a former ‘enforcer’ and ‘leader’ of  crime boss Akhat Bragin’s “Tatar clan”, and responsible for the use of “mafia methods” to rise to power.