Introduction by website editors
July 28, 2014–The following article by Viktor Shapinov of the Borotba left wing political association in Ukraine examines the prospects for peace in eastern Ukraine. What is behind the ceasefire that the governing regime in Kyiv announced on June 23 and which expires today?
The toll of the civil war being waged by the regime against the civilian population in the east of Ukraine is serious and rising. An Associated Press article by Balint Szlanko is one of the first mainstream reports to quantify the consequences on the civilian population. It reports that tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been forced to flee to Russia for refuge.
The Guardian reports on June 27, 2014: “The United Nations high commissioner for refugees said on Friday that 110,000 people had fled from Ukraine to Russia this year, 9,500 of whom had sought refugee status, lending credence to Russian claims of an exodus across the border. The UN reported this week that at least 423 civilians and fighters had been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.”
As for the prospects of a ceasefire holding, the signing in Brussels on June 27 of a trade agreement with the European Union by President Petro Poroshenko may see a return by Kyiv to war. But the agreement opens a door for a solidarity movement with Ukraine to demand that the hypocrites in European governments reign in the violence of the new trading partner they have welcomed with open arms.
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Ceasefire in Ukraine? The battle of the ‘peacemakers’
By Viktor Shapinov, published in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, June 27, 2014, translated by Renfrey Clarke (original Russian at the Ukrainian website Liva (Left) www.liva.ua.)
The only chance of peace remains federalisation of Ukraine and a broad degree of self-government, if only for the south-eastern regions. A reconciliation, at least of a sort, might be reached on this basis.
No one believes in the ceasefire, except, perhaps, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, who has asked the Council of the Federation to repeal its decision to allow the use of the Russian army on the territory of Ukraine. Of course, supporters of the Russian government will see in the president’s actions another cunning stratagem, just as they earlier viewed his handshake with Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko, and the enthusiasm with which he greeted the declaration of the Kiev authorities that a partial settlement of the gas debt was possible. But it strikes me that if the Russian leader has started believing in the possibility of peace, he is seriously mistaken.
In any case, the resumption of military actions speaks for itself. The reality is that peace on the conditions urged by Poroshenko would not suit anyone.
The Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, naturally, are happy with the truce, but it is too early to speak of a long-term peace. A settlement on the terms of the “Poroshenko plan” would not suit the republics, because no recognition of the republics as state formations, even with rights as subjects of a united federative Ukraine, is promised. Kiev is talking about the terms for a capitulation, not for a democratic peace that takes account of the interests of all sides.
Nor does the “Poroshenko peace plan” suit the Ukrainian “hawks”, the so-called “war party”. This party includes [the oligarch and provincial governor] Kolomoysky, who using the war as cover is constructing his own “subject of federation”, a sort of corporative state that has placed under his control not only Dnepropetrovsk, but also Odessa province and the city of Kharkov. Kolomoysky, by the way, has already begun conducting his own foreign policy, meeting in Odessa, separately from the Kiev leadership, with the US envoy Victoria Nuland.
Also members of the “war party” are all those who are growing rich from this war, from the generals to the same Kolomoysky, who has been selling the army fuel and lubricants at triple the usual price.
Finally, the “war party” includes all those “heroes” of the anti-terrorist operations, people who instead of receiving jail terms for spreading Nazi propaganda and committing murder, torture and pillage, have been given weapons and official recognition as “battalions” of every conceivable sort. Acting as foreign sponsors of the “war party” are the groups within the US administration who put their stake on the strategy of “organised chaos”, which they are applying in the Arab east.
A peace on Poroshenko’s terms would not suit the provinces of the Ukrainian south-east that have not been caught up in the war. These provinces have finished up under effective occupation by an assortment of paramilitary nationalist formations that are ready to crush any manifestation of discontent. In addition, there is the growing repression being directed against the political opposition. In Odessa and Kharkov alone there are now dozens of political prisoners, not to speak of the dozens of anti-Maidan activists who have been killed by Nazi militants.
In these provinces, which are run by gauleiters appointed from Kiev as well as directly by Kolomoysky, there are of course no solutions to the social, political and linguistic problems that have impelled the residents of the south-east to revolt. But outside the Donbass, the revolt for the moment has not taken the form of armed insurrection.
We are thus back where we started. The only chance of peace remains federalisation and a broad degree of self-government, if only for the south-eastern regions. A reconciliation, at least of a sort, might be reached on this basis. But this will not suit Poroshenko, who will be forced in effect to implement the fundamental demands of the anti-Maidan – that is, of his political and military opponents. For him, this will signify defeat.
Poroshenko himself would perhaps be able to reconcile himself to such a defeat. But the Frankenstein’s monsters that the Maidan brought to life, and which it led into the big political arena, will never agree to this. After suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of the insurgents in the south-east, the national-socialist battalions will return to Kiev, and there will start looking for everyone who “stabbed the army in the back”. The crazed micro-fuhrers will brand as traitors the people who failed to finish off the “separatists” and “saboteurs”. Voices of this kind are already being heard. The nationalist and militarist hysteria that the Kiev government has pumped up will thus be turned against it. Is Poroshenko ready for such a turn of events? Evidently not.
The blood will therefore keep flowing, and the conflict, most likely, will take on a drawn-out character. The war is the result of the fundamental social and political nature of the new Kiev government. The regime lives by war, and peace is deadly for it. Unless we recognise this truth, we are likely to be deceived for a long time by the “peace plans” and other benevolent utterances heard from Kiev in between the bombs and artillery barrages.
We all know that a bad peace is better than a good war. But we also have to understand that peace for the entire south-east – including the provinces where the war is being conducted from one side, in the form of repression and reprisals – will only become possible once the right-wing regime in Kiev has been defeated.