by Francis Lee for the Saker blog
It is an open question as to why Putin and the Russian government tolerated the 2014 coup which was blatantly funded and organized by internal and external actors followed by the war in the Donbass. The coup was bought and paid for by the usual suspects – The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) the ubiquitous Mr. Soros (The Open Society Foundation – OSF) and Human Rights Watch (HRW); this in addition to Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt adding their input into the Maidan during the stage-managed ‘revolution’. The shock troops of the coup were bussed in from all points in the west Ukraine to Lviv, then on to the battleground of Kiev and the Maidan. These rightwing ultras were to openly flaunt and use their improvised weapons – usually Molotov cocktails and medieval studded clubs, last used at the battle of Agincourt – against the riot police. The legitimate president, at the time Viktor Yanukovych – was ousted by this illegal show of force and forced to flee Kiev for other places outside the reach of the mob. Poroshenko – one time finance minister of Yanukovych – was thus ‘elected’ as the new President.
The first thing on Poroshenko’s agenda was the war against the Eastern provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk. According to Poroshenko this was going to be a simple ‘police operation’ which would be over in a few hours. The initial phase of the conflict was a sortie by the Ukrainian Army which rolled into Mariupol and began to shoot up the place killing a number of Russian civilians. News of this Ukie incursion began to trickle through to Donetsk and Lugansk where hastily formed local militias began to be created.
However, the significance of the events in the Southeast extended far beyond Ukraine. No sooner than the Donetsk republic was proclaimed, official Moscow let it be understood, in no uncertain terms, that it made no claim to Ukraine’s rebellious provinces. This was neither diplomatic nor a concession to the West; the conflict was far greater than anything the Kremlin found convenient or manageable. Unlike Crimea – where the process was controlled and where, after two or three demonstrations, the transfer of power was carried out by the local elite. But the process in Donetsk and Lugansk had borne witness to the elemental force of a popular movement which simply could not be managed from outside. But this spontaneous political uprising did not go down too well inside the more conservative elements in the Russian political hierarchy and the financial clique whose interests largely lie outside of Russia.
The movement itself was decentralized and rapidly threw up hitherto unknown leaders (such as Alexander Zakharchenko – see below – a heroic figure and leader who was later assassinated in a restaurant off Lenin Square in Donetsk by an unknown assailant who set off the bomb. Born: June 26, 1976, Donetsk, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union. Died: August 31, 2018, Pushkin Boulevard, Donetsk, Donetsk People’s Republic/Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine). Zakharchenko had since May 2014 worked as a mine electrician in 2011 to manage the Donetsk branch of the martial arts club and eventually Pan-Slavic nationalist current and militia organization Oplot. And he had remained in situ during the war period 2014-15 and was heavily involved in the conflict.
On the 14 August leadership changed hands in Lugansk, as skirmishes took place inside the city limits between the rebels and Ukrainian Army Units. Again, after a visit to Moscow ‘’Head of Republic’’ Valery Bolotov resigned due to war injuries. His replacement was former defence minister Igor Plonitsky. Locally born the 50-year-old Plonitsky had served as an officer in the Soviet Armed Forces before becoming a dealer in fuel and lubricants during the 1990s, and later, a consumer rights inspector for the provincial administration.
Another resignation at the same time was that of Igor Strelkov. As reported by TASS the DPR Council of Ministers avowed that the defence chief was leaving his post ‘’at his own request’’ and would take up another position. Strelkov, however, vanished from the Don Bass, only to reappear in Russia a few weeks later. His replacement as defence minister was Vladimir Kononov, a Donetsk-born judo instructor and mid-ranking militia commander described by the Interpretermag site ‘’as having a firm political position and organizational skills.’’ (1)
These organizational changes were seemingly made at the behest of Moscow. The goal was evidently to install leaders in the republics who were both more predictable and more attuned to the ways of Moscow officialdom than those they replaced. Whether or not these changes in organizational structures and practise made any difference to the eventual outcome of the war was of necessity a moot point.
It had formulated and developed its agenda as events became unfolded. Absorbing such an organized and active population at a time of growing crisis in Russia itself was hardly advisable. So, the rebel republics had to rely overwhelmingly on their own resources. To the extent permitted by popular support for their cause within Russia, increased by the governments own patriotic propaganda, official Russia surprisingly left them to their own fate – provisionally at least.
However, unofficial Russia had other ideas. Volunteers from Russia began to trickle into the rebel republics, as did arms and food were also smuggled into the two republics. Military training was becoming widespread among the population. It seems an open question as to whether Putin was behind the leadership of the rebel republics, but the ensuing events took on a momentum of their own. The Ukie army was stopped in its tracks at the airport and was then decisively halted at the battles of Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo – this was 2015. But the shelling of the Donbass continued to this day.
See below: Ukrainian Prisoners of War (POWs) captured or surrendered at Debaltsevo 2015. They looked pretty miserable, but who wouldn’t? It’s better than being killed after all.
And so here we are in January 2023 at the present conjuncture. The local war has become global, but that was always going to be the final outcome. The half-finished job (farce) of the Minsk/Normandy format was ultimately to receive its demise from the German/French delegation and the final funeral rites when Frau Merkel spilled the beans. Now that chapter is over, the Republics have finally been brought into Russia proper, and have taken their legitimate position in Russia’s heroic struggle.
But things were not always as unified and expected between Moscow and Donetsk, at least in the early stages of the war. Russia was just emerging from the disastrous period of political, social, and economic collapse. This was due in large part to what was in fact a class struggle between – a fortiori – the domestic Russian globalist neo-liberal agenda which was just as pervasive as it was in the West, if not also more acute than in the western hinterland of the globalist elite. Following the usual period of class struggle the Russian and Liberal intelligentsia had only hatred and contempt for the protesting workers, deriding them as ‘lumpens’ ‘trash’ and ‘hooligans’ and worse of all – Vatniks.
These simple Russian folk were derided to suggest simpletons unswervingly loyal to the state authorities and completely taken in by government propaganda. However, in this sense of course it was the ‘intellectuals’ uncritically parroting even the most absurd Kiev propaganda who deserved to be most regarded as being – Vatnik. Whilst the propaganda services of both Kiev and Moscow lied, the latter did so more recklessly and inventively, showing not the slightest regard for the truth and not even whether the television they showed bore any relation to the commentary. Like all elites in a period of intensified class struggle they hung on to their money, property, political and social contacts.
It would appear that this social-political upheaval was taking on a political class structure – how could it have been otherwise? The open social and political anomalies had been fermenting and the dramatic deterioration of the conditions of life that followed the change of government in Kiev was the last straw. Steep increases in the price of gas and medicines followed the IMF agreement to become a member of the EU, and ultimately NATO, so much so that a political and economic explosion was inevitable. The use of nationalist rhetoric and anti-Russian propaganda in the West, had the reverse effect in the East. The pro-Russian sympathies of the local population nor even the Kiev’s intention to repeal the status of Russian as a ‘regional language’ triggered the revolt. These open social and political anomalies had been gradually fermenting and became dangerously unstable. The dye was caste: war was to follow.
Yegorov Voronov, a resident of Gorlovka wrote on the Ukrainian site: Liva – In English – ‘The Left’.
‘’I find it hard to believe the change in my compatriots. Only six months ago they were simple folk who watched TV and complained about the bad state of the roads and of the communal services. Now they are fighters. In several hours by the provincial administration building, I didn’t meet a single person who’d come from Russia. The people were from Mariupol, Gorlovka, Dzershinsk, Artemovsk, Krasnoarmeysk … those people with whom I ride every day on the bus, stand next to in the queues, and argue with when they leave the door to the stairwell open. They were not the supercilious Kiev middle-class, set aside from the people by their special circumstances but everyday workers. And there is no denying, there are plenty of unemployed in these parts. Here were all the people who for the past month and a half had been ’begged’ in the private offices and state enterprises to take a cut in their miserable wages. So here is another conclusion – the more the wages of the Donbass residents are cut or squeezed today, the more protesters would emerge in the East.’’ (Voronov 2014 translated from Russian)
It would appear that the Donbass peoples’ militias having taken up arms converted themselves into partisan units and actually put the Ukies to flight in 2015. But the war went on with Ukie artillery pounding the Donbass, a policy which was allowed to the present day. During this 8-year period the Donbass was mercilessly targeted by the ukie artillery and suffered some 14000 casualties during that period. It has to be said that Putin and his advisers were perhaps somewhat gradual and deliberative in terms of putting an end to what was basically a massacre from 2014 until 2022 ongoing. But the decision was finally made to enter the war which was forced upon Putin by external factors which needed urgent resolution. By April 2022 Putin had made his move and if the cosmopolitan conservative elements in the Moscow bureaucracy, as well as the financial oligarch high-rollers didn’t like it – well, hard cheese old chap, as we say in the UK.
As the whole drama of the Ukraine/Russia moves into its final stages it became apparent that Ukraine, under its present leadership, was desperately looking for an exit from the imbroglio that it had initially and unwisely set for itself. Ukrainian politicians were a pretty rum bunch: all kleptocrats that had imbibed the neo-liberal weltanschauung and the promise of a golden age to come. Alas it was not to be. Even the corrupt Yanukovych only really became an enemy of the West when he committed the unforgivable sin of refusing to implement an EU/US-counselled austerity programme. Had he acted more like the Romanian leader Nikolai Ceausescu in Romania (1980s) who unwisely eagerly implemented the dreaded IMF structural adjustment policies it seems likely that Yanukovych would have become one of the darlings of the West. Ukrainians looking to the EU for their salvation – even today – are looking back to what was and not what it has now become. What we are bearing witness to are the last remnants of a social model that has been sacrificed on the altar of neo-liberalism. It would appear that those who wished to hitch their horses to the EU cart are always in for a disappointment, not even to say passe.
‘’The aim of the EU and the United States is to transfer public wealth into the hands of private individuals who will be steered by the ‘invisible hand’ (presumably the hand behind the ‘color revolutions’) to seek their gains by selling what they have taken to western investors. Finance is the new mode of warfare, as Michael Hudson notes. We are seeing a grab for finance that in earlier times was just a military option.’’
(1) Russia, Ukraine and Contemporary Imperialism. Edited by Boris Kargalitsky, Radhika Desai and Alan Freeman. Passim.
(2) Seven Roads to Moscow – Lieutenant-Colonel – W.G.F.Jackson MC, BA, R.E. Instructor, Staff College, Camberley, 1948-50, Instructor, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, 1950-53