by Leon Tressell
The recent bout of in-fighting within the Kiev junta has been accompanied by warning’s from the IMF that Ukraine must do more to deal with the massive problems of corruption before it receives any more loans. The in-fighting between the various oligarchs and their political puppets within the Rada reflects the failure of crony capitalism to deal with any of the pressing economic, social and political problems facing Ukrainian society.
The deepening political crisis within Ukraine reveals how the promised benefits of turning towards the EU and America have failed to materialise. Many Ukrainians have been taken in by pro-Western propaganda that loans from the EU/IMF and a free trade agreement with the EU would bring major social and economic benefits to an impoverished population.
A cursory look at the the progress of Ukraine’s economy since the ‘Maiden Revolution’, reveals how hollow the promises made to the beleaguered population have been. Since 2014 the Ukrainian people have experienced a 22.2% collapse in real disposable income.
The economic hurricane that has swept over Ukraine since the violent overthrow of the Yanukovich regime has had a devastating impact upon the lives of ordinary Ukrainians. Its crisis ridden economy shrank by 10% during 2015 while inflation has exploded from 0.5% in 2013 to 32.7% in February of this year. This dramatic increase in consumer prices has been compounded by the junta raising prices of electricity by 25% this March with another price increase to come in September.
Meanwhile, unemployment has risen to over 10% as a vicious austerity programme has been initiated under the auspices of the Nobel Peace Prize winning EU and its partner in crime the IMF. The poverty rate in Ukraine has mushroomed to a 24.2% of the population according to the UN Development Programme.
As if this was not bad enough, the EU and IMF are insisting that the Kiev junta go much further in bringing the country towards Western style social democracy by cancelling energy subsidies and proceeding to the whole-scale privatisation of the country’s public assets. A recent IMF report published on 8 March 2016, laments the fact that the privatization of public assets is moving at a such a slow pace. You can just imagine Hedge fund hyenas and other Western financial criminals drooling at the prospect of getting their hands on Ukraine’s portfolio of public assets which are estimated by the IMF to be worth $72 billion.
The IMF bemoans the fact that,’Public assets continue to have a negative fiscal impact’ upon the government’s finances. This is code for the junta to get a move on and let Western asset strippers come in and buy up Ukraine’s public assets at knock down prices. The IMF report bemoans the fact that endemic corruption is leading to some state assets being sold cheaply to Ukrainian oligarchs.
It is against this backdrop of economic collapse and political in-fighting between the various oligarchs and their political puppets in the Rada, that sets the scene for a renewal of hostilities in the Donbass region of Ukraine. The so-called Minsk 2 ceasefire has utterly failed to solve the desperate problems facing the people living in the People’s Republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR).
It has not brought political stability to the rest of Ukraine quite the opposite. The Minsk 2 ceasefire agreements are used by the gangster-capitalists ruling in Kiev to continue their misrule over Ukraine by diverting ordinary people’s anger and dissatisfaction towards the so called ‘frozen conflict’ in the south east of the country.
On the one hand you could argue that a renewal of all out war seems unlikely considering Ukraine’s vassal status towards the EU.
The Kiev junta is being exhorted by EU leaders to fully implement the Minsk 2 peace agreement which involves a constitutional amendment giving the DPR and LPR special ”decentralized status” within Ukraine. The old adage he who pays the piper calls the tune comes to mind. After all the EU has loaned 11 billion euros to Ukraine and formed a free trade agreement with Ukraine that effectively gives the EU control over Ukraine’s economy. You would expect the Kiev junta to act like obedient puppets after hearing their masters voice and fully implement the Minsk 2 peace accords and get on with rooting out the corruption that is endemic within Ukrainian society.
However, the Kiev junta is getting a different message from its American sponsor. Last year the U.S. Congress passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act that increased sanctions against Russia and gave Obama the authority to increase U.S. military aid to the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF). There is strong bipartisan support within Congress to greatly increase military aid to the UAF to include so-called ‘lethal aid’ and ‘defensive’ weapons.
Obama claims that he does not want to provide such military aid to Ukraine for fear of escalating the situation and provoking Putin into further acts of ‘aggression’. Yet Victoria Nuland Assistant Secretary of State, who helped organise the coup that overthrew Yanukoich in 2013, told Congress in March of this year that the U.S. has already provided $266 million in military aid which includes non-lethal aid such as 30 armoured Humvees. Nuland said that the U.S. Army has plans to increase the training and equipping of the Ukrainian army over the next year. It is worth bearing in mind that in February 2015 Lieutenant General Ben Hodges revealed that a battalion of U.S. troops was in Poland training the UAF in how to operate against Russian artillery fire and electronic warfare.
Poroshenko has made it clear that he has no intention of implementing the Minsk 2 peace accords. He recently declared that,” Returning of Donbass under Ukrainian control is crucially important. No compromises will be accepted.” He has stated unequivocally that the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk will be returned to Kiev’s control by the end of 2016.
The ultra-nationalist groups that make up the fight club otherwise known as the Ukrainian parliament may well be divided and bicker incessantly amongst themselves over the spoils of state. One wonders where have all the billions in aid from the EU-IMF-U.S. disappeared? However, there is one issue that they all can unite upon and that is the desire to crush the DPR and LPR and return the whole of the Donbass to Kiev’s control.
The gangster capitalists, who pull the strings in the Rada, are keenly aware that the Ukrainian public is getting very impatient with the grim reality facing them on a daily basis. The collapse in living standards, with much worse to come as the global economy enters a downturn, is creating the conditions for an explosion of public anger and an uprising against the gangster capitalists looting the country.
The Kiev junta face a dilemma. Toe the line from their EU-IMF masters and face a suspension of the cash flow or go to war to stave off revolution from below. The threat from an angry, impoverished populace combined with its ultra-nationalist agenda is leading the junta in the direction of all out war against the breakaway republics in the Donbass region.
Analysis of the daily monitoring reports from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe suggest that not only is the Minsk 2 ceasefire in tatters but also that the Kiev junta is mobilising its forces for a possible offensive against the DPR and LPR.
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine gathers information from its 600 observers throughout out Eastern Ukraine and the DPR/LPR. They produce daily reports on the military situation. It is quite clear from analysis of these daily reports in late March and April that there has been an intensification in the fighting between the rebel militias and the UAF.
The majority of the so-called ”ceasefire violations” relate to intensified fighting in and around the border between the Donetsk People’s Republic and Ukraine. On 24 March OSCE observers reported over a hundred explosions near Donetsk airport while on 31 March they recorded 445 explosions in Yasynvata in the DPR. As each days passes the reports note intense firefights involving small arms, heavy machine guns and artillery ranging from mortars and automatic grenade launchers to MLRS rockets.
The intensified fighting is leading to a steady stream of civilians fleeing the combat zone. On 29 March monitors observed over 600 civilian cars fleeing the DPR across the border to Russia and Ukraine while 450 people crossed by foot.
More ominously, the OSCE monitors report a growth in the number of minefields created by the UAF. On the 30 March the daily report stated that its monitors, ”continue to observe the marking of mined areas” all around the DPR and LPR.
The UAF seems to be an army on the move as the daily reports make numerous comments to the movement of heavy weaponry that is,”In violation of withdrawal lines”. On 31 March it was noted that 18 towed howitzers (152 mm) were observed being towed around outside their storage sites while on the 7 April it was noted that 3 anti-tank guns, 6 self-propelled howitzers together with 5 120 mm mortars were in violation of withdrawal lines.
The clincher that the UAF is preparing for some kind of offensive are the numerous examples of UAF heavy weaponry that is missing from designated permanent storage sites.
Recent reports note that large numbers of tanks and heavy artillery pieces are missing from their permanent storage sites. On 6 April it was noted that 62 tanks (32 T-72 and 30 T-64) and 9 anti-tank guns (D-444 85 mm) were missing from their storage sites. If the UAF was in compliance with the ceasefire regulations then why is such a large quantity of heavy weaponry missing from its designated storage sites?
This movement of heavy weaponry suggests that the Kiev junta may well be gearing up for a major offensive this spring in a desperate last throw of the dice to crush the breakaway republics and shore up crumbling public support.
The old maxim that when all else fails take them to war seems to be uppermost in the minds of the Kiev junta.