Why not kill them all?

Keith Gessen in Donetsk
LRB | 11 September 2014

Mikhail Mishin is a small, fit man with a couple of gold teeth in his mouth. He grew up in Makeevka, a large town next to Donetsk, and for several years played professional football, rising to the Ukrainian Second League before eventually quitting at the age of 28. After a few tough years, his father helped him find work in the sports section of city government. He lobbied for money for sports facilities and attended their opening ceremonies, where he always gave a short speech about the moral and physical benefits of sport. No scholar of languages, he was never able to master Ukrainian fully, which perhaps would have kept him from climbing higher in politics if things hadn’t taken a strange turn for him, and the Donbass region, earlier this year. In any case, around Donetsk, Russian was the only language necessary for overseeing children’s football tournaments. Mishin’s salary was $300 a month and he didn’t own a car, but he didn’t mind too much. His costs were low – he was unmarried and lived in his parents’ flat – and if he needed a ride somewhere, his best friend Aleksandr was always happy to drive.

When the Maidan protests started in Kiev late last year, Mishin followed them with increasing anxiety. He watched as young men in masks and the insignia of old Ukrainian fascist movements attacked riot police – some of them from the Donetsk area – with Molotov cocktails. He saw governors in the western provinces pulled out of their offices and roughed up by furious crowds. It seemed that the country was descending into chaos. When he heard a rumour that some of the young men from Maidan were headed for Donetsk, he believed it. After work he started taking the bus to the centre of Donetsk to stand with the protesters who called themselves ‘anti-Maidan’. Some of them waved Russian flags; others held up posters of Stalin. But they all wanted to express their disagreement with what was happening in Kiev. Mishin supported this. He was worried that he might get into trouble – he was a city official, after all – but he figured that he was doing it in his own time, and it was something he believed in. But he concealed his new political activity from his parents, who would have worried.

‘The protests in March and April were the most massive grassroots protests I have ever seen in Donetsk,’ Yuri Dergunov, who is also from Makeevka and teaches political science, told me. ‘In my memory people here had never been so active and so involved in their own fate.’ He pointed out the very specific social composition of the protests in Donetsk. The pro-Maidan protests, when they took place, were middle class and nationalistic; anti-Maidan was lower class and anti-oligarchic (and Russian nationalist). ‘I would see the people at Maidan and think: “What nice people, so well dressed, so educated.” Then they would open their mouths.’ The things that came out of their mouths included slogans taken from interwar Ukrainian fascism. They also expressed what Dergunov calls barely concealed ‘social racism’ towards the members of anti-Maidan. Perhaps nowhere else in Ukraine was the split between pro-Maidan and anti-Maidan so visible as it was in Donetsk.

While Mishin was quietly attending the rapidly growing anti-Maidan meetings, Enrique Menendez, a businessman, was himself getting worried. Menendez, who is named after his grandfather, a Spanish Republican soldier who retreated to France and after the war ended up in the USSR, is thirty years old. He grew up in a town fifty miles north of Donetsk and moved to the city after high school to seek his fortune. Too poor to afford university, he found he could navigate the media business, and got work at a growing internet company in Donetsk. Three years ago he started his own company, the Ad Factory, which did online marketing for businesses in Donetsk. He was doing well and had seven employees. But he began to feel his city slipping away from him.

In early March, Menendez and some other local professionals decided to organise a big pro-Ukraine meeting. Menendez was tasked with ensuring security for the protesters: everyone knew they might be attacked. He approached the staff of the newly appointed governor, but they couldn’t guarantee the protest’s safety; eventually he got in touch with the organised fans of Shakhtar Donetsk (shakhtar means ‘miner’ – Donetsk is coal country). These ultras, who had been supporters of Maidan, agreed to provide security. The meeting went off, thousands came, and at the end a group of men approached with sticks. The ultras were as good as their word and confronted the attackers, with the result that several of the ultras (as well as several of the attackers) ended up in hospital. This was as expected, but Menendez was discouraged.

The first thing he noticed was that the separatist forces were simply stronger: there were more of them in general, and there were more of them who were willing to employ physical violence. The second thing he noticed was that they were local. The third thing he noticed was that the police were at best passive and at worst openly hostile to the pro-unity protesters, and it didn’t get much better the higher up you went. In mid-March representatives of the post-Maidan Ministry of the Interior visited Donetsk. They met with civic leaders but most of all they met with the football ultras, and demanded that they arm themselves and prepare for battle against the pro-Russian forces in the city.

Menendez was furious. The government was coming to his city and trying to get football hooligans to beat up protesters. ‘Resolving conflicts – that’s what government is for. If you’re incapable of that, you’re not a government, you’re a profanation. Either from ignorance of the situation, or from understanding it full well, they were igniting a civil war.’

Menendez wanted to set up a dialogue with the pro-Russian activists, but his fellow pro-unity organisers wanted another rally. Menendez refused to participate. He thought it was unsafe, and on Facebook he discouraged people from attending. The march went ahead anyway. At the end of it a group of unity supporters was surrounded by a much larger group of separatists. The separatists threw bottles, cans and punches; at the end of it, one of the pro-unity marchers, the 19-year-old secretary of the local branch of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party, was dead.

Menendez knew several of the leaders of the pro-Russian movement in Donetsk. ‘This didn’t start yesterday,’ he told me. ‘If you look at photos of protests in Donetsk from 2003, you see the same Russian flags. The call for Donetsk to join Russia goes back a long way.’ Menendez was particularly friendly with Pavel Gubarev, initially the most visible of the separatist protesters. He liked Gubarev, whom he called Pasha, a lot. ‘He came from a poor family from outside Donetsk, as I did, and he rented his apartment in Donetsk, just like me, and was hoping to buy one.’ Gubarev sold advertising space on billboards in Donetsk and its environs; he had pioneered a system that allowed national chains to run advertising campaigns in the region without having to reach out to every individual billboard owner. ‘He was a great guy,’ Menendez said. ‘He worked hard and put a lot of money into his own education. He just happened to have always been a Russian fascist.’

Menendez hadn’t been in touch with Gubarev in some time when he called him in late February, to see how business was going (Menendez’s business was doing badly because of all the turmoil). ‘I could tell he was distracted when I called, like he was talking to someone else. It took him a moment to remember who I was. Then he said: “What business, bro? Donbass is joining Russia!” That’s when I knew we had lost Pasha.’

A week later, Gubarev was proclaimed the ‘people’s governor of Donetsk’, and a few days after that was arrested for separatist activity and taken to Kiev: at that point, the government was still able to carry out arrests in Donetsk. But things were spiralling out of control. In early March, there was a rumour that the oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, the ‘boss’ of Donetsk, owner of its football team, and the richest man in Ukraine, would deploy his private security force to restore order. It was an unappealing prospect, but better than a full-scale rebellion leading to war.

Akhmetov, it now appears, was playing a double game. Publicly he was silent; privately, it seems, he was financing the separatists (he denies it). But the rebellion soon developed a logic of its own. In early April, protesters stormed the regional government building for the third time in a month. One of them was the longtime local Communist parliamentarian Boris Litvinov; as one of the most senior members of the group, he was tasked with putting together a document establishing the region’s statehood. He went home and made himself a pot of coffee and looked up all the other declarations of independence on the internet. ‘From the United States to Kosovo,’ he told me. ‘Anything that appeared when you put “declaration of independence” into the search bar, I read.’ He drafted a short and punchy version for the Donetsk People’s Republic. Read aloud in the chamber of the regional parliament on the morning of 7 April, the hotchpotch declaration was met with raucous applause.

Throughout this time, Mikhail Mishin kept attending meetings. He signed up for volunteer defence work and was asked on several nights to guard the barricades in front of the regional government building; one night he was asked to help man a checkpoint on the road into town, overseeing the traffic police. He ran into a guy he used to play football with, Denis Pushilin, who had become one of the main organisers of the rebellion. Pushilin was glad to see him there.

No one was thinking that all this would lead to war. People were scared and unhappy and doing something about it. That the protest took on such a strong separatist colour was due less to the protesters’ basic demands (regional autonomy might have been enough for many) than to the recent Russian annexation of Crimea. ‘The contradictions didn’t necessarily lead to war,’ Dergunov said. ‘But when Crimea went with the option of total separation, it pushed the extremes, both pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian, to the fore. That was Putin’s real crime – this is what created the war.’

Then, on 12 April, the police station in the city of Slovyansk, fifty miles north of Donetsk, was taken over by a group of unidentified commandos. The police were overwhelmed. ‘These were not locals with hunting rifles,’ the new chief of the Slovyansk police told me. ‘These were highly trained, well-armed men.’ It soon became evident that the commandos had come from abroad: the Russian aid that the protesters in Donetsk had been calling for had finally materialised. At that moment, what had been a people’s uprising turned into an armed revolt, and some would say a covert invasion.

Disorganised and confused, the post-revolutionary government in Kiev was also intimidated: the Russians had massed troops at the border and repeatedly said that they were prepared to meet any violence against pro-Russia protesters with force. After the armed takeover of Slovyansk and then a dozen other cities in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, the government sent in some tanks, unaccompanied by infantry, only to have local residents block their movements. It took several weeks before the government mounted a serious counterattack, which it called an ‘anti-terrorist operation’, or ATO.

Meanwhile the Donetsk People’s Republic, or DNR, was taking on some of the elements of statehood. First it organised a referendum (copied in neighbouring Lugansk) on autonomy; hundreds of thousands came out to vote ‘yes’. In mid-May, the DNR announced its first government. Boris Litvinov, the author of the declaration of independence, was named the executive officer of the council of ministers; Gubarev’s wife was made foreign minister (Gubarev himself had only recently been released in a prisoner exchange with Kiev); a newcomer from Moscow, a political ‘technologist’ called Aleksandr Borodai, was made prime minister; and Mikhail Mishin, the football player from Makeevka, was made minister of sport.

For the first few weeks after he took the job, Mishin went to bed each night wondering if he’d be arrested before morning. The Kiev government could still probably do that. But with each passing day he felt better, and started thinking about what the DNR could accomplish in the realm of sport. He certainly hoped league-leading Shakhtar Donetsk would return to the city, though that would have to wait until after the war.

War was getting closer. After a month of heavy shelling from the Ukrainian army, the rebel group in Slovyansk, led by a mysterious former FSB officer called Igor Strelkov, retreated to Donetsk. Once there, Strelkov established himself as the military commander of all forces in the region. It was estimated that the rebels had as many as ten thousand men under arms. To win the war now, the army would have to take Donetsk.

*

In early August I took the train from Kiev to Donetsk. Kiev was full of refugees from the east. Donetsk’s football team was staying at the Opera Hotel; others were staying with friends or relatives or in hostels and rented flats around town. The people of Kiev were not inhospitable, but they were wary, and they were angry. The ATO had been going on in earnest for two months, and each day brought news of more deaths from the front. The government had announced a ‘partial mobilisation’, calling up people who had once served in the armed forces, and there were also several volunteer battalions: some, like the Azov and Aidar battalions, were based on existing structures (in Azov’s case the Social-National Assembly of Ukraine, i.e. the far right, and in Aidar’s case the self-defence units of Maidan); others had been raised by locals who were willing to fight. In early August, the Maidan encampment was still partly intact, but the energy had vanished. One evening, at the edge of what remained of it, I happened across a group of forty men standing outside a bus and saying goodbye to friends and girlfriends. They looked tired, unshaven and for the most part out of shape. Eventually they lined up, did a roll call, and boarded the bus. They were volunteers for the Aidar battalion, and they were headed for Lugansk.

The post-Maidan government was now a war government. It banned the Communist Party from parliament for its alleged support of the rebels. It set up a gmail account for people in liberated towns in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions to write anonymous reports on fellow citizens who might have aided the rebels. And it was doing its best to scare people. A professor at Kharkiv University showed me an order from the Ministry of Education demanding that all senior university officials take part in mobilising staff for the ATO. Those who ‘sabotaged’ the process would be found guilty of ‘separatist tendencies’. ‘This language,’ he said. ‘It’s straight out of the 1930s.’

The day before I was to take the train to Donetsk I met a man from Lugansk called Kirill. He had been an outspoken supporter of Maidan and a unified Ukraine, and after the rebels took over the city they came to his house, arrested him and brought him in for questioning. They demanded that he admit he was a spy, and when he refused they shot him in the leg. They kept him another week, then dropped him off in the woods and suggested he disappear. He hid out with a friend until his leg got a little better, then made his way to Kiev. Now he spent his time playing video games and, out of some kind of repetition compulsion, watching YouTube clips of captured Ukrainian soldiers getting interrogated by the rebels. The films were horrible, and there were lots of them.

I arrived in Donetsk on a Tuesday; I knew we were getting close when I spotted the first slag heaps. I had been worried about document checks but no one asked for papers on the train or at the station. In fact there were no armed men at all until you got near the city centre. Then they began to appear, and unarmed passers-by correspondingly became fewer. Many stores were closed and car dealerships were entirely emptied out: it had only taken a few ‘mobilisations’ of new vehicles by the rebels for the dealers to take their entire stock out of town. The city looked half empty. Occasionally a group of people could be seen huddled around a cashpoint. Most of the banks felt unsafe filling up their machines. There were no police on the streets and the number of car accidents had increased. On the other hand there were advantages. One day I got into a taxi whose young driver had a crew cut and was blasting Russian girl pop from his radio. He didn’t look like the world’s most responsible driver. I reached for my seatbelt. ‘What are you doing?’ he said. ‘There’s no cops here.’ The rebels, apparently, were lax about seatbelts, though very strict when it came to drinking. People caught drunk in public were routinely picked up and forced to dig defensive trenches outside town. Habitual drunks had taken to wearing all black so as to be less visible to DNR militants at night.

The popular longtime mayor of Donetsk, Aleksandr Lukyanchenko, had fled to Kiev in July after being asked to pledge allegiance to the DNR and also, it was said, to prepare for the siege of the city by blowing up large buildings on the outskirts. But public buses, rubbish trucks and emergency repair crews were still working. In the centre of town, the rebel fighters were concentrated around the SBU (formerly the KGB) building – where Strelkov was said to have his headquarters and where a rebel codenamed Nose oversaw a growing population of hostages – and the 11-storey regional government building, now the seat of the government of the DNR. The rebel fighters came in different shapes and sizes. Some were kids, barely 18, of the sort who fill any army and always look too young to carry guns. They were in the minority. Most of the fighters were grown men: some were unemployed miners who had joined the rebels out of conviction or anger, and others were well-trained and well-disciplined troops. These last were partly local ex-military or ex-police, while others came from abroad, though they didn’t advertise this. (The most visible foreign fighters were those from the Caucasus, since they had more trouble blending in.)

At its maximum extent in late May, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics formed a bloc (they called it Novorossiya, New Russia, after the old tsarist term for the area) extending about ten thousand square miles west from the Russian border: about the size of Belgium, and one twentieth the area of Ukraine. In two months, starting immediately after the election of President Petro Poroshenko, rebel-held territory had shrunk by more than half. Donetsk had been the south-west corner of the territory; after the rebel retreat from Slovyansk, Donetsk had become more of a south-west redoubt. As a result, the city was being shelled from the west and the north.

And yet the rebels didn’t seem that worried. In the regional government building they held meetings and press conferences and updated their website. I spoke for a long time with Litvinov, who’d recently been elected chairman of the Supreme Soviet and added to the EU and UK financial sanctions lists. For him, it was as if 1917 had come to life from the yellowed pages of Lenin’s collected works. Was he worried about international recognition for his republic? ‘No. Think how long it took the Soviet Union to be recognised.’ (The US only recognised the Soviet Union in 1933.) ‘The only country that’s recognised us so far is South Ossetia.’ What about passports? ‘Here I think the Transnistrian experience is useful. People still have Moldovan passports. They know if they put a stamp in those passports that says “Transnistria” no one will acknowledge it. So what they do is, they have an insert that says “Transnistria” that they put into the passport when necessary, but also take out when necessary.’ Was he worried about the DNR becoming as isolated as Transnistria? ‘We won’t become Transnistria, for simple reasons of geography. On the one side of Transnistria is Moldova, on the other side Ukraine. They had to beg for the use of a little bit of the mouth of the Dniester from the Ukrainians. Whereas we have a nice long border with Russia. And we also have access to the sea.’ He pointed to the map on his wall that showed Donetsk and Lugansk with their pre-independence borders. When we talked, the coast of the Sea of Azov that he referred to, which included the big port city of Mariupol, had been under Ukrainian control for some time. But Litvinov was calm. ‘It’s not going to be a quick process. It’s going to be a long and difficult process. But we’ll get through it.’

*

In Donetsk I had expected to find a totalitarian proto-state, and I did. The Kremlin liked calling the government in Kiev a ‘junta’, but here you had a real one. Professional mercenaries in fatigues called the shots and even ministers of state felt compelled to cross the street at the sight of armed men, lest a misunderstanding occur. What I didn’t expect to find were so many people who believed in all of it with such certainty, and with such hope.

One day I visited Mishin in Makeevka. He and his friend Aleksandr Bik took me on a tour, past the giant Makeevka Iron and Steel Works, which in the 1930s was the largest steel plant in the USSR (producing more steel than the whole of Italy, it was said), and which continued to be a major player in Soviet steel until perestroika. In 1997 it filed for bankruptcy. It’s now owned by Akhmetov’s Metinvest and employs a fraction of the people it did during Soviet times. Nearby was a huge slag heap. I asked if we could climb it, but this was deemed inadvisable: the hill was full of dangerous chemicals, and people sometimes fell into holes in it.

We drove to the fields west of Makeevka to visit an old cow shed where Bik now raises worms to produce fertiliser; according to the US government, it was from one of the nearby fields that Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 had been fired on. As we drove, Mishin and Bik described a world in which, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rackets took over. People started disappearing. With inflation skyrocketing, it was impossible to survive on a salary. You had to have your own business, and not everyone was cut out for that. Even once things stabilised there was banditism. As we got outside town, Bik pointed to what looked like abandoned digging projects. They were illegal coal mines run by Aleksandr Yanukovych, son of the former president, he said. They had scarred the fields and left craters and dead bodies in their wake. ‘You think we liked living under these people?’ Bik said. ‘No, we didn’t. But there wasn’t anything we could do.’ The anti-Maidan uprising changed all that.

For Mishin and Bik, the signal events of the past year looked very different from the way they looked to my friends in Kiev or Moscow. When liberals in those places had seen young men on Maidan attacking the riot police, they thought, ‘people power’; and when they saw men in Donetsk beating pro-Ukraine protesters, they thought, ‘fascists’. But that wasn’t how it looked from Donetsk. From Donetsk they saw fascists on Maidan and, on the streets of Donetsk, people power. Whether the actual fascists on Maidan made them more or less certain of this, I don’t know, but hearing it gave body to something the sociologist Volodymyr Ishchenko had said to me in Kiev: ‘It was the liberals’ tolerance of the nationalists on Maidan that led to this. If they had rejected them right away, things might have turned out differently. It might have led to the collapse of Maidan. It might even have meant that Yanukovych remained president. But at least there would have been peace.’

Mishin and Bik were what the sociologists call the ‘losers’ of the post-Soviet transition. In Soviet times Bik had been a coal miner with aspirations to join the KGB. ‘They didn’t take Party bosses’ sons, you know,’ he said (wrongly). ‘They took working people like me.’ And Mishin was a mighty athlete. He recalled playing in a tournament in Leningrad and being promised a trip to the United States. ‘The USA!’ he recalled thinking. And then the whole world collapsed. Industrial regions like Donbass were hardest hit by the changes: it was the region’s industrial output that plummeted furthest in the 1990s; it was industrial plants over which the bloodiest turf wars revolved. And it was in these places that the loss of status was most extreme. Industrial work was championed by the Soviets, both in word and in deed: coal miners in Donbass earned on average two or three times what a software engineer like my father earned in Moscow. (In the early 1980s, Bik had been working as a miner for just a few months when he bought a motorbike. The girls went crazy for it.) When the Soviet Union ended, the entire country experienced what Nietzsche might have recognised as a transvaluation of all values: what had been good was now bad, and what had been bad was now good. Some people liked it and grew rich; other people were left behind. With the victory of protests that were still referred to by some of their supporters as Euromaidan, the people of this industrial region were being asked to endure yet another round of deindustrialisation – of austerity, unemployment and social death. They had balked at this and, what was more, they had an out. Deindustrialisation had gone hand in hand, the first time, with the collapse of the empire. But what if the empire could be restored? Maybe the jobs would come back? If the Russians felt they had ‘lost’ something in Ukraine, many people in Eastern Ukraine felt as if they’d been stranded from their motherland. ‘They call us traitors and separatists,’ Bik said. ‘But I don’t feel like a traitor. I felt like a traitor before, when I had to call myself Ukrainian. I don’t feel like a traitor now.’

Makeevka at this time was relatively quiet – it was in the rear of the fighting, behind Donetsk – but occasionally artillery could still be heard going off in one direction or another. It sounded like thunder, but louder and closer to the ground. In Kiev people believed armed men had taken over part of Ukraine and needed to be dealt with. From here it sometimes seemed as if the local population had finally taken their lives into their own hands, and then the army had come for them. ‘I feel bad for these people,’ a woman from Slovyansk told me. ‘They tried to change things, but in doing so they brought the enemy into their house.’ By the enemy she meant Russia. But it would be just as true a statement if the enemy was Ukraine.

The Ukrainian army was coming, and if the individual soldiers were for the most part coming reluctantly, the people who stood behind them, the media and political cheerleaders of the ATO, were coming with full intent. When they called the people of Donetsk ‘barbarians’ and ‘non-people’, they weren’t simply reacting to the things the rebels had done. They were reacting to what they’d done in Ukrainian politics for twenty years.

The people from the west wanted to be rid of the people from the east. Not so much in the name of Ukrainian nationalism as in the name of progress. For two decades the centre and especially the west of the country had been pursuing Europeanisation. There was certainly a socioeconomic difference in Donbass between the supporters of a unified Ukraine and the supporters of the DNR. The night after I visited Mishin in Makeevka, Enrique Menendez invited me to meet a small group of young, pro-Ukraine professionals who had remained in the city, doing humanitarian work. After delivering food to a dormitory housing more than a thousand refugees from the region, we drove to Havana Banana, a favourite haunt of mid-level rebel commanders, who ate, drank mineral water, and met up with prostitutes there. We drove in a new Fiat which Marina, at the wheel, had trouble handling. ‘This is my friend’s car,’ she said. ‘I’m borrowing it because she’s in Kiev. My real car is a BMW.’ We ate sushi and drank beer. At one point a yellow Porsche pulled up and some rebels hopped out. ‘Ah,’ Marina said. ‘They got it.’ She’d noticed the car around town, with its original owner, and wondered how long before ownership changed. The bill came and, given the low prices in Ukraine, was larger than I’d anticipated. ‘Who ordered $20 worth of sushi?’ I asked. ‘I did!’ Enrique said. Then we all went home, to avoid being out after curfew.

I mention all this to stress the difference between those who supported the DNR in Donetsk and those who didn’t. But among the young professionals I also met a journalist from Lviv. She wasn’t just dressed better than anyone in Donetsk, she was dressed differently, as if on a civilisational level. She looked like she was from France.

And so imagine if for two decades you have been trying to pull your country, bit by bit, into Europe. Imagine that it’s been a bumpy road – everything you accomplish seems to get sabotaged by the political forces from the east. Imagine that finally the contradictions within your country have come to a breaking point. Imagine that all the people who opposed your politics for twenty years – all the most backward, poorest, least successful people in the country – got together in one place, declared an independent republic, and took up arms? What would you do? You could let them go. But then you’d lose all that land and its industrial capacity and also what kind of country just lets chunks of itself fall off? Perhaps you could think of it as an opportunity. Something similar happened when the old Stalinists and nationalists took over the Supreme Soviet in Moscow in 1993. All the enemies of progress in one place, all the losers and has-beens: wouldn’t it be better just to solve the problem once and for all? Wouldn’t it be a better long-term solution just to kill as many as you could and scare the shit out of the rest of them, for ever? This is what I heard from respectable people in Kiev. Not from the nationalists, but from liberals, from professionals and journalists. All the bad people were in one place – why not kill them all?

asked Mishin and Bik if they’d known, when they declared independence, that it would lead to war. ‘If you pick up a gun, they’ll come for you with guns,’ in the words of one anti-DNR resident of Donetsk. But Mishin and Bik, like every other DNR supporter to whom I put this question, said no. They were just trying to be heard. And they pointed out that even in early April, before Strelkov and his crew had taken Slovyansk and escalated the conflict, Ukrainian fighter jets would fly very low over the pro-Donbass protests held in Donetsk. From the very start, Kiev had been prepared to use force.

*

As August went by, the Ukrainian army drew nearer. In my first few days in Donetsk, the fighting, if highly approximate shelling of each other’s positions can be called that, was on the outskirts of the city. A group of us travelled to the western edge of Donetsk to find houses, a market and a school that had been hit by Grad rockets and shells from what appeared to be Ukrainian positions. One man had been killed when the market was hit (the shell landed near him and ripped off half his head); a woman had been killed in another part of the city. By the end of the week the shelling had reached the centre of Donetsk. It usually started at 4.30 a.m., lasted half an hour, and then resumed around seven, again for a short period of time. To have shells falling within a half-kilometre of you is very loud and, really, very scary. Sometimes you hear a whistle followed by a crashing explosion. At other times you just hear the explosion. My first reaction when the shelling woke me up was to go to a high floor – we were in a nine-storey high-rise – and stick my head out the window. After I’d seen a flash not far from us and felt the entire building shake, I went quickly back down the stairs and into the building’s boiler room. A family of three and I sat silently there for half an hour until the shelling stopped. There were people in other towns in the east who’d sat in basements like this for weeks.

The centre of the city was being shelled by howitzers and tanks. On the outskirts of the city I had seen the traces of Grad rockets: a terrifying instrument that burns up much of its length before launching, like a space rocket, and then flies highly inaccurately into enemy territory, generally setting fire to whatever it hits. One night the Ukrainians bombed Donetsk: we heard the planes overhead (otherwise, especially at night, the city was extraordinarily quiet) and then the muffled sound of bombs dropping miles away. The next day we went to see the large craters they’d left in the road. I never once saw an actual military target – the SBU, for example – get hit, only civilian locations. Possibly the army had poor aim; possibly the army was hoping to encourage the remaining civilian population to leave. Or possibly the army didn’t care. Most of the people with means or connections were long gone. As one of Menendez’s friends from Kiev had said – to Menendez’s great annoyance – ‘all the normal people have left already.’ So the shelling increased.

*

I decided to leave Donetsk after seeing a man getting shoved into the trunk of a car by a group of armed men in fatigues. ‘Get the fuck in there, blyad’!’ one of them shouted at him. The man was blindfolded and had his hands bound behind his back. He was unsteady on his feet, either because he was drunk or they’d beaten him, or both. This was going on a few paces from the headquarters of the DNR, where Mishin was working on an organisation chart for his proposed ministry of sports.

I got on the train and travelled to Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, where the war had begun. Slovyansk, in particular, was a revelation. I had seen photos and videos of it under occupation, when people were being shot in the street. A month after the rebels had left, people were walking around eating ice cream. There were still plenty of ruined buildings, but the atmosphere was almost festive. I saw a group of children who were so cute and happy I wanted to take a photo. I asked their mothers if this was all right, and they said yes, except, they added, they weren’t from Slovyansk. They had come from Yenakievo, Yanukovych’s hometown, where the fighting between government forces and the rebels was fierce. Slovyansk, once a byword for the war, had become a place where people took refuge from it.

Not everyone felt better in Slovyansk after the departure of the DNR. I met a woman who’d been roughed up by ‘investigators’ interested in her vocal support for the separatists. Others, less involved, had simply enjoyed the rebels’ style of governance. ‘When they were here, there was order,’ one man told me. ‘After some of the shelling, there were copper and aluminium wires lying in the streets! No one dared steal them. They chased the Gypsies off from the train station where they sold drugs. There was order!’ As soon as the rebels left, the Gypsies returned, paying the police to look the other way, just as before. In general, things had gone back to the way they were.

But not in Donetsk – not yet, and possibly not for a long time. Even as reports came in that Russian armoured vehicles were crossing the border, the Ukrainian army continued to press into Lugansk and Donetsk. In mid-August the trains stopped running into or out of Donetsk. On Independence Day, the DNR paraded its Ukrainian prisoners of war through the streets. A crowd gathered to watch (the press department of the DNR had sent out invites by email), and people threw eggs and hurled curses at the prisoners. Meanwhile in Kiev the capital was treated to a large military parade. Some of the hardware that had been causing so much damage in the east was rolled down the streets of the city, in the very spot where Maidan had once been. Two days later, a Russian force crossed the border in southern Donetsk province and started heading for Mariupol. They were trying to establish the access to the sea that Litvinov had talked about two weeks earlier. At the time it sounded delusional. Now it was here.

I called Mishin. He was excited about the counteroffensive in the south, though also sick and tired of the war. A friend with whom he’d played football had been out grocery shopping when Makeevka was shelled. He was hit in the head by shrapnel and killed.

Enrique Menendez’s office building had been shelled too. Menendez was upstairs but ran down and outside unharmed. He had shown me the headquarters of the Ad Factory while I was in Donetsk. Inside the empty office eight computers stood silent. Google, one of Menendez’s business partners, had sent him two beanbag chairs, which still sat in their plastic wrapping against a wall. ‘We’re the only company in Donetsk that’s an official Google ad affiliate,’ Menendez said. ‘They were supposed to send those during the holidays, but they only arrived recently. I was so mad at them.’ The Ad Factory’s offices were on the seventh floor. Looking out, we saw on the northern horizon the distinctive grey smoke that rises from a house or other object on fire after a rocket attack. ‘I need to say goodbye to all this, mentally,’ Menendez said. ‘It’s all from a different world.’

29 August

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n17/keith-gessen/why-not-kill-them-all

Russian foreign minister answers questions on Ukraine and world issues

Text of "Answers to questions from the ITAR-TASS news agency by the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, Moscow, 4 August 2014" published on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on 6 August; subheadings added editorially.

Question: How do you assess the results of the meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine in Minsk, and what are the prospects of a future meeting in this or another format? Please comment on the messages that Ukrainian soldiers have gone to Russia en masse. And what, in general, can you say about the topic of Ukraine?

Dialogue needed to resolve Ukraine conflict

Sergey Lavrov: The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has already provided his assessment of the meeting in Minsk, including in his contacts with foreign leaders. We welcome any steps aimed at dialogue rather than continuation of armed confrontation. Any dialogue should be equal to be productive. In other words, representatives of the south-east of Ukraine must be perceived as partners in the situation, which should be settled to make all those who live in Ukraine feel Ukrainians, part of their state, to make them to directly participate in reforms in their country, which were due long ago or even overdue. To be noted, the Ukrainian representatives said this when they were in opposition. Now they are heads of the state, and we would like them not to forget about the requirements to create structures, which allow reinforcing national unity, which they set when they were in opposition. Otherwise, they are no more than the current climate and temporary leaders.

It is also very important to stick to the other agreements which have been reached at the international level. In particular, the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine with the participation of the US secretary of state and the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy signed a statement aimed at the resolution of three quite urgent tasks on 17 April in Geneva.

The first was to stop the use of force immediately, the second was to resolve humanitarian problems immediately, and the third was to start constitutional reform in a format which envisages the participation of all the Ukrainian regions and is open and accountable to public opinion.

None of those three requirements, to which the Ukrainian foreign minister signed, were implemented, primarily because Kiev chose another path and attempted to replace its internationally-agreed obligations with the so-called "peace plan by [Ukrainian President] Petro Poroshenko", which went in the right direction proposing a cease-fire, but its further points requested this cease-fire so that all the militia lay down weapons and surrender "at the discretion of the winner". This is directly contradictory to the obligations undertaken by Ukraine to start an equal and respectful dialogue with all the regions on how to build their state in such a way to make everything good in it, to make regions feel part of their country, which is respected, which chooses its leaders independently, has certain rights in the area of economics, finance and tax collection, and which guarantees the cultural and humanitarian traditions of its populations, including the use of their native language. I reiterate again that this has not been done. We drew the attention of our partners in the Minsk meeting to the fact that nobody has cancelled these criteria. They were agreed and approved, including by Ukrainians with the participation of the United States and the EU. It is not fair to try to "sweep this under the carpet", and we will not allow this to be done.

Ukrainian troops have asked for help in Russia

As to the situation with Ukrainian troops, according to reports, 438 troops asked to save them from military actions in the Russian territory. A total of 164 of them were border guards. We have helped the Ukrainian forces many times when they asked for help, accepted their wounded colleagues, and provided them with medical aid. For all those who wanted to return we provided such a possibility, nobody was kept against their will. However, to be honest, those who decided to return to Ukraine were later accused of desertion and court-martialled. I expect that the Ukrainian authorities will show their human side and understand that it is absolutely unacceptable when Ukrainians fight against each other, when they are forced to fight their own people, but those who refuse to do this become traitors and parricides.

I do not mean that orders should be disregarded, what I mean is that the current Ukrainian authorities have to fulfil the obligations which they have undertaken. I have already mentioned this. They made commitments on the international stage – both when Viktor Yanukovych was in power and after he was overthrown by an armed coup – to start a comprehensive dialogue with all the regions and political forces of the country. That is their main task. If they start it now, it will allow the resolution of a lot of problems. The militia will be able to relieve the minds of their families and those who rely on them, because they are defending populated areas. This will probably allow the insanity to stop, when day after day we receive more and more messages that there is shooting at populated areas using heavy armaments and missile systems, including Grads.

Russia wants to send humanitarian aid to east Ukraine

Orphanages, hospitals, schools and kindergartens have been damaged. Our appeals (it is not the first week when we address them to international organizations, including the UN, the OSCE, the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] and the Council of Europe) to intervene, and, if it is currently impossible to make the Ukrainian authorities agree on a cease-fire, then, as a minimum, to undertake a humanitarian action and organize an international humanitarian mission. We have attempted to send a convoy with humanitarian aid through the Russian Emergencies Ministry many times: food, medical equipment, essentials. Officially, as we have to, we asked the Ukrainian authorities to coordinate such a supply of aid through a note. They gave an outrageous reply, I would even say that it was hooliganism: "We do not require any aid, resolve your humanitarian disaster in Crimea". This was the official note of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. It is outrageous, not humane from any point of view.

Today I am sending an official appeal to the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the ICRC and the UN again appealing to them to organize something like an international humanitarian mission, to send humanitarian aid to Donetsk and Luhansk under the aegis of the ICRC, as well as to the populated areas around these large megalopolises. There is no water or power supply in Luhansk, its infrastructure needs to be fixed immediately.

I expect that the international community, which is enthusiastic and concerned about other cases of humanitarian crises, for example, in the Gaza strip, will pay attention to the south-east of Ukraine, where the population is suffering no less than civilians in Gaza. There is only one difference: the Gaza strip launched missiles at Israel, which was forced to respond, although it was not proportionate. To be noted, Russia expressed its position that everybody should use and demonstrate maximum restraint.

Things were different in the south-east of Ukraine, people took weapons to protect themselves from the Ukrainian army, the National Guard and battalion created by God knows whom and paid by private individuals, who intend to suppress legitimate manifestations of those whom the new authorities started to promote, suppressing the Russian language, rights of regions and so on. This is not a response by force to force, it is about the use of force against those who spoke in favour of protecting their legal rights: language, cultural and historical.

I expect that international organizations will respond to the crisis in Gaza, which is absolutely necessary to stop the incidents which lead to sufferings of innocent Palestinian nationals, but hopefully they will also not forget about the aggression in the south-east of Ukraine, which they are currently attempting to put aside from the community.

West’s Middle East policies based on "personal attitudes"

Question: The crises in Ukraine and Gaza removed the situation in Syria from newspaper headlines. Some time ago, Russia’s initiative actually prevented a strike at Syria related to the elimination of its chemical weapons. There have been elections since then. How do you assess the situation in this country today? Did the prospects of a Syrian settlement get closer?

Sergey Lavrov: These prospects are getting closer, but unfortunately only because more and more lives are being lost in this terrible conflict, which is already acquiring a trans-border nature. The former Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL], which now goes by the Islamic Caliphate, has not only seized some Syrian regions, but is also occupying more and more land in Iraq. According to media reports, this terrorist group has already occupied the hydroelectric dam in Mosul. These are the same terrorists, who, when they acted in Syrian territory, were considered by our western partners (primarily Washington) as a force which probably did not comply with "high western values", but still they were fighting against the "bloody regime". When we drew attention to the fact that it was dangerous to connive with such groups, what our close US partners said actually was that terrorists using all the other forces should first overthrow President Bashar al-Asad and then they would deal with them.

For now, this group is unfortunately "dealing" with Iraq. The Americans have started to worry. This is another proof that the United States has no well thought-out strategy in this region, and all our attempts to start an intelligible talk at an early state of the Syrian crisis unfortunately failed. Our propositions were very simple: nobody should constantly adapt their internal climate on the international stage, as well as foreign policy, to their personal likes and dislikes. It happened in this way in Libya, when, as you recall, everybody was "angry" at Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, whom they accused of all the sorrows of the region. Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi was overthrown using radical groups, who received arms from France and several Persian Gulf states, despite the embargo which existed that time for supplies of weapons to anybody in Libya. Nevertheless, they were supplied, and we heard public statements from Paris and some Persian Gulf states – "yes, we are doing this, because Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi must be overthrown". Later, these French fought the same "guys", whom they armed to overthrow Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, in Mali. This is a true fact. These groups are still not "finished off", they are creating more and more problems and putting obstacles in the way. It seems that it is getting quieter in Mali, although the problem is still there, like it is there in the Central African Republic, in Chad, and many other countries of the African regions.

Now the same mistake is being repeated in Iraq, where, after they overthrew Saddam Husayn, the US governor-general actually drove off all the structures where Sunnis were represented (it was army, security forces and police). Now these Sunnis are attempting to take revenge, although it was clear from the very beginning that the problems of such a complicated country like Iraq can be resolved thought national consent only.

Russia proposes fight against terrorism as basis for Middle East policy

Instead of such actions, which are dictated purely by a personal attitude to one or another country’s leader, Russia proposed choosing some uniform essential criteria, in particular, the fight against terrorism. If this criterion were selected as a common denominator for actions by Russia, the United States, Europe, the Persian Gulf states, the Middle East and other countries, many things would become clear. For this we need to make an honest choice and refuse cooperation with those who can today be your ad hoc help in overthrowing a leader, whom you do not like personally, but later you have to decide what to do with them when they have become a burden. If we do not choose clear approaches and, primarily, consolidate on the anti-terrorist platform, we will constantly face such problems. Hundreds and thousands of lives will be the price of such twists, as we continue to observe in Libya, where the state has been destroyed.

The same thing is happening in Iraq, which is also "bulging at the seams". We are attempting to prevent such a scenario, because then the Kurdish problem will blow up, and this is terrible. We see this in Syria, where they are attempting to do the same for the sake of overthrowing one man. When we communicate with our western partners, they have kept saying the same thing to us for a year or two: "We understand everything – the threat of terrorism, which has won in Syria, is much worse than President Bashar al-Asad in power." They make such statements directly. We propose to be based on this and fight against terrorism. In response, they whisper that this is not so, but the US president and heads of several leading European countries have already said that Bashar al-Asad is nonhand- shakeable. And that is all. As we say, "a spoken word takes its flight", however, in this case, if we are guided by this Russian proverb, nothing good will come of it.

NATO searching for a reason to exist

Question: A remarkable date of 20 years since the removal of troops from Europe is approaching. Maybe it is not that big, but it is remarkable for the Russian-European angle. How do you assess this date and how do you see this situation after 20 years?

Sergey Lavrov: It is a complicated question. I will not go deep into the history. I will only say that many people criticized the haste in which this was done. They criticized the situation when Russia received almost nothing in exchange, even to simply accommodate the officers and soldiers who left Europe, as humans deserve. They were in tents somewhere in the field together with their families. It is evident for me that this haste was dictated by the need. Moreover, when the Soviet leaders agreed to deadlines and even set them, the Western partners were seriously and pleasantly surprised. They expected other deadlines and financial conditions.

However, we need to take into account the following. It was probably not euphoria which prevailed, but apart from momentary expectations to make it into history, the leaders of that time probably sincerely wanted to start a new life and see partners in Europe, hoping that Europe and the West in general would see us as partners. They hoped that everything would be equal, friendly and fair. They hoped that if there was no Warsaw Pact, and the Soviet Union, and the troops had been removed, why did they need NATO and other attributes which belonged to the "Cold War" era? These hopes were in vain. As you know, NATO did not stop and still continues to expand. This organization is searching for a reason for its existence. Afghanistan helped for some time. Now everybody has understood that Afghanistan is something that drags NATO solidarity to the "bottom". It is useless to do what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization did: the situation with the drug threat and the drug industry has worsened considerably.

Russia seemed to be a good target in NATO’s search for its reason for existence. I assure you, if there was no Ukraine, they would use another aspect of Russia’s domestic or foreign policy for speculation. We are observing this. Firstly, these are our disagreements on Syria with the West, which I have already mentioned. When the West announced that the President of Syria Bashar al-Asad could not be a partner any more, Russia believed that regimes should not be overthrown, we should agree. They accused Russia of everything that was happening in Syria. Then the former employee of the CIA and the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden, showed up. They were also offended and "had a go" at Russian policy because of him. Then there were the Olympics – no idea why. Either it was because these Olympics happened, or because they seemed "too expensive" to the West. Or somebody thought that they were too successful, and Russia won. I do not know. We felt this prejudiced attitude long before the Ukrainian events.

Unfortunately, with all the good intents which our Western partners in Europe and America demonstrated to us, there is still the inertia of the "Cold War" and the inability to confront the continuing attempts to drive all the Europeans under the NATO "roof" and to talk from under it with a "strict voice". We regret all this, because it is not a far-sighted policy. It is based on a desire to establish their own order at any cost, and use sanctions and take revenge (I cannot find another word for it) in all other ways against those who do not agree, who are independent and do not want to go on the leash of the unipolar world.

New US ambassador will follow Washington’s line

Question: I would like to ask you about the forthcoming arrival of a new US Ambassador, John Tefft, in Moscow. We and our colleagues and see him as "Count di Cagliostro" or as Gogol’s "Government Inspector". There is so much talk about his personality, although a quite professional diplomat is coming, nothing more. Have you communicated with John Tefft? What do you expect from him? Is there "light at the end of the tunnel" in the development of Russian-American relations?

Sergey Lavrov: I do not know John Tefft personally, although some of my colleagues know him. He truly is a professional, career diplomat. In terms of this, I agree with you absolutely that there is no need to create a boom around the arrival of a new head of the diplomatic mission in Moscow. He is a career diplomat and in these terms it will probably be easier, because such a diplomat does as he is ordered. Washington makes the decisions. When he was ambassador to Georgia and Ukraine, he did not play "his own game". John Tefft is a disciplined man, who worked in the US Department of State all his life, because he did as he was ordered, unlike his predecessor, who, to a known extent, was a "freestyle artist". He was appointed politically and could allow himself liberties, and did this.

At the beginning this complicated our understanding: was this his independent action or the line followed at the instruction of Washington? In the case of John Tefft there will be no such doubts. All his actions will be those of Washington, and it will be easier for us to understand what the United States wants.

As to "light at the end of the tunnel", we have never created a tunnel from our side, we did not cement brickwork from our side, it was open. I do not know what the US armoured train is doing on their side, if it is on a side-track or symbolizes peaceful people. It is hard to understand Washington’s real approaches to their relations with us. The presidents of Russia and the United States communicate, they talk regularly. They had a phone conversation just recently. They have normal personal relations. I can say the same about my relations with the US secretary of state, John Kerry, whom I contacted a few days ago. We agreed to think about whether we can meet in the near future. The signals in such contacts are sufficiently positive. Of course, our partners always insist that they cannot share our approaches on Ukraine, but they are interested in achieving peace as soon as possible, they have no and cannot have any hidden agenda in Ukraine. They constantly propose organizing some contacts, continuing discussions with us, Europeans and Ukrainians. We are ready.

I have already referred to the Geneva Statement, which was adopted by Russia, the United States, the EU, Ukraine and Russia on 17 April. There was also an event in Berlin, where Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine adopted the Berlin Declaration on 2 July. We are ready to work in different formats (with the participation of the OSCE, as during the Minsk meeting), which can promote dialogue between the Kiev authorities and regions, primarily the south-east. They offer us to hold Russian-American or Russian-European consultations having invited, let’s say, the Kiev authorities to see what can be done. I reiterate again that we will agree to any format, but we can hardly achieve anything until those who represent the interests of the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, the south-east, receive a place at the negotiating table, until they are perceived as the people representing large Ukrainian territories and the people living there, until the approach to them changes, when they are called terrorists and separatists without understanding that this distorts the entire situation, when they stop persuading the rest of the country that they are separatists and schismatics [secessionists].

Armenia and Azerbaijan need to negotiate over Nagornyy Karabakh

Question: The forthcoming meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Sochi was announced recently. At the same time, the situation in Nagornyy Karabakh, in the area of contacts of Azerbaijani and Armenian units, has escalated. What do you expect from this meeting? Can we expect a breakthrough, or is it just a step towards a Nagornyy Karabakh settlement?

Sergey Lavrov: Separate meetings between the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, with the Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan, and then Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, are scheduled for the end of this week in Sochi. When they all get to one place at one time, it will probably be impossible to avoid talks about Nagornyy Karabakh. The way it happens will depend on the leaders.

Of course, we are worried about the events on the so-called "contact line". The parties accuse each other of provocative actions. Such things happened before, and, unfortunately, we have been observing periodic outbursts of such kinds for many years. However, this time everything is presented and perceived in a worse way. Many people died. Together with other countries, including the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagornyy Karabakh settlement (these are Russia, the United States and France), we have insistently appealed to show maximum restraint, to avoid any actions which can lead to another outburst of violence. We will talk to our partners from Azerbaijan and Armenia about ways of helping in trust-building and reducing confrontation risks in which we and the OSCE Minsk Group (primarily the co-chairs) can assist.

Some time ago, at one of the meetings between the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, quite a modest statement was coordinated: on the need to develop trust measures in case of shooting. That time they needed to exchange dead bodies and captives and to agree on additional steps which would calm the situation down on the "contact line".

This conflict is perceived from both sides quite emotionally. We, as one of the co-chair countries, are undertaking a lot of efforts jointly with our US and French partners to help to deal with several issues which are preventing them from concluding a document laying down the political principles of a settlement, so that the parties form a package which is acceptable to them. The adoption of such extensive political statements, laying down the principles, by which they will be guided when settling the conflict, would certainly contribute to a normalization of the atmosphere. It is not easy to do so. There have been many attempts and each time it seemed that the important limit for consent was almost achieved, but then something went wrong. Therefore I will not make any forecasts. I believe that we need to insistently and stubbornly continue helping Armenians and Azerbaijanis in their search for wording which will be acceptable to both parties.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, Moscow, in English 6 Aug 14

Donetsk Irregulars and Proxy Warfare

Brit student held as slave in Ukraine
Rebels seize him for speaking English
DON MACKAY and WILL STEWART in Moscow
Daily Mirror | August 6, 2014

A BRITISH medical student was held hostage for two weeks in Ukraine by pro-Russia rebels, it emerged last night.

Mohammed Gasim, 21, was reportedly treated as a slave by the armed thugs who captured him on a street for daring to speak English.

He was grabbed in the rebel-held Ukrainian city of Donetsk where he is studying.

Even after being freed, Mohammed was stranded in the war-torn country yesterday because he cannot get hold of his passport or identity papers.

A family friend said: "This has been a nightmare for him and his family. But now we know he is alive we are trying to get new documents for him so he can leave." The pal said British authorities can supply Mohammed, of Hounslow in West London, with the documents if he can prove who he is.

The friend added: "But all his belongings are in the university. He needs his student papers to prove he is British, but he can’t get there because the area is being bombed. He is stranded in a friend’s flat in Donetsk."

The pro-Moscow rebels, who reportedly forced Mohammed to dig ditches, had claimed online that he was dead.

A Donetsk University official said: "It was near a shop when a Russian man did not like it that our student spoke English. There was a fight, then the Donetsk People’s Republic took him."

Mohammed has spoken by phone to his frantic parents after his release.

 

In Ukraine, turning to a breakaway ‘professional’
Fixed on pro-Russia state, separatists draw aid from an earlier splinter region
ANDREW E. KRAMER
New York Times | August 5, 2014

DATELINE: DONETSK, Ukraine

Early in the separatist struggle for eastern Ukraine, a leading Russian nationalist, Aleksandr G. Dugin, painted a glowing portrait of what the newly captured territories, referred to in Russia as Novorossiya, would become.

The land will be ”a holy place for a renaissance of Russian culture, Russian spirit and Russian identity,” he told followers in Moscow. The residents will be ”absolutely different people – brave, clever and able to fight for their freedom.”

Today, that dream seems distant, as the Ukrainian Army closes in on Donetsk, the separatist capital, having claimed on Saturday to surround the city. Shelling by Ukrainian troops killed six people in Donetsk over the weekend and set fires in outlying districts, while the forces probed the city’s outer defenses. Shops and restaurants are closed, and the streets all but deserted. Yet the pro-Russia leadership is pressing ahead with a sweeping goal of establishing a lasting government here.

For that, they have turned to a cadre of bureaucrats who have made their way into Donetsk from Transnistria, a breakaway territory of Moldova that is another unrecognized, pro-Russia region. They are led by Vladimir Antyufeyev, who was a longtime security chief there, and who in July was appointed deputy prime minister of the main rebel group here, the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Until 2012, Mr. Antyufeyev led a security force in Transnistria called the M.G.B., which Western diplomats say was modeled on the K.G.B., the Soviet secret police agency. The force he is forming in Donetsk bears this name as well, which means the Ministry of State Security.

”It’s a clear sign of support for the insurgency in eastern Ukraine from at least certain circles in Moscow,” said William H. Hill, former head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Moldova, who knew Mr. Antyufeyev. ”It was extremely interesting to see that Moscow has fielded him again.”

Mr. Antyufeyev, 63, said that he came as a private citizen and a ”professional” in establishing both ordinary and secret police forces.

”I revive the law enforcement organs, the groups that maintain social order, the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the state security,” he said, in order to form the bedrock of a new government.

”The people have a right to live on their land, to speak the language they want,” he said. ”Only a state can defend that right. We are building a government formed by the will of the people.”

Mr. Antyufeyev and assistants form a civil corollary to the military aid that Western governments say is flowing to the separatists from Russia.

Mr. Antyufeyev replaced a Donetsk native as domestic security chief last month in a shake-up that the American ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, said strengthened Russia’s direct control of the movement just a week before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down, a fact likely to be contemplated in any future lawsuits over the downing that name the Russian government.

The United States and European governments accuse Russia of continuing to aid the separatists militarily even after the downing of the plane, which killed all 298 people on board. Russia and the insurgents deny this.

Some, but not all, of the roughly 40 former Transnistria officials have arrived already, Mr. Antyufeyev said in an interview on Thursday in his office in the People’s Republic headquarters, where a portrait of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, gazed down. Other experts are on their way.

The Russian government, he said, has no hand in this staffing, and he denied ever being a member of the Soviet or Russian intelligence forces. It is ”absurd,” he said, to assert that Russia has ”direct manual control” of the Ukrainian separatist leadership.

Mr. Antyufeyev lived for a decade in Transnistria under the assumed name Vadim Shvetsov, to avoid an Interpol arrest warrant accusing him of murder for his role in suppressing pro-independence demonstrations in Latvia in 1991. The deadline on that warrant under the statute of limitations has expired.

To avoid arrest, Mr. Antyufeyev and several dozen other Soviet police officials from the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia traveled to Transnistria and played a pivotal role in establishing the separatist state there.

Valery Litskai, a former foreign minister of the unrecognized Transnistria government, knew Mr. Antyufeyev when he established the M.G.B.

”He created very tight cooperation between the Russian F.S.B. and our M.G.B.,” Mr. Litskai said. ”The system was very well organized, far better than in Abkhazia and Ossetia,” where Mr. Antyufeyev also consulted on forming security forces. In Transnistria, Mr. Litskai said, ”he coordinated his work 90 percent with Moscow, and he never disguised it.”

Mr. Hill, the former O.S.C.E. chief, said Mr. Antyufeyev regularly met with the head of the Russian Federal Security Service, the successor to the K.G.B., when in Transnistria. ”People would claim to me that he was a line officer of the F.S.B.,” Mr. Hill said, though his Soviet-era police work was in the riot police force. Mr. Hill said Mr. Antyufeyev was also active in an arms-smuggling network linked to the Milosevics, Yugoslavia’s former first family.

Mr. Antyufeyev described his career in former Soviet hot spots as defending the rights of Russian speakers and ethnic Russians. Muddying a picture of clear Russian government support, in the 1990s he was arrested in Moscow on the Latvian warrant, though later released. Long before the ouster in February of Ukraine’s pro-Russia president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, which touched off the current crisis, Mr. Antyufeyev wrote a doctoral dissertation in 2003 that asserted the Russian government should support Russian-speaking groups in newly independent nations to retain its influence.

”If you push any living thing into a corner, even a little kitten, it will fight, and this is happening now to the Russians,” Mr. Antyufeyev said in the interview. ”For 20 years the West, and most of all the United States, while pretending to befriend Russia, did everything to keep it weak. Russia is being pushed into a corner.”

Mr. Antyufeyev’s prominence here was underscored last week when he was declared acting prime minister of his group, while its prime minister, a fellow Russian, Alexander Borodai, was away in Russia. The rebel military commander, Igor Girkin, known as Igor Strelkov, has said he served in the F.S.B. until last year.

Oleg Tsarev, a native Ukrainian, leads an umbrella legislature that aims to unite the two separatist regions, Luhansk and Donetsk, into a state called Novorossiya. Underpinning its legal scaffolding, it now has a draft constitution written, he said, by lawyers in Moscow who are not in the Russian government.

The Transnistria bureaucrats, he said, were needed because the revolution ”formed chaotically, and many good people made decisions on their own, so we needed to bring order.”

Aleksandr A. Karaman, a former vice president of Transnistria who joined Mr. Antyufeyev in Donetsk, said in an interview that the formation of a bureaucracy and state security police force proved critical in the early years of the separatist region in Moldova, and that the experience of the architects of this effort is invaluable now in Ukraine.

”The problems here and in Transnistria are one and the same, only we went through them earlier, and the Donetsk People’s Republic is going through them now,” he said. ”The problem is building a state.”

Mr. Antyufeyev said he was an expert in just this. ”All empires fall,” he said. ”Then, you will need us. We are helpers. We are the professionals. You cannot blame us, as you cannot blame a doctor for the patient he treats. Only we are not doctors, but lawyers and political scientists.”

 

Russian paper details split among rebel groups in Ukraine’s Luhansk

Text of report by Russian Gazeta.ru news website, on 23 July

[Report by Andrey Koshik: "Split around Strelkov. Luhansk militias lack coordination and one-man leadership"]

Luhansk – The lack of a single command is one of the main problems of the self-proclaimed Luhansk people’s republic [LNR]. Some militia members are subordinated to LNR leader Valeriy Bolotov, while others are building cooperation directly with Donetsk commander Ihor [Igor] Strelkov. Admittedly, there are also positives for the insurgents in this division: Various groups are moving behind the Ukrainian lines, inflicting great damage on their troops. Gazeta.Ru’s correspondent spent several days in besieged Luhansk.

To this day several independent entities are fighting in the Luhansk republic: In the city itself they comprise the Zarya battalion subordinate to LNR leader Valeriy Bolotov and the Leshiy special battalion that is building cooperation with Donetsk commander Ihor Strelkov, sidestepping Bolotov.

During a 20 July briefing Bolotov said that "there are individual disparate detachments that are attempting to dominate and somehow seize control of certain areas." "We are actively combating this at this time: It is impossible to fight a common enemy and have an enemy operating behind your own lines," the LNR leader said.

Although there is no longer open confrontation at the level of the commanders, because of a lack of coordination ordinary militia members periodically find themselves in conflict situations.

When Luhansk was being constantly bombarded by grenade launchers and Grad missiles on Sunday, 20 July, Gazeta.Ru’s correspondent witnessed how fighters from one of the attachments spotted men in camouflage gear on the roof of the 17-storey hospital, taking them for target aimers. They made their way there under fire, apprehended several individuals, and took them "to a basement" [for interrogation]: It transpired that they were fighters from another battalion who had decided to identify National Guard firing positions from the roof in order to launch an artillery counterstrike. It took a couple of hours to sort it out and they were released.

Discussing the incident, militia members admitted that prior to this they had repeatedly found themselves in a confused situation under fire from another detachment.

Some of them link the tense relations between the various detachments of separatists to the pre-war rivalry between Donetsk and Luhansk. A few years ago there was talk that the two regions might unite under Donetsk’s jurisdiction – such an arrangement naturally did not suit the local political and financial elites. It is clear that the current LNR leadership too is not prepared to transfer unlimited powers to Ihor Strelkov in a war situation. But many fighters see him specifically as the people’s leader.

Igor Orzhentsov (aka Vedun [meaning "Sorcerer"]), deputy commander of the Leshiy battalion, arrived in Luhansk with a friend from Moscow six weeks ago. "We were really up for this trip, realizing that, unless we stop this abomination, this scum that has come together from all over Europe, next year there will be a Maydan in Russia," the 42-year-old says. He describes how they ended up in the militia tent camp in front of the Luhansk Ukrainian Security Service building. They went into their first battle – to beat back a National Guard breakthrough in the vicinity of the villages of Metallist – wearing jeans and shirts and had trouble even acquiring a grenade each.

"There was absolutely no coordination – chaotic thinking, chaotic actions. The situation is now normalizing and we have one-man leadership, for which Strelkov was the catalyst," our interlocutor says categorically. "Anyone who does not accept Strelkov’s one-man leadership will be outlawed and disarmed."

Vedun feels that the National Guard can be defeated even without peacekeeping troops from Russia just as long as there is humanitarian aid, equipment, and media support. But he acknowledges that "right now we are losing the media war."

Talking about the locals, he tells the following story: "In one family they had a relative killed, and a healthy man of 30-something refused to join the militia but his wife joined up and disowned her husband."

The militia members say that two psychological types stand out among the Luhansk residents remaining in the city:

One set have immured themselves in basements, stay there even during relatively safe hours, and only come out to buy bread and use the bathroom. Others, who frequently get killed by mine fragments under fire from the Ukrainian army, go about their business during bombing raids. They are tense and wound up, but they go.

"It may indeed be true that unification has not been achieved, but during these months Luhansk has not been captured because various groups are going behind enemy lines and inflicting great damage on them," Ilya Manachenko, commander of a Cossack company, says. "Can you be confident that there are no traitors in our ranks? Consequently, if we joined forces joint plans would become known. Now we attack spontaneously."

The Cossack commander has no particular feelings about Strelkov specifically, but in the end he agrees nevertheless that it is only together that the militias can resist the National Guard.

"I talk to them all as it is necessary to coordinate all of our moves: I can ‘put people in place’ while Zarya carries out softening up with artillery," Manachenko says. In his words, not everybody acts like that; there are individual "princelings" with small detachments who operate exclusively independently. Incidentally, our interlocutor has himself fallen out with his wife and children because he has joined the militia: They did not support his standpoint.

It is noteworthy that many local fighters originating from Luhansk Oblast also feel cool about Strelkov, and some people have not even heard of him. At the same time, they feel cynical about "people’s governor" Bolotov. But they all agree that unification – very quickly, within the next few weeks – is vitally necessary: Without it is impossible to fight the regular army for long.

Source: Gazeta.ru website, Moscow, in Russian 0000 gmt 23 Jul 14

 

Expert says Russia may supply ballistic missiles to militants in east Ukraine

Text of report by private Ukrainian news agency UNIAN

Russia may soon supply ballistic missiles to terrorists in Donbass [parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions] in order to discredit [Ukrainian] antiterrorist operation forces, the coordinator of the Information Resistance group, military expert Dmytro Tymchuk, has said.

Tymchuk was speaking at a news conference [in Kiev] today.

"The situation with the Boeing [that crashed in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region on 17 July] did not affect the Kremlin’s stance. Putin sticks to the same policy that he started in April," he said.

"What concerns us most is that Russia is actively pushing an idea that Ukraine allegedly uses ballistic missiles, and we do not rule out the possibility that these systems, with Russian crews, can soon appear in Donbass in order to discredit Ukrainian troops," Tymchuk added.

For his part, military expert Yuriy Karin spoke about "well-planned information operations and carrying them out along with Russian propaganda, and coverage of rebels’ all military operations in the media".

In particular, he stressed that "if we take the issue of military hardware deliveries to Ukraine, several days before the appearance of T-64BV tanks on Ukrainian territory, we noticed a statement by [militant leader Igor] Girkin saying that the commander of the Artemivsk unit, where such tanks are stored, got several millions. Right after this statement, reports emerged in social media that tank experts are needed in Shakhtarsk [town in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region that remained under militants’ control until recently]".

"Then we saw three tanks entering Ukrainian territory, there was a demonstrative ride through the cities [under militants’ control], and then more than 30 tanks were deployed on Ukrainian territory," the military expert added.

"The same story is with aviation. A report that terrorists had received their own aircraft emerged several days before two of our aircraft were downed from Russian territory by Russian fighter jets," Karin noted.

He stressed that "there was the same story with Buk anti-aircraft systems. But Russian propaganda appeared to be against terrorists in this story, they said that Buk had been seized and that the so-called militia had received them [Buk anti-aircraft systems]. When the Boeing had been downed, Russian propaganda turned around and tried to put the blame on the Ukrainian army in just three hours".

Source: UNIAN news agency, Kiev, in Ukrainian 1000 gmt 5 Aug 14

 

Several Ukrainians detained over ties with pro-Russian rebels

A representative of the radio frequencies centre has been detained in the city of Kramatorsk in Donetsk Region, the news-based 5 Kanal television channel reported at 0500 gmt on 5 August, quoting the press centre of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

According to the report, the detained man, following an instruction from a Russian criminal, was monitoring the frequencies used by the Ukrainian troops and submitting this information to militants of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic.

The counterintelligence unit of the SBU has detained a local resident in the city of Artemivsk in Donetsk Region, who set up and coordinated a network of informers supplying pro-Russian militants with information on Ukrainian troops, Interfax-Ukraine reported at 0958 gmt on 4 August.

According to the SBU’s press centre, the detained person has been systematically supplying pro-Russian militants with information on the number of Ukrainian troops and the technical condition of Ukrainian military hardware. The SBU said that rebels had been using the information to prepare armed attacks on Ukrainian security forces.

Kiev police have identified the person who made hoax phone calls that bombs had been planted in the building of the presidential administration and in a Kiev hotel. The man, aged 31, is kept in custody in Kirovohrad for making similar calls before, the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reported at 0808 gmt on the same day, quoting the public relations department of the Interior Ministry’s main directorate in Kiev.

Source: 5 Kanal TV, Kiev, in Ukrainian 0700 gmt 5 Aug 14; Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Kiev, in Russian 0958 gmt 4 Aug 14; UNIAN news agency, Kiev, in Ukrainian 0808 gmt 4 Aug 14

 

Military expert says 12,000 rebels, Russian mercenaries fighting in east Ukraine

Text of report by private Ukrainian news agency UNIAN

Kiev, 5 August: Around 12,000 terrorists are acting in Donbass [parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions] and their number is increasing, the coordinator of the Information Resistance group, Dmytro Tymchuk, has told a briefing in Kiev.

"According to our estimates, around 12,000 terrorists are acting in Donbass," he said.

"We observe a tendency of this number increasing after we registered around 10,000 of them a month ago," Tymchuk added.

He also said that "we observe an increase in the number of mercenaries from among former Russian law enforcers. In our opinion, this means that their resources are running out since they used to recruit former retired special-purpose servicemen with combat experience. It looks like the number of Russians willing to fight is about to run out and they have started to expand their list of candidates".

Source: UNIAN news agency, Kiev, in Ukrainian 0849 gmt 5 Aug 14

Insurgents Disrupt Medical Services

Plus Media Solutions | August 5, 2014

The Human Rights Watch has issued the following news release:

Insurgent forces in eastern Ukraine have threatened medical staff, stolen and destroyed medical equipment and hospital furniture, and compromised the ability of civilian patients to receive treatment, Human Rights Watch said today. Insurgent forces have also expropriated ambulances and used them to transport active fighters.

Such acts are strictly prohibited under the laws of war, which afford special protections to medical units and personnel as well as to the wounded and sick, Human Rights Watch said.

"Pro-Russian insurgents’ attacks on medical units and personnel are putting sick and vulnerable people and those who care for them at risk," said Yulia Gorbunova, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "This appalling disregard of people who are sick or wounded can be deadly and needs to stop immediately."

Human Rights Watch has also documented attacks on hospitals by explosive weapons that killed at least two medical staff. While the circumstances suggest Ukrainian armed forces launched some of these attacks, further investigation is needed to determine responsibility.

Medical units are civilian objects with special protections under the laws of war. They include hospitals, clinics, medical centers and similar facilities, and ambulances and other medical transportation, whether military or civilian. Parties to a conflict must ensure that medical personnel are not endangered or harmed, and hospitals and ambulances are not attacked, damaged, or misused.

Through on-the-ground investigations in eastern Ukraine, Human Rights Watch found that insurgent armed fighters unlawfully expropriated and used ambulances to transport combatants, threatened medical staff, and damaged and stole medical equipment. Human Rights Watch also found that to secure treatment for their wounded, insurgents occupied hospital wards and buildings, compromising the safety of patients and staff and the treatment of civilian patients.

Human Rights Watch documented how insurgent forces unlawfully seized at least four ambulances in Sloviansk and used them to transport able-bodied armed fighters in Donetsk. A Human Rights Watch researcher witnessed ambulances in Donetsk transporting able-bodied armed fighters through the city.

Armed insurgents dressed in combat uniform also drove ambulances transporting wounded fighters. Human Rights Watch was unable to determine whether the drivers were exclusively assigned to medical duties, which would afford them special protection.

Human Rights Watch found, through its own observations and interviews with medical staff, that in four hospitals a significant number of armed, able-bodied insurgent fighters were on the hospital premises. While their presence was ostensibly for the hospitals’ or patients’ protection, the security needs did not appear to justify the presence of large numbers of fighters. Most of them appeared to serve no security function and they were not stationed at the gates or the perimeter of the hospital as could be expected if their function was to guard the hospital.

Instead of protecting the hospitals, the presence of a significant number of armed insurgent forces on hospital premises put the hospital at risk of becoming a military target, Human Rights Watch said. Under international law, parties to the conflict are obliged – to the extent possible – to avoid placing military targets such as troops within or near populated areas.

Insurgents seized wards to treat wounded insurgent fighters in at least two hospitals: the Kalinin Hospital in Donetsk and the Lenin City Hospital in Sloviansk. In the Lenin City Hospital and in the Semyonovka psychiatric hospital, insurgents also stole or destroyed surgical equipment, furniture, and, in the Lenin City Hospital, patient files. While the laws of war do not explicitly prohibit requisition of civilian hospitals for treatment of wounded fighters, such requisition should not be detrimental to patients. In all cases, the wards were in regular use by the hospitals, and the seizure inevitably had a negative effect on the treatment of civilian patients, Human Rights Watch said.

Explosive weapons such as artillery shells and unguided rockets have struck at least five hospitals in eastern Ukraine since June 2014, killing at least two medical staff, Human Rights Watch found. The circumstances of the attacks, most of which took place in insurgent-controlled areas under attack from government forces, suggest that government forces were responsible, but further investigation is needed to determine whether such attacks amounted to violations of humanitarian law. Ukrainian authorities should promptly and thoroughly investigate the attacks on hospitals, and hold accountable those responsible for any violations of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch also called on Ukraine’s international supporters to urge Ukraine to strictly adhere to international humanitarian law in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

While other presumptively civilian structures become military objectives if they are being used for a military purpose, hospitals only lose their protection from attack if they are being used, outside their humanitarian function, to commit "acts harmful to the enemy." The presence of armed guards or of small arms belonging to wounded fighters does not constitute "acts harmful to the enemy." Even if military forces misuse a hospital to store weapons or shelter able-bodied combatants, the attacking force must issue a warning that sets a reasonable time limit and may attack only after such a warning has gone unheeded.

The leadership of the armed groups connected to the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic should hold accountable those among their ranks responsible for abuses against medical staff, facilities, and patients, Human Rights Watch said.

In its July 15 report, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described the insurgent armed groups’ leadership as including "many … nationals of the Russian Federation" and under whose central command "previously rag-tag of armed groups with different loyalties and agendas were now organized."

With its influence over rebel forces in Ukraine, Russia should insist that they adhere to norms of international humanitarian law, including the special protections afforded to medical units and personnel as well as to the wounded and sick, Human Rights Watch said.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimated that hundreds of civilians had been killed and more than a thousand wounded in the conflict in eastern Ukraine between mid-April and July 26.

"Civilians are already bearing the brunt of the conflict in eastern Ukraine," Gorbunova said. "Interfering with the medical assistance they need is simply unconscionable."

Insurgents’ Unlawful Expropriation and Use of Ambulances

A driver at the ambulance station in Sloviansk told Human Rights Watch that insurgent forces had tried to seize the station’s ambulances several times when they controlled Sloviansk, from April 2014 to early July:

They came at least a couple of times, shooting in the air, threatening, and demanding that we give them ambulances, but at those points all the ambulances were out driving, so they were unsuccessful.

Another employee of the ambulance service said that on at least one occasion, in May, the insurgents wanted the ambulances to transport bodies of insurgents killed in fighting.

When the Ukrainian armed forces drove the insurgents out of Sloviansk on July 4 and 5, the insurgents seized four ambulances and used them to retreat from the city. "It probably made it easier for them to run away from the Ukrainian forces," one driver told Human Rights Watch.

Independent journalists and observers told Human Rights Watch that they saw armed insurgents driving ambulances on numerous occasions in Donetsk. Human Rights Watch researchers saw armed insurgents driving ambulances twice in one day.

On July 21, a Human Rights Watch researcher, standing at an intersection close to the train station, witnessed a convoy of several military vehicles moving from an area of active fighting in the northern part of Donetsk. Among the vehicles was an ambulance with its side door open, revealing several armed insurgent fighters inside, none of whom appeared to be injured. The same day, a Human Rights Watch researcher witnessed an ambulance arriving at the Kalinin hospital in Donetsk. The driver was dressed partly in camouflage uniform and carried an automatic weapon. The ambulance carried what appeared to be an injured fighter.

Carrying firearms for self-defense does not constitute an act "harmful to the enemy," but medical personnel, even if they are members of a fighting unit, should be exclusively assigned to medical duties. Human Rights Watch was not able to verify whether the ambulance driver arriving at the Kalinin hospital was exclusively assigned to medical duties.

Insurgents’ Presence at and Occupation of Hospitals

Insurgent forces also partially or fully occupied buildings of at least three hospitals – in Sloviansk, Semyonovka, and Donetsk. Wounded fighters in a non-international armed conflict are entitled to care and can be treated in civilian hospitals without compromising the protection afforded to the hospital. Likewise armed opposition groups may use civilian hospitals for treatment of wounded fighters, insofar as it is not detrimental to the treatment of other patients.

Human Rights Watch witnessed first-hand the presence of numerous armed insurgent fighters on hospital premises during visits to hospitals in areas controlled by insurgent forces. Several armed insurgent fighters were standing outside the central city hospital in Snezhnoe when Human Rights Watch visited on July 18. Human Rights Watch also observed numerous armed insurgents on the premises of the Kalinin hospital in Donetsk during two visits. It was not evident that the fighters were there to provide security for the hospitals.

Semyonovka Psychiatric Hospital

The deputy chief of the in-patient psychiatric hospital in Semyonovka, a sprawling complex of 20 buildings about three kilometers from Sloviansk, told Human Rights Watch that in early May, armed insurgent fighters seized one of the hospital’s buildings, usually used by patients in their leisure time:

They came in without asking and set up shop here. The head of the hospital asked them to leave, because there were people in the hospital receiving treatment for serious psychiatric conditions. He said that they had no business bringing armed men and guns there. I heard the fighters threatening him in response: "Try and stop us and we will kill you and all your patients," they said. After that, we no longer allowed patients outside.

The doctor said that the insurgents stole or destroyed much of the hospital’s property, including furniture, equipment, and a laboratory.

Throughout May there was heavy fighting between government and insurgent forces in the immediate area around the hospital, the doctor said (see below, Attacks on Hospitals). On May 26, medical staff evacuated the hospital’s patients and personnel to other facilities in Zhdanovka, Gorlovka, and Donetsk. The insurgents allowed staff to evacuate the patients, the doctor said.

Subsequent fighting completely destroyed the hospital complex. Human Rights Watch documented major destruction of all buildings in the hospital complex during a visit in July.

Lenin City Hospital, Sloviansk

Medical personnel at the Lenin City Hospital in Sloviansk told Human Rights Watch that armed insurgents arrived in mid-June and occupied one of the hospital’s two surgical wards, on the ground floor of a hospital building. The loss of one of the wards meant that doctors did not have the capacity to treat all of their civilian patients. The presence of the armed insurgents also contributed to increasing stress among the medical staff. Many did not show up for work, leaving the hospital understaffed to serve the patients.

Medical staff told Human Rights Watch that the insurgents used the ward to treat injured fighters, but the insurgents guarded the ward around the clock, preventing access for the hospital’s medical personnel. Two hospital nurses also said that the insurgents controlled the hospital’s bomb shelter and prevented medical personnel and patients from using it.

During a Human Rights Watch visit to the hospital in July, the hospital’s staff was trying to prepare the ward for use again. One of the nurses told Human Rights Watch that the insurgents had damaged the ward’s walls and floors and stolen all the surgical equipment, as well as some hospital furniture. Human Rights Watch observed that several doors in the ward had been removed and that all windows in the ward had been barricaded with sandbags.

Medical personnel also told Human Rights Watch that the insurgents stole the hospital’s paperwork, including all patient files, when they fled Sloviansk on July 5.

Kalinin Hospital, Donetsk

Human Rights Watch visited the Kalinin Hospital in Donetsk after insurgent forces took over two of the hospital’s buildings in mid-July. One of the hospital’s doctors told Human Rights Watch that between 30 and 40 armed insurgents took over the buildings:

The hospital administration told them that they didn’t want them here, but [the insurgents] didn’t listen. They behave fine and the hospital has made them leave their weapons in the ward where they are located, but we are concerned that there might eventually be fighting on the hospital premises.

The insurgents left one of the hospital buildings about a week after they had taken it over and after Human Rights Watch spoke to the doctor.

However, they continue to occupy another building, a rehabilitation center for radiation victims from the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the doctor said. This led to the closure of inpatient treatment for those patients. The doctor told Human Rights Watch:

They have set up a military hospital there with their own doctors. Seriously injured fighters first come to us and then we transfer them there. I don’t know what happens to the patients after this. I really don’t know what goes on there. I know they have a military hospital there, but maybe they use the building for other purposes as well. None of [our] medical staff go there at all.

Attacks on Hospitals

In at least five cases Human Rights Watch documented, explosive weapons struck hospitals, killing two medical workers. Although Human Rights Watch has not been able to establish with certainty who attacked the hospitals, four of the hospitals were in insurgent-controlled areas at the time of attack. In at least two of the hospitals, insurgents were on the hospital premises, suggesting that Ukrainian armed forces might have been responsible. The fifth hospital was in a government-controlled area. Further investigation of these cases is necessary to establish responsibility with certainty.

Lenin City Hospital, Sloviansk

On the afternoon of June 14, at least two shells struck the area of the Lenin City Hospital in Sloviansk, medical personnel told Human Rights Watch. Insurgent forces had established control over Sloviansk in April and had erected a checkpoint at the intersection of Taras Shevchenko and Uritskogo streets, approximately 800 meters from the hospital’s main entrance and almost adjacent to the hospital premises.

One shell struck the roof of a building housing the trauma and cardiology wards and one of the surgical wards. At the time of the strike, insurgent forces occupied the building’s surgical ward on the ground floor of the building that was hit. The strike shattered significant parts of the wooden roof and an attic, but did not damage the wards. The damage to the roof did not allow Human Rights Watch to establish the direction of the incoming shell, and Human Rights Watch did not find any remnants of the weapon that would have allowed further identification.

The second shell struck an intersection just outside the fence of the hospital premises, close to the insurgent checkpoint, severely injuring 36-year-old Tatyana Kubran, a surgical nurse who was leaving the hospital with her husband after her 24-hour shift. Medical staff told Human Rights Watch that Kubran, who had worked as a nurse at the hospital for many years, died later that day from her injuries. When Human Rights Watch visited the hospital in July, there were still visible shrapnel marks in the asphalt, on the hospital fence, and a nearby traffic sign at the intersection where Kubran was injured. Human Rights Watch also observed remnants of the insurgent checkpoint nearby.

Semyonovka Psychiatric Hospital

In the early morning on May 25, a shell hit the in-patient psychiatric hospital in Semyonovka, partially destroying a wall of one of the hospital’s buildings, the hospital’s deputy chief said. None of the patients or medical personnel were injured during the attack, she said, because they spent the night hiding in the basement.

The doctor said that in early May, the insurgents set up a checkpoint approximately one kilometer from the hospital. Between May 5 and May 26, when the hospital staff and patients were evacuated, the hospital was almost constantly surrounded by heavy fighting:

The fighting was right next to us, there were bullets flying into the hospital yard and ricocheting off the walls. And there were loud explosions; it was especially bad at night. There was only one time when we had a siren warning of the upcoming attack. All other times, there was no warning – we would just run every time we heard shooting or explosions. Altogether, we had to evacuate all our patients into the basement seven times at least. Sometimes patients had to stay in the basement for two nights in a row.

Krasny Liman Railway Hospital

On June 3, shells struck the Krasny Liman Railway Hospital, killing the hospital’s surgeon. Medical personnel at the hospital told Human Rights Watch that shelling began at about 3:30 p.m. without warning and that the attack lasted no longer than 10 minutes. The chief doctor of the hospital said that the hospital’s surgeon, Vasiliy Shistka, had just finished a planned operation when the shelling started. As he was walking out of the operating room, a shell fragment hit him on the head. He died two weeks later as a result of his injury. No other hospital personnel or patients were killed or wounded in the attack.

The attack also significantly damaged the hospital. In particular, the roof and infrastructure of the general therapy wing was seriously damaged, as were the walls and infrastructure of the surgery wing, the gynecology wing, and the hospital’s pharmacy. The explosions shattered the windows.

The hospital serves mainly railway workers and is located approximately 25 kilometers southeast of Sloviansk. At the time of the attack, Ukrainian government forces were engaged in military operations to re-establish control over Krasny Liman. The chief doctor told Human Rights Watch that on June 4, the morning after the attack, a group of Ukrainian servicemen approached the hospital in an armored carrier to carry out a search, as they believed insurgents were using the hospital for military purposes. They did not show any identification documents but demanded that he lead them through the hospital, the chief doctor said.

Having examined all the wards and hospital grounds in that manner, the military acknowledged there were no insurgents present. The doctor also alleged that the military commander showed him a map on which the hospital was marked as an insurgent hospital and explained that they believed that insurgents had been using the hospital for military purposes.

As of early July, the prosecutor’s office had started an investigation into the shelling of the hospital. Because there was strong evidence suggesting the targeted nature of this attack, on July 18, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to President Poroshenko urging him to ensure that the investigation into this attack is thorough and prompt.

In addition to the three cases detailed above, a doctor at the hospital in Gorlovka, a town just north of Donetsk, told Human Rights Watch by phone that what she presumed was a Grad rocket struck the hospital premises on July 27, shattering the hospital windows.

Medical personnel at the children’s hospital in Sloviansk told Human Rights Watch that a shell had struck the hospital on May 30. Human Rights Watch confirmed during a visit that the front wall of the hospital was partially destroyed. At the time of the attack, all patients had been evacuated. Human Rights Watch has no information that there were armed fighters present at the Gorlovka or Sloviansk children’s hospitals at the time of the attacks.

Pro-Kremlin party leader hails people’s republics in southeast Ukraine

 

Text of report by the website of Russian newspaper Izvestiya on 31 July

[Article by Sergey Mironov, leader of the A Just Russia faction in the Russian Federation State Duma: "Novorossiya – new Russia. Just Russia faction leader Sergey Mironov on what Russians want and how they are able to defend their interests"]

Novorossiya [southeast Ukraine] has been occupying the principal place in the picture of Ukrainian events recently. Politicians, political analysts, journalists, and experts are talking about bombardments and bombing raids, the deaths of children and old people, thousands of refugees, the destruction of the Malaysian Boeing, and the militias’ retreats and counteroffensives. But among all of this there is a subject to which nobody is paying attention, and I would like to do so. It seems to me that it is exceptionally important. More important than many other issues if you look at it in terms not of days and weeks but months and years.

Let us ask ourselves: What is happening in Novorossiya if we look at this process from an ideological and world-view angle? What kind of state do the defenders of the DNR [Donetsk people’s republic] and the LNR [Luhansk people’s republic] want to build?

A. proviso. I do not know whether the insurgents will succeed in defending their motherland against highly superior enemy forces, although I wish them success with all my heart. But in any event we have to acknowledge something that is obvious: The existence of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics is an established historical fact. This event has already divided the history of Ukraine into "before" and "after." You can burn cities to the ground and not leave a single person alive in the southeast, but you cannot erase these pages from history with Grad, Uragan, and Smerch missiles.

The inhabitants of Novorossiya are compelled to exist in a state of permanent stress; they feel that they are living on the brink of death. At the same time they feel their historic predestination, and this feeling is proving to be stronger and deeper than the fear of death – it outweighs it. So it is not just war that is determining the life of the state of Novorossiya. Activists and politicians in Donetsk and Luhansk are engaged in imposing order in civil matters.

What does all this mean? A process of forming a nation is underway. Collective creativity by Russian people who, through the culpability of former leaders, are compelled to live other than in Russia, is underway. It was difficult and agonizing for them to exist in an aggressive environment that denies their identity. This aggression began with the language issue and ended in bombing raids. But there is a paradox here: Against the backdrop of explosions, while war is waging, people are thinking about how they would like to live in conditions of peace. What should the republic be like? How should it be organized?

DNR and LNR constitutions have already been written. A vigorous lawmaking process is underway. Novorossiya has a name and policy documents, albeit they have not yet – in wartime conditions – been completely honed. The constitution of Novorossiya has been published. In accordance with this constitution Novorossiya is a rule-of-law democratic state. Secular, but with clear moral points of reference. At the present time it is a parliamentary republic although it might possibly become a presidential republic once it has withstood the Kiev authorities’ terror and consolidated itself. In Novorossiya there is a mixed economy and equality among all types of ownership, and in domestic policy there are social priorities.

The legislative initiatives that are emerging testify that these few million people want to see their republic as a social state based on traditional values. Social justice and tradition form the essence of the societal and state project that is currently being built in the DNR and the LNR.

In there is a flag and coat of arms incorporating symbols from prerevolutionary and Soviet traditions. This choice testifies to a desire to overcome the historical fractures in Russian history. And overcoming historical fractures and divisions is a guarantee of stability in present-day politics. In other words, healthy conservatism is inherent in Novorossiya’s citizens in peacetime. But today they are compelled to defend themselves and their historic choice.

Despite the mass killings of civilians that the Ukrainian army is perpetrating, these people are not retreating from the choice that they made in the course of the referendum. They are not turning their back on their ideals. They are fighting and dying for them. The current (essentially temporary) Kiev government hates their flag, hates their ideals, and is blatantly ignoring their social project. It is ignoring their historic rights and expression of their wishes, denying the indisputable fact that everyone has his own path within a common European tradition. This government talks about a "conflict of mentalities," repudiating the principle of pluralism and describing their opponents as "nonhuman" and "subhuman," and is terrorizing the civilian population.

But, I repeat, even if Ukrainian troops were to destroy all the defenders of Novorossiya and carry out mass purges, it will no longer be possible to erase the fact of the emergence of the state of Novorossiya from world history. We will have to live with this understanding. Consequently it is necessary to formulate a systemic attitude towards this historical phenomenon.

The Russian intellectual elite will have had to answer the question as to why a logical merging of social democratic and conservative ideals – that is to say, ideals of social justice and traditional values – has taken place in Novorossiya’s public consciousness. This set of ideals emerged on the soil of Donetsk and Luhansk not under pressure from external forces but as the free choice of the people.

Here it is impossible to get away from the simple and obvious fact that these ideals reflect the views and ideals of not only several million inhabitants of Novorossiya but also the enormous overwhelming majority of the population of Russia. The nationwide Russian support for Donetsk and Luhansk is largely determined by a community of ideas, especially a community of values and historical reference points. What are they?

First, in Novorossiya and Russia people identify themselves with the Russian Orthodox tradition – not in a strictly church sense but in a broader interpretation. As opinion polls demonstrate, around 80 per cent of our country’s citizens describe themselves as such. Second, these are the same 80 per cent who today support Vladimir Putin and expect him to strengthen the Russian state. Finally, these are the same people who are proud of our army, which crossed the Alps, halted Napoleon, saved Russia during the years of the Great Patriotic War [as World War II is known in Russia], and very recently protected the population of Crimea from the fate that subsequently overtook the inhabitants of Donetsk and Luhansk. The army that is ensuring the country’s sovereignty and integrity, to which a recent session of the Russian Federation Security Council was devoted….

The word Novorossiya today has not one but two meanings. On the one hand, it is the name of former Russian lands. On the other, it means "new Russia." A little Russia that is seeking to follow the same path along which the Russian Federation is also travelling.

Today those who lay claim to global control within the framework of a unipolar world are attempting to obstruct progress in this direction. To obstruct it to the detriment of their own and – even more so – European interests. But the historical journey of large and small nations cannot be halted. The example of Novorossiya has shown what Russians want and how they are able to defend their interests. And I would not advise anybody in the world to even try to do in Russia what they are trying to carry out in Ukraine. The outcome for such experimenters would be extremely inauspicious.

Source: Izvestiya website, Moscow, in Russian 31 Jul 14

The Donstsk Rebels and Proxy Warfare

Donetsk Rebels and Russian Intelligence
The XX Committee | July 19, 2014

As the world tries to answer the question of who exactly fired the missile that shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 innocent people, Moscow is doing its best to lie, obfuscate, shift blame, and evade responsibility. The Kremlin’s best-case scenario now is that local rebels in Ukraine’s Donetsk region who are under the operational control of Russian military intelligence (GRU), took it upon themselves to shoot down a passenger aircraft, using a Russian-supplied Buk (SA-11) anti-aircraft system, having mistaken it for an unarmed Ukrainian An-26 transport plane. The reality may be worse, and it will take time to establish the facts, particularly with Kremlin proxies obstructing the investigation, destroying evidence, hiding bodies, and acting as if the world is not watching this closely. The extent of Russian push-back suggests that Moscow has a great deal to hide.

Nevertheless, even if the shootdown was entirely the work of Donetsk locals, self-styled Cossacks with an itchy trigger finger and an excess of vodka, it bears noting that the pseudo-state there is in fact under the tight control of the Kremlin, in particular of its powerful intelligence agencies, what the Russians call the “special services.” The premier of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) is Aleksandr Boroday, a Russian citizen who, Pravda reported back in 2002, is a member of the special services, specifically the powerful Federal Security Service (FSB).* Boroday was appointed an FSB major-general at the tender age of thirty-five. In the FSB, Boroday worked in the sensitive “political field” and has been tied to Russian nationalist causes. Right now he is busy keeping investigators away from the MH17 crash site.

The DNR’s “defense minister” is the shadowy Igor Girkin, AKA Strelkov, another Russian citizen who has been the subject of much media commentary, given his belligerent actions and obvious power in the Donetsk area. Although he is reported to have an FSB background, he is a GRU asset now, according to U.S. intelligence, and serves as the local coordinator of Kremlin-controlled militias. Strelkov was gloating online about the Boeing 777 shootdown, thinking his forces had destroyed a Ukrainian An-26, then quickly deleted his comments. The DNR individual caught by Ukrainian intelligence on tape discussing the shootdown with GRU superiors is Igor Bezler, another longtime GRU operative with a murky past. It is important to note that the intercept confirmed that Bezler is fully within the GRU chain of command, as is the whole DNR military.

To illustrate just how tightly controlled by the Kremlin the DNR actually is, a little over a week ago it relieved its deputy premier for security, a Ukrainian, and replaced him with Vladimir Antufeyev, another Russian from the special services. Antufeyev previously served as the head of security in the Russian-controlled territory of Transdnistria. Russian media have reported that Antufeyev was brought to the DNR to “restore order” and tamp down in-fighting among some of the rebel bands. It is known that Boroday, Strelkov, and Antufeyev all worked together on behalf of the Russian special services during the 1990s conflict in Transdnistria.

Regardless of who exactly fired the missile that killed 298 innocent people, and who issued the order to do so, the Donetsk pseudo-state is a wholly-owned Kremlin subsidiary, with its top-three “power ministries” all in the hands of Russian citizens who are longtime creatures of Moscow’s special services. The only law in the DNR is Putin’s, as exercised through GRU channels. As such, it is difficult to imagine anyone undertaking any important decision there without Kremlin approval and the go-ahead of Russian intelligence.

*It has recently been claimed that this article was a “joke” — some joke — but Boroday’s affiliation with the special services since the 1990s is admitted by the Russian media.

http://20committee.com/2014/07/19/donetsk-rebels-and-russian-intelligence/

 

“Bravo” section of Information Resistance group: separatist/collaborationist movements in Ukraine
Dmitry Tymchuk
Information Resistance | 04.10.2014

Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

NOTE: Complete data on the leaders of organizations are already in the possession of intelligence services.

Currently in the border regions of our state, representatives of individual structures of the Russian Federation have increased their activity in order to use Russian minorities to provoke autonomist and separatist sentiments, as well as creating conditions to violate the territorial integrity of Ukraine. One of the structures that creates these prerequisites is the all-Russian political youth organization: “Eurasian Youth Union” (ECM).

Among its active leaders are the following Russian citizens (list). The aforementioned Russian citizens, using the media and Internet, openly support the idea of ​​the need to separate the Southeasatern regions of Ukraine, followed by their accession to the Russian Federation. At the same time, they call for the formation of volunteer brigades from among the citizens of the Russian Federation for the support and protection of the Russian-speaking population from “armed gangs” operating on the territory of our state. Information materials of their announcements were broadcast and circulated on air on Russian TV channels, Internet media and through “Youtube.”

At the same time, in recent years, the aforementioned Russian citizens have been actively engaged, associated with the initiation of infringement of the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine by the representatives of the “ECM” (data confirmed by numerous third-party sources). As activists, they spread calls for the recognition of the legality of the annexation of Crimea to Russia, and the necessity of further transition of the Southeastern regions of Ukraine under Russian jurisdiction, while actively promoting separatist appeals.

Separately, it should be noted that currently, the presence of the “ECM” figures has been recorded in Crimea, and in the Southeastern regions since the beginning of March of this year, as well as their efforts to inflame national enmity and hatred, humiliation of national honor and dignity of the citizens of Ukraine.

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Coordination of separatist movements in Ukraine

In the course of our work, we received reliable data regarding the inspiration of specified manifestations directly from the territory of Crimea. It has been established that the organization of numerous separatist protests, coordination of the activity network of pro-Russian activists in the southeastern regions of our country, including its funding (which comes from Russia), are performed by the self-proclaimed Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, S. Aksenov and his inner circle.

We have also been able to establish the radical individuals who are organizing and coordinating the secessionist acts in the southeastern regions of Ukraine.

In particular, in the territory of Odesa region this activity is carried out by:

– the organization’s leadership of the political party “Russian unity” in Odesa (…); – one of the organizers of the so-called “Antimaidan” in Odesa (…).

In Kharkiv oblast [region]:

– one of the journalists, the head of a PR agency, chief editor of online publication (…); – one of the leaders of the organization that unites veterans of “Berkut” (…).

In Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts:

– one of the participants of the representative office of the NGO “International anti-terrorism unity” in the Luhansk oblast (…); – one of the leaders of the self-organizing unregistered PO [Public Organization] “Militia of Donbas” (…); – as well as individuals (…).

Organizations that fully engage in separatist activity, or representatives of which are in one or another way taking part in the current events:

Kharkiv oblast

Registered organizations:
– Kharkiv City PO [Public Organization] “Oplot [Stronghold].”
– Kharkiv City PO “For cultural and language equality.”
– Union of Soviet Officers.
– Kharkiv Rayon [District] PO “Liubotyn Cossack Sotnia [Squad].”
– Kharkiv Rayon PO “The Tersk Cossacks of Kharkiv.”
– Kharkiv Rayon PO “Chervonohrad Cossack Sotnia.”
– Kharkiv Rayon PO “Lozove Cossack Sotnia.”
– Kharkiv Rayon PO “Saltiv Cossack Sotnia.”
– CPU [Communist Party of Ukraine].
– PSPU [Progressive Socialistic Party of Ukraine].

Unregistered organizations:
– “Velikaya Rus [Great Rus].”
– “Borba [Struggle].”
– “Narodnoye Yedinstvo [People’s Unity].”
– “Defenders of Kharkiv City.”
– “Ukrainian Eastern Block.”
– “Sut Vremeni [Essense of Time].”
– “Union of Citizens of Ukraine.”
– “Rus Triedinaya [Rus the Triune].”

Donetsk Oblast

Registered organizations:
– Donetsk City PO “Monolit.”
– Donetsk Oblast Youth PO “Union of Born by Revolution.”
– Donetsk Oblast PO “Russian Community.”
– Donetsk Oblast PO “Russian Union of Donbas [Donetsk Basin].”
– Donetsk Oblast Organization of the “Russkiy Block” [Russian Block] party.
– Donetsk Oblast PO “Rus of Donbas.”
– PO “Committee of Electors of Donbas.”
– Donetsk Oblast PO “Union of Citizens of Ukraine.”
– Donetsk City PO “Crew of Navy Veterans.”
– Union of Cossack Organizations of Ukraine.

Unregistered organizations:
– PO “Donetskaya Respublika [Donetsk Republic].”
– PO “Vostochnyy Front [Eastern Front].”
– PO “Narodnoye Opolcheniye Donbasa [Citizens-in-Arms of Donbas].”
– PO “Federatsiya Borey [Boreas Federation].”
– Khartsyzsk Kosh [Camp] of the Ukrainian Cossacks.
– Novo-Azovsk Stanitsa [Village] of the Don Cossacks.
– Donetsk PO “Vsevelikoye Voisko Donskoye [All-Great Army of Don].”

Luhansk Oblast

Registered organizations:
– All-Ukrainian PO “Moloda Gvardiya” [Youth Guard].
– PO “Luhansk Guard.”
– All-Ukrainian PO “Ukrainskiy Vybor [Ukrainian Choice].”
– Oblast National PO “Russkaya Obshchina [Russian Community].”
– Oblast Society “Russkoye Naslediye [Russian Legacy].”
– PO “Russian Union of Donbas in Luhansk Oblast.”
– PO “Luhansk Okrug [county] of the Don Cossacks.”

Unregistered organizations:
– Self-Defense of Luhansk.
– General Denikin Luhansk Volunteer Brigade.
– “The Great Army of Don” (registered in RF [Russian Federation]).
– “Union of Cossack Troops of Russian and the Abroad” (registered in RF).

http://maidantranslations.com/2014/04/11/bravo-section-of-information-resistance-group-separatistcollaborationist-movements-in-ukraine/

 

Ukraine rebels recruiting in Moscow
An open-secret office in capital signs up volunteers for war
Anna Arutunyan
USA TODAY | August 8, 2014

Ukrainian rebels are openly recruiting fighters, raising money and collecting combat gear here in Russia’s capital, even as the Kremlin denies backing the pro-Russia fighters.

The recruiting office in Moscow for the Donetsk People’s Republic doesn’t have a street address, but volunteers can join by calling a number or writing an e-mail. Even the U.S. State Department acknowledged last month that the office exists and that Russia allows it.

Word of the recruiting effort is spread through colorful fliers and banners calling on Russians to "Join Strelkov’s Army" — referring to Igor Strelkov, a former Russian security officer who heads the insurgency’s militia — displayed at rallies in Moscow and on the Internet.

The recruiting comes as the Ukrainian military is intensifying its campaign against the pro-Russia insurgents and is closing in on the largest rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. At the same time, Russia has amassed about 20,000 combat-ready troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, NATO said.

Detailed instructions about the recruitment office appeared in June on Russia’s VKontakte social network, on the page of the Donbass People’s Militia.

Artur Gasparyan, a volunteer fighter from Armenia, told Russia’s Radio Svoboda that after his second attempt to contact the VKontakte group, several unidentified men met with him and 10 other recruits in Moscow before he was sent to fight in Ukraine.

A flier from Strelkov’s militia requesting "humanitarian aid" listed a variety of combat gear, such as army boots, optical sights for AK-47s, night-vision glasses and camouflage. The items were being collected by a group called the Foundation for Aid to Novorossiya and Donbass.

During a Moscow rally last week, the group filled a 5-ton truck with food, clothes and military equipment. Among the donated items was a generator for an armored personnel carrier.

"Ordinary people will get this aid. Of course, some of this is for the militiamen. It will go straight to the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic," said Sergei Zakharov, a Ukraine resident in Moscow to help the group, as men loaded boxes into the truck.

 

Russian aid said not getting from Luhansk to Strelkov

Text of Vladimir Dergachev report headlined "The DPR and LPR no longer expect military assistance from Russia. ‘Practically nothing is reaching Strelkov’" published by Russian Gazeta.ru news website, often critical of the government, on 6 August:

There’ll be no military assistance from Moscow, the militiamen should look to themselves -such are the results of the recent dialogue of the military command of the self-proclaimed republics with representatives of Moscow, a source close to the leadership of the republics told Gazeta.ru. Meanwhile, the area of the antiterrorist operation is shrinking constantly: the Ukrainian military has cut off Luhansk and Horlivka from Donetsk and announced an imminent assault on the city.

It is claimed that representatives of Russia told the military command of the self-proclaimed republics that Moscow would not agree to direct military intervention. "The command is vexed and has thus far only noted the fact. It is possible that there will be clarification later," the source told Gazeta.ru.

Aleksandr Zhuchkovskiy, coordinator of "non-humanitarian aid" to the DPR and the LPR, explained to Gazeta.ru that support continues to come from Russia, but "this consists rather of initiatives of private individuals. This is not enough and cannot effect a fundamental change in the situation." "Furthermore, the assistance is coming across the border with the LPR, and it’s not known where it is accumulating. Practically nothing is reaching the DPR and Igor Strelkov. Whence the thoughts that so popular a leader is only getting in everyone’s way and that everyone would have been happy for him to have died heroically while still in Slovyansk," Gazeta.ru’s source says.

But Zhuchkovskiy maintains that the militiamen could keep up the defence of Donetsk, despite the statements of the Ukrainian military, "for a very long time" yet and that there’ll be no repetition of the Slovyansk surrender situation.

"Slovyansk would still have been held, it is simply that people would have continued to have died in their hundreds. There are always plans to evacuate, even when everything is going well. But as for the expediency, it’s hard for me to say: there is a multitude of interconnected factors here. By the Slovyansk logic, all cities could be abandoned altogether lest people die, but the situation in Donetsk nonetheless differs from Slovyansk," he argues. "And proximity to the Russian Federation border affords advantages, although these advantages are not operating for the time being for an understandable reason. A withdrawal could be secured -with fighting, of course. In order to leave Slovyansk, we had to punch through a corridor and carry out diversionary manoeuvres. I’m hoping that it will not come to this in Donetsk: no-one is talking about the surrender of the city at this time, this subject is not discussed."

Gazeta.ru is informed that intensive arguments about whether Moscow will support the militiamen are taking place in the political leadership of the republics and its missions in Russia. The official position of the state amounts, as earlier, to "benevolent neutrality".

"Moscow, as has been said repeatedly, was not originally a party to the conflict. And it said that this would be a violation of proceedings within the Geneva agreement. Moscow is lending humanitarian, diplomatic, and moral support, but there has been no documented corroboration of all the speculation about supplies of heavy equipment," political analyst Iosif Diskin said.

Konstantin Dolgov, co-chairman of the Novorossiya Popular Front and former Kharkiv "anti-Maydaner," who fled to Moscow from under arrest, which had been caused by his support for the pro-Russia separatists, assured Gazeta.ru that the militiamen are counting on the collapse of Ukraine as a consequence of likely fall revolts. Dolgov believes that revolts on account of the unhappiness with inflation, the non-disbursement of pay and pensions, the lack of gas, and the increased military losses, will flare up in many Ukrainian cities at this time.

Military experts questioned earlier also confirmed for Gazeta.ru that the republics’ reserve of strength has proved higher than expected. Aleksandr Golts, chief editor of Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal, expressed the opinion that Kiev will be fortunate if it can complete the antiterrorist operation by spring. Despite the fact that the area of the antiterrorist operation is shrinking and connections between Luhansk and Donetsk are weakening, and the ring around the militia outposts is tightening, the Ukrainian troops’ logistic support is trailing.

In addition, individual contingents have been pulled away to accomplish local assignments and repel guerrilla attacks, and some brigades are ending up surrounded. It is possible that Kiev will have to begin in the fall a new draft wave to smash the self-proclaimed republics, which would require additional mobilization measures under the conditions of a weakening economy.

It is interesting that Polish Premier Daniel Tusk said in an interview with the authoritative Polish Gazeta Wyborcza on Wednesday that the Poles have information that "the threat of direct intervention is undeniably greater now than just several days or months ago."

Source: Gazeta.ru website, Moscow, in Russian 0000 gmt 6 Aug 14

 

Rough justice by Ukrainian rebels
‘Punishment brigades’ are used to help defend militants’ besieged capital
ANDREW E. KRAMER
New York Times | August 6, 2014

DATELINE: DONETSK, Ukraine

With Ukraine’s military tightening a cordon around this city controlled by separatist rebels, Oleg Grishin found himself enlisted this week in one of their plans for its defense: the forced labor of drunks, drug addicts and curfew violators to dig trenches and build barriers.

Sweat streaked his face. Yet with a militant commander standing nearby, he had no complaints about the stooped toiling in the sun. ”What can I say? I was drunk, I was guilty, they are right,” he mumbled.

Donetsk, the rebel capital, is now isolated by the siege, which the Ukrainian Army managed to achieve over the weekend. Government troops appear to have closed a gap in the encirclement with fighting over the past week near the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down last month, despite appeals by international monitors to refrain from combat near the wreckage and still uncollected remains of some victims.

Encircled, Donetsk is now the main redoubt of the pro-Russian insurgency. It is an apprehensive place.

Glum-looking detainees, seized by the rebel authorities for minor infractions, dig ditches, fill sandbags, clear brush and peel potatoes. More serious violations have been met with summary executions, according to some rebel leaders.

Igor Girkin, a former Russian intelligence officer and now the separatist defense minister who uses the name Igor Strelkov, or Igor the Shooter, has declared a state of siege in the city and said he is now the ”military commandant” of Donetsk. He promulgated an order allowing militants to commandeer private vehicles, medical supplies and whatever else is needed for the war effort, further putting residents on edge.

The separatists and Russia accuse the Ukrainian government of attacking civilian areas. The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday questioned why President Petro O. Poroshenko had stated publicly that he was committed to a peaceful solution, yet seemed intent on a military offensive.

The current military operations contradict his statements, said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, calling that unacceptable. ”This is frustrating,” she said. ”We don’t know which Poroshenko we can trust – the first one or the second.”

Ms. Zakharova said military exercises announced by Russia near the Ukrainian border were within Russia’s rights. ”On our territory, we can do what we want,” Ms. Zakharova said. ”Our troops are not crossing the border.”

In Donetsk, the detainee crews are called ”punishment brigades.” Along with the artillery craters in outlying districts, these detainees form part of the new cityscape. Often, the men are forced to work stripped to their underwear.

Mr. Grishin, 25, who was detained for drunkenness, worked at the Zemlyankin checkpoint in Donetsk. ”God forbid the Ukrainians attack now,” he said while clearing brush from a roadside.

The rebel commander, known by his nickname, Lukich, said he treated the detainees humanely. The practice achieves two objectives, he said: imposing the social rules infused with Russian Orthodox Christian values of the new state, while helping the city’s defenses. Drug addicts are summarily sentenced to trench digging.

”If they cause some harm to society, we keep them here for 15 days,” he said. ”They live with us, they work, and they realize their mistakes.”

Maksim Bondar, 22, was forced to dig after his estranged girlfriend complained to militants that he had threatened her in a custody dispute over their daughter. ”She complained to the militia, and I ended up here,” he said. ”The commander said, ‘You need to marry her if you want rights to your child,’ and so I dug trenches.”

Bogdan Forsenko, 25, said he was riding his bicycle after curfew carrying a jerrycan of gasoline for his car, and was picked up for appearing suspicious. He sweated in the same fetid clothes he wore that night last week, and said he did not know whether his relatives knew his whereabouts.

”There’s a war, and I had gasoline,” he said, also interviewed with a militant gunman nearby. ”What can I say? They didn’t like it.”

A deputy prime minister in the insurgency, Vladimir Antyufeyev, conceded in an interview that the summary justice risked alienating the population. He said that he intended to separate the militants’ police and military functions, and set up courts and prosecutors.

For now, no court is needed, the commander known as Lukich said, because many detainees confess. More serious offenders go to a secret-police building in Donetsk that is a headquarters for Mr. Strelkov.

Outside that building is a scene of despair. Dozens of women seeking sons or husbands mill about behind a sandbag barrier for a grim nightly ritual. The warden of the makeshift prison emerges to read out family names of the detained, usually numbering about 50.

”Everybody says we should have gotten out,” said Olya Leonova, who was waiting for news of her brother, Pyotr Dyomin, who is 51, has two children and has not been answering his phone. He could be in a punishment brigade, she said. ”I’m hoping that’s where he is now – in his underwear, digging. At least then I would know where he is.”

Svetlana Rozova, a psychologist who works with refugees in Ukrainian territory for an aid group, Dnepr Help, described in a telephone interview treating former detainees. Some are held in basements for weeks. Some patients had fingernails pulled out or were beaten severely enough to break ribs.

”They all arrive in a state of shock,” she said. ”They don’t understand what has happened to them, they don’t accept it. They are crying. They are fearful, aggressive. This is not a small matter. People’s psychological health is broken by these experiences.”

 

Red Cross employees reportedly captured by rebels in east Ukraine

Pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine have taken hostage three representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the spokesman for the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC), Andriy Lysenko, has told a briefing in Kiev on 6 August, broadcast live by the news-based 5 Kanal.

According to him, such reports emerged after an intercepted phone conversation between the militants was published by the Ukrainian intelligence.

Lysenko added that NSDC did not have information as to the exact number of the ICRC representatives being held captive by the militants.

"We only know the fact that these people were captured. I think that the ICRC will react shortly, because we have reported this to them," Lysenko said.

Below is the text of the conversation between militants called Valdis, Box and Wild, whose audio was broadcast by 5 Kanal.

[Alleged voice of Valdis, in Russian] Hi there. Are there any ICRC members in the city?

[Alleged voice of Box, in Russian] Is there an emergency?

[Valdis] No, a car is parked here and it has an ICRC sign on it. Find out what kind of company it is.

[Alleged voice of Wild, in Russian] It is Wild here. Your people have fucked up with the Red Cross.

[Valdis] Yeah.

[Wild] These people can move around. They are a normal Red Cross.

[Valdis] Normal? But they have no written permits on them… [ellipsis as published]

[Wild] It does not matter. This Red Cross is like OSCE, only normal kind of guys. We have fucked others out of here.

[Valdis] I see. But we have an order to detain them.

[Wild] Who issued the order?

[Valdis] Box, the commander of my group. The third unit from Khmuryy [Grim] (deputy of Igor Girkin) [aka Strelok, Russian national, self-proclaimed defence minister of the so-called Donetsk people’s republic].

[Wild] I will talk to Khmuryy now.

[Valdis] What should we do with the Red Cross?

[Box] They have sorted it out. Take them to prison.

[Valdis] We have three people here: a driver, an interpreter and one employee of this company. Where do we take them? Lock them down there or…They have written an explanatory note already.

[Box] The First (Girkin) said that they must stay under arrest. Let them stay this way.

[Valdis] Then we are taking them down. Let them stay there.

Source: 5 Kanal TV, Kiev, in Ukrainian 0934 gmt 6 Aug 14

Eurasianism Political Philosophy and the Novorossiya Project

Putin’s long game? Meet the Eurasian Union
It starts in 2015 and sounds like a scheme to rebuild the USSR, but its history is quite different — and troubling for the West
Leon Neyfakh, Globe Staff
The Boston Globe | March 09, 2014

What is Vladimir Putin up to? The crisis in Ukraine, brought to a boil when Russia’s president sent troops into the Crimean peninsula, has created almost a cottage industry of guessing at the autocratic leader’s intentions from one day to the next.

When it comes to Putin’s long-term strategy, however, there is at least one concrete plan that offers some insight, and one specific date that Russia observers are looking ahead to. That date, Jan. 1, 2015, is expected to mark the birth of an important new organization linking Russia with an as-yet-undetermined constellation of its neighboring countries—an alliance Putin has dubbed the Eurasian Union.

Currently, only two nations besides Russia, Belarus and Kazakstan, have signed on. A number of other post-Soviet states, including Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, have signaled interest in joining. It’s expected to build on an existing regional trade pact to establish common policies on labor migration, investment, trade, and energy.

But from the moment Putin announced his plan, experts have believed he sees it as the linchpin of something much larger: a new geopolitical force capable of standing up to Russia’s competitors on the world stage in a way it hasn’t been able to since the fall of the Soviet Union. “We suggest a powerful supranational association capable of becoming one of the poles in the modern world,” wrote Putin in the 2011 op-ed in which he first described his vision.

For all its ambition and the grandeur of its name, the Eurasian Union hasn’t been discussed much in the West outside of foreign-policy circles; when asked about it recently, the State Department declined to comment. This does not mean US officials aren’t worried about its implications. In December 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a remark that, to date, seems to represent the American government’s only public position on Putin’s idea: “There is a move to re-Sovietise the region,” she said. And while of course the new entity wouldn’t be called the USSR, she said, “Let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.”

It’s tempting to see it that way, not least because Putin famously once said the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” and has also reportedly promised that the Eurasian Union would be based on the “best values of the Soviet Union.” But to say the project is simply an effort to reassemble the USSR is crude and incorrect, say Russia analysts. Instead, Putin’s efforts should be seen as a realization of an entirely different, and much less familiar idea called Eurasianism—a philosophy that has roots in the 1920s, and which grew out of Russia’s longstanding identity crisis about whether or not it should strive to be a part of Europe.

In recent years, the philosophy has been embraced by a swath of activists and political actors in the post-Soviet region, including some radical right-wing thinkers whose version of Eurasianism is built on a bluntly fascist ideology. While there are also some Russians promoting the Eurasian Union who believe a more moderate version of the philosophy is possible, Western critics say that Putin will need some kind of ideological glue to hold it together, and it’s most likely to take the form of a forceful antidemocratic, anti-Western worldview.

The extent to which Putin is truly driven by any kind of Eurasianist philosophy—as opposed to, say, a raw appetite for power and drive for a stronger Russia—is as opaque as any of his plans. But it’s worth noting, as the situation in Ukraine continues to unfold, that Russia experts have always considered that country the crown jewel—and even a necessary anchor—of any successful version of the Eurasian Union. “If you have Ukraine, the Eurasian Union moves a little further west, and puts it right on the border of the EU,” said Hannah Thoburn, a Eurasia analyst at the Foreign Policy Initiative, a Washington-based nonprofit. “Russia desperately wants to have Ukraine.”

***

Russia has spent much of its existence in a kind of tense suspension between Europe and Central Asia. Its landmass lies mostly in Asia, but its proud history of music, art, and literature are more closely associated with Europe.

That identity crisis has been part of Russian life for centuries, and it was in this context that a group of early 20th-century thinkers started making the argument that the people of Russia and Central Asia should not strive to contort themselves into Europeans, but rather assert themselves as a cultural and political force unto themselves.

What began as an emotional aversion to the prospect of Russia and its neighbors being “eternal disciples” to the West, wrote Russian political commentator Leonid Radzihovsky in an e-mail, became the basis for the theory of Eurasianism: “that the Slavic world must follow a separate path—that it should not be a second-rate Europe, but another type of civilization altogether.”

The Eurasian dream was eclipsed by the Bolshevik revolution and the formation of the Soviet Union, whose power stretched deep into Europe, and whose ideology vied for minds all around the globe. But after the USSR collapsed in 1991, the idea came back to life, said Jeffrey Mankoff, the deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. Suddenly the relationship between the former Soviet states was again a totally open question.

In the geopolitical sense, Eurasianism isn’t much more than a policy orientation, a belief that Russia is better served by building its own coalition instead of aligning with the economies of the West. Where observers get worried is who, exactly, is carrying the flag for it now—in particular a thinker named Aleksandr Dugin, founder of Russia’s Eurasia Party and the figure most closely associated with what has come to be known as Neo-Eurasianism.

Though initially seen as a marginal figure in Russian politics, Dugin—who is said to be a professor in the sociology department at Moscow State University—has been a prolific author and tenacious public figure since the 1990s, giving speeches and appearing on television to press his cause. In a YouTube video promoting the Eurasian movement, Dugin is shown pointing a rocket launcher toward the sky, while a thundering soundtrack of Russian hymns mixed with threatening heavy metal plays in the background. His followers carry black flags with an aggressive logo of arrows bursting outward. He once wrote that the country needs an “authentic, real, radically revolutionary and consistent fascism.” More recently, he weighed in on the crisis in Ukraine with a column calling for “the liberation of Europe from the very Atlanticist occupiers who caused the catastrophe in Kiev.”

While the language and aesthetics may sound like the definition of fringe, Dugin has become increasingly influential over time. According to fascism scholar Anton Shekhovtsov, he “entered the mainstream” when he became an adviser to the head of the State Duma, Russia’s parliamentary body, in 1998. Today, Shekhovtsov, says, “his ideas are taken seriously by people who are close to Putin.”

Dugin and his followers may be the most worrisome face of Eurasianism, but they are not its only supporters; other Eurasianists disdain him as a fascist using the philosophy for his own ends. Among these is Yuri Kofner, the founder of the Eurasian Youth Movement, a clean-cut, blond 20something who makes friendly YouTube videos in English aimed at Westerners who might be curious about the Eurasian dream. “Dugin has used the Eurasian ideology and twisted it,” said Kofner in an interview. He added, “Other Eurasianists, like myself, believe he does a very harmful thing to the Eurasian idea by making it seem very imperialistic, which is something that people from other post-Soviet countries cannot agree with.”

But while Kofner and others may distance themselves from Dugin, they are not shy about their hopes for what the Eurasian Union will one day become. In this, they see Putin as an ally.

“The thing is, Putin and his people are very practical,” Kofner said. “The algorithm in their mind is: First, we’ll build an economic union, we’ll keep it calm, we’ll keep it cool, we won’t talk a lot about it in an ideological sense, and then step by step [we’ll work to create a sense of cultural unity] and then maybe we’ll add something political, like a common parliament.”

***

It is impossible to say whether a belief in any particular style of Eurasianism is what drove Putin to push for a Eurasian Union. “He’s always had an intellectual affiliation with Eurasianist thinkers,” said Thoburn, “but he didn’t really talk at all about this idea of the Eurasian Union [until relatively recently].”

For the most part Putin has spoken of the Eurasian Union in purely economic terms—the official name of the organization is the Eurasian Economic Union—and has rejected, more than once, as nonsense all suggestions that it’s meant to create a new Russian empire. But he has also made remarks that indicate he envisions something deeper than a mere economic alliance, echoing some basic aspects of Eurasianist thinking. At a televised conference last year, for example, he described the Eurasian Union as “a project to preserve the identity of the people who inhabit the historic Eurasian space,” and said, “Eurasian integration is a chance for the post-Soviet space to become an independent center for global development—not a peripherality to Europe or Asia.”

While many Russia observers are skeptical that in pursuing the Eurasian Union Putin has in mind some abstract idea about the Slavic world’s historic fate as a civilization, there are others—Yale historian Timothy Snyder in the New York Review of Books, Robert Zubrin in the National Review—who have warned against underestimating the influence of Neo-Eurasianist philosophy on Putin’s thinking.

Putin’s vision of the Eurasian Union, the argument goes, is going to require a shared ideology to succeed, and while that ideology won’t be communism, as it was in the USSR, the history and rhetoric of the Eurasian movement suggests that it will inevitably be some hodge-podge of anti-Western, antiliberal thought.

“What unites these countries is that they all have autocratic or semi-autocratic regimes,” said Robert Legvold, professor emeritus and Russia specialist at Columbia University, referring to post-Soviet states like Belarus and Kazakstan. “The one thing that unites them is that they’re against US efforts at democracy building around the world.”

One intriguing argument that’s been made by Russia observers in recent weeks is that the Kremlin’s very high-profile campaign against gays and the increasingly intimate relationship it has established with the Russian Orthodox church are part of a broader effort to “brand” Russia as the bedrock of traditional values working to fight back the tide of moral corruption emanating from the West. This, too, could strengthen its role as the center of a new Eurasian power structure. “Part of this idea of contrasting Eurasia from the West is that they live according to different values,” said Mankoff. “So Putin talks about how the West has become decadent…and its embrace of gay marriage as being an example of that.”

***

Last week, as Russian forces maintained their position in the Crimean peninsula, the leaders of Belarus and Kazakstan held a meeting with Putin—previously scheduled for later in the month, but pushed up in light of the situation in Ukraine—to discuss the Eurasian Union treaty. There is reason to think Belarus and Kazakstan were spooked by Putin’s decision to use military force in the situation with Ukraine, and are perhaps now reevaluating their decision to forge closer ties.

Given how much it appears to worry his allies, it might be surprising that Putin would have played such a strong hand in Ukraine last week. But that, say many observers, suggests just how much he has invested in this idea. Ukraine—with its steel mills, coal plants, bountiful agricultural resources, and massive population of 46 million people—has always, according to Russia experts, been key to Putin’s vision for the Eurasian Union.

“Ukraine is the big one,” said Alexander Cooley, a political science professor at Barnard College who studies post-Soviet countries. “The others are small and weak.” For this reason, he said, the success of the Eurasian Union “hinges on Ukraine’s participation and cooperation.”

Last fall, when it seemed like Ukraine was on a path toward closer ties with the West, and the government was taking steps toward signing an “association agreement” with the European Union, the Kremlin intervened and convinced the country’s now-deposed president to back out. The following month, Putin announced that Russia would buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian government bonds—widely seen as compensation for sticking by Moscow. Viewed in isolation, the episode was nothing more than a very expensive game of tug-of-war. In light of Putin’s Eurasian dream, it was an investment in a legacy.

Putin himself, of course, hasn’t spoken about his actions in Crimea in these terms: He has framed it as a measure to protect the region’s Russian population in the wake of a coup. But as we watch his next moves, it’s worth remembering that, whether or not he got it from Eurasianist thinkers, at the core of his foreign policy agenda lies the belief that Russia’s destiny is to forge its own path.

Last December, Putin was asked a question at a conference about whether he planned to invest in infrastructure projects that would take advantage of the fact that Russia’s geography puts it squarely in between the East and the West. Without pausing, Putin responded by objecting to the premise of the question. “You said that Russia is located ‘between’ the West and the East. But in fact, it’s the West and the East that are to the left and right of Russia.”

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/03/09/putin-long-game-meet-eurasian-union/1eKLXEC3TJfzqK54elX5fL/story.html

 

Alternative identity, alternative religion? Neo-paganism and the Aryan myth in contemporary Russia
LARUELLE, MARLÈNE
Nations & Nationalism. Apr2008, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p283-301. 19p

Abstract: As in all post-Soviet states, the Russian intelligentsia has been preoccupied with the construction of a new national identity since the beginning of the 1990s. Although the place of Orthodox religion in Russia is well documented, the subject of neo-paganism and its consequent assertion of an Aryan identity for Russians remains little known. Yet specialists observing the political and intellectual life of contemporary Russia have begun to notice that the development of references to ‘Slavic paganism’ and to Russia’s ‘Aryan’ origin can be found in the public speeches of some politicians and intellectual figures. This article will attempt, in its first section, to depict the historical depth of these movements by examining the existence of neo-pagan and/or Aryan referents in Soviet culture, and focusing on how these discourses developed in different spheres of post-Soviet Russian society, such as those of religion, historiography, and politics.

https://www.linkedin.com/nhome/nus-redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eslideshare%2Enet%2Fslideshow%2Fembed_code%2F38229149&urlhash=SfCj&pos=-1%3A0&trkToken=action%3DviewRichMedia%26pageKey%3Dshare-uscp-activity%26contextId%3D&tev=0&trk=object-title

 

Behind the Ukranian Crisis: Alexander Dugin, Eurasianism, and the Nouvelle Droite
Showdown of Arms | April 15th, 2014

The controlled media at present is alight with features and exposes on the situation between Russia and Ukraine and this week’s newest “new Hitler” Vladimir Putin; besides being derivative and lacking intellectual vigor; this shibboleth should inform you of the motivating forces behind the media and political establishments of the West. Some are aware of the cultural-political, strategic and economic reasons for the reincorporation of Crimea into the Russian fold. Far fewer are aware of the ideological and philosophical underpinnings for the situation.

The question of the hour is; what is Russia doing and why? The Russian strategy is grounded in the geopolitical agenda of Eurasianism. As the name implies, Eurasianism is a projected political alliance between the nations of Europe and Asia (including Russia and the Islamic world) designed to counteract what is termed the “Atlanticism” of American-European Union objectives/agendas. Eurasianism has a long history stretching back to the 1920’s Russian émigré community, where many of its ideas were formed. However the man most closely associated with the doctrine today as well as responsible for its modern form is Alexander Dugin.

Dugin was born on January 7th, 1962 in Moscow. In his youth, he worked as a journalist and became involved in Pamyat, an Orthodox-Christian nationalist group and later the National Bolshevik Party and then eventually with Vladimir Putin’s political machine. In 2001, Dugin formed the Eurasia Party and the Eurasia Movement. Supported by both the government and Orthodox-Christian establishment in Russia, Alexander Dugin’s Eurasia Movement stands on the threshold of a seismic shift in world power. He is truly one of the handful of people whom are actively contributing to and affecting the historical process unfolding before our eyes. His 1997 book, “Foundations of Geopolitics” has been very influential in elite circles within the Russian government and lays out his geopolitical strategy. The Eurasian Party is the political entity pursuing the goals enumerated in Foundations.

The Eurasia Movement can be described as a branch of the Nouvelle Droit or New Right, which is a collective of philosophers and political parties across Europe and America whom oppose the forces of modernity, given form in the doctrines of Cultural Marxism and stand for the restoration of European traditionalism. The Nouvelle Droit advocates a complete break from the left-right political dichotomy entrenched in liberal Western democracies. Instead it incorporates useful facets of both as well as novel approaches of its own, constituting a political third or in some cases, fourth position; a kind of syncretism. Key individuals in this movement include Alain deBenoist, Tomislav Sunic, Guillaume Faye, Michael O’Meara and of course Alexander Dugin. Key political parties include the German National Democratic Party, the British National Party, the Golden Dawn of Greece, Jobbik of Hungary and the National Front of France.

In addition, the Eurasian Movement incorporates the ideas of Jean-François Thiriart, whom advocated self-determination for the peoples of the world and a pan-European outlook, a kind of Europe-wide nationalism for the European peoples.The agenda of the Eurasian Movement can be summarized as intended to form axes of power throughout the world by which American world hegemony can be undermined and ultimately displaced by a Finlandized Europe where larger and more powerful nations have a sphere of influence over smaller nations. In the words of Dugin, Europe would be united in common cause “from Lisbon to Vladivostok”. Specifically Dugin’s book, Foundations of Geopolitics and the English language condensed version; The Fourth Political Theory, outline several prescriptions of this type, among them:

In Europe:

Germany should be offered the de facto political dominance over most Protestant and Catholic states located within Central and Eastern Europe. Kaliningrad oblast could be given back to Germany. The book uses the term a "Moscow-Berlin axis".

France should be encouraged to form a "Franco-German bloc" with Germany as both countries have a "firm anti-Atlanticist tradition".

The United Kingdom should be cut off from Europe.

Finland should be absorbed into Russia. Southern Finland will be combined with the Republic of Karelia and northern Finland will be "donated to Murmansk Oblast".

Estonia should be given to Germany’s sphere of influence.

Latvia and Lithuania should be given a "special status" in the Eurasian-Russian sphere.

Poland should be granted a "special status" in the Eurasian sphere.

Romania, Macedonia, "Serbian Bosnia" and Greece – "orthodox collectivist East" – will unite with "Moscow the Third Rome" and reject the "rational-individualistic West".

Ukraine should be annexed by Russia because "Ukraine as an independent state with certain territorial ambitions represents an enormous danger for all of Eurasia and, without resolving the Ukrainian problem, it is in general senseless to speak about continental politics". Ukraine should not be allowed to remain independent, unless it is cordon sanitaire, which would be inadmissible.

In the Middle East and Central Asia:

The book stresses the "continental Russian-Islamic alliance" which lies "at the foundation of anti-Atlanticist strategy". The alliance is based on the "traditional character of Russian and Islamic civilization".

Iran is a key ally. The book uses the term "Moscow-Tehran axis".

Armenia has a special role and will serve as a "strategic base" and it is necessary to create "the [subsidiary] axis Moscow-Erevan-Teheran". Armenians "are an Aryan people … [like] the Iranians and the Kurds".

Azerbaijan could be "split up" or given to Iran.

Georgia should be dismembered. Abkhazia and "United Ossetia" (which includes Georgia’s South Ossetia) will be incorporated into Russia. Georgia’s independent policies are unacceptable.

Russia needs to create "geopolitical shocks" within Turkey. These can be achieved by employing Kurds, Armenians and other minorities.

The book regards the Caucasus as a Russian territory, including "the eastern and northern shores of the Caspian (the territories of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan)" and Central Asia (mentioning Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirghistan and Tajikistan).

In Asia:

China, which represents a danger to Russia, "must, to the maximum degree possible, be dismantled". Russia should offer China help "in a southern direction – Indochina (except Vietnam), the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia".

Russia should manipulate Japanese politics by offering the Kuril Islands to Japan and provoking anti-Americanism.

Mongolia should be absorbed into Eurasia-Russia.

The book emphasizes that Russia must spread Anti-Americanism everywhere: "the main ‘scapegoat’ will be precisely the U.S."

In the United States:

Russia should use its special forces within the borders of the United States to fuel instability and separatism. For instance, provoke "Afro-American racists". Russia should "introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics."

The Eurasian Project could be expanded to South and Central America.1

The Eurasian Movement seeks to achieve its ends not necessarily militarily but instead through non-violent means. Cooperation with and mutual respect between traditionalist societies around the world would be used in order to undermine the Americanism which currently dominates global politics and culture.

The Eurasia Party is based on the following five principles:

1. It is a geopolitical party of the patriots of Russia, of the étatists.

2. It is a social party, believing that the development of the market must serve the national interest. Interests of the state are in command and administrative resources must be de-privatized.

3. It is a traditionalist-communist party, founded on a system of bolshevik values elaborated by the traditional Eurasian confessions – Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism. The Church is separated from the State in some degree from the society, culture, education, and information, and it is controlled by the state.

4. It is a national party. In it the representatives of the national movements – first of all, Russian but also Tatar, Yakut, Tuva, Chechen, Kalmyk, Ingush, and all the rest – can find a way to express their political and cultural aspirations.

5. It is a regional party. The rectification and salvation of Russia will come from the regions, where the people have saved their communist roots, the sentiment of the past, and family values.

Foreign policy:

With respect to foreign policy, the Eurasia Party believes that:

• The path the West has taken is destructive. Its civilization is spiritually empty, false and monstrous. Behind economic prosperity there is a total spiritual degradation.

• The originality of Russia, its difference from both West and East, is a positive value. It must be saved, developed and taken care of.

• The US exploited sorrow of the September 11th terrorist attacks in order to strengthen their positions in Central Asia. Under the cover of the fight on terrorism, taking roots in the Russian zone of influence, in the Asian countries of the CIS.

• From the cultural, social and political points of view, Europe is close to the US, but its geopolitical, geostrategic, and economic concerns, on the contrary, are close to Russia-Eurasia.

With respect to domestic policy, the Eurasia Party intends to:

• Reinforce the strategic unity of Russia, her geopolitical homogeneity, the vertical line of authority, curtail the influence of the oligarchic clans, support national business, and fight separatism, extremism, and localism.

• Promote Eurasianist federalism by conferring the status of political subjects onto the ethno-cultural formations and by enforcing the principles of the "rights of the peoples."

• Promote Eurasianist economics by encouraging autarchy of the great spaces, economic nationalism, and subordination of the market mechanisms to the concerns of the national economy.2

Dugin and the Eurasianist Movement distinguish between the American government and the American people. Dugin sees the American people as allies, but the American political system as the supreme enemy of traditional society. He explains:

"1. We distinguish between two different things: the American people and the American political elite. We sincerely love the first and we profoundly hate the second.

2. The American people have their own traditions, habits, values, ideals, options and beliefs that are their own. These grant to everybody the right to be different, to choose freely, to be what one wants to be and can be or become. It is wonderful feature. It gives strength and pride, self-esteem and assurance. We Russians admire that.

3. But the American political elite, above all on an international level, are and act quite contrary to these values. They insist on conformity and regard the American way of life as something universal and obligatory. They deny other people the right to difference, they impose on everybody the standards of so called “democracy”, “liberalism”, “human rights” and so on that have in many cases nothing to do with the set of values shared by non-Western or simply not North-American society. It is an obvious contradiction with inner ideals and standards of America. Nationally the right to difference is assured, internationally it is denied. So we think that something is wrong with the American political elite and their double standards. Where habits became the norms and contradictions are taken for logic. We cannot understand it, nor can we accept it: it seems that the American political elite is not American at all.

4. So here is the contradiction: the American people are essentially good, but the American elite is essentially bad. What we feel regarding the American elite should not be applied to the American people and vice versa.

5. Because of this paradox it is not so easy for a Russian to express correctly his attitude towards the USA. We can say we love it, we can say we hate it – because both are true. But it is not easy to always express this distinction clearly. It creates many misunderstandings. But if you want to know what Russians really think about the USA you should always keep in mind this remark. It is easy to manipulate this semantic duality and interpret anti-Americanism of Russians in an improper sense. But with these clarifications in mind all that you hear from us will be much better understood.3

Dugin states that America has no true traditionalist identity with which to bind itself to the Eurasian concept of traditionalism because America has no pre-modern identity rooted in tradition and tied to the land itself, as do Native Americans. He concludes that because the nature of Americans is to fetishize extreme individuality and liberalism in all aspects of existence Eurasianism is closed to Americans unless they consciously reject Americanism and embrace a European identity. This he maintains can be done through several means. In his “Three paths for America” Dugin summarizes how Americans can actively engage in the rejection of modernity and the embracing of a traditionalist worldview.

Three paths for America:

"So we have made the survey of three ways to discover the deep identity of the American people. First is the invitation to abdicate American Modern identity and to return to the European one. In each case the American people is considered as the prolongation of the European people.

The second one is the idea to affirm a special American theology, rain spirit, with artificially created transcendence that would prepare a new concept of American people as gods/spirits creating mystical individualists. Some examples of such a kind of identity we clearly see in different American spiritualistic sects – Mormons, the Church of Process and Process theology, diverse Protestant denominations and so on. Here we see the implosion of Modernity that prepares the route for acceptance of the counter-Modern essence of 4PT (Fourth Political Theory).

The third way is the direct death confrontation and the discovery of the nothingness in the center of individual as such. The nihilistic essence of liberalism becomes here evident and starting from this black spot we can further consider the propositions of 4PT on how to overcome it".4

The first is conscious rejection of the American identity and adoption of A European identity. The second is a distancing and turning away from American identity through creation of an individual parallel identity which rejects the forms of Americanism. The third and final is the adoption of a Eurasian perspective by the outsiders already present within American society whom are already at odds with it.

Sources Cited:

1.  Wikipedia contributors, "Foundations of Geopolitics." n.d. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundations_of_Geopolitics (accessed April 11, 2014).

2. Dunlop, John B. "Aleksandr Dugin’s Foundations of Geopolitics." The Fourth Political Theory. n.d. http://www.4pt.su/en/content/aleksandr-dugin%E2%80%99s-foundations-geopolitics (accessed April 11, 2014).

3.Dugin, Alexander. "Fourth Political Theory: Some suggestions for the American People." Open Revolt. April 1, 2014. http://openrevolt.info/2014/04/01/dugin-fourth-political-theory-america/ (accessed April 11, 2014).

4.Dugin, Alexander. "Alexander Dugin: Letter to the American People on Ukraine." Open Revolt. March 08, 2014. http://openrevolt.info/2014/03/08/alexander-dugin-letter-to-the-american-people-on-ukraine/ (accessed April 11, 2014).

5. Wikipedia contributors, "Eurasia Party." n.d. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasia_Party (accessed April 11, 2014).

http://showdownofarms.com/index.php/10-current-events/7-behind-the-ukranian-crisis-alexander-dugin-eurasianism-and-the-nouvelle-droite