Friday, December 19, 2014

Russia's radical nationalists in eastern Ukraine

Listen if you can to this 30 minute BBC radio 'Crossing Continents' podcast about the weirdo extremist Russian separatists currently fighting in Eastern Ukraine

"The Knights of New Russia

Russian support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine doesn't all come directly from the Kremlin. The rebellion there may be stoked, and armed, by Vladimir Putin - but it's also become a personal cause for young Russian volunteers recruited by a variety of nationalist and far-right groups. Many say they're motivated by their Orthodox faith - and their dream to restore Novorossiya, or New Russia, the territory which encompassed eastern Ukraine under the Tsarist Empire. 

Passionate members of re-enactment societies, they've spent their weekends reliving Russia's historic battles. But now they're fighting - and sometimes dying - for real, in what they see as a test of their own, and Russia's, "manhood". Tim Whewell has gained rare access to the weird, shadowy world of Russia's radical nationalists. He travels with volunteers from the grand old imperial capital, St Petersburg, to the chaotic, muddy battlefields of eastern Ukraine - and reveals a movement whose leaders have become increasingly influential in Putin's Russia - but is now in danger of becoming an embarrassment to the Kremlin."

p.s. Russians will have followed Putin's grand presser with interest...would have gone out to do their Christmas shopping and quickly come back down to earth as they faced the grim reality that the price of everything is continuing to go up, including sought after Euros and Dollars, and their future is far from certain...

My forebears used to tell me in Soviet times, even under Stalin, when citizens grumbled and complained to one another about shortages, the price of consumer goods and how terrible life had become, often someone would chip in "здесь не Америка" ...[what do you expect]...'this is not America'. 

Maybe this is the reason for Putin's hatred of the west...deep inside he knows "здесь не Америка" 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pressure on Putin continues

From today's Prime Minister's Questions, House of Commons, Westminister, London:

Question: Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con):
May I commend to my right hon. Friend some advice from Karl Marx, who, as European correspondent of the New-York Tribune, observed that there were“vital interests which should render Great Britain the earnest and unyielding opponent of the Russian projects of annexation and aggrandisement.”He went on to say that in“the arrest of the Russian scheme of annexation…the interests of…Democracy and of England go hand in hand.”Does my right hon. Friend agree that for the United Kingdom, Europe, the west and indeed the whole world, one of our most important foreign policy priorities for 2015 should be to see that Russia behaves, as one would expect a member of the Security Council to behave, in the interests of international law?

The Prime Minister:
I very much agree with my right hon. Friend. I have not spent as much time studying Karl Marx as he has, or perhaps even as the Leader of the Opposition has—I do not know what goes on in Camden these days.

In this respect, Karl Marx was right that the interests of the United Kingdom and democracy go together. We should stand up very firmly against the Russian aggression that has taken place, and we led the way in Europe in making sure that there were sanctions. What the combination of the lower oil price and the sanctions is showing is that it is not possible for Russia to be part of the international financial system but try to opt out of the rules-based international legal system. That is what is being demonstrated, and we should keep up the pressure."

“The only thing Russia can do [to get out of the mess into which Putin has driven his country] is to have the sanctions ended,” which would restore some normalcy to the financial system....I don’t see any other options,” says Anders Aslund.

BBC Economics Editor, Robert Peston says much the same: "Russia is massively leaking cash. And absent an entente with the West over Ukraine, which does not look imminent, it is challenging to see how the hole can be plugged."

This would require giving in to the West’s demands regarding Ukraine, i.e. a spool-back to the Minsk Protocol and holding fresh elections in separatist-held territories in accordance with Ukrainian law.

History shows, political leaders who wield great power seem to be embraced by an invisible impenetrable shield. But eventually, imperceptibly, inevitably, this shield self-levitates..and they then resemble vulnerable mortals...This is now happening to Putin. Bellicose bluster from Putin tomorrow [live feed 9a.m. GMT at this link] will expose his inadequacy even more..

In the weeks and months to come, according to Vitaliy Portnikov, unless Russian elites can somehow persuade Putin to 'get back to reality' and change tack soon, the degradation of the Russian economy, and the resultant break-up of the state, is inevitable. We should all be prepared for the consequences.

p.s . Igor Strelkov/Girkin says almost all humanitarian aid from Russia to the separatist-held territories in Eastern Ukraine is stolen and then mainly comes to light on the market. Is anyone surprised considering the gangster thugs and crazies currently running the place?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why is Ukrainian airspace closed?

Recent Tweet from ConflictReporter:
"It seems, not only DNK, HRK and OZH airports are closed, but the entire eastern Ukrainian airspace too ..."

[LEvko thinks this may be serious stuff...Threat of SAM terrorist attack? Clearance of playing field before possible hostile air attack? Military build-up continues in Donbas..

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Important debate on Ukraine in UK Parliament

In December 1994 the "Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances" was signed by Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

"It is not a formal treaty, but rather, a diplomatic document under which signatories made promises to each other as part of the denuclearization of former Soviet republics after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Under the memorandum, Ukraine promised to remove all Soviet-era nuclear weapons from its territory, send them to disarmament facilities in Russia, and sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Ukraine kept these promises.

In return, Russia and the Western signatory countries essentially consecrated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine as an independent state."

The violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity this year by Russian forces and their proxies has caused the greatest crisis between Russia and the West since the fall of the Berlin wall.

It has caused much disquiet in the United Kingdom too, not least because of the obligation the UK has to Ukraine with regard to undertakings given in the Budapest Memorandum.

Several days ago, on December 11, a Backbench Business debate took place in the UK parliament - Ukraine and the UK's relations with Russia. The full transcript of the debate can be read here.

Below I've clipped portions of what was said by the MP's that contributed to the debate:

"The alarm bells are ringing here. Of all the international hot spots at the moment, this is probably the most dangerous and possibly the one that threatens the UK the most....

It is difficult to believe that it was only a year ago that we saw the start of what has become known as the revolution of dignity. On 21 November 2013, after many months of negotiation on Ukraine signing the European Union association agreement, it was announced that it would not actually happen. That is what proved to be the catalyst for the protests, which became known as Euromaidan. The protests may have been sparked by that announcement, but they were not actually about the EU as such; they were, I think, much more about the overwhelming feeling of the people that they could no longer tolerate a corrupt and discredited Government who had sent a clear signal that, instead of moving closer to western values and the freedoms we uphold, they were turning in the opposite direction and moving closer to Russia.....

the situation in Crimea has got worse. We know that large-scale violations of human rights are taking place there. Both pro-Ukrainian activists and particularly Crimean Tatar activists have been persecuted, and a large number of them have disappeared. At the same time, there has been a large increase in the Russian military presence. We understand that some 50,000 Russian troops have moved into Crimea, with Iskander tactical missiles that can carry nuclear warheads and can reach Romania and Hungary......

 the worst thing we in the UK could do would be to use that argument, or say, “Well, we’ve provoked Russia by talking about expanding the EU, and we have taken NATO up to its borders”? That would in some way excuse Russia’s actions and promote the myth—which emanates from the Kremlin—that the situation is somehow our fault rather than squarely down to Russia’s completely unacceptable aggression.....

Russia might seek to move beyond eastern Ukraine and establish the land link between eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and at the same time acquire a seaport at Mariupol. There have been suggestions that that is in the Russian mind, and there is heavy troop build-up that might support the idea, but whether it happens we must wait to see. We must make it clear, however, that were it to take place, there would be severe consequences...."

Meanwhile, "Five Ukrainian servicemen seriously wounded in fighting with pro-Russian separatists will be treated in a British hospital, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced Sunday."

p.s. Please listen to this BBC 'From Our Own Correspondent' Podcast about the fantasist crazies from Russia who are now fighting in Ukraine: "for God, Tsar and Nation'. That's the motto of some of those fighting with the pro-Russia separatists...BBC's Tim Whewell talks to them about their dreams of a new Orthodox autocratic state..."

Friday, December 12, 2014

"He who was nothing will become everything"

A Ukrainian forebear of mine who served proudly in the Red Army in WW2, after a brandy or two, would sometimes lustily sing a stirring version of  "The Internationale", in Russian.

Here is a portion... and my translation:

Весь мир насилья мы разрушим
До основанья, а затем
Мы наш, мы новый мир построим, —
Кто был ничем, тот станет всем.

We will demolish the whole world of coercion/violence 
to its foundations; and then we will construct our, new, world. 
Who was nothing will become everything.

After he sang "Кто был ничем, тот станет всем" he would laugh loudly to himself and would explain that at times of revolution,  like the ones he lived through and survived, the misfits, the crooks, the crazies, the is these who seize the moment and come out on top. These guys are the most dangerous of all. The ones who were nothing and become everything....

The reason this has come to mind is I read and saw this:

One of the leaders of the Donetsk People's Republic, DNR Alexander Khodakovskytoday admitted that a large percentage of the militant insurgents  are "the marginalized"  and "antisocial elements".

He stated this at a meeting with students of the Donetsk Technical University.

Khodakovsky also admitted that many serious road traffic accidents in the occupied territories were the result of "stupid bravado" of insurgents.

In yesterday's post I mentioned that the only people who have benefited in this war in Donbas have been the "losers, lumpen proles, loafers, alcoholics and drug addicts - it's their time now"

Кто был ничем, тот станет всем.

P.s. If you have 50 minutes to spare please watch Mark Galeotti's brilliant assessment of Putin's geopolitical strategy, his strengths, and his weaknesses; and why the fate of Ukraine is so important.