Saturday, May 31, 2014

What are Vostok Battalion doing in Donbas?

A totally plausible explanation why the Kremlin-controlled 'Vostok Battalion' has been active in Eastern Ukraine is provided by the excellent Mark Galeotti in his blog. 

Some thought-provoking comments too..

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty today also provide illuminating information in their article "Vostok Battalion, A Powerful New Player In Eastern Ukraine" 

Galeotti concludes:

Moscow’s strategy of chaos has worked too well, eating away not just at the cohesion of the rump Ukrainian state but also the emergent East Ukrainians, too. There appears to be increasing evidence of disputes between militias, and between the relatively professional defectors from the Ukrainian security forces, the opportunist thugs, and the “war tourists” from Russia. [And local mafia gangs ..LEvko] Thus, Moscow’s hopes to be able to cut a deal with Kyiv–regardless of whether Poroshenko can and will offer the Kremlin what it wants–depends now on bringing order to chaos. The Russians wished for chaos; now they know why so many folk tales warn of being careful what one wishes for…

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Shakhtar Donetsk bus attacked

Shakhtar Donetsk team bus attacked [hijacked?] by team of Donetsk People's Republic gun men. Video here

This is a big deal...a massive challenge to the king of Shaktar's massive base of supporters...How many more of them will now turn out to vote in Sunday's presidential election as a result?

Dare I say, a massive own-goal by the separatists?

p.s. You tocha ma car...I smasha you face...[!?]

Monday, May 19, 2014

Russian extremists now dictating agenda in Donbas

Russian journalist Oleg Kashin, on site provides a creditable account of what has been going on these last few months in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

He explains why, embarrassingly for Putin, two Russian citizens, Alexander Boroday, [now 'premier' of the Donetsk People's Republic] and Igor Girkin/Strelkov,  ['Commander of the Donetsk People's Militia'], have come to occupy their exalted positions even though neither has ever had much to do with that part of Ukraine.

'Ukrainska Pravda' also quote Kashin  to reveal Russian oligarch, Konstyantin Malofyeyev,  co-operated with the Russian army in the Spring operation to annex Crimea, in joint 'semi-state/semi-private partnership' .

Malofyeyev, a staunch supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church and friend of Putin's crackpot political guru Alexander Dugin , had already been active in Crimea, sponsoring the mayor of Sevastopol, Aleksey Chaliy, to the tune of $1 million.

Boroday, a Russian political technologist and former employee of Malofyeyev's, was sent to work as an adviser to Serhiy Aksyonov [a.k.a Goblin, a Crimean gangster/politician - now Crimean PM] when the Crimea land grab got under way.

Aksyonov had previously lead the so-called Russian Unity Party on the peninsula.

Strelkov, an officer in the Russian military reserves who holds extremist, radical views on eliminating enemies of the Russian state, was invited to join the Crimea operation by Boroday. The pair had been long-time friends.

Following a quick and clean 'victory' and annexation in Crimea, instead of returning home, Boroday and Strelkov, were carried away by their success and thought they would have a crack at 'liberating' the Donbas region of Ukraine too.

However, as the article explains, matters were not quite that simple because other players had also walked onto the stage in the region. Pavel Gubarev came out of nowhere to declare himself leader of the Donbas People's Militia, and then unofficial 'governor of the Donetsk oblast' following the initial seizure of Donetsk state administration buildings. Perhaps a Kremlin 'stooge', he was arrested by pro-Kyiv forces then released in a prisoner exchange, but now does not hold any official position in the Donetsk People's Republic, [even though his wife is, ahem, 'minister of foreign affairs']. Because of his 'demotion' Gubarev has now moved closer to Strelkov; if Moscow will require a local lackey in future if the region were to seek closer ties, he would 'do nicely'. [His experience as a part-time Christmas time Dyed Moroz/Santa Claus may prove helpful in this regard].

Another player on the stage is Denis Pushilin, previously only known for his involvement in the notorious million dollar MMM Ponzi scheme fraud a decade ago. alleges Pushilin, [now Donetsk People's Republic chairman], is a puppet whose strings are being pulled by Rinat Akhmetov.

Pushilin had been set up to establish a fake semi-autonomous republic, but without the excessive use of force, to occupy buildings in Donetsk etc., and provide Akhmetov leverage in his dealings with the new powers in Kyiv following the flight of former president Yanukovych.

Pushilin's project was a flimsy parody of last winter's events in Kyiv, and has now been completely eclipsed by the deeds of serious, bloodthirsty crazies like Strelkov in Slovyansk and other smaller towns. compares Strelkov in Donbas to Che Guevara in Bolivia. Streklov achieved success in Crimea, as Guevara [and Castro] had in Cuba. Both thought they could repeat similar revolutions elsewhere. Guevara, of course came to a sticky end.

There is now increasing tension between Donetsk and Slovyansk. Pushilin and the pseudo-separatists in Donetsk have become the hostages of Strelkov and his terrorist thugs too.

Oleg Kashin concludes: "Russia, of course, is responsible for the Ukrainian crisis from its inception, and in the case of Donbas just the propaganda support is sufficient to consider Russia the patron of the separatists. But propaganda support can be switched on.. and can be switched off, as has happened more than once. But how can you turn off field commander like Strelkov? Developments in Slovyansk strongly indicates that this portion of the Ukrainian Front is living by its own laws, and has long since gone beyond Ukrainian internal domestic intrigue involving Akhmetov and that "public-private partnership" that was seen in Crimea. And there is nothing in the world more interesting than political intrigue which has slipped out of control of its original authors."

Friday, May 16, 2014

Is tide just beginning to turn?

Serhiy Zdrylyuk, deputising for his boss, leader of the 'Donbas Self-Defence Force, Ihor Strelkov, staged a bizarre, rather shambolic press conference today, presenting an ultimatum to Ukrainian military forces - unless they withdraw their heavy equipment from the area 'everything will be destroyed and burned'.

Video here

Zdrylyuk continually fidgeted nervously with a pen in one hand, and held a lighted cigarette in the other, flicking the ash onto the floor under the table. He looked stressed out, rather frightened and unconvincing, as if he knew, deep inside, his 'self defence force' will not be capable of delivering on his threats. Furthermore, he would have been well aware that by making such threats, so publicly, he would be be a marked man forever.

The gravity of his statement seemed to hit him as he spoke.

Residents in Donbas and elsewhere crave peace and stability above all else. For many months mass media in the east of the country have frightened the wits out of these people with tales of fascist banderites coming to cut their hearts out. Many would have welcomed Russian forces to provide some stability. but now it seems, the chances of this happening are receding.

Gradually it will dawn on many of these same residents that the main threat to stability in their region comes from these undisciplined anarchistic separatists as the disruption to their lives caused by their activities increases..[E.g. a high security vehicle delivering wages and pensions to a bank was hijacked by armed thugs today.]

Mass protests in support of separatists and against Kyiv have just not materialised. Local workers are beginning to patrol streets to calm the situation.

It will be a tough job to contain and neutralise the separatist forces, but maybe..maybe,  the tide has just started to turn a little now.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Two scenarios - bad and worse

In his article entitled: 'The silence of's time for the region to decide what side it is on', Serhiy Vysotsky suggests two possible outcomes.

I've loosely translated portions:

Today, only two scenarios are possible for Donbas.

It is no secret that against a backdrop of a passive majority, the active minority wholeheartedly supports the idea of so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, even though the concept is vague and so far has only manifested itself in torture, kidnappings and robbery.

If Donbas decides to resist the bandits/anarchists imposed by the Kremlin then it will remain Ukrainian.

Citizens, with the support of security forces (but at the cost of many victims) will eventually clear the area of professional spies and mercenaries. Without external leadership the terrorists will dissipate or will transform into gangs that can be neutralized later.

The second, perhaps more prosaic scenario, looks more likely - the gradual transformation of the Donbas into a Somalia with the departure from the region of all normal and socially successful people. If this were to come about it will not be the result of security officials' caution but rather the passivity of the population which made possible  the total control of the region by bandits and criminals in the 1990's.

Odesa, Kherson, Zaporizhzhe, Kharkiv have all clearly shown they have no  plans to submit to a bunch of saboteurs and mercenaries. Only Donbas, offended by all, seems to await its fate passively.

The impression is that Ukraine is not engaged in a fight against terrorists on it territory, but rather some kind of colonial war is taking place. The population is either passively or openly opposing its own army, becoming a human shield in front of the security forces, allowing militants to fire behind their backs, the local police walking around with the ribbons of their occupiers and giving up the buildings of the authorities. All who saw the events in Mariupol can confirm ordinary people were involved in resisting Ukrainian troops.

With a passive majority and and active pro-Russian minority it will be impossible to keep the region as part of Ukraine without the loss of very many victims. Few Ukrainian politicians and generals want to turn Donbas into another Grozny for the sake of territorial integrity. Rivers of blood - this is not a price worth paying in the 21 st. century for the preservation of territory. To keep Donbas  using brute force will require a strong satrap with dictatorial powers that will flood the region with money, but rule with an iron fist.

 Otherwise it will be impossible to put the squeeze on terrorism. But there's a catch : the rest of Ukraine may not want to be an oppressor. People who fought against the dictatorship on the Maidan, will hardly want to become collective dictators themselves.

Sometimes it seems that the residents of Luhansk and Donetsk regions regard themselves as a prize in a struggle between two forces - Russian and Ukrainian . They are ready to submit to the stronger - to adapt. They are ready for colonization , even if this will mean the establishment of Russian-backed breakaway black hole - the People's Republic of Donetsk.

p.s. Lots of reports of looting by so-called separatists taking place in Mariyupol this evening...

p.p.s. Can't understand why separatists would want to cheat Sunday's referendum. According to the 'people's mayor' of Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov ; "The turn-out I think will be 100%. All will be in favour. Against - only the bourgeoisie."

Stories of a hundred thousand pre-filled ballot slips  intercepted by pro-Kyiv law enforcement officials must be rubbish then.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

A must-see debate

There have been so many excellent articles published all over the place, that your humble blogger has not had much to add to them on recent events in Ukraine.

I heartily recommend readers to watch and listen to this excellent debate which took place in London tonight. Top-class debaters representing very different points of view voice their opinions on recent events in Ukraine, and how Western countries should react to them.

p.s. The night before Yanukovych fled from Kyiv after the mass murder by snipers of demonstrators on the Maidan, a clear signal of what was about to occur was observed: "Rows of expensive vehicles were seen driving up to the small Zhulany airport near Kyiv, escorted by armoured security vehicles from which many suitcases and strong boxes werebeing transferred under the supervision of expensively fur-coated 'fancy women' and armed security staff."

Now one of the debate speakers, British author and journalist Ben Judah, says London's estate agents [realtors] are bragging how rich Ukrainians have been snapping up top-of-the-market London properties.... and paying in cash ...