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Ukraine: Despite MH17 disaster, Kyiv regime escalates shelling of east

A villager surveys his home wrecked by shelling in Semyonovka, in Luhansk district. Image from BBC.

Read more on the situation in Ukraine HERE.

By Roger Annis

July 19, 2014 -- Rabble.ca, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- I learned of the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 when my plane landed in Montreal the same day, July 17, on my way home from Moscow. The Moscow-Munich leg of my flight departed one hour before the (delayed) departure of Flight MH17 from Amsterdam at 12:30 pm local time. I reckon the respective flight paths crossed each other somewhere just west of Ukraine.

The flight went down over territory controlled by self-defence forces of the autonomous regions of southeast Ukraine, near the village of Grabovo (Hrabove), halfway between Donetsk and Luhansk cities, 50 kilometres north and 100 kilometres west of the Russian border. There are 298 reported victims. Here is the fateful flight’s route map.

A typical Western media headline graced the front page of the Vancouver Sun the day after. It read, “Malaysian plane shot down by rebels”. Case closed. Guilty as charged.

In an editorial today, Toronto Star editors cite Stephen Harper in fixing blame: “Russia’s military aggression and illegal occupation of Ukraine [sic] … is at the root of the ongoing conflict in the region.” Russian President Vladimir Putin, say the editors, should “shackle his dogs of war”.

Ukraine’s president knows. Within hours of the disaster, he declared, “Today, terrorists killed three hundred people with one shot. Among them innocent children, people of many countries of the world.” When the Kyiv regime speaks of eastern Ukraine, the term “terrorists” is synonymous with “the people who live there”.

Pretext for war

Never mind that assertions of what happened to Flight MH17 are speculative and an investigation has hardly begun. The post-crash political assessment is all about something entirely different than finding truth—it is being seized as an opening for a political witch-hunt and more violent war against the people of eastern Ukraine. For months, the people of the east have been refusing and resisting a brutal, economic austerity turn to Europe and accompanying military violence by the governing regime in Kyiv and its NATO backers. Kyiv’s ground war against them has stalled because its foot soldiers are unconvinced of the cause or ill prepared for what is required of them.

In the two days since the crash, the regime’s violence has reached new heights of brutality. Artillery and mortars are raining death and destruction upon people and communities throughout the rebellious region. In Luhansk, a city of 425,000, at least 20 people died from shelling on the day of the crash. The shells have cut electricity and water supply. Much of communication is also cut.

The press service of the Luhansk People’s Republic said on July 18, “The shells are bombarding practically all the residential districts of the city, including its centre. The number of killed and wounded is not immediately known.” (See videos here and here of the aftermath of inner-city shelling on July 18--warning, shocking images.)

The Lisichansk oil refinery in the city, owned by Russia’s Rosneft conglomerate, has been targeted and is burning fiercely (videos here and here).

Already on July 16, an observer with the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported that one-third of the buildings in the centre of Luhansk were damaged by shelling and the proportions of damage are higher on the city outskirts (ten-minute video interview here). A July 18 bulletin of the monitoring mission cites reports from local doctors that in June and July, 250 civilians in the Luhansk region were killed by bombings and shellings and 850 are injured.

Investigation needed

The accusations against self-defence fighters in eastern Ukraine are not only unproven, they are circumstantial. Did rebels in southeastern Ukraine capture at some time a battery of the advanced missile system alleged to have shot down the plane? We do not know. If they did, analysts say, they lacked the very sophisticated training required to operate it.

From where was the missile fired? We don’t know. The lengthy debris field of the crash (six kilometres long, according to one report) and its west-to-east direction may raise doubts about the claims of a missile hit from the east (i.e. from Russia or its border region).

Flight MH17 was hundreds of kilometers north of its normal course. Why did flight controllers in Ukraine direct the plane there, across a war zone over which many warplanes have been shot down by self-defence forces (at much lower altitudes) in the past several months and which airlines have been avoiding? Way back in April, for example, the US Federal Aviation Administration prohibited US airlines from flying where MH17 went down. Its directive said, “Due to the potential for conflicting air traffic control instructions from Ukrainian and Russian authorities and for the related potential misidentification of civil aircraft, United States flight operations are prohibited until further notice in the airspace over Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.”

Answers are needed as to who in the chaotic command structure of the Ukraine armed forces possesses the authority to fire missiles and how tightly this is controlled. What role and access to missiles might commanders of fascist and rightist militias have? The militias are playing leading roles in the murderous shelling and attempted ground assaults in the east of the country.

Self-defence forces deny firing a missile at the plane. This article in Vox details the internet hoax by which the rebels were said to have made such an admission. Lazy or biased news editors in mainstream media have widely reported the hoax, and US government officials are repeating it as good coin, including US ambassador Samantha Power before the UN Security Council on July 18.

Self-defence forces are cooperating in bringing an investigative team of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to the site. Local residents, including coal miners, are taking part in the search for wreckage and bodies.

Both the Ukraine government in Kyiv and the Russian government deny that their forces fired missiles. US professor Stephen Cohen told Democracy Now in a June 18 interview, “There’s the possibility that the Russians aided and abetted them [self-defence forces], possibly from Russian territory, but I rule that out because, in the end, when you don’t know who has committed a crime, the first question a professional investigator asks is, ‘Did anybody have a motive?’ and the Russians certainly had no motive here.”

Cohen calls the people who died in the plane, “the first victims of the new Cold War”, referring to the longstanding military threats against Russia by NATO countries that have escalated since last year over Ukraine. He has written frequently about the escalation, including in this June 30 article, “The silence of American hawks about Kiev’s atrocities.

Maybe, just maybe, an official investigation will reveal the truth, or enough of the truth to make decision makers in NATO pause before upping their military intervention. But there are serious reasons to doubt that. The stakes for NATO countries in the war being prosecuted in eastern Ukraine by the government and its allied, far-right militias are just too high to let an inconvenient investigation get in the way.

The degree to which Canadian and international mainstream media are ignoring the rampaging and war of the Kyiv regime and militias in eastern Ukraine is scandalous. It gets little more than brief mention as undefined “fighting”. The Guardian has 14 articles on its Ukraine news page today dealing with the aftermath of the air disaster; not a single one reports on the shellings by the Ukraine army. A member of the self-defence forces tells the BBC at the crash site, “You are only here because foreigners are dead.”

Ominously, while the media broadcasts tears for the victims of the crash, it has none for the victims of shelling and bombing. Indeed, it seems even more war is required because “something” must apparently be done to save defenceless air travellers from the likes of “Putin” and self-defence fighters in eastern Ukraine.

It all sets the stage for an escalation of the military intervention that NATO is already providing to Kyiv.

Here are some additional excerpts from the July 18 interview with Stephen Cohen on Democracy Now:

By the way, the Ukrainian government shot down a Russian passenger jet, I think in 2001 [Siberia Airlines Flight 1812, Oct 4, 2001, 76 dead]. It was flying from Tel Aviv to Siberia [actually, Siberia to Tel Aviv]. It was an accident. Competence is always a factor when you have these weapons...

Another possibility is that the rebels—we call them separatists, but they weren’t separatists in the beginning, they just wanted home rule in Ukraine—had the capability. But there’s a debate, because this plane was flying at commercial levels, normally beyond the reach of what they can carry on their shoulders.

Let me mention, because I think it’s relevant to what you’re covering here, your very, very powerful segments before I came on today about what’s going on in Gaza, the pounding of these cities, the defenselessness of ordinary people. The same thing has been happening in East Ukrainian cities—bombing, shelling, mortaring by the Kiev government—whatever we think of that government. But that government is backed 150 percent by the White House.

The statement issued by the anti-war conference held in Yalta, Crimea, earlier this month makes a nine-point call for an end to Kyiv’s war in eastern Ukraine. One of the points is: “For an international inquiry headed by jurists and human rights advocates into the human rights violations and war crimes that have been committed in the course of this war”. Campaigns and solidarity mobilisations around these points are now more urgent than ever.

[This article is an abridged verson of an article that first appeared in Rabble.ca. Roger Annis recently returned to Canada from a two-week visit to Crimea and Moscow. He attended the anti-war conference that took place in Yalta, Crimea, on July 6-7. He can be reached at rogerannis@hotmail.com. You can sign onto the conference statement at this online petition website.]

Comments

Ukraine’s Communist Party banned by new ‘democratic’ government

U.S. style democracy, with its signature feature of extreme anti-communist red-baiting and repression, has come to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Communist Party (KPU), which received around 2.5 million votes or 13% of the vote in the 2012 Parliamentary elections, has been outlawed and its parliamentary delegation has been dissolved.

Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov, on July 23, on the floor of the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, announced the permanent outlawing of Ukraine’s formidable Communist Party. “We only have to tolerate this party for another day,” Turchynov told the parliament.

The outlawing of the Communist Party comes after months of repression against the Party and other leftists following the U.S.-backed coup on February 22 when armed neo-Nazi militias stormed government buildings toppling the democratically elected government of Victor Yanukovich.

U.S. State Department officials including Victoria Nuland and Senator John McCain had been in the streets of downtown Kiev openly embracing neo-Nazi leaders in the weeks prior to the coup. After it seized power, the new government was dominated by neo-Nazis.

The leadership of the new government traces its political lineage to the Ukrainian nationalist and fascist forces led by Stephan Bandera who fought alongside the Nazi invaders in World War ll.

KPU condemned government’s war against its own people

The move to outlaw the Communist Party became a major campaign in May after the leadership of the Party criticized the central government’s military offensive and bombing campaign against anti-fascist protesters in eastern and southern Ukraine.

The Communist Party leader Petro Simonenko said in May that if he were in charge of the country, he would immediately call back the troops from eastern Ukraine, referring to the military operations taking place there as acts of “war against the people,” according to RIA Novosti.

Ukraine’s Communist Party was outlawed in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It regained legal status later in the 1990s. In 1998, the Party won 121 seats or nearly 20% of the parliament. The KPU then entered the presidential race in 1999. Its leader Petro Simonenko received 38% of the votes, coming in second.

The outlawing of the KPU comes as the government conducts a reign of terror against its opponents in east and south Ukraine who refused to recognize the legitimacy of the post coup-regime.

The Obama Administration supported the government’s decision to cancel a ceasefire on July 1, 2014, and unleash air strikes against its domestic opponents in the eastern regions of the country. This was the area where the Malaysian civilian airliner was destroyed last week.

The imperialist politics behind the coup

Following the coup in February, the right-wing government has been moving rapidly to integrate the country into an EU/IMF-sponsored austerity regime that will lead to the deep impoverishment of the Ukrainian working classes. That is the real nature of the “partnership” with the West.

The United States views the new government as an instrument for the neo-colonial takeover of this former Soviet republic.

The tremendous resources of Ukraine are seen as a huge prize for the enrichment of the biggest banks and corporations in Western Europe and the United States. These resources include major deposits of coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel and uranium. It holds the largest sulfur and second-largest mercury reserves in the world, and vast, rich agricultural lands and forests. In addition, Ukraine has large-scale heavy industry, particularly in the eastern part of the country.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, most of the former socialist bloc countries of Central and Eastern Europe have been integrated into a NATO and E.U. sphere of influence. Of the 28 member nations of the E.U., 22 so far have been incorporated into NATO.

European Left condemns the repression against Communist Party

Ukraine: The EL condemns the repression against the Communist Party

On Tuesday, the communist group in the Ukrainian Parliament was dissolved by government's decision. The next day, began a totally arbitrary and unjustified lawsuit to ban the Ukrainian communist party.

The Party of the European Left condemns in the strongest terms these acts of repression against a responsible and respectable political party. In fact, its only fault is to be the main left-wing opposition to a government of oligarchs and extreme right, not even democratically elected.

The EL alerts all democrat forces in Europe. We must not let false charges of "separatism" or "terrorism" to soil a party that has always campaigned for the integrity of the territory of Ukraine and claims democratic consultation of the people on the sovereign, political, economic and strategic choices of the country. We must prevent the banning of a party with a strong popular base and represented in parliament.

Otherwise, who will be pointed out tomorrow? All critical citizens – and consequently pluralism, democracy and human rights - are threatened. We call on all democrats in Europe to refuse those authoritarian practices and to mobilize for their national authorities to intervene.

25 July 2014

http://www.european-left.org/node/2601

No Repression of UCP-Ask Duncan Chapel

Comrade Norm, you must be mistaken. According to Duncan Chapel,of the British group Socialist Resistance, there is no repression of the Ukrainian Communist party. The party isn't banned, says he. You are just making things up, says he.

Mind you, Chapel is also the originator of the now world famous theory of workers' militias without arms, since he doesn't want to be accused of calling for the workers' militias of the Donbass to be disarmed.

I am sorry, but nobody could make this stuff up, so here are a few sayings of comrade Chapel:

Duncan Chapel

July 25, 2014 at 6:21 pm · Reply

Bob. You made it up. I have never called for any militias to be disarmed. You present things as contradictions, but in fact there are no contradictions I can see in what I have argued. I don’t think that new militas should be armed; that’s not the same as calling for old ones to be disarmed.

Also made up is the ban on the Communist Party of Ukraine. It has not been banned. Of course I not on a demonstration protesting against the ban on it, when it has not been banned.

" As for the other slogans you raise, well I think you know what I will say. I don’t think that anyone from the Donbass should be removed from those oblasts against their will (even National Guard members) unless they are convicted of crimes.

I’m a little unsure about militias based on the existing workers’ organisations when the definition of those is rather open, and when these are perhaps not under grass-roots control. Two key points for me are that these militias should not be armed, since I don’t think that’s helpful in a ceasefire, and that policing must be by consent. I think communities, rather than the frail workers’ movement, have to be the focus for policing."

and on banning the Communist Party"

Duncan Chapel

July 26, 2014 at 12:21 am · Reply

I am not quibbling: the party has not been banned; those deputies are still members of parliament; similar laws have been drafted in previous years and blocked by the constitutional court; fighting in the Rada is nothing new; deputies have been assaulting each other since it was founded.

So you see, normd, there is no ban. Really. Ask comrade Chapel.

The Meaning of Actions Against UCP

The dissolution of the Parliamentary fraction of the UCP hasn't removed these politicians from the Rada. Further, it can't prevent them meeting as a caucus. What is its meaning, then? To answer that question, it is necessary to examine the mechanism for the dissolution.

On 22 July, the Rada changed its regulations regarding the required size of Parliamentary groups. Specifically, it gave the Speaker the power to dissolve a faction that has lost some of its members compared to the number it had while it was formed during the first parliamentary session after the precious election. Since six UCP members of the Rada had left the Party three weeks earlier, this was transparently aimed at the UCP. Its effect, however, seems to me to be limited to removing certain privileges that attach to having a Parliamentary fraction of a certain size.

In Australia, a Parliamentary group of a certain size receives certain privileges in terms of the allocation of staff and perhaps in the right to participate in certain committees and/or introduce legislation. From the context, it is likely, then, that the dissolution of the Parliamentary fraction of the UCP will have the effect of removing privileges of that nature. This is vindictive and anti-democratic, but ultimately only a petty exercise.

What is far more significant is the impending action to ban the UCP altogether. Now THAT would be a heavy blow against democratic rights.

Part of a pattern

The parliamentary moves are part of a far more serious pattern i.e. a restriction of democratic rights targeting those most critical of the far-right pro-imperialist regime and its war in the east, and its IMF austerity plans. Sections of the far left, mainly in Britain, want to laugh this off as minor. but the willingness of Kiev to indiscriminately shell civilians in the east, costing hundreds of lives, indicates that it is very serious.

I'd imagine if the Australian government tried to removed parliamentray rights too, the left would see it for what is, an attack on democratic rights

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