Discussion: The political rebellion in eastern Ukraine

Voters line up in Donetsk to vote in the autonomy plebiscite on May 11, 2014.

By Roger Annis

May 17, 2014 -- A Socialist in Canada, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- There are sketchy and misleading reports in mainstream press that steelworkers in eastern Ukraine have mobilised, including into street patrols, to rebuff the political movement for autonomy in eastern Ukraine. On May 11, successful plebiscites were held in the southeast regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in which the big majority of those who cast ballots opted for political sovereignty from Ukraine.

The Guardian is one of the few English language media outlets to (finally) examine the rise of fascist and rightist militias in Ukraine. On May 15, it published a lengthy account by two of its journalists who are in the country. They interviewed leaders of the political parties and groupings of the far right and they attended a covert training camp of rightists in one of the eastern regions.

Truthout published on May 13 a comprehensive overview on Ukraine written by myself. Events continue to move at a rapid pace. This article is an effort to describe the meaning of the latest events and look at several of the political options for Ukraine’s future that are being debated.

Class divisions within the Maidan movement

I began to write on Ukraine in late February because of two concerns. I was disturbed by the interpretations published in many sources of the events surrounding the overthrow in late February of the Ukraine government led by President Victor Yanukovych. Many of these writings described the overthrow as a "fascist coup" rather easily orchestrated by the US and its European allies. That is simplistic and factually wrong. The class forces engaged as well as their respective interests and historical backgrounds were and remain far more complex and conflicting than this interpretation describes.

Accompanying simplistic interpretations of the change of government was an absence of analysis of the multi-class and politically conflicted protest movement that reached its zenith in Maidan Square in Kyiv. (For example, we’re learning more and more of the little-analysed but highly destructive role of NGO funding in Ukraine over the past several decades. This is one of the issues now being intensely debated by the left in Ukraine and Russia. Who would have guessed how relevant Haiti’s lessons could become for Ukraine!)

My first two articles, in February, were superficial and were mistaken in their interpretation of the Maidan movement. They downplayed or ignored the conflicting class interests involved, including the illusory beliefs of protesters that a hoped-for, closer economic association with Europe could improve the standard of living in Ukraine, which is significantly lower than in Russia and other neighbouring countries.

I pressed on with writing when eastern Ukraine exploded in early March. Again, too few articles of in-depth analysis were being written for an audience in North America. We were newly told that the protest movement in the east was in response to the "fascist coup" in Kyiv. But the social and class content of the movement in the east was little analysed. As well, too little, or flat out mistakes, were being written in answer to the sharp rise of imperialist hysteria that followed their ‘loss’ of Crimea in March.

A working class rebellion in eastern Ukraine

Several readers of my latest article in Truthout question the assertion that a deepening working-class and popular revolution is unfolding in eastern Ukraine. That’s a fair argument that merits attention.

I based my assertion on four sources—the articles of Russian writer and socialist Boris Kagarlitsky; the statements and other materials on the website of the left-wing political party in Ukraine, Borotba Union; a few, translated statements by trade unions in the east; and anecdotal reporting in a wide variety of news sources.

I found Kagarlitsky’s article "Ukraine: The logic of a revolt" written in April, translated by Australian socialist Renfrey Clarke and published on May 1 on Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal to be particularly insightful. I quoted from it in my May 13 Truthout article. Here is a paragraph from it, an example of the rich insight he provides:

The main trigger for the revolt [in eastern Ukraine], however, was not the pro-Russian sympathies of the local population, or even the declared intention of the Kiev rulers of repealing the law that had given Russian the status of a “regional language”. Discontent had long been building up in the south-east, and the final drop that caused the cup to spill over was the dramatic worsening of the economic crisis that followed the change of government in Kiev [late February 2014]. After signing their agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the authorities decreed steep rises in the charges for gas and medicines, and a social explosion became inevitable. In the west of the country and in the capital, growing indignation was restrained for a time through the use of nationalist rhetoric and anti-Russian propaganda. But when applied to the inhabitants of the east, this method had the reverse effect. Trying to douse the fire in the west, the authorities poured oil on the flames in the east.

I have purposely stayed away from offering predictions or suggestions of how the protest movements should proceed, except insofar as I cite knowledgeable sources near to the action. My various selections of news quotations of people in eastern Ukraine were intended to provide the reader with some understanding of the depth and complexity of feelings there, not to indicate agreement, necessarily. Thus, there is the woman who wishes Ukraine to become the Switzerland of the east but as a result of the regime’s attacks now firmly believes that to be impossible. Others who are cited want close association with Russia, undoubtedly a widely held sentiment. (As in Crimea, such sentiments have material foundation – association with Russia would improve pensions and other social benefits for the people of eastern Ukraine and could avoid the wholesale destruction of their economy and social life that Europe-style austerity has in store for them.*)

I share the views of the writers Renfrey Clarke and Boris Kagarlitsky that a political or military intervention into eastern Ukraine by Russia would be harmful, disastrous even, for the movement in the east. Clarke, who has translated a series of articles by Kagarlitsky from Russian and has lived in Moscow, wrote recently, “Both Boris and I argue explicitly that the only way forward for the uprising is to embrace class-struggle demands that can forge links with workers elsewhere in Ukraine.”

I hinted as much in one of the quotations I selected from Kagarlitsky for my article, from an earlier article, mid April, "From the Maidan to the revolution":

Official Moscow has let it be understood, in no uncertain terms, that it makes no claim to Ukraine’s rebellious provinces. This is not a diplomatic move, and not a concession to the West; more correctly, it is a step dictated, among other causes, by a desire to avoid any escalation of a conflict that has far exceeded the bounds of anything the Kremlin finds convenient or manageable. Unlike Crimea, where everything was controlled and where, after two or three demonstrations, the transfer of power was carried out by the local elite, in Donetsk and Lugansk we are witnessing the elemental force of a popular movement, which it is simply impossible to manage from outside.

We are hearing news (New York Times, CBC Radio, etc) of the Ukrainian tycoon Rinat Akhmetov mobilising his workers into the streets of cities in the Donetsk region to disperse the pro-autonomy movement (termed by many in the east as a movement for "federalisation", i.e. decentralisation, of Ukraine’s governing structures). The inaccurate or misleading reporting that this development is receiving urgently obviously requires some serious attention and interpretation.

Here is a brief comment by email from Boris Kagarlitsky on May 17:

This is yet another lie. I’m really impressed by the level of disinformation even in the “serious” Western press on the Ukrainian crisis. It is more than anything we ever had in the USSR, more than George Orwell imagined. Akhmetov’s workers were sacked for taking part in pro-federalization demonstrations which led to strikes and now there are a few mines and factories of Akhmetov taken over by workers and opolcheniye (people’s militia). This is why now Akhmetov is trying to form his own paramilitary formations to prevent further takeovers by Donetsk Republic and workers.

A brief report, dated May 5, from the Russian-language website journal that Boris helps to publish, Rabkor (Worker Correspondent) explains there is a growing wave of protest and calls for nationalisation of the properties of precisely such figures as Rinat Akhmetov.

Renfrey Clarke has provided me with his views of the recent, reported mobilisations of steelworkers:

Trying to work out what’s happening in places like Ukraine from articles in the New York Times has overtones of Plato’s cave. This assertion in the Times article is plain wrong: “Russia itself exports steel, so it has never been a significant market for the output of the Donetsk region”.

What we can say is that the miners and steelworkers have entered the political picture in a massive and organised (though not yet independent) way. The NYT has tried to spin this as a blow against the autonomy movement. But it seems that in the cities where the steelworkers have come into the streets, they are clearing out police as well as the Donetsk People’s Republic. It’s quite obvious that the Kiev regime has no sway in the region.

Rinat Akhmetov has tried to act as a conduit between the Kiev authorities and the autonomist movement. He also seems to have played some kind of role in this latest development. But the notion that he exercises any kind of control over the political responses and actions of the worker masses of the region is far-fetched.

Akhmetov couldn’t possibly have called thousands of workers into action (if, indeed, these are the numbers that have appeared) if the workers were not already inclined in their own minds to taking over their cities. A mass mobilisation of workers is a tiger that oligarchs like Akhmetov have small chances of riding.

The suggestion that the miners and steelworkers were necessarily at cross purposes with the Donetsk People’s Republic is speculative. My reading of the situation is that the workers of the Ukrainian Donbass hate the Kiev regime and have a deep fear of its austerity plans. They want as little to do with it as possible, even though there seems to be no broad sentiment for incorporation into Russia. If the May 11 referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk were an unscientific opinion poll, they at least established that the desire for autonomy is powerful and widespread.

There is an historical resonance of these latest events that goes back to the huge Donbass miners’ strikes against Gorbachev* in 1989. That period also saw the Donbass miners move into political action in a big way, though it served the political goals of the pro-capitalist elements in the Soviet bureaucracy of the time.

Now the rulers in Kiev, and the neo-cons in Washington, could be faced with a phenomenon of similar scope. Historical justice! Needless to say, their chances of successfully imposing an austerity program in the Ukrainian Donbass at present are negligible.

* Mikhail Gorbachev was the seventh and last head of state of the Soviet Union, 1988 to 1991. He tried but failed to lead the Soviet Union through a stage of reform of its political and economic institutions that would permit accelerated capitalist investment but retain a heavy overseer role by the Soviet state, similar to what has evolved in China.

Here is what the editors of the New York Times think about the situation in the east, from a May 12 editorial:

But the gathering rumble of violence accompanying the [autonomy] votes is serious and is driving the Ukrainian crisis in a direction that before long no one — not President Vladimir Putin of Russia, not authorities in Kiev, not the West — will be able to control. . . . The fact that the referendums were held despite Mr. Putin’s urging last week that they be postponed suggests that events are already developing a momentum of their own.

The slogan ‘For an independent and socialist Ukraine’

A very good statement has been recently issued by writers, activists and academics in Europe and (a few) in North America (including Greg Albo in Toronto). It’s called, "Odessa: The last warning/Call for international solidarity".

The statement concludes with a demand for an "independent, socialist Ukraine". This slogan seems disconnected from the current situation in the east of Ukraine. Yes, the popular will there is anti-capitalist. But it is also strongly in favour of autonomy. It seems more appropriate for progressives to be advocating a "socialist federation of Ukraine".

The demand for an "independent" Ukraine dates back to the many decades in which Ukraine was not the least independent. During Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union, Ukraine lived a very harsh dictatorial regime in which millions died from forced collectivisations of land during the 1930s, millions more died due to political and military blunders by Stalin and his leadership entourage leading up to the invasion by Germany in 1941, and Ukrainian language and culture was at best tolerated. A restrictive autonomy evolved within the Soviet Union following the death of Stalin in 1953.

I’m not convinced of the relevance of a slogan (political outlook) for "independence" in today’s Ukraine when the country won formal independence 20-plus years ago and right-wing ideology is the dominant trend in Ukrainian nationalism.

Ukraine remains a country subject to national oppression by virtue of its subordinate economic and political status in Europe. It has a complex and diverse national and linguistic makeup. Taken together, these factors will make it a difficult challenge to eliminate the last vestiges of national oppression.

The real threat to Ukraine political independence today comes as much, or more, from the West as from the east, especially via the threat of economic subordination to an aggressive, Europe-inspired austerity. I think the inclusion of the notion of "federation", instead of "independence", in a political outlook or slogan helps direct attention to this, immediate challenge.

There is a great deal to learn about the complex, social, cultural and historical reality of Ukraine. I had the good fortune of receiving a very informative report from a correspondent in Ukraine just a few days ago. I enclosed it below. I have titled it, "The external powers have only fueled this latent conflict: Report from Ukraine, May 13, 2014". I have edited it very slightly for language, and the one highlight in the text is by me.

Fascist militias organising

The Guardian is one of the few English language media outlets to (finally) examine the rise of fascist and rightist militias in Ukraine. On May 15, it published a lengthy account by two of its journalists who are in the country. They interviewed leaders of the political parties and groupings of the far right and they attended a covert training camp of rightists in one of the eastern regions.

A leader of the training camp explains that the Ukraine army has proven unreliable in the shooting of civilians: “It is hard to trust the army and the national guard”, said Semenchenko. “There are cases when they have just given up their weapons and fled. I don’t understand it at all, how can you give an oath to a country and then not stick to it?”

The Guardian writers explain that the consequences can be very grave when untrained and fanatical militias insert themselves in tense political situations. My May 13 Truthout article explained what happened in the Black Sea port city of Mariupol on May 9. The army and rightist militias entered the city during Victory Day ceremonies to seize the police building. They were repulsed, but eight people were killed. This new Guardian article reports that the dead included unarmed civilians whom the militias fired upon as they were retreating.

The Guardian explains the background of Andriy Paruiby, a leading fascist in Ukraine and head of Ukraine’s national security and defence council (that is, a minister in the governing regime in Kyiv):

Parubiy himself has an extremely dubious past, having set up the neo-fascist Social National party of Ukraine together with the current leader of far-right Svoboda, Oleh Tyahnybok, in the early 1990s. While there has been little evidence that the militias have been motivated by any kind of far-right ideology when fighting in east Ukraine, there is no doubt that radicals have been the people most willing to fight, and this has led to a number of situations which appear to be well beyond the bounds of normal military behaviour.

As I have reported, the leaders of all of Ukraine’s main political parties are calling for the formation of militias. One fascist candidate in the presidential election, Oleh Liashko (Lyashko), has plastered the country with election posters saying, “Death to the occupiers!”

Liashko has become infamous of late because of the wide circulation of a video over the internet showing him interrogating Igor Kakidzyanov, the captured defence minister of the Donetsk People's Republic. Kakidzyanov is shown in his underwear with his hands bound.

Liashko has been promoting the video. He told the Guardian, “For 23 years nobody has paid any attention to our army, and now when we need to fight for the borders of our country today, we can’t”.

“We need a people’s war, like in the second world war when people rose up to fight fascism, that’s what we need to do now.”

In an understatement, an associate director at Human Rights Watch who is currently in eastern Ukraine, Anna Neistat, said, “This whole situation is completely out of control.” Alas, most Canadian and Western media are keeping that a secret. Canada’s opposition party in Ottawa is complaining about loopholes in the sanctions the government has imposed… against Russian businessmen. Sanctions against Ukrainian fascists? Whatever for?

Need for solidarity

I hope that many of those reading this commentary will be moved to organise in solidarity with the political left and the working class as a whole in Ukraine. My May 13 article was written before we learned the full extent of the rightist and fascist repression in Ukraine. Comrades of Borotba Union (Union of Struggle) have been forced underground by the regime and the fascist gangs it has embraced. Conditions are very difficult even in the eastern cities such as Kharkiv (second largest city in Ukraine) where uneasy standoffs prevail between the regime and the autonomy movements. (Here is a video report of rightist thugs attacking an anti-Nazi rally and march in Kharkiv on April 27, 2014.) One proposal on which we can move is to convince unions and university departments in our respective countries to invite on speaking tours writers, union leaders and other activists from Ukraine.

* * *

Appended item:

‘The external powers have only fueled this latent conflict’: Report from Ukraine, May 13, 2014

I have read the article of James Petras. I can say that it has one main flaw in the analysis (like most Western kinds of analysis) – the conflict is being presented in geopolitical terms, West vs Russia, ignoring its internal dimension.

Internally, the conflict has several, simultaneous and intersecting dimensions: it’s a conflict between two regions (eastern and western Ukraine) and it’s a conflict between two clans of capitalists and officials. Maidan brought to power the officials of president Yuschenko ("Orange revolution") [Victor Yushchenko, president of Ukraine 2005-2010]. Many people in those times of crisis lost their jobs and, therefore, the support to Maidan of large parts of western Ukrainian society was connected with expectations to find jobs with the support of "their" clan in power – namely in police, army, state structure etc.

Moreover, there is a dimension of the conflict that is a conflict between industrial workers and middle class. The middle class expects improvements of their wealth after the free-trade agreement with EU . Maidan also demanded to lower taxes. But industrial workers are mainly concentrated in the east and they potentially lose from a free-trade agreement with EU.

The crisis also has the dimension of the pro-Nazi and pro-Soviet fight during WWII. The two main clans in power for 23 years effectively exploited this old line of division. One clan tried to associate itself with Soviets, while another one promoted different far-right groups as their main paramilitary units (and they served as the core of Maidan movement then).

Thus, the external powers (US and Russia) only fueled this latent conflict.

As for the Maidan movement – it could be "switched on" but it’s difficult to "switch it of"’. Those pro-democracy forces (mainly NGO members) are usually only a cover of far-right groups. As far as I follow their activity for many years, I’d say that"‘pro-democracy" are quite often the militants of far-right groups too. And the general hostility to lefts in general (not only communists) is one of the aspects of their uniting and consolidating of their forces. There are 500,000 followers alone in one group – Right Sector – and its core is openly Nazi ("Social-National Assembly"). At the same time – various pro-soviet groups have also almost the same number of followers.

Additionally, on the level of society it’s a conflict between "pure Ukrainians" and "not pure".

Moreover, both camps are not unanimous. Inside Maidan movement, there are constant brutal fighting between different far-right units since each of them tries to control the situation completely. There are far-right units that seek to join EU and "reclaim the Europe of the white man", and those ones that are directed to have their own nationalist country without joining EU.

Their opponents (they can be called Anti-Maidan – but they started to gather on squares the same way as Maidan) are even more dispersed. The Slavjansk militia does not obey to Donetsk militia. There are units of Russian nationalists and ethnic Ukrainians from pro-capitalist but opposition parties; there are units of pro-soviet citizens with mainly red flags and own units of communists; there are federalists and independentists – since many people are motivated by the desire to have an autonomous region. There are movements of national minorities in the western Ukraine (Hungarians, Ruthenians) that are opposed to current authorities because of its nationalist agenda.

Since eastern rebels are very pro-soviet and demand nationalisation, despite all the claims they are "pro-Russian", Russia itself looks at them with suspicion.

* A stark description of what austerity has brought to the people of Greece is contained in a lengthy, newly published article on Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, "They are stealing everything, even our homes", by Afrodity Giannakis.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Mon, 05/19/2014 - 13:32


Attacked: Men inspect the ruins of the central police station  in Mariupol.

Attacked: Men inspect the ruins of the central police station in Mariupol. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Mariupol: This is a city in dazed shock. We drive in gingerly, not sure about who, if anyone, is in control of a sprawling industrial centre that erupted in anger when Ukrainian national military forces turned their guns on the main police station last week.

We walk up Metalurhiv Avenue, named in honour of the local steel workers, to where it intersects with Ilyich Avenue, celebrating the Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

Tracked military machines have gouged the bitumen where these two roads intersect. A teenage boy, masked and wielding a police riot shield and a club, sits on an abandoned armoured personnel carrier. There's a tangle of fire hoses and, off to one side, a woman nurses a plastic crate filled with petrol bombs. The intersection is barricaded with an assortment of tyres and upended industrial-size wheelie bins.

Sifting through debris: A man in a burnt-out bank in Mariupol.

Sifting through debris: A man in a burnt-out bank in Mariupol. Photo: Kate Geraghty

"Where is the police chief?" we ask the woman. "He killed himself," she answers vacantly. In the darkened shell of a burnt-out bank, a man scavenging in the debris unearths a silver coin from the ashes. "I'm an archaeologist," he insists, as though scavenging is beneath him.

We fall in with a 67-year-old woman who wields a bunch of red roses. She refuses to identify herself, but she says: "Come, I'm going to the police station."

She is not alone. Dozens arrive, adding to a small mountain of flowers on the steps to what is left of the police station after an assault in which the Kiev government claims to have killed at "least 20 terrorists". But, after a tour of local hospitals, Human Rights Watch researcher Anna Neistat concludes that "at least seven" were killed – only one of whom was of the security forces – and more than 40 injured, six of whom were of the security forces.

Charred remains: Two burnt police helmets among flowers left at the entrance of the police station in Mariupol.

Charred remains: Two burnt police helmets among flowers left at the entrance of the police station in Mariupol. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Instructions to the city's medics not to release any information incite wild unsubstantiated claims that many more were killed and their bodies spirited away from the town. The woman with the roses is adamant: "They killed 300 as if we were insects; they dropped bombs from aircraft."

A man in the crowd explains to a small audience that hundreds of locals are being "disappeared" – taken to Kiev where they are killed before their bodies are harvested of organs for sale on the European black market. Really?

Pointing to where big chunks of the police station's walls are missing and disembowelled airconditioning units hang precariously, another man demands: "And they want us to believe that Molotov cocktails did that?"

At a military checkpoint: Lieutenant Igor Dumbrovsky in Mariupol.

At a military checkpoint: Lieutenant Igor Dumbrovsky in Mariupol. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Where do we find whoever is in charge? He directs us to the town's administrative centre, control of which has changed several times during the crisis. Now it is gutted and the rank and file of the separatist movement conduct their business in the forecourt – here a dispensary table, laden with a range of drugs; there the galley tables, stocked with food; and over there the treasury, where locals queue to make cash donations.

Men are sleeping soundly on couches salvaged from the building while five grandmothers perch on steel-framed chairs watching the passing parade – couples posing for family snaps in from the abandoned APC; a crowd of about 100 waiting patiently in what appears to be an orderly run on the institution. They are allowed to enter another bank one at a time.

Can we speak to whoever is in charge? "We're all in charge – this is a collective," a man says as smoke rises from tyres that are still burning on a barricade.

In the street, we spy three policemen and ask who is their new boss.

Pro-Russian: A rebel in front of the Mariupol council building.

Pro-Russian: A rebel in front of the Mariupol council building. Photo: Kate Geraghty

"We don’t know," one replies sheepishly.

Later, we are informed that indeed there is an acting police chief. Can we talk to him? "No."

His name is Oleg Margon and his men are still in Mariupol, but they are hunkering behind sandbags and bolted doors at a police station in the suburbs.

Ukrainian national army Lt Igor Dombrovsky at a Ukrainian military checkpoint on the northern perimeter of the city of Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine. Click for more photos

Eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian national army Lt Igor Dombrovsky at a Ukrainian military checkpoint on the northern perimeter of the city of Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine. Photo: Kate Geraghty

When two young shopkeepers, Ivan Kurilov and Vitali Lukin, show up there to complain that 21 shops on their street have been looted, they are told through a crack in the door: "Come back later, we're too busy."

Through the same crack, we ask for information on the fate of the former police chief who, reportedly, is dead. "His name was Valeriy Andrushko – we have no information about him," we are told.

A helpful local journalist explains that all phone calls to the police in Mariupol are being re-routed to the police at Donetsk, the regional centre, about 110 kilometres to the north.

There is a small military base in the city but, when we attend there, it has been abandoned and looted.

So who is keeping the peace in Mariupol? We are told that the owner of one of the local steel plants, who happens to be the country's richest man, has ordered his tradesmen and labourers into the streets to quiet things down.

We still could not be sure who was in control. But, driving away, we chanced upon Lieutenant Igor Dumbrovsky, of the Ukrainian National Army, during a tense moment at a checkpoint on the city's northern limit.

As we pulled up, about half a dozen men in the uniform of the special operations wing of the Ukrainian National Guard had their guns drawn, yelling at a truck driver whose slow response to their instruction to alight from his vehicle had aroused their suspicion.

Pulling us into the cover of a clump of roadside trees, Lieutenant Dumbrovsky cradled his weapon as he, refreshingly, gave a candid account of security in Mariupol. It went like this:

Question: Who controls Mariupol?
Till yesterday evening, the police had lost control.

What about the National Guard?
They were there, but they've left the town. They retreated to a military base next to the airport.

The separatists are in control?
Yes. They have declared themselves to be the local government.

But some of the police are still there. We saw them – are they working with the separatists or with the Kiev government?
I don't know. Before the military assault on the police station at Mariupol, the police were here, working this checkpoint with us. But, after the blow-up, they left us. There was anarchy in the city – looting and fighting. I don't know who's in control.

Submitted by SV (not verified) on Wed, 05/28/2014 - 05:30


Although Vladimir Putin has so far stopped short of a full-scale invasion of Eastern Ukraine, he has used mercenaries trained by the Russian military to organize anti-government acts in the region. Who are these soldiers and where did they come from? A number of websites and bloggers have provided profiles of some fighters. It is evident from these profiles that the core group was trained by Russian military instructors, mostly in Krasnodarskii Krai in the Kuban. Some of the fighters have dubious pasts, all hold extremist right-wing views.

One blogger writes that the uprising in the Donbas is driven by socio-economic grievances rooted in poverty, corruption and local misrule. He argues that far-right forces from Russia have taken control of the uprising and are trying to channel the population’s anger and frustration by getting them to support a Russian nationalist platform. So far the expected widespread support has not materialized. Despite the ‘referendum’ of May 11, polls consistently show that the vast majority of people in the Donbas region oppose both separatism and Russian rule. The blogger argues that when the extremist views espoused by many of the mercenaries become better known there will be even less support for the interventionists (Tolkovatel, http://ttolk.ru/?p=20508). In Sloviansk the recent attacks upon and looting of Romani (Gypsies), distribution of antisemitic leaflets, and hunt for Ukrainian speakers is in line with the racist views of these mercenary forces (See http://ukrainianpolicy.com/pro-russian-separatists-loot-assault-romani-…)

Over the last few years Russian authorities have nurtured far-right paramilitary groups by supporting reconstructionist groups (who rebuild tsarist military organizations and reenact battles), knife-fighting clubs, biker gangs (the Night Wolves are Putin’s favourite gang), and detachments of Cossacks. Vladislav Surkov is considered the first to come up with the idea of placing extreme right-wing groups ‘at the service of the Motherland.’ In the century’s first decade, as deputy-head of the President Putin’s administration with responsibility for internal politics, he decided to disrupt political opposition groups of all kinds (from followers of Eduard Limonov’s National Bolshevik party to antifascists) by using violent gangs recruited from football fans. Then the neo-Nazi organization BORN (Battle Organization of Russian Nationalists) appeared, and implemented more radical ways of ‘solving’ the ‘opposition problem’ by killing human rights activists and journalists (See Lynch, http://balkanist.net/right-world/2).

Here are some of profiles of individuals fighting in the Donbas.