Mick Costello reflects on the situation in the Ukraine in response to an exchange from a young Ukrainian in the eastern part of the country.
“Two guys from our communist party youth were beaten up by the right sector’s followers. Dissidents, that is those opposed to the present government in Kiev) are confined and limited in their rights. If the one thinks that Russia is not a great enemy or not the worst evil, he will be punished. Recently I had an argument when an old man who vented his spleen on me (I told him the pluses of the USSR He said I’ am a stupid monkey).
Several huge banks are now broken. People lose all the money from their accounts, the prices are higher, petrol is more expensive, people from Lugansk and Donetsk also want to join Russia, but some people hate Russia and Putin. The mass media’s influence has been too strong to change millions of minds . Also those who were for Maidan revolution now have privileges in some spheres for jobs, in medicine, now with the status of ‘heroes’ …”
The present Ukrainian government (“legitimate” or not) is a very mixed bag of rightwingers and the only opposition are the communists who have seen their offices sacked and the party banned in several western provinces.
It is clear that the new government has allocated top ministerial, Civil Service, jobs including governorships, heads of the police and to its supporters. These include those who have jumped former presidentYanukovich’s sinking ship, including many of his party’s MPs. After all, this (“oligarchs”) government was built (as was Timoshenko’s base) on which group of monopolists would be allowed to rob more.
The new National Guard appears to be the legitimation of the fascist thugs, the equivalent of Hitler’s Brown Shirts (not of the SS) drawn principally from the western provinces. Its members are being sent in groups to intimidate their opponents in the somewhat shaky eastern provinces. The local administration in the western regions is in their hands – covering a fifth of the total population of Ukraine. The centre, in a swath of areas around Kiev seems calm.
In all the years I was visiting Ukraine I never detected a movement in the East and South to join Russia. My impression was that the Russian speakers were ‘as good Ukrainians’ as anywhere in the country and, outside of the western provinces, there was no serious radical nationalism of any kind.
The demonstrations against Yanukovich’s policies since November brought all sorts of forces to the fore, and many are newly-born within the turmoil of public discontent. It awakened fears among sections of the Russian-speakers that drew on the memory of west-Ukrainian nationalists’ joining the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s, and is given substance by the thuggery of the extreme Right in Kiev and now extending across the country. It was, I think, the US and EU backed thugs in the Maidan and the parliamentary decision to remove use of Russian as a legal language that precipitated the current transformation of many Russian-speakers into ‘Russians’ and ideas of breakaway. But I would not exaggerate the extent of this. Crimea is an exception to the general picture, because of its links with Russia through the presence of the Sevastopol naval base and all the historical baggage that carries.
As for anti-Semitism. Jewish monopolists have happily (?) joined the new government and its institutions. The predominantly west Ukrainian fascists certainly have made known their strong anti-Semitic views. They always promoted the enemy of Ukrainian nationalism as being the “Jewish-Moscow” threat, much as the Nazis had the “Jewish-Bolshevik” one, but the main enemy was first the Russians. As an aside, one should not forget the Zionists co-operated with the Nazis in Germany until, from 1941, the Nazis adopted the policy of extermination (but not for all Jews); thus even these vents are more complicated than is generally presented.
Yulia Timoshenko still appears to be the main favoured candidate for the US, and she certainly is the most consistent ally. But this could be changing as the US keeps its options open. Remember there was none of the current level of vilification of Yanukovich (other than to leave the door open to Timoshenko to take over) while Yanukovich for three years championed entry into to the Common Market. His about-face when Russia offered a better deal than was on offer from the complacent EU nincompoops helped promote the mass expressions of popular dissatisfaction with his lousy government and also fed anti-Russian sentiment. Even the Yanks got sick of the EU’s inability to read the situation and its attempt to lay down the law.
There is a lot more to this story of, essentially the fight among Ukrainian monopolists and the US and EU wanting a more reliable collaborator than Yanukovitch. Wherever the ‘aid’ to Ukraine would come from (Russia or the “West”), one can be certain that the coffers of the corrupt state and the monopolists would be filled, just as “austerity” has done throughout the EU member states.
I tend to think that the conflicts within the Ukraine are settled for the moment; everything in the future to be decided by how hard the IMF programme of ruination hits the people and how they react – new Maidans?
No one can predict when the next uproar will start but the US position has been strengthened in Ukraine. On the other hand, Putin and the bunch of thieving monopolists he represents are strengthened inside Russia. The US-backed opposition there is powerless and with no mass backing for the moment. Putin’s bunch have never to me appeared to be anti-Semitic.
Of concern is how the hawks who have taken over in the US and its satellites like France and Britain understand the situation – what they have convinced themselves they can get away in confronting Venezuela and other countries in South America, Syria, Iran, Korea and so on.
Mick Costello has lived and worked in Russia, speaks fluent Russian and researches contemporay politics of the region. He is a contributor to 21centurymanifesto