Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has recognised the ‘independence’ of two Moscow-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. He declared that ‘peace-keeping’ forces will be sent to the territories.
Prospects of a revival of talks arising from the Minsk agreements of 2014 and 2015 between France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine – with proposals for “special status”, elections, and a constitution for the Donbas areas – are now dead in the water.
Putin made the announcement during a televised meeting of Russia’s Security Council on 21 February. He claimed the decision was in response to pleas from the leaders of the ‘People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk’ for the Russian government to recognise them as independent states and to protect them from “genocide” by Ukrainian forces. Since last Thursday, shelling has taken place against civilian infrastructure in Donetsk, including schools, according to the authorities there. Moscow claims an evacuation to Russia has begun of 700,000 of the three million still living in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Over 14,000 people have died in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. This followed the coming power in Kiev of a pro-Western reactionary regime involving Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and far-right militias.
In his speech, Putin railed against Nato’s aggression but also went on to attack the legacy of Lenin. “So you want de-communisation? That suits us. But let’s not stop half way. We are prepared to show you what real de-communisation looks like.” In other words, the Great Russian nationalist Putin does not think that Ukraine, and other republics created in the early years of the Soviet Union, should exist as countries. To Putin, Ukraine was a “creation” of “Bolshevik, Communist Russia”.
There is an ocean of difference between the right-wing pro-capitalist nationalism of Putin and the international working-class solidarity of Lenin. The 1917 revolution was able to succeed because of the socialist programme of Lenin, Trotsky, and the Bolsheviks, which included supporting the right of nations oppressed under Tsarism to self -determination while advocating that the republics formed a voluntary and equal union of socialist states.
The Western powers said Putin’s claims of Ukrainian attacks on the Luhansk and Donbas Russian ‘enclaves’ was a pretext for an invasion. Yet the West has a long history of “false flag” operations. The 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident was fabricated, which the Democratic US president Johnson used to justify a massive stepping up of the US military involvement in Vietnam. Infamously, the US and Britain’s ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ claims were used in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The Nato powers furiously denounced Putin’s latest move as a flagrant invasion of a sovereign country and announced a series of new sanctions, including against public figures in the breakaway Russian enclaves. Here again, the West is guilty of nauseating hypocrisy. The same Western powers do little about Nato-member Turkey’s continuing ‘illegal’ occupation of Northern Cyprus after the 1974 invasion, which led to ethnic cleansing and division of the island.
Steady Nato expansion
Russian troops have been gathered near Ukraine’s Eastern border for months now. As we explained, last April, when at least 100,000 soldiers were said to be in the area: “An overarching reason for the military tensions lies in the steady expansion of NATO up to the borders of Russia since the dissolution of the former Soviet Union.”
NATO forces have been aggressively strengthened throughout the states that border Russia and Belarus as well as Ukraine. NATO powers have been delivering military hard-ware (in abundance) to Ukraine including Stinger missiles and are training permanent and volunteer forces in military combat skills.
Putin will hope that appearing powerful on the international arena can boost his falling popularity at home. His overriding concern is to protect the billionaire elite in Russia and to retain his closest circle’s position at the head of it. He wants to be sure Ukraine does not follow other former members of the USSR, such as Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia into the NATO Alliance.
This week has seen an escalation of the conflict. It has been suggested that once started, Russian forces could push to establish a land corridor between Russian-claimed Crimea and the so-called ‘Republic’ of Donbas. This could be costly in terms of loss of life on both sides.
Socialists oppose any slide into a war which means the suffering of millions of working people, already the main victims of the conflict. Socialists stand against the repression of any national minority. These events show the desperate need to build forces in both Ukraine and Russia that can unite workers and the poor against capitalists and war-mongers and meddling western imperialism, with socialist policies for workers’ democracy and socialism.