Sunday, April 20, 2014

Slovyansk is scary place right now

If you want to know what is going on in Slovyansk read this BBC journalist's scary three-part report about his kidnapping  by separatists...

He is currently in the town, and is providing video blogs of the latest shoot-out.

RT say six dead, but not confirmed as I write...

With so many armed 'crazies' wandering around, and black propaganda reporting, it may be very difficult to ascertain what truly happened...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Slovyansk under siege

Almost exactly a year the town of Slovyansk and its 'gangster moll' mayor, Nelya Shtepa featured in on of my blogs.

Today, Slovyansk is totally in the hands of separatist thugs; Shtepa has been detained by them, 'for her own good.'

Ostrov.org describes the dire situation in which Slovyansk  currently finds itself, in an article entitled: "Slovyansk siege, a few hours in a captured town"

Here's what they say:

Slovyansk is no longer controlled by Ukrainian authorities. The city is dominated by the separatist groups and has descended to an [anarchist] 'Gulyai Polye' enclosed on all sides by rows of barricades of tyres at the entrances to the city. The familiar young guys in masks and helmets, some with guns, some with sticks, are arrogantly spot-checking vehicles and carrying out inspections as they pass through.

These guyss react aggressively when they are called "separatists". Most of the participants in anti-government protests openly say they want to secede from Ukraine, but it is not clear whether they want a Donetsk Republic, or to go with Russia..

Since the start of the take-over of Slovyansk the number of people and cars seen on the streets has dramatically reduced. The unusual emptiness is striking..

It is difficult to assess how many separatists there are in the town, but could be about a thousand. Groups of armed men are constantly moving around the city by foot or in cars.

The situation, which not so long was diligently being stoked up by Party of Regions, in the end, it seems, has spun out of control. Mayor of Slovyansk Nelia Shtepa, who initially tried to appeal to the separatists and even declared support for them now speaks of them in an extremely unflattering manner. According to her, looting has started in the town, and uncontrolled criminal elements have seized power.

The separatists say Shtepa has been deposed and Sloviansk now has another mayor. It seems negotiations with the separatist are not going well for the "Regionals" to whom they respond almost as badly as to the government in Kyiv.

The main problem is the reluctance of separatists who have seized the town  to negotiate with anyone at all.

Slovyansk remains under a voluntary siege, and if it goes on like this, then in the near future its residents will realise the full depth of their desperate situation.

In the past few days in Slovyansk a whole series of banks and shops have not been able to operate; deliveries of goods have stopped because suppliers fear robberies. Timely payments of pensions etc. to residents are now hardly likely.

Your bloggers comments: The patience of local officials and local businessmen must be wearing thin by now. But who can return Slovyansk, and similar towns now controlled by separatists to their dozy previous state?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

F-wiord not uttered by PoR today

The respected 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' newpaper reports Wednesday's fateful PoR EGM thus:

Regionals wants a referendum only on one issue - the Russian language
  
All of the demands of the Regionals can be solved by votes in parliament. A referendum is required only on the issue of [Russian as] a second state language.

Only the status of the Russian language would require a referendum; other amendments to the Constitution insisted upon by deputies of the Party of Regions from the Donetsk region, can be voted on in Parliament, said the secretary of the presidium of the political council of the party, Borys Kolesnikov.

"Only one demand requires a referendum. This is an amendment to the 10th article of the Constitution of Ukraine on official languages. Decentralization of power, the transfer of power to local administrations and liquidation of state administrations do not require a referendum. [A constitutional majority of over] 300 votes [in parliament] would be enough for a decision to be made," explained Kolesnikov to reporters after an emergency meeting of PoR deputies of all levels from the Donetsk region.

A resolution was adopted at this Congress . It was noted that members of the Party of Regions favour of unitary country, fiscal autonomy in the region, and called on protesters in eastern Ukraine to surrender and free up captured buildings.

There was no mention of the F word - Federalisation, which Moscow will be demanding in Geneva tomorrow at the 4-way crisis talks.

A ridiculous situation therefore exists: no major political force in Ukraine [except the Communists who hold only 32 of the 450 seats in parliament] are looking for a Federation solution to Ukraine's crisis. And yet, Russia, whose armed troops are allegedly spearheading aggressive capture of government buildings in Eastern Ukraine will be demanding exactly this on Thursday in Geneva..

These Russian stormtroopers will continue to cause mayhem and destabilise the country until such time they are stopped by lethal force...But right now, Ukraine's demoralised armed forces seem incapable of counteracting these Russian troops and their dubious Ukrainian supporters in any way.

Will Party of Regions and its billionaire sponsors allow themselves to be deemed irrelevant in Ukrainian politics? Or have they done a 'behind-the-scenes' deal with Putin already, giving him carte blanche, and today's EGM was merely a charade?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PoR no longer all-powerful in Eastern Ukraine

De facto PoR head, Borys Kolesnikov, says his party is demanding Ukraine remains a unitary state, but will insist on decentralization of authority and budgetary autonomy. The party will be staging an EGM of its deputies on 15th April.

"There will be consolidated position taken up by the PoR organisation at the regional, district and village council level, that the party unequivocally stands for a unitary country, but asks Kyiv to immediately take steps to decentralize authority and fiscal autonomy," said Kolesnikov.

Acting PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in broad measure, had agreed such terms with regional leaders on Friday, but the violent events in several towns contained roughly within the Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk triangle, have totally swamped any further progress. Russian mass media immediately called Kyiv's proposal dirty lies.

But PoR are losing control over the levers of power in the region too. All senior local government officials, law enforcement officers, judiciary etc. were 100% PoR loyal. Now it seems, they have become fence-sitters.

The separatists causing such mayhem comprise several differing entities. There are professional military and intelligence men from Russia and Ukraine who have efficiently spearheaded the co-ordinated seizure of administrative buildings. There are paid local irregulars, many of them poor, who scrape a living e.g. in unlicensed coal mines, and other assorted malcontents from both sides of the border. For them the current troubles are an heaven-sent opportunity to earn some decent cash.

Then there are many sincere, very angry, disinformed citizens who want to vent their anger for their miserable lot on somebody..However, these people are no longer the people of Party of Regions...Rather they will support separatist leaders like Ihor Tsaryov with whom they share a common world view. Party of Regions, who gripped the eastern oblasts so tightly over many years, have lost control just like the central authorities in Kyiv.

Some citizens in the towns controlled by separatists are getting fed up already as their lives are being disrupted. There have been instances of looting. Mini-buses are being commandeered, and barricades manned by irregulars are hindering free movement. Mobile phone services are being disrupted and are increasingly erratic.The disruption of local administration services, payment of pensions etc. caused by the separatists' actions may quickly generate a backlash from normal citizens in the region who want their lives to return back to normal.

There are Russian flags being flown, but there are also many Donetsk Republic banners and posters too, perhaps indicating that differing groups have differing aims. Massed Russian forces just across the border are waiting for serious violence to trigger an invasion. Uncertainty and irrational motives breed anarchy...

However, there are some grounds to assume the currently greatly disorientated Party of Regions' will regroup and regain some control over events on their own patch.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Putin's plan for Ukraine

Vadym Denyskenko, a highly-respected Ukrainian journalist and editor, [and Crimea specialist] answers the question everyone wants to know - what is Putin's Plan.

Below is my loose translation of his today's Espreso.tv op ed piece:

Civil War. Putin's Plan

The Kremlin's plan is at minimum - the trashing of the presidential elections by the hands of Ukrainians themselves and forcing an official Kyiv to recognize the legitimacy of the separatists. At maximum it includes a civil War

Kyiv has no control over the Donbass.

The region is not controlled by Akhmetov, or anyone else in Ukraine. Donbass is today again controlled by Yanukovych, or more precisely Russia's GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate] which has been, and continues to be part of Yanukovych's circle. 

Within two weeks they will clean up Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts. Each city council, district council, and then oblast council will make a decision to stage a referendum, on the status of second state language, etc. 

A decision will be made to create, and arm, an army of the SouthEast which will be activated to protect the Russian-speaking population of the SouthEast. A month before the presidential election, Kyiv will  have no control over nearly seven million Ukrainian citizens.

Whether the Russians can conduct a similar operation in other areas of the south-east is an open question, but the likelihood of such a scenario is more than high.

The main objective of the Russian Federation is not clear. The separatists are demanding a referendum on accession to Moscow - but such a referendum is not required by Moscow because it could go against them in all regions except the Luhansk [as indicated by latest OP's  LEvko]. 

Obviously, the Russians are betting on another scenario - on a controlled civil war. The big question is along which line do they want to form a cordon.
They need a local conflict in which right-wing radicals fight with the Russian population. Thus Russia will be able to continue to broadcast this image of events to its own viewers.

The second important question - is Kyiv is ready for such a war? Apparently not. This means only one thing - the legitimacy of government in the capital will be drastically reduced with every seizure of yet another police headquarters building. 

The second task of the Kremlin is to render Kyiv authorities semi-legitimate from the point of view of most Kievans and residents of pro-Ukraine areas; ideally to get Kyiv authorities to resign under the pressure of  "Right sector".

In yesterday's statements by the Russia's Minister of Finance, Siluanov, he specifically expressed the view that Ukraine should be offered money in exchange for recognition of the annexation of the Crimea. Simply put, the Russian's position on the eve of the four party meeting (between Kerry, Ashton, Lavrov, and Deshchitsa)  can be boiled down to this: they are willing to back down, but in Ukraine must recognize the annexation of Crimea, and the EU must abandon sanctions.

Current events in the Donbas indicate Russia is raising the stakes. The EU clearly understands what a nightmare the flow of refugees from a pseudo-civil war (actually a Ukraine-Russia war) at the borders of the EU would be. There is no doubt that if the EU and the U.S. refuse to compromise, the Russians will continue to expand the boundaries of the separatist entities. By extending these formations, they are driving the Ukrainian economy into a dead end. 

Now everything depends on the determination of the Ukrainian government, which at the moment, does not exist.