Behind Kyiv regime’s ‘anti-terrorist’ campaign in eastern Ukraine, apparently stalling once again

April 27, 2014--It is day four of the renewed offensive of the governing regime in Kyiv, Ukraine against “terrorists” in the east of the country. Thankfully, conditions are rather calm. The war that the regime seems to want to provoke against Russia and against its own people may hopefully not come to pass. The regime seems to have much stronger capacity in creating bellicose impressions in international media than in changing the unfavourable situation it faces on the ground in eastern Ukraine. What follows is a summary of reports and insights by others over the past few days of what is taking place in the region.

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Mitch Potter of the Toronto Star, who is not friendly to the protest movement in eastern Ukraine, publishes an interesting report today from the region of Ukraine bordering on Russia. He speaks to residents who welcome the idea of closer economic and political association with Russia but who also want to keep Ukraine as one country.

Political prisoners

Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, a military surveillance unit of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe was detained two days ago by officials in the city of Slavyansk. City officials are saying that a condition for the release of the OSCE unit is the release of political prisoners detained by the Kyiv regime. What? Political prisoners held in western Ukraine? Who is reporting on that? No agency in the West that I can see.

According to Russia Today, there are about 200 prisoners who have been arrested by the Kyiv regime since an anti-fascist, anti-austerity upsurge began several months ago in the east of the country.

The most well known prisoner is Pavel Gubarev, an activist who was an early leader of the Peoples Militia of Donbass and was declared governor of the Donbass region by a large rally in Donetsk on March 1. He was arrested five days later and is currently detained in Kyiv. As best I can ascertain, he is the leader of a small political party whose origins go back more than ten years and which supported the elected president Victor Yanukovych who was ousted two months ago.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia has called for release of the political prisoners held by Kyiv and also for the release of the OCSE unit. Here is what the protest movement has to say, from a report by ITAR-TASS:

Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the people’s mayor of Slavyansk, said the detained persons were not members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission but were military observers. “The military were on our territory without our permission and were detained of course,” he said.

“What we should do with them we will know after we have determined who they are and what brought them here,” Ponomarev said, adding that the detainees were being held in “normal conditions”. “One of the military officials has diabetes, but we have necessary medications and food [for him].”

Ponomarev said the supporters of federalisation were ready to exchange the detained military for their comrades being held by the Kiev authorities. “The Kiev junta is holding our comrades. But we are ready for an exchange if there is such a chance,” he said.

The detained OSCE unit is composed of military officers from Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Denmark. They spoke to foreign media today and said they are being well treated. The Guardian’s Luke Harding uses hostile-talk in writing that they were “paraded” before media.

The New York Times says the popular administration in Slavyansk has detained about 40 people.

Recall that shortly after the overthrow of Yanukovych, the new governing regime in Kyiv appointed some of Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen (termed ‘oligarchs’ by media, a term I consider to be disparaging of the people of Russia and eastern Europe) as governors in Donbass and other regions of the east of the country. The appointed ‘governor’ of Donetsk region is billionaire Sergei Taruta. He is portrayed very favourably in The Guardian two days ago.

Popular forces in Ukraine

Note in the quotation above from ITAR-TASS the use of the term ‘supporters of federalization’ in describing the goal of the protest movement in eastern Ukraine. This is in contrast to the term ‘separatists’ or ‘pro-Russian separatists’ that is now universally trotted out in Western media to describe the movement. I have already reported the views of U.S. academic and writer Nicolai Petro who insists it is misleading and inaccurate to describe the protest movement as ‘separatist’.

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