Ukraine's government says that it is helpless to control the security situation in the east as Russia's seizures escalated and the OSCE hostage crisis in Solvyansk continued with no movement to release the hostages. The problem is that the police are unwilling to take the steps to control the rampant lawlessness, fueling the Kremlin's claim that Ukraine is no longer in control of the situation. In some cases, the police are even helping the Russian special forces, foreign nationals, and pro-Russian separatists.
In his remarks, Mr. Turchynov acknowledged as much, saying that some members of the military were “cooperating with terrorist organizations,” a reference to the pro-Russian militias.
Hours before Mr. Turchynov spoke, pro-Russian gunmen seized government buildings in Horlivka, expanding their control over a swath of territory nominally controlled by self-proclaimed “people’s republics” opposed to Kiev.
The men seized the city police building and the City Council building early Wednesday morning, according to Igor Dyomin, a spokesman for the police in the Donetsk region. Anti-Kiev protesters seized a regional police headquarters in the city earlier in April.
On Tuesday, armed militants occupied the regional government headquarters and prosecutor’s office in the regional center of Luhansk. There was no resistance from the local police.
The problem is that even if they are in the minority, there is substantial support for returning to Russia. Al-Jazeera interviewed some miners in the east in an area that has substantial economic ties to Russia.
Valeriy is a miner but has not been employed as one since completing his fifth prison sentence for theft. Previously, he risked his life working at an illegal coal mine in the Donetsk region, Ukraine’s industrial heartland now roiled by political unrest.
Despite the epic contest between forces, mostly Russian speakers aligned with Moscow against Ukrainian speakers loyal to Kyiv, he is more concerned with the daily struggle to get by and the desperate hope for some improvement in his life. Valeriy, who identifies as Russian, hopes for a better future if Donetsk becomes part of Russia — with a catch. “I don’t want it to be like Russia,” he says. “I want it to be like the past, the USSR.”
For Valeriy, who started training to be a miner in 1990, right before the fall of the Soviet Union, there was just the briefest glimpse of a more secure time. “I was getting payment even for my learning,” he says. “That’s why I appreciate that time.”
“I want to be Russian, but I do not want a war. I want to live in peace, so that’s why I don’t support their activities. I want to be part of Russia with peace. Nobody needs the war,” he says. “I am afraid that [ordinary] people will be threatened.”Others interviewed feel the same way. There are arguments that the sanctions against Putin are simply making him dig his heels in, as evidenced by the escalation of the conflict today. Barry Grey of WSWS says that they simply serve to move Ukraine closer to civil war.
In the wake of new sanctions against Russia imposed by Washington and its G7 allies in Europe, Canada and Japan, the rebellion in eastern Ukraine against the US puppet government in Kiev has spread, plunging the country closer to civil war and increasing the danger of a military confrontation between the Western powers and Moscow.
The responsibility for the civil conflict in Ukraine and arguably the greatest crisis in Europe since the end of World War II rest overwhelming with the United States and its imperialist allies in Europe, beginning with Germany. In announcing the new sanctions Monday, the Obama administration formally accused Russia of violating the four-party agreement reached April 17 in Geneva to defuse the crisis over Ukraine.And Reuters quotes the Moscow Carnegie Center as saying that the sanctions were only making Putin dig his heels in.
This charge only underscores the hypocrisy of the official Western propaganda on Ukraine prior to and since the February 22 coup that toppled the pro-Russian government of President Viktor Yanukovych and installed an ultra-nationalist regime pledged to join the European Union and impose IMF-dictated austerity measures on the Ukrainian working class. The putsch was led by the US-backed neo-Nazi paramilitary Right Sector and the fascist Svoboda party, whose representatives now occupy prominent positions in the Kiev government.
"The sanctions have an impact on Putin but not necessarily the impact intended. The West wants to deter him, make him back down, split him from his entourage, set the 'oligarchs' against him, make the Russian people mistrust and topple him," said Dmitry Trenin, head of the Moscow Carnegie Center think-tank.But Secretary of State John Kerry alleged that Putin is creating his own reality in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
"In my view it will not work. Sanctions could contribute to Russia being more of an adversary to the U.S. - poorer, less connected to the world and less predictable."
"You almost feel that he's creating his own reality, and his own sort of world, divorced from a lot of what's real on the ground for all those people, including people in his own country," Mr. Kerry said in an interview late Monday.And given the fact that the conflict escalated today, sanctions on entire economic sectors of Russia might not be far behind.
Asked why the administration continues to punish individual Russians or single Russian companies rather than impose broader penalties on whole sectors of the Russian economy—the energy, financial or defense sectors, for instance—Mr. Kerry replied: "We're inches away from that now. And if they continue on this path, that's where it's heading."Kerry also charged that Putin's actions were premeditated and the current unrest is anything but spontaneous.
And he discounted the idea that the Russia's actions are unfolding spontaneously. "There's no question that plans were executed in a thoughtful way in Crimea" when Russia annexed that Ukrainian peninsula, Mr. Kerry said. More broadly, he added: "Obviously there's a plan. And it's being carried out with a sort of singular resolve, I guess is the way to put it."From Reuters, some people argue that the sanctions are serving as a deterrent and that the fear of new sanctions are putting the breaks on aggression.
"What we have noticed is that the fear of sanctions could be even more powerful than the sanctions themselves, the fear of escalation of sanctions," said Antonio Spilimbergo, head of the IMF's mission to Moscow.Reuters notes that some Kremlin watchers are saying that Putin has recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric; however, that might be wishful thinking based on today's escalation. The problem, as one expert noted in the article, is that sanctions can't proceed beyond a certain point, or Putin will have a lot of explaining to do to his people. One of the reasons behind Putin's sustained popularity, now at over 80%, is that Russia's standard of living rose substantially under his rule. While Russia is seeking to close massive deals with Iran and China that Putin hopes would lessen the impact of any sanctions or offset them, it is anybody's guess whether that will be enough to offset the capital flight that has taken place from Moscow and reassure the markets, which have taken a beating.
"Economically it's very difficult to estimate costs from individual sanctions. But the fear of uncertainty, especially among investors, is having a large effect."
But the reality is that Obama’s approach of applying carefully-calibrated sanctions that ramp up the economic pressure on Moscow in stages is exactly what is needed to sow doubt in the Kremlin about whether it can afford the costs associated with of a violent military takeover of Ukraine.The US could end this conflict tomorrow if it wanted to by renouncing NATO membership for Ukraine, and by renouncing regime change as a tool of foreign policy. The rest would be up to the Ukrainian government, to create dialogue with the people in the eastern and southern parts of the country.
Obama is following the correct strategy of holding the more serious “Stage 3” sector-wide sanctions in reserve as a deterrent against a Russian attack (either special “black” operations or overt military) on additional cities in Eastern/Central Ukraine or even Kyiv itself; although most of the media coverage has focused on the situation in Eastern Ukraine, no one should forget that Russia also has its forces poised on Ukraine’s northern border near the capital.
Putin’s current behavior toward Ukraine is based primarily on emotion, and only secondarily on consideration of Russian strategic interests. And the emotional endgame of Russia’s neo-imperialists has little to do with recapturing Donetsk, Crimea, or other parts of southeastern Ukraine. The real goal of emotional Russian imperialism is the subjugation and re-Russification of Kyiv and central Ukraine.
Hido Biscevic (Croatia) headed up a delegation from the OSCE that has been facilitating dialogue in Ukraine for the last month. He made some recommendations for deescalating the conflict.
“People in Ukraine share many concerns, regardless of where they live, what language they speak, how old they are, or what socio-economic position they hold,” said Biščević. “In that sense, the challenge of dialogue is as much tapping into commonalities as it is to bridge differences.”
“The primary recommendation is for the OSCE to promote and support a broad-based national dialogue in the context of the constitutional process in Ukraine,” said Biščević. He stressed that the OSCE can merely provide assistance in a process that has to be fully owned and led by Ukrainians.
Biščević also recommended that the OSCE facilitates dialogue as a means of de-escalation at the local level. This could include, for example, the Special Monitoring Mission helping in the peaceful handover of illegally occupied buildings and public spaces.