Russia's recent annexation of Crimea is fueling more protests around the rest of Eastern Ukraine, with protestors demanding that Russia annex Donetsk next, the Associated Press reports. Today, Putin ally and Parliament Speaker Valentina Matvienko said that there were "no plans" for Russia to occupy the rest of Eastern Ukraine, something also stated by Putin. However, the protestors are telling a different story.
"They're trying to tear us away from Russia," said demonstrator Igor Shapoval, a 59-year-old businessman. "But Donbass is ready to fight against this band which already lost Crimea and is losing in the east."And the parliament there has already formed a working group to consider a referendum for that area to secede to Russia.
The local parliament on Friday formed a working group to develop a referendum analogous to the one in Crimea. Activists on Saturday passed out mock ballots, although no referendum has been formally called.
The AP reports that Ukraine is rounding up people who they say are fermenting the separatist movement in Donetsk. This will give Putin ammunition regardless of whether these arrests are right or wrong. Putin will likely use this as "proof" that Ukraine is persecuting its ethnic Russian population in Eastern Ukraine. Despite their statements that they have "no plans" to invade Eastern Ukraine, we know Putin has massed troops right across the border in Russia. This is their way of saying that all options are on the table, similar to what the US is doing with Iran and their alleged nuclear weapons program.
The question is, where does it all end for Russia? I personally met someone from the eastern part of Ukraine who still considered herself Russian even 10+ years after the collapse of Communism and Ukraine's breakaway declaration of independence. Putin's game plan is clear -- thousands of ethnic Russians not happy with the way things are being run in Kiev agitate in the streets and beg for aid from Russia, who is seen as a Big Brother protector of ethnic Russians and Slavs abroad. Voter intimidation is practiced and a "referendum" is held. Russia annexes the province, surrounds the Ukrainian soldiers there, and seizes the new province without firing a shot. To be fair, even in a fair election, Crimea would have voted to annex themselves to Russia. But this is a case of tyranny of the majority at work. Russia rationalizes that they are acting perfectly in accordance with International Law because, in their worldview, the new government in Kiev is not legitimate. After all, we did not consider Serbia's government or Saddam legitimate.
And, rationalizes Putin, Russia has a right to defend itself under International Law since NATO has encroached to the border of Russia for the last 20 years. After all, we ran the USSR out of Cuba after they secretly put nuclear missiles there and pointed them at our cities. We even brought the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe over that.
We are no longer under the Pax Americana which ruled from the collapse of Communism to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. We are now living in a multipolar world in which any entity with a platform and a microphone can compete for influence. Russia Today is simply the best-known of these efforts. There is Venezuelanalysis, which presents propaganda from a Chavez perspective. Press TV broadcasts news and commentary from an Iranian perspective. China has long had state-run media outlets which broadcast news from their perspective. India Today covers news from India's point of view. IPS News covers news from third world countries' perspective. Electronic Intifada covers news from the Palestinians' perspective. There are several different outlets that cover Israel's point of view.
The breakaway of Kosovo from Serbia was recognized by the West a few years ago, and has been recognized by over 100 countries since then. But the unintended consequence of that is that it could serve to open a Pandora's Box of separatist movements around the world. The Uyghur Muslims in China are getting restless and the Dalai Lama has always agitated for more freedom in Tibet. Russia has complained for the last few years about what they say is discrimination by Estonia against Russian minorities there. There are separatist movements in Libya, who say the central government there has denied them promised oil revenues. The ISIS is trying to build an Islamist state by carving up parts of Iraq and Syria. The Kurds have always tried to carve up parts of Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey to form an independent state. Russia is playing up Serbia; last night, RT posted a promo for an extensive documentary that they plan to do on the bombing victims there.
In the meantime, skirmishes continue as the Russians and their Crimean allies seized Belbek Air Base in Crimea after one Ukrainian soldier was wounded and the Ukrainian soldiers there laid down their arms. A few days ago, Ukraine ordered its troops to leave Crimea; however, Russia says that only 2,000 have done so.
The Russian Defense Ministry says that as of late Friday less than 2,000 of 18,000 Ukrainian servicemen in Crimea had "expressed a desire to leave for Ukraine." The ministry, however, stopped short of saying the remainder of the troops would serve in the Russian army.The implication is clear -- Ukraine is broke and so weak that it cannot control its own troops anymore.