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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 78/No. 17      May 5, 2014


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(front page)
Ukraine opposition spreads to
provocations by Moscow

Miners build protests, organize self-defense

April 17 demonstration in eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk against provocations by Moscow-backed forces that have taken over government buildings in a number of cities.
More than 5,000 miners, students and other workers rallied April 17 in Donetsk, Ukraine, in a show of growing opposition in eastern Ukraine to provocations by Moscow-backed forces. Similar actions took place in Luhansk, Kramatorsk and other eastern cities.

Starting April 6, small bands led by armed troops in uniforms without insignia began seizing government administrative buildings and police stations, proclaiming themselves partisans of an independent Donetsk People’s Republic and calling for Russian military intervention. Some 40,000 Russian troops have been deployed along the Ukrainian border since March.

Among the Russian government-organized forces are local “titushkis” — hired lumpen thugs — and small groups of backers of the Russian government of President Vladimir Putin. They’ve been building barricades, stealing arms from government offices, intimidating residents and assaulting supporters of a united Ukraine.

Some workers, particularly members of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine, the country’s largest union, have organized self-defense units to counter the assaults on Ukraine’s sovereignty. In Dnepropetrovsk, for example, some 15 units comprising about 100 volunteer combatants control nine checkpoints at entrances to the city, reported Dmitry Tymchuk, who established the Center of Military and Political Research in Kiev in February to counter Russian government propaganda about Moscow’s invasion of Crimea. He previously served in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

“The people here are saying ‘Enough,’” Mykola Volynko, president of the 12,000-member Independent Miners Union in the eastern Donbass region, told Russia’s opposition TV Rain April 9. “We will build a new Ukraine. … We are defending ourselves, our families, and we want to live in a normal state.”

Thuggish actions by Moscow-backed bands have brought more and more people into opposition to Russian government intervention, despite being inundated with Russian television propaganda slandering demonstrators who overthrew President Viktor Yanukovych as “fascists and anti-Semites.”

“Here are a lot of people,” 22-year-old Grigory Burchik told SETimes at the April 17 demonstration in Donetsk. “But I know even more people support Ukraine’s independence. … Many are scared by pro-Kremlin forces.”

“The silent majority of neutral citizens that are well accustomed to adapting to all circumstances is now experiencing a colossal revolution in their minds,” Sasha Popov wrote in a Facebook post from Kramatorsk April 17 that was put up on the Euromaidan PR website. “And the fact that the backbone of the Russian separatists is made up from the local well-known dirty criminals dissolves all remaining illusions.”

In Slovyansk bands raided neighborhoods that are predominantly Roma, an oppressed nationality throughout Europe. Claiming to operate under the authority of Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-appointed “new mayor,” the thugs beat women and children and drove off with their belongings, said an April 19 blog statement by Yevhen Bystrytsky, executive director of the International Renaissance Foundation, and Olga Zhmurko, the foundation’s director of the Roma of Ukraine Program Initiative.

Vice President Joseph Biden flew to Kiev April 21 in a show of tepid support for the Ukrainian interim government, bringing a paltry offer of $50 million in aid earmarked “economic and political reform.”

Kiev has agreed to a series of measures aimed at making workers pay for Ukraine’s crushing debt in exchange for a promised $18 billion in International Monetary Fund loan guarantees. This includes an increase in gas and heating prices that would amount to a 50 percent rise by May 1 and 120 percent by the end of four years. The minimum wage has been frozen, a 10 percent reduction in government workers’ pensions enacted and social expenditures cut. The initiation of a free-floating currency exchange rate is expected to cause inflation to rise to 12 to 16 percent this year.

Moscow’s organized provocations in the east are similar to those orchestrated by the Russian government that laid the groundwork for its seizure of Crimea last month.

Social crisis in Crimea

On April 22, Mustafa Dzhemilev, former chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (council) and member of the Ukrainian parliament, was stopped at the border as he left Crimea and handed a statement saying he was banned from re-entering any part of the Russian Federation, including Crimea, for at least five years.

The Tatars, the original inhabitants of Crimea, were deported en masse in 1944 by then Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, who branded all Tatars as “Nazi collaborators.” Half of the Tatar people died in the forced deportation to Uzbekistan and other parts of the Soviet Union.

For fighting for the right of Tatars to return to Crimea, Dzhemilev spent a total of 15 years in Soviet prisons from the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s. Tatars began to return to Crimea in large numbers in the 1990s.

Officials of the new pro-Moscow government told the editorial staff of the Crimean State Television and Radio Company not to broadcast any coverage that includes Dzhemilev or other members of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, an official of the media company told Ukrainska Pravda.

Russian rule in Crimea has brought social dissociation and new hardships. Most banks are now closed, as well as land-registration offices and many food companies. Workers are wrapped in endless red tape with requirements for new license plates, driver’s licenses, insurance, prescriptions, passports and school curriculum. Food brands from Ukraine are no longer available. Air flights except those to Russia have been severed. Inflation is rampant, and promised wage and pension raises have failed to materialize.

Some 5,000 orphans and 3,000 prisoners have no legal status. Needy families that received financial aid from Ukraine have been cut off.

Meanwhile, unidentified armed groups have cropped up in train stations and other locations, inspecting luggage and arresting people. When confronted, the “green men,” so-called for their green camouflage garb, claim they are “activists from the people” who are “preserving order.”
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