The Kiev military has been making relative gains in its ‘anti-terrorist operation’, having recently retaken the stronghold of Slavyansk and surrounded those of Donetsk and Lugansk. The former has been under Kiev’s control for nearly a month now, and what is happening serves as a dire warning for what will happen in the latter if Kiev gains the upper hand. As for those cities, both of them are now experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe, with further tragedy on the horizon if Kiev advances. Donetsk, a city of one million, is being surrounded by destructive ballistic missiles and barraged day and night, while 250,000 people remain stranded in Lugansk without any water, electricity, or adequate medical supplies. Kiev’s onslaught and occupation fit into the overall objectives of land, gas, and geopolitics, and the post-‘liberation’ situation in Slavyansk is a chilling warning to what will likely happen to the rest of the east if Kiev wins the civil war.
Kiev’s ‘liberations’ are always preceded by a massive humanitarian crisis. The UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees recognizes that 730,000 Ukrainians have already fled to Russia since the civil war began, and 117,000 remain displaced within their own country. At the end of last month, even CNN was forced to acknowledge that hundreds of vehicles were jamming the road leading out of Donetsk towards Russia, whose government is now housing and providing for 34,000 of those refugees. In one case, a refugee camp near the Ukrainian border quickly exceeded its capacity by 50% and became overcrowded, as the refugee surge shows no sign of abating.
The refugees are fleeing Kiev’s indiscriminate shelling, targeted residential bombings, and illegal use of cluster bombs and incendiary weapons against civilians. Vladimir Stepanov, a pro-Federalist defender in Lugansk, explained Kiev’s strategy as such:
“Their strategy is: dig in, pounder an area where their drones spotted self-defense forces with Grads and howitzers and then send in Right Sector [troops] to do the cleanup.”
As he also alleges and has been suspected by the Russian Foreign Ministry for some time already, mercenary groups from Poland, the US, and other countries assist the Right Sector paramilitaries in their violent clean-up operations. Their presence has become so obvious that the Kiev authorities were forced to own up to it last week. This paramilitary and mercenary mayhem has resulted in many deaths, with the UN counting over 1,100 and a Ukrainian parliamentary group alleging a number as high as 10,000. More than likely, the true figure lies somewhere between these two reports. It must also be mentioned that information about mercenary and paramilitary casualties is not generally reported to the media, so the true extent of their losses could very well be significant.
The experience of Slavyansk provides a glimpse into what the much larger cities of Donetsk and Lugansk may have in store for them if Kiev’s forces are successful in breaking their resistance. Slavyansk, a city of formerly more than 100,000 people, was left with only about 30-40% of its population, as reported by Financial Times. To put it another way, the fleeing of 60-70% of the city’s residents represents a drastic depopulation brought about by the urban carnage they were facing. The same article mentions that the infrastructure had been absolutely decimated by the fighting and that, according to a local resident, only “20 per cent of [Slavyansk] feels liberated by the Ukrainian army. The rest [feel they] are now under occupation.”
Kiev recognizes this bitter sentiment and has resorted to totalitarian methods to try to snuff it out. It began investigations into every single police officer in the city aided by lie detector screening, effectively forcing them all to undergo ‘loyalty checks’ to the coup-installed regime. Continuing the pattern of using non-state actors to carry out its will, Kiev has turned a blind eye to human rights abuses by vigilante reprisal groups. Ukrainian Radical Party MP Oleg Lyashko leads a group of masked men who kidnap, intimidate, and beat those whom he extrajudicially accuses of supporting the pro-Federalists. He also forced the mayor of Slavyansk to resign under threat of being thrown out of a fourth-floor window. Lyashko is so proud of his exploits that he even posts them on YouTube, a move which caught the attention of Amnesty International, which is now demanding a full investigation.
The nationalist vigilante groups are likely tipped off by an anonymous informant system set up in the aftermath of the occupation. Financial Times reported on a separate occasion that “boxes have appeared in public places for local people to drop anonymous denunciations of suspected rebels”. There should by now be no doubt that a systematic political purge is taking place in Slavyansk, with neighbor turning against neighbor and violent vigilantes carrying out reprisal attacks against the remaining residents.
The Overall Objective
Kiev’s behavior can be explained as trying to advance three primary objectives: land, gas, and geopolitics. Ukraine’s Land Agency said that they would give eastern territory away for free to soldiers fighting there, but even with this tempting promise, many in western Ukraine and elsewhere are protesting against mandatory mobilization and conscription, choosing not to enter the eastern meat grinder and fight in the fratricidal war. This just means that after the filtration camps that Minister of Defense Mikhail Koval publicly spoke about are up and running, then there will be even more land to seize for those who did fight. The ethnic and cultural cleansing of Ukraine is a version of Galician Lebensraum and direct colonization over the Russian civilizational-affiliated lands of the east, even if this means attacking Russian Orthodox Churches and their representatives in the process.
Next, Kiev’s oligarchic elite has shown that it cares more for profit than people by its recent economic activities outside Slavyansk. Only three weeks after recapturing the city, while the destitute multitudes there were still without properly running utilities and living amidst ruined infrastructure, Kiev pushed forward with installing shale gas production equipment in the area. There are undoubtedly some significant shale gas deposits in Donbass, but for reasons outside the scope of this article, they are far from enough to secure energy independence for Ukraine in the future, let alone by this winter. Not to be deterred, Yatsenyuk seems to ludicrously think that Ukraine can still function if it cuts off all Russian energy transit through the country, in a move which will harm downstream EU members more than it will Russia. Moscow says that concerning oil, at least, it can reroute supplies through Belarus to meet most of Europe’s demand, but this does not account for the gas which Eastern Europe desperately needs during the strikingly cold winter months. Ukraine’s illogical folly shows that its leadership actually believes the Western-propagated myth that the country can become energy independent and is recklessly acting on this assumption.
Finally, Kiev’s authorities aim to make the entire country a bastion of Western military influence directed against Russia. Whether as a direct or shadow member of NATO, the entire territory of Ukraine is envisioned as coming under the West’s military tutelage one way or another. One of the aims of this absorption is to use the country as a destabilizing force in provoking a Russian military intervention, per the Reverse Brzezinski theorem. Already, Ukraine has shelled Russian border posts and territory on at least 9 separate instances so far, clearly showing its eagerness to goad Russia into reaction. These attacks are clearly correlated to the advancement of Kiev’s forces to the Russian border, so it is expected that such incidents will actually increase the more that Kiev solidifies its control over the east and entrenches its position there.
Ukraine is in tatters, and the civil war there has not only destroyed the east, but it is also contributing to the slow-motion collapse of the entire state and its descent into a military dictatorship. The post-‘liberation’ events in Slavyansk are indicative of what Donetsk and Lugansk will face if the pro-Federalist resistance there is defeated. In fact, this speaks upon the larger threat that other sovereign-minded areas have faced when confronted with a militant pro-Western regime. Had Saakashvili been successful in 2008 in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, something similar may likely have happened there, and the prospect remains that American-ally Azerbaijan could even repeat this in Nagorno-Karabakh sometime in the future. Therefore, what is happening in Slavyansk and other areas of eastern Ukraine testifies to the humanitarian consequences of militarized pro-Western integration, and it should serve as an example for why resistance to these types of campaigns is literally a matter of life or death and dignity or oppression.