Dramatic events April 6-8 have brought Ukraine to the brink of civil war.
The rebellion by Ukraine’s Southeastern region — very working class and predominantly Russian speaking — against the far-right coup regime in Kiev has escalated to a crisis of dual power in many cities.
In Donetsk, Kharkov, Nikolayev and Lugansk, thousands of anti-fascist protesters rooted in the local communities have seized government administration buildings, police headquarters and banks, and declared independence from the U.S.-backed junta that came to power in February following the ouster of elected President Viktor Yanukovych.
The anti-fascists have set May 11 as the date for regional referenda, when local residents should democratically decide their future status – whether for broad autonomy within Ukraine, independence or in some cases affiliation with Russia, as the people of Crimea chose on March 16.
The demand for a referendum has been eagerly seized by the masses of workers, retirees and youths throughout the region, and it is their support that fuels the rebellion.
The referendum deadline falls two weeks before presidential elections set by Kiev for May 25. The coup regime, dominated by fascist and far-right organizations like Svoboda and Fatherland, has rejected any referendum.
The regime has labelled those advocating a democratic vote as “terrorists” and paid agents of Russia. On April 7, Acting President Alexander Turchinov declared that “coercive measures” would be used against referendum supporters.
Acting Deputy for Presidential Administration Andriy Senchenko told journalists in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) on April 8 that the Ukrainian military had been authorized to “shoot the terrorists … if necessary to protect the territorial integrity” of Ukraine. (RBC-Ukraine)
Members of the openly racist and anti-Semitic Svoboda party physically attacked Communist Party representatives on the floor of parliament April 8 after Communist leader Peter Simonenko dared to assert that the coup regime was responsible for the unrest in the Southeast. (Neues Deutschland)
The resistance, including the leftist Union Borotba (Struggle), says there can be no legitimate elections without a referendum.
People’s Republics declared
April 6 was a major, coordinated day of action by anti-fascists in Southeastern Ukraine. Demonstrations in several cities grew in intensity and continued into the evening.
Overnight April 6, activists seized the regional assembly building in Donetsk and proclaimed an independent People’s Republic of Donetsk. The protesters declared that they are now the region’s only rightful authorities.
After the declaration was read, the “Internationale” and Soviet national anthem were broadcast over loudspeakers in the main square to thousands of cheering residents.
The revolutionary authorities appealed to the Russian Federation to send peacekeepers to protect the May 11 referendum.
Donetsk, in the Donbas mining region, is a traditional stronghold of the Communist Party of Ukraine.
Hours later, in Kharkov, thousands of anti-fascists led by Union Borotba and the People’s Unity Coalition seized the Regional State Administration building and proclaimed a People’s Republic of Kharkov. New regional councilors were elected from the assembled workers, youth and retirees.
The anti-fascists took action after the Kharkov Regional Council failed to act on a petition presented at a mass demonstration on April 6. The petition called on the council to set a referendum on three points: Should Ukraine be a federal country? Should the Russian language be legal? Should Ukraine be a non-aligned country — without NATO?
The declaration of the People’s Republic of Kharkov calls for an end to the exploitation of labor and gives priority to collective forms of ownership.
In both cities, military personnel and police refused orders to move against the anti-fascists.
Fascist forces attack
As revolutionary actions were unfolding in the Southeast, the crisis-ridden regime in Kiev met in a marathon session to pass new “anti-terrorist” laws to further criminalize the anti-fascist resistance.
The far-right Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov was placed in charge of the “anti-terrorist” offensive. (LifeNews.ru)
Avakov’s main task has been to bring the competing neo-Nazi tendencies in Western Ukraine under the regime’s discipline by integrating them into a so-called National Guard and joint patrols with police.
For weeks, the Interior Ministry has been sending Right Sector and other neo-Nazi goons to infiltrate the rebellious regions. Police and military agencies have also transferred personnel to replace those reluctant to attack the local populace.
On the night of April 7, these forces were unleashed against the people of Southeastern Ukraine.
The Right Sector attacked an anti-fascist camp in Nikolayev. One man was reported killed and others were seriously injured. In Lugansk, three were shot dead, and another was reported killed in Odessa.
In Kharkov, Right Sector and Maidan “Self-Defense” agents, dressed in Special Forces uniforms, were deployed against the people’s forces holding the Regional State Administration building. The fascists set fire to the building and dispersed the protesters. At least 70 people were arrested and immediately deported to Kiev.
Activists report that among the repressive forces were English-speaking mercenaries, whom they believe work for the U.S. company, Greystone Ltd., whose presence has been reported elsewhere in Ukraine since the coup. Greystone is a division of the notorious mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater USA.
The offices of Borotba and People’s Unity in Kharkov were seized and occupied by the fascists.
An April 8 statement issued by Borotba says, “Despite the repression, the resistance does not subside. Now people are returning to the State Administration building to continue the fight.”
Videos posted on April 8 showed running clashes continuing in Kharkov’s streets. In one video, protesters prevented Special Forces agents from leaving a bus.
According to a report by Ivan Pobedonoscev in Donetsk, posted by the Russian communist website RedTV, the new people’s government in Donetsk is preparing to repulse a military attack on the Regional State Administration building it occupies, perhaps as soon as the night of April 8.
On the morning of April 7, workers at the Yasinovka steel plant in Makeevka stopped work and organized buses to join the Donetsk defenders, vowing to stay and protect the protesters as long as necessary.
Volunteers are building barricades and mobilizing supporters to defend the People’s Republic of Donetsk. They have issued an urgent call for people to bring rations, beverages, fire extinguishers, gas masks and medical supplies.
Kiev has reportedly flown in Alpha special security forces from Western Ukraine, equipped with SWAT team weaponry and full armor. Greystone mercenaries are said to be among them, disguised as soldiers. Military equipment has been moved to encircle Donetsk. The RSA building’s electricity was cut off.
The Russian Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine on April 8 to “halt any interior military preparations which could instigate a civil war.”