April 10 — Desperate to stamp out a popular uprising in southeastern Ukraine, the fascist junta in Kiev — which came to power through a violent coup against elected President Viktor Yanukovych — is moving to crush the newly declared People’s Republic of Donetsk and rebellions in other cities.
But anti-fascists throughout the region continue to resist in the face of increasing repression by the U.S.-backed regime.
Arsen Avakov, the junta’s interior minister, arrived in the southeast of the country on April 9, delivering a 48-hour ultimatum to protesters occupying government buildings in Donetsk and Lugansk to surrender or face military attack. The deadline expires at nightfall on April 11.
Avakov, a leader of the far-right Fatherland Party, was tasked with bringing the various neo-Nazi groups under the regime’s discipline. To this end, he created a “National Guard” composed of members of the Right Sector, the Euromaidan Self Defense Forces and other racist gangs from western Ukraine.
The Communist Party of Ukraine’s headquarters in Kiev was set on fire April 9, just hours after a court ordered the Interior Ministry to remove fascists who’ve occupied it since the coup. Euromaidan Self Defense goons, now employed by the Interior Ministry, were photographed tearing up red flags outside the building shortly before it was torched.
In the southeast, police and military units unwilling to act against the local populace have been replaced by “special task forces” from western Ukraine.
According to Ukrainian and Russian sources, Avakov has also enlisted foreign mercenaries from the U.S.-based Greystone Ltd., which describes itself on its website as “providing protective support services and training.”
U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, in charge of NATO forces in Europe, told the Associated Press on April 10 that U.S. troops could soon be deployed in the region. NATO has scheduled an “emergency meeting” on Ukraine for April 14.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy destroyer U.S.S. Donald Cook was expected to arrive in the Black Sea near Russian waters, where it will join other U.S., Bulgarian and Romanian warships in provocative “war games” aimed at Russia, on April 10.
All of these forces are now deployed against the popular resistance in the largely Russian-speaking southeast, where the anti-fascist and working-class traditions of Soviet times still run deep, and where some look to Russia as a last line of defense against the neo-Nazi threat from Kiev.
But instead of intimidating the resistance, the fascists have angered those fighting back and the struggle has spread. After losing ground earlier in the week, anti-fascists in Lugansk held onto government buildings. Miners in the Donbas region have downed tools to go to the defense of Donetsk. Hundreds have remained in the streets of Kharkov despite a ban on protests.
And even in the western Ukraine city of Lviv, near the Polish border, progressive forces briefly seized the local prosecutor’s office to protest a new appointment by Kiev.
Donetsk prepares to fight
In Donetsk, capital of the Donbas mining region, protesters seized the Regional State Administration building on April 6 and declared an independent People’s Republic of Donetsk. The new People’s Council, with the support of thousands of demonstrators in the main square, announced a referendum for May 11 to determine the future of the region.
The demand for a referendum has gripped the masses throughout the southeast, who want autonomy or independence from the fascist, pro-NATO regime in Kiev, which is in the process of imposing austerity in return for International Monetary Fund loans.
Calling for a general mobilization of the populace, the People’s Council said April 9: “According to information from our activists at civilian roadblocks, Ukrainian armored vehicles are on their way to Donetsk. The Kiev junta has decided to solve the problem posed by our protest by military force.
“But their politicians and security forces are afraid of the presence of civilians near the building, where a large number of foreign journalists are also present.
“Last night, thanks to the presence of thousands of people around the Lugansk state security headquarters, people formed a human shield around the building to protect it and the presence of militias barricaded inside prevented police from carrying out their orders to kill our comrades.
“Let’s be worthy of our comrades from Lugansk! Protect our militia guarding the building of the People’s Council! Let’s defend our independence and freedom!”
And the people responded.
Activists and volunteers, including many youth and retirees, have built barricades around the RSA building and other protest strongholds, set up checkpoints on roads, gathered food, water and medical supplies, and joined defense trainings against the expected military assault.
On the night of April 9-10, teams of activists blocked several military buses and prevented them from deploying troops near the RSA.
“We will be on duty here all night, because the assault could begin at any moment,” one activist on night-watch duty told Ria Novosti.
Sergey Tsyplakov, deputy director of the People’s Militia of Donbas, said: “In Donetsk airport, about 100 people from the National Guard have been housed. Around 100 Right Sector bandits are also in the city, as well as a hundred employees from a private U.S. military company operating under contract with the Kiev junta.
“In total, there are around 300 professionals or well-trained and motivated fanatics,” Tsyplakov said. “This is a major force, but we are ready to fight.”
Kharkov: ‘Resistance does not subside’
In the city of Kharkov, where the struggle has been led by the People’s Unity coalition and the leftist Union Borotba (Struggle), protesters seized the local RSA building and declared a People’s Republic on April 7.
The People’s Council called for regional autonomy, including independence from NATO, renationalization of former Soviet industry and priority to collective forms of ownership.
That night, hundreds of fascists and mercenaries wearing Special Forces uniforms attacked the building. They arrested 70 people and dispersed the protesters — but only temporarily.
Kiev-allied city officials declared they would ban mass protests in Freedom Square and the city center.
But the next day, hundreds again gathered on the square and outside the fascist-occupied RSA building.
On April 9, more than 500 people turned out to demand the release of the detained activists, Borotba reported. The fearful authorities had the courthouse surrounded by 1,000 police and refused to admit members of the public.
People picketed the courthouse for several hours, chanting “Power to the people! Freedom for the Kharkov defenders!” while parents shouted, “Free our children!”
The activists were sentenced to two months imprisonment or a fine of 180,000 hryvnia — about $14,000 each.
Simultaneously, hundreds more rallied at Freedom Square ahead of a court hearing on the planned demonstration ban. “The ban is aimed not only at us, but at all Kharkovites,” charged Borotba’s Svetlana Tsiberganova.
Borotba and People’s Unity have called for a major demonstration on April 12 in defiance of the ban.
“Despite the repression, the resistance does not subside,” declared Borotba coordinator Sergei Kirichuk. “The people are going to continue the fight.”
Thanks to Dmitry Kolesnik for invaluable assistance with translation and sources.