April 17 — News arrived this afternoon from Geneva that Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine’s coup government in Kiev had reached an agreement expressed in a public text “on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens.”
The agreement follows the collapse of a punitive expedition of troops and police to put down the uprising against the Kiev government taking place in eastern Ukraine. The terms of the agreement were general and how they will unfold in reality is still unclear.
The agreement puts world attention back on the state powers that are in contention in Ukraine. U.S. and EU imperialism have threatened to take over Ukraine and move it into NATO. The Russian government has tried to keep NATO out of the region. The agreement follows two days when the main actors in the conflict were the workers of eastern Ukraine.
The White House had to admit that last weekend CIA Director John Brennan visited Kiev and met with high-ranked Ukrainian officials. These Kiev officials had spoken often of ending the uprising in eastern Ukraine, but had been unable to start this military-police action.
Two days later, on April 15, the Ukrainian army began a military offensive ordered by that regime — which apparently was following a directive from Washington to get on with the repression. Troops in armored personnel carriers (APCs) moved along the roads, while helicopters buzzed overhead.
As so often is the case, the imperialist strategists in Washington failed to take into account the mood of the population in the area under attack — in this case, on the determination of the workers in the eastern part of Ukraine near the Russian border.
Organized groups from this population had seized public buildings in 10 cities and armed themselves. A large majority of the people was with them, considering them heroes. No one was for the Kiev government.
When columns of Ukrainian army troops in APCs approached a city in the east, the people, including many women and older men — some obviously mine workers — got in front of and around the vehicles and engage the troops in conversation. “You won’t shoot us, will you?” they challenged.
The troops had no wish to shoot their own people. They said this, and in Slovyansk, an entire line of 21 vehicles either went over to the side of the uprising or were surrendered to activists participating in the uprising.
The U.S.-Kiev side was so demoralized that the New York Times headline read: “Ukraine push against rebels grinds to halt.” It is worthwhile quoting the first paragraph of this April 16 article:
“A military operation that the Ukrainian government said would confront pro-Russian militants in the east of the country unraveled in disarray on Wednesday with the entire contingent of 21 armored vehicles that had separated into two columns surrendering or pulling back before nightfall. It was a glaring humiliation for the new government in Kiev.”
The next morning, the Kiev and imperialist side was almost jubilant that the Ukrainian army had killed three people and wounded another 13 in Mariupol, in southeast Ukraine. But despite the willingness of a few Ukrainian generals to fire on their own people, the battle was more a sign of the courage of the “rebels” than of determination by the army.
NATO threatened to move planes and even troops into the new NATO member countries in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. The U.S. threatened more sanctions against Russia. And it is hard to predict what this new agreement will bring. But on the ground in eastern Ukraine, the imperialists faced — in the Times own words — a humiliating defeat.