April 25 — Pushed and prodded by U.S. officials, the far-right coup regime in Kiev is now in the twelfth day of an on-again, off-again military offensive against the rebellious working-class cities of southeastern Ukraine.
The so-called “anti-terrorist campaign” was launched after a visit by CIA Director John Brennan to Kiev on April 12-13. Following humiliating setbacks, including the desertion of many troops the regime had believed loyal, the attack resumed immediately after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden flew to Kiev on April 22 to apply more pressure and promise more aid.
The people of the southeast categorically reject the junta, which is dominated by fascist organizations like Svoboda, Fatherland and the Right Sector, and by supporters of U.S.-NATO imperialism. The coup regime seeks to impose on Ukrainian workers an International Monetary Fund austerity program like the one that has ravaged Greece.
Having declared its determination to seek independence, the populace of the Donetsk region is seizing government buildings, building barricades and arming itself with weapons seized from local police and military forces, some of whom have defected to the side of the anti-fascist resistance.
In Kharkov, Lugansk, Odessa and other regions, people are rising to demand a referendum on broad autonomy or even independence from Kiev.
In the face of this open rebellion by Ukraine’s industrial and mining centers, Washington and Kiev are hourly issuing brazen threats of open military confrontation with Ukraine’s neighbor, the Russian Federation, which has refused to recognize the coup regime and warned it to stop the repressive military campaign against the largely Russian-speaking southeast.
Southeast activists say the Geneva Agreement negotiated by the U.S., Ukraine and Russia has had no impact, and an “Easter truce” was repeatedly broken by fascists loyal to Kiev. The presence of an Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring delegation in Donetsk, meanwhile, has done nothing to deter violence but instead been used to put additional pressure on the local population to surrender.
Washington, Kiev deploy troops
Leading figures in the Kiev coup have openly declared their desire for war with Russia.
The desires of the fascists are in line with the long-term U.S. strategy, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, to break apart and dominate Russia and prevent its rise as a formidable capitalist rival.
On April 24, the U.S. began deploying 600 troops to Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel promising more NATO forces to come. Another U.S. warship, the USS Taylor, has entered the Black Sea to engage in provocative war games. Pentagon officials claim this is “to promote peace and stability in the region.”
President Barack Obama interrupted his “war tour” of Asian-Pacific countries targeting China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — which has come under protest by people throughout the region — to threaten Russia with further sanctions, while Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the Russian television network RT, which has been crucial to exposing U.S. machinations in Ukraine and bringing reports from the frontlines of southeastern Ukraine to English-speaking audiences.
Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk — hand-picked by the U.S. State Department — upped the stakes still further on April 25, raising the specter of a Russian invasion to dominate the country “militarily and politically” and claiming Moscow wants to start World War III.
In response to the Ukrainian military offensive and U.S.-NATO provocations, Russia announced that it was beginning military drills near the border.
“The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said during a meeting in Moscow on April 24. “War games by NATO in Poland and the Baltic states are not helping the normalization of the situation. We are forced to react to the situation.”
Shoigu said that 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 armored carriers and at least 150 artillery pieces are involved in the operation against the anti-fascist activists.
After local anti-fascist militias in Slovyansk pushed back an attempted invasion of the city by the National Guard — largely composed of neo-Nazis from western Ukraine — presidential spokesperson Serhiy Pashynskyi announced April 25 that the regime would “totally blockade” the city.
At least seven anti-fascists died repelling the attack.
The pretext for resuming the military offensive on the southeast was the discovery of two bodies near Slovyansk on April 20. One of the dead was Vladimir Rybak, an ally of interim President Oleksandr Turchynov.
Turchynov claimed that the men had been tortured and murdered by “terrorists” working for Russia.
He neglected to mention that several Slovyansk anti-fascists were also killed in fighting with the Right Sector and other neo-Nazis on Easter weekend.
Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the people’s mayor of Slovyansk, called the murders a “provocation” carried out by the ultra-right.
Slovyansk is part of the Donetsk region in the Donbas mining area, where activists have declared an independent People’s Republic and plan a referendum on the region’s future to be held May 11.
It is also where Ukrainian military personnel driving three armoured personnel carriers surrendered to protesters on April 16 — a major public humiliation for the regime.
Another victory for the people’s forces came April 25, when the militia in Kramatorsk destroyed a Ukrainian military helicopter at the local airfield. Online videos showed the explosion and smoke rising from the area.
“Our people approached the airfield, shot a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) in the direction of the helicopter. There was an explosion. [Kiev] militants started shooting and we [protesters] retreated,” a representative from the Kramatorsk self-defense troops told RIA Novosti.
U.S. turns reality on its head
Washington and the corporate media have worked overtime to turn reality on its head, painting a picture of covert Russian intervention and military threats to Ukraine, which reflect precisely what the U.S. has been engaged in for years.
Confirmation of this came again on April 21, when U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told CNN that the U.S. had spent over $5 billion promoting regime change in Ukraine.
This was the same figure Nuland used in a leaked telephone call that saw her and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pratt plotting to make Yatsenyuk prime minister — which duly happened following the coup against elected President Viktor Yanukovych in late February.
In a veritable replay of the U.S.-NATO campaign to destroy Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the imperialist-dominated International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced it is opening an investigation of the deposed Ukrainian president for shooting deaths that occurred during the right-wing Euromaidan protests that preceded the coup — shootings now widely believed to have actually been the work of the coup-makers themselves.
Besides these large-scale military and political provocations, anti-fascist activists are daily facing attempts by the coup-makers to discredit and divide their movement.
One of the most egregious was the distribution of anti-Semitic leaflets in the capital of Donetsk by a pair of men holding a Russian flag. The flier, which claimed to be issued by the People’s Council of Donetsk, called on all Jewish residents over 16 to “register” and pay a fee.
The flier was quickly exposed as a fraud by leaders of the Donetsk People’s Council and local Jewish community leaders, who denounced it as a provocation by the neofascist supporters of Kiev — forces that have a documented history of anti-Semitism.
But the bogus story was taken up and widely spread in the U.S media — and by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The rebuttal, coming just hours later, was heard by far fewer people.
Hackers released private emails of the fascist Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, revealing collaboration between his office and local media in spying on and repression of anti-fascist forces in Kharkov, which led to the arrest of local activist/journalist Konstantin Dolgoy on trumped-up arson charges and an illegal search of the offices of the leftist Union Borotba (Struggle).
“All of this is the systematic work of the Kiev authorities to discredit the protest movement in the Southeast,” said Sergei Kirichuk, coordinator of Borotba.
“The junta-controlled media is cynically trying to present the anti-fascist forces as xenophobic hooligans. But among the right-wing groups which took an active part in the coup were ideological racists and Nazis involved in beatings and murders motivated by racial hatred. Moreover, liberal defenders of the junta prefer to hush up these well-known facts.
“The movement of the Southeast stands on positions of internationalism,” said Kirichuk. “It unites people of different nationalities and upholds their basic rights, regardless of their nationality and the language they speak.”