June 2 — In an important military victory for the People’s Republic of Donetsk, armed defenders brought down a Ukrainian military helicopter outside the embattled city of Slavyansk on May 29. A Ukrainian Armed Forces general and 13 soldiers were reported killed.
The downing of the helicopter was confirmed by Oleksandr Turchynov, acting president of the far-right junta of neoliberal politicians, oligarchs and fascists in Kiev that was installed and is supported by Washington.
The victory by the Slavyansk anti-fascist fighters brought to mind images of National Liberation Front guerrillas downing U.S. Air Force planes during the early years of the Vietnam War, despite wide discrepancies in their fire power.
People’s militias in Donetsk and Lugansk, armed with rifles and weapons seized from captured military installations and surrendering Ukrainian soldiers, are vastly outgunned by the junta, which has at its disposal almost unlimited financial aid from the U.S. and other Western powers.
Slavyansk has been ground zero of a heightened wave of military attacks since fraudulent presidential elections were held in Ukraine on May 25.
During the campaign, billionaire Peter Poroshenko, the chocolate magnate “selected” as the next president of Ukraine, had spoken in more conciliatory terms than his openly fascist and far-right competitors.
But immediately after his victory was announced, Poroshenko proclaimed that the war against the independent Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and the anti-fascist resistance in southeast Ukraine would last “hours, not months.” He threatened to unleash “secret weapons” if the people’s forces did not surrender within 24 hours. (The Guardian, May 26)
Despite these bellicose threats and growing military terrorism aimed at civilians, especially children, Poroshenko’s prediction was quickly disproven by the people’s determination to resist — and the heroic fighters who brought down the general’s chopper.
U.S. pays for Kiev’s terror campaign
On June 2, the headquarters of the people’s government in Lugansk city came under attack by Ukrainian fighter jets. At least five people were reported killed and 10 injured. Others remained trapped inside as fire engulfed the administration building’s upper floors, RIA Novosti reported.
The attack came exactly one month after neo-Nazis set fire to the House of Trade Unions in Odessa on May 2, killing at least 46 anti-fascists and workers trapped inside or attempting to escape.
At almost the same moment in Kiev, Pentagon official Derek Chollet announced during talks with the coup regime that the U.S. was giving $18 million in new aid to “boost security.” “The Ukrainians sent a very long list of what they need, and the U.S. and our close partners — France, Britain and Poland — will be working to satisfy this list,” said Chollet. (Interfax, June 2)
The new aid comes on top of $10 billion in promised U.S. loans and $18 billion in International Monetary Fund loans in exchange for deep austerity measures to be borne by Ukrainian workers.
Washington’s latest quick-cash infusion may go to meet promised pay hikes for uniformed fascists and mercenaries.
Defense Minister Mikhail Koval announced May 30 that the junta would “improve the motivation” of its Anti-Terrorist Operation fighters by raising their pay to 20,000 hryvnia per month — the equivalent of $1,700 — an astronomical amount in Ukraine, where the average conscripted soldier makes about $50 a month.
In an interview with LifeNews, former presidential candidate Oleg Tsarev, who survived an assassination attempt and was forced to withdraw from the elections, reported: “I have many friends among the People’s Deputies [in Kiev]. … They say that together with congratulations on his election victory, Poroshenko’s team received orders from the U.S. to clean up the southeast before his inauguration. They said that if the death toll is not more than 2,000 to 3,000 people, it will be treated as normal and the world will endure it.” (May 30)
The Russian Federation has condemned the Ukraine junta’s ongoing war crimes against the people of the southeast and urged the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and United Nations to take action. However, when asked if “the [Obama] administration believes that the Ukrainian military has shown restraint in its operations,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told a press briefing “yes” on May 30. (state.gov)
“The Ukrainians have every right to defend and maintain stability and order in their own country,” she stated in a May 27 briefing.
Junta targets children
One way that Kiev is taking steps to “maintain stability and order” is by targeting children.
On the night of June 1, Ukrainian troops began heavy mortar shelling in the suburbs of Slavyansk, according to a spokesperson for the people’s defense forces. The Sails of Hope children’s home was shelled. Fortunately, “there were no children inside at the moment of shelling — they were evacuated from the town last week.” (ITAR-TASS, June 1)
Earlier that day, five civilians were wounded during attacks on the city.
Seven children in Slavyansk were wounded May 29 when Ukrainian forces shelled a residential district overnight, damaging a children’s hospital and clinic.
On May 28, a shell tore the roof off a school in the district of Artyom. Students and teachers took shelter in the school’s basement, and everyone survived. But four civilians were killed in that area the previous day.
The Kiev junta’s terror tactics — aimed at wearing down the population by targeting hospitals, schools and housing — echoes the U.S.-NATO strategy during its war against the people of Yugoslavia in 1999.
Ironically, it was former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, one of the architects of that war, who presided over the Western “election monitors” who rubber-stamped Poroshenko’s election.
According to ITAR-TASS, Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, reported that the Ukrainian forces are using banned weapons such as explosive bullets to do maximum damage to civilian targets.
Since recapturing the Donetsk airport, aircraft from western Ukraine have arrived daily carrying new units of the Ukrainian army and National Guard, composed of members of fascist gangs like Right Sector and the Maidan Self-Defense.
The people’s militias maintain control of the city, Borodai said, while continuing to monitor the enemy’s movements.
Six anti-fascist fighters were killed June 1 when they tried to retrieve the bodies of their comrades who died on the outskirts of the airport the previous week.
“Civilians continue to be killed every day,” Borodai added. “No one can give exact figures because access to the airport area is now impossible.” He said more than 50 anti-fascist militia members and “dozens” of civilians had been killed in Donetsk in the week since the election.
Hundreds of children from the Donetsk region have been evacuated to neighboring Crimea and Rostov, both in the Russian Federation, where they are being cared for in Soviet-era children’s summer camps. Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine in a popular referendum March 16 following the coup.
A busload of children and caregivers from Slavyansk was stopped by Ukrainian troops as they tried to cross the border into Russia on the night of May 30. The 38 people on board, including 21 children between 2 months and 12 years old, were able to cross on foot with assistance from Russian border guards. (RT, May 30)
Hundreds of parents and children rallied in Donetsk city’s Lenin Square on June 1, International Children’s Day, demanding “Save the children of Donbass!” — the name of the industrial and mining region that encompasses the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.