In the early morning hours of Jan. 24, three GRAD missiles struck a residential area on the outskirts of Mariupol, the second largest city in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), formerly part of southeastern Ukraine. Reports indicate that at least 30 people died and nearly 100 were injured.
Mariupol, a port on the Azov Sea, has been occupied by forces loyal to the U.S.-backed Ukrainian junta of oligarchs, neoliberal politicians and fascists since last summer. Neo-Nazi “volunteer brigades” hold strategic positions in the city to prevent any uprising. Local residents, along with the rest of Donetsk and Lugansk, voted overwhelmingly for independence from Ukraine in a referendum last May 11.
Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko, himself an oligarch, immediately blamed advancing forces of the Novorossiyan People’s Militias for the missile strike in Mariupol. He was on a visit to Saudi Arabia, where he was paying homage to another dictator favored by Washington, King Abdullah, but cut it short due to what he called “a crime against humanity.”
A crime it was indeed. But there is no reason to accept the junta and its Western backers’ version of events — they are guilty of numerous war crimes against the people of Novorossiya, as the historically Russian-speaking area is known. And there are many reasons to doubt it.
In situations like this, it is crucial to ask: Who stands to gain?
Of course, accidents can and do happen in wartime. But there is nothing for the anti-fascist resistance forces to gain by attacking their own people. And there is everything to gain for Kiev and Washington, in their campaign to discredit the People’s Republics and justify NATO expansion to Russia’s border.
Leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic emphatically deny Kiev’s charge. “The militia forces in the area of Mariupol have no artillery systems that can bombard the specified zone,” said a statement from the militia headquarters. “From our position the location is too far away.
“According to our information, the fire came from the area of Stary Krym, where Ukrainian troops are located. From the information we have today, we make the assumption that this is a provocation of the Ukrainian military.” (Novorossia Today, Jan. 26)
Indeed, carrying out attacks on civilian targets has been the junta’s modus operandi since it launched its misnamed “Anti-Terrorist Operation” last April. All through the autumn and early winter, when the Minsk Accord ceasefire was supposedly in effect, both Nazi-dominated volunteer battalions and the National Guard routinely shelled homes, schools, hospitals and civilian infrastructure in the Donetsk capital and other cities.
Since Jan 18, when Ukraine unilaterally reopened hostilities, its army and militias have killed hundreds of civilians throughout the region. The Ukrainian armed forces have terror-bombed the city of Gorlovka nonstop, dropped cluster bombs in Stakhanov and used illegal chemical weapons as they retreated from the Donetsk airport.
Just two days before the Mariupol attack, during the morning rush hour on Jan. 22, a Ukrainian artillery shell hit a trolley bus in central Donetsk, slaughtering 13 people and injuring 20 more. There was no outcry about the attack from Kiev or the West — because there was no way for the imperialists to blame the anti-fascists.
Within hours of the Mariupol attack, monitors from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, officially a “nongovernmental organization” but in reality a tool of the European Union imperialists, issued a preliminary report blaming the Novorossiyan forces. The same OSCE has failed innumerable times to condemn attacks by Ukrainian forces. Its true role is so well known that people on the street in Donetsk had to be restrained from attacking the monitors when they visited the site of the bus massacre.
At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Jan. 25, U.S. junior partner Britain attempted to push through a resolution condemning the Mariupol attack as the work of the “Russian-backed separatists.” The resolution was rightly vetoed by the Russian Federation.
Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the DNR, told a Jan. 24 news conference: “Today we launched an offensive against the Ukrainian forces around Mariupol, and God willing, in a few days we shall close the Debaltsevsky cauldron. And this will be the best memorial to the victims, because we will avenge them all. We will punish those who pulled the trigger, pressed the button and sent the shells flying that killed our countrymen. Those who were shot in Gorlovka, who were shot in Makeyevka, Yenakiyevo, Shakhtarsk, Zhdanovka, Kirov … we will avenge each of our children, elders and all innocent victims.” (DNR.Today)
Anti-fascists in the U.S. also say: “Victory to the Novorossiyan people’s militia! Long live the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics! Down with the Ukrainian junta and U.S. imperialism!”