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Thursday, 3 September 2015

Corbyn's election means Ukraine's stuffed


"I didn't say that, come on I've never said that, so please."


The UK Labour leadership campaign has made one thing abundantly clear - no one much cares about a war in Europe.

When I first wrote my now viral August 8 post on Jeremy Corbyn's position on Ukraine it was because no one who was then criticising Corbyn was mentioning Ukraine. Someone had to stick up for them so it might as well be me. But I was cynical and nothing since has told me that I was wrong to be cynical.

Nobody busy citing Corbyn's alleged links to antisemites, for example, has even tried by hook nor by crook to connect him to those fascists fighting for Mother Russia in the Donbas. His biggest enemies have forgotten all about the persecuted Jews in Ukraine.

When the issue finally came up at the Daily Mirror hustings (well after voting had begun) Liz Kendall quoted Corbyn's own words back at him, that he believed that NATO was to blame for 'provoking' Russian aggression against Ukraine, and he replied, Bart Simpson-like: "I didn't say that, come on I've never said that, so please."

None of the other candidates followed up. No journalists pulled that, well, lie out and waved it about.

This flat out denial and obfuscation is hardly new. When the respected Ukrainian human rights activist Halya Coynash said last week that Corbyn was ignoring Russian human rights abuses his campaign claimed that he'd "sent his support to peace campaigners across the region." When? Where? Any evidence of this mythic support?

At the Channel Four hustings this week Andy Burnham's soundbite that "it sounds like you're making excuses for Putin" got the headlines. But my pick would be when Lithuania (oddly) came up and Corbyn said that if Russia invaded we'd be "sucked into it" because of being in NATO. Here he sounded just like the American libertarian isolationist Ron Paul.

*available from an anti-imperialist store near you
Or another pick from that hustings would be when Corbyn claimed that 'the Russian military/industrial connections used the opportunity [of Ukraine's Revolution of Dignity]' to push their government (Putin) to do things like invade Crimea. Who else argues that it's never Putin's fault, that Putin is let down by other mysterious actors? Russian TV and all those banging the drum for the infallible leader, that's who.

Both of these jaw-dropping comments went unremarked. Clearly UK journalism doesn't hear this stuff and think 'gaffe' because it doesn't understand that they are gaffes.

No one has Fisked me (picked my argument that Corbyn supports Russian imperialism apart) - although I've had my fair share of abuse. Despite over ten thousand views for my August 8 piece it is obvious that Ukraine just isn't such an important issue for Corbyn supporters that someone feels the need to trash me.

Even though it has now become a headline, via Burnham, Ukraine is still an minor, disposable adjunct to all the other stuff about Hamas and who he sat on a stage with and OBL. Example: When I bovvered commenting on the Labour Uncut website mentioning Ukraine a couple of weeks ago not a single pro or anti Corbyn commentator took me up. Clearly neither side saw Ukraine as a tool in the armory of arguments.

My original post was a reaction to seeing foreign policy starting to be raised but with no mention of Ukraine. It has barely been raised since, including, still, by his opponents.

And none of his supporters has seen fit to even bother to argue for Corbyn's coming election via his policy on Ukraine - a European war with 7k dead and well over a million displaced. They don't think that was important enough to argue that Corbyn has the answers.

Instead debate on policy on a war in Europe has been shamefully reduced to #suggestacorbynsmear and Jeremy Corbyn refuses to deny being a Russian agent. This has gone way beyond the fringe to the pages of Private Eye and BBC Radio Four comedy shows.

The amazing, disappearing European war

TL:DR - The collective response from the entire UK left has been 'I ain't bovvered.'
Am I bovvered? Am I bovvered though? Look at my face. Is it bovvered? Asks me If I'm bovvered! Look, face, bovvered? I ain't bovvered!

I was shocked to read the AWL, for example, defending Corbyn while failing to mention Ukraine - when they have been one of the strongest on the issue and in promoting Ukranian socialist voices. This is the same AWL that the Guardian Political Editor saw fit to mention in his long read on what happens post election, so he thinks they have some clout.

Look at the lengthy piece by influential journalist Owen Jones on what happens next and notice what is absent. "Labour should suggest a more constructive role for Britain within the [NATO] Alliance", he says. What the heck does that mean for Ukraine? We abandon them to their fate or what?

The shining exception is Peter Tatchell who coherently explains why he backs Corbyn despite his difficulties on Ukraine and other issues. Tatchell says:
I am confident that he will respond to fair criticism and reconsider some of his past associations. And I'm certain that if he became prime minister he'd adopt a somewhat different stance. Already he's modified his position on NATO and the EU, from withdrawal to reform.
Sorry Peter (and others) but I'm not confident and there are numerous reasons why.

We love contradictory Jeremy?

One of the most active Ukraine supporters on the left told me that Jeremy has taken 'contradictory' positions. I'll say he has.

When I wrote my original Corbyn post there was way enough evidence to say that he clearly supported Russian imperialism. So when in late August a video of a speech given last year by Corbyn 'emerged' (meaning that someone important was notified) in which he says the following it just underlined what I'd argued. Nevertheless I gawped when Corbyn said:
[Nato's] interests in the Ukraine are not benign interests in support for the people of Ukraine. It's about advancing military technology and a military presence further and further eastwards in order to create this ghastly scenario of some kind of hi-tech war with Russia in the future.
Just how much nonsense this is is shown by how many are yelling at the Americans now for their delays to supplying non-lethal military help to Ukraine. I already disproved his repeated spiel about NATO 'expanding eastwards'. It's just factually wrong, as well as insulting to Eastern Europeans.

So where is he getting this fantasy from?

Have a look. The sole others I can find making this particular "hi-tech war with Russia" argument are American neo-Confederate libertarians. See this piece from the Ron Paul fanclub for example. And you can also read similar arguments on the conspiracist, pro-Putin website Globalresearch.ca.

They're Jeremy's go to sources for foreign policy guidance? Anyone who asked would be yelled at. By the candidate (as we've seen several times in the election campaign) and by his crew. It's worth noting here that not even the truly insane John Pilger has mentioned "hi-tech war with Russia."

Still think, Peter Tatchell, that Corbyn will respond to fair criticism like 'where are you getting the batty ideas from?' Or will it be called a 'smear' or 'I never said that'?

Again. Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy.

Who the heck is advising him was precisely and generously what I said in my original post and the argument that 'everything will be alright on the night' seems to consist in part of the notion that Labour leader Jeremy will be shifted because of the weight of the office and that the problems with advice/influence from the Stop The War Coalition leaders and various others will drop away. Oh, and it'll all turn out OK as he's 'basically anti war', which is just BS because everything he's said so far supports Russian imperialism aka war.

Again, being fair and generous, I have tried to find out what Corbyn has done behind the scenes. This is because his old mate John McDonnell MP is chair of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (USC). Well, he signed an EDM supporting the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine in the industrial centre of Kryvyi Rih. I'm told he helped USC get a room in Parliament. But he never showed up on a USC platform. And that he supports the Crimean Tatars, but there's nothing on the public record I could find.

Then there are statements cited such as this one in his Financial Times interview (my emphasis):
I am no defender whatsoever of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin or Russian foreign policy any more than I defend the west’s foreign policy but I do feel nervous about this expansion eastward and the consequent militarisation of Russia. I think the important thing is that there be a better-developed relationship with Russia and [efforts to] demilitarise on both sides of the border [with Ukraine] . . . The onus is on both sides to make that happen.
As the old saying goes, everything before the 'but' is BS. Then there is the question of what you do in Corbyn's scenario if the 'other side' fails to demilitarise - which is exactly what is going on right now as Russia continues to pour in troops and equipment. Just keep talking and/or aid the Ukrainians?

When Crimea was invaded, it was recently reported, the Ukrainians were advised not to put up a fight by both the Americans and the Europeans. As it happened during the chaotic situation just after Yanukovych exited the new government was not really in a position to put up a fight anyway, as later events made very clear the military was a mess. So we had the humiliating scenes of Ukrainian bases in Crimea being besieged by the Little Green Men.

That Crimea could be so easily taken surprised the Kremlin and emboldened them in the Donbas. Although she doesn't cite Crimea, that's evidence which supports Yvette Cooper's claim at the Channel Four hustings that soft power does not work with Putin.

We know that Corbyn thinks we shouldn't aid Ukraine as we now are with night vision goggles, meals ready to eat and training, because in his world that just 'provokes' poor Russia who then have to respond to the nasty West. So what do we do when we talk to them? Ask nicely? He's yet to be asked whether sanctions are a good idea but I think we all know what he'd say.

Next month the MH17 report will come out from the Dutch Safety Board. This will lay out in detail just how come Russia was responsible for downing the Boeing - and killing ten Brits. There will be a renewed call, if not a screaming demand, for more sanctions.

What will Corbyn say on MH17? 

Lewes Bonfire Night
The reaction to the MH17 report will immediately bring to the surface who is deciding foreign policy in the Party and whether Corbyn will continue to play the game of saying bad things are indeed bad but actually the biggest baddest West is always ultimately responsible. Going on past practice that is exactly what will happen with any MH17 statement from him and it will be facepalm godawful.

When we ask about foreign policy we are told and Corbyn has said that he supports greater democracy in Labour policy decisions. This does not fill me with confidence either having seen countless repetition on Kremlin memes, even from the likes of Eric Joyce, and when YouGov finds that nearly a third of Corbyn supporters think the world is controlled by a 'secret elite' and half that "the United States is the greatest single threat to world peace." Then, as Nick Cohen has pointed out, also take note that there are plenty on the right in Labour who believe in 'realpolitic' or are actually in the pay of Russia, Mandelson for one obvious example.

Good luck to anyone trying to patiently explain internally in Labour how Corbyn's statements align with Marine LePen's (which they do). It'll be 'how very dare you!' Already is.

Interestingly the pro-Kremlin Irish journalist Bryan MacDonald also puts Corbyn in the same camp as LePen for his anti-Americanism. And MacDonald points out that this position is popular - he's not wrong, as any visit to the comments on the Daily Mail website will tell you. 'Why should Britain support Ukraine, we're better off out of it' is hardly an unpopular or, probably, vote losing stance.

I've also pointed out that Russia would deploy all to get the UK's alternative government onside. Meaning spies. This is far from a ridiculous red-baiting argument as they've already been exposed trying to infiltrate the Tories, as well as the establishment in France and other European countries.

MH17 will be an immediate test of all these factors. Will Labour supporters buy into what will undoubtedly be an all-out effort by the Kremlin to confuse and to defame the Dutch? Will Labour MPs stand up to Corbyn when he says it was an awful thing to happen and he condemns those responsible but it wouldn't have happened if pesky NATO hadn't been involved? For MPs it does not bode well.

We just had a two month leadership campaign where a war in Europe barely came up and when it did, at the last moment, it was obviously not important. The other leadership candidates clearly didn't understand much about it (otherwise they would have raised it much earlier). Corbyn's other opponents mostly didn't either. Anyone trying to raise the issue was literally laughed at or dismissed, never debated with.

Tell me again how come Ukraine isn't going to be stuffed by Labour because I'm buggered if I can find one reason to not think it will be.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Don’t link to CounterPunch


If you are a progressive then the chances are you will have seen a link to the online magazine Counterpunch - or even posted one yourself.

In a staggering expose Elise Hendrick may make you think twice as she shows that white supremacist and racist authors far outweigh the odd Jeremy Scahill or Noam Chomsky piece. She convincing argues that the website's history demonstrates that it is a far right 'entry' project. She says:
In writing for, and sharing articles published on, CP, Leftists are unwittingly helping to promote the agenda of the far right.

In addition to the authors relied on by CP for its left cred, ‘America’s best political newsletter’ also regularly publishes ‘independent investigative journalism’ by a wide variety of white supremacists, including Paul Craig Roberts, editor of the white nationalist website VDare, Ron Paul (who poses for photo ops with neo-Nazis and warns of ‘race war’), and Alison Weir, holocaust denier Israel Shamir, and that perennial saboteur of the Palestinian solidarity movement, Gilad Atzmon, author of the racist The Wandering Who.

Although there are some who have expressed concern on this problematic mix, when I have raised this issue in discussions with others in left activist circles, I have often found that it is dismissed as a triviality. In these discussions, the white supremacist contingent tends to be attributed to an unwillingness to bow to ‘political correctness’ or a mere desire to ‘piss off liberals’, and generally believed to be an insignificant deviation from an otherwise clear leftist editorial line, the sort of thing only an ‘ideological purist’ could get excited about.

My own research into the editorial practices at CounterPunch shows otherwise. Not only have white supremacist authors long been a fixture at CP; their ideology is shared by members of the editorial collective. All in all, it is entirely reasonable to say that the formation of a Querfront (an alliance between the far right and the left) is a longstanding project of the newsletter, consistently endorsed by the decisions taken by CP editors and their own stated positions. In the following, I will examine the relationship between the CP editors and the racist Right via individual case studies and several statistical investigations.

More: CounterPunch or Suckerpunch? « Meldungen Aus Dem Exil

And there's lots more about CounterPunch at the Jews Sans Frontieres blog.

Friday, 28 August 2015

40% young Russia: We’ll beat America in nuclear war


Crosspost from LGF.

Does America have a clue how much hate against them is being stirred up in Russia?
This kind of breakdown in communication was also noted by sociologist Karina Lipiya of the Levada polling organization.

“People generally do not want to hear another point of view,” she told Radio France Internationale’s Russian-language website.

Her Levada colleague Alexei Levinson noted how significant numbers of Russians were now entertaining thoughts that “until yesterday were unthinkable and unacceptable”.

As he wrote in business daily Vedomosti in April, 47% men said Mr Putin’s statement about being ready to use nuclear weapons “did not make them fearful”. A large proportion of young people (40%) also thought Russia could defeat the United States in a nuclear war, he said.

Mr Levinson linked these bellicose opinions to the influence of television.

Recent research suggests that Kremlin TV propaganda may have declined in popularity from a peak in the summer and autumn of 2014.

But Ukraine still dominates the TV news, and talkshows where guests rant about US plans for world domination continue to command large audiences.

For veteran TV critic Yury Bogomolov, this suggests that many Russian people have somehow become “addicted to propaganda” and now have an “appetite for aggression”.

“There is a cycle of hatred in our society,” he wrote in a blog on the website of independent radio station, Ekho Moskvy.
More: BBC Monitoring - How TV Propaganda Is Affecting Russian Society

Corbyn is wrong says Ukrainian human rights legend


The author of this piece is one of the most respected figures on human rights in Ukraine. She has been fearless is going after all abusers, from all sides.

Her organisation, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, was birthed from the legendary Russian human rights group Memorial. Reblogged with permission.

===

Coynash
By Halya Coynash

Jeremy Corbyn, frontrunner for the UK Labour Party leadership and therefore a potential UK Prime Minister, affirms a commitment to human rights on his website. He demonstrates none when it comes to recent events in Crimea, the rest of Ukraine and Russia, and this is not through lack of attention to this part of the world. His assessment of Russia’s annexation of Crimea coincides nicely with that presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin and on Russian television and he has simply ignored grave human rights concerns under Russian occupation.

In February and March 2014 Russian troops seized control and forcibly annexed Crimea. Ukraine was too weak, even with the undoubted support of the Crimean Tatar population behind it, to defend its sovereign territory. The security assurances given by Russia, the USA and UK to Ukraine via the1994 Budapest Memorandum proved meaningless, and Crimea remains to this day under illegal Russian occupation.

The UK’s unwillingness to risk military conflict with Russia is understandable. Corbyn’s justification for non-intervention is much less so. He first expressed his views on March 8, 2014, two days after the leaders who had been installed at gunpoint had announced a largely alternative-less ‘referendum’ on joining Russia to be held ten days later, on March 16. Corbyn did note that “Russia has gone way beyond its legal powers to use bases in the Crimea. Sending unidentified forces into another country is clearly a violation of that country’s sovereignty.” He then added the non sequitur that Russian President Vladimir Putin had called ex-President Viktor Yanukovych “political history” and expressed woolly hopes for a “reduction of tensions”.

He asserts that one must “recognize the history lurking behind the drama”, and that “Ukraine’s national borders have ebbed and flowed with the tides of history”. He then claims significant collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War and states that “their descendants could be seen bearing Nazi insignia and spouting racist slogans in Kiev only a week ago.”

This is the first of a number of assertions that parrot attempts to discredit Euromaidan made first by Yanukovych, then by Putin. They are to this day pushed by Russian state-controlled media, including Russia Today which Corbyn is on record as praising for objective reporting. The refrain is heard again in an article for Morning Star in April: “The far-right is now sitting in government in Ukraine. The origins of the Ukrainian far-right go back to those who welcomed the Nazi invasion in 1941 and acted as allies of the invaders.”

The narrative Corbyn repeats, both with respect to Euromaidan and to subsequent events, has been repeatedly refuted by prominent Jewish figures in Ukraine and by Viacheslav Likhachev, the main researcher on anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine. It has also been debunked by the results of both presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014, where both far-right parties did extremely badly.

Corbyn’s chief villains in all parts of the world appear to be the USA and NATO. In the above articles written shortly after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, he effectively suggests that Russia is protecting itself against attempts by NATO to “encircle it”. From the Morning Star article, one could forget that it was Russia who breached international law by invading Crimea, and by funding and manning those who were by then already seizing control in parts of eastern Ukraine. Russia’s behaviour was, he claims, “not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied”. This is how he describes the seizure of government buildings, airports and military units in Crimea by Russian forces.

It is supposedly NATO whose “belligerence endangers us all”, although there was no question back in Spring 2014 of Ukraine joining NATO. Corbyn from the comfort of his North Islington home is against Poland and the Baltic States having been allowed to join NATO, although the Baltic republics are now seriously concerned that even such membership will not prevent Russian aggression.

This, Corbyn will claim, as does the Kremlin-funded Russia Today, is all US / NATO imperialist propaganda.

On a recent interview for Russia Today, Corbyn is reported to have suggested that he would seek closer ties with Russia. He is in interesting company with the same closer ties currently being promoted by a number of far-right parties in Europe including France’s National Front; Hungary’s Jobbik; and Bulgaria’s Ataka Party. It was members of a number of far-right and some neo-Nazi parties who were invited to Crimea to ‘observe’ the March 16 ‘referendum’, and then in November ‘elections’ held by the Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas.

It is obvious why Russia Today ignores or denies the mounting evidence of human rights abuse in Crimea and in areas under Kremlin-backed militant control in Donbas. It is unclear and disturbing why Corbyn is following suit.

The following are just some of the developments that cannot be attributed to US or NATO propaganda.

A serious attack on Crimean Tatar leaders and the Crimean Tatar Mejlis or representative assembly. Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemiliev and the Head of the Mejlis Refat Chubarov have been banned from their homeland. Dzhemiliev’s son Khaiser has been taken to Russia and is facing a lengthy term of imprisonment with his father unable to even visit him. The Deputy Head of the Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz has been in detention since Jan 2015 on legally absurd charges of involvement in a demonstration on Feb 26, 2014, i.e. before Russia’s invasion and annexation. The vast majority of Crimean Tatars opposed Russian occupation from the outset and they have been increasingly targeted in repressive measures aimed at forcing them into exile or silence. Chiygoz believes that his ongoing detention is specifically because he has made it clear that Crimea is his homeland and he is not leaving. Russia forced virtually all Crimean Tatar and independent Crimean media to close or move to mainland Ukraine. The investigation into the murder of Reshat Ametov, abducted from his peaceful protest outside parliament and tortured to death has been terminated, and the occupation authorities have made no attempt to investigate the abduction and / or forced disappearances of a number of other civic activists and young Crimean Tatar men.

A Euromaidan activist Oleksandr Kostenko is facing a 4-year sentence on equally absurd charges relating to an alleged incident in Feb 2014, before annexation and in Kyiv, not Crimea. His father has disappeared in mysterious circumstances and all attempts to get the clear evidence that Kostenko was subjected to torture have failed.

The same is true of Russia’s “absolutely Stalinist” Crimean show trial of renowned Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and left-wing civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko. They, together with two other opponents of Russian occupation were arrested, almost certainly tortured and then taken by force to Russia where Sentsov has now been sentenced to 20 years quite literally for nothing.

At least one blogger is in detention for writing articles critical of Russian occupation. Ukrainians who held a meeting where they laid flowers in honour of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko and read his works were prosecuted for holding a ‘prohibited symbol’ – a Ukrainian flag. Similar cases of harassment are ongoing.

All faiths except the Russian Orthodox Church are facing repression in Crimea. The same is also true of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics in Donbas.

The list of very serious concerns – of hostage-taking; extra-judicial executions and torture carried out by Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas – is very long.

Does Corbyn really see all of this as the fault of NATO? Does he genuinely believe that Amnesty International, Russian human rights organizations, as well as the slain opposition politician Boris Nemtsov were all duped (or paid?) by NATO when they revealed details of direct Russian military involvement and deaths in Ukraine?

Or does he not care? This, one assumes, is the case with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who found it lucrative to move to Russia and become a spokesperson for Gasprom. It is likely that Marine Le Pen has similar reasons for supporting Russia’s position on Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

It would be a damning position for a future leader of the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Sanctions response needed to Sentsov, Kolchenko case

Via

Reblogged with permission from Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. The author is one of the leading and most respected human rights activists in Ukraine.


===


By Halya Colnash

International outrage over the long sentences passed on Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko was as foreseeable as the predetermined outcome of Russia’s Crimean show trial. The courage and defiance shown by Sentsov, Kolchenko and Gennady Afanasyev was certainly not what Moscow had planned. It is now for Ukraine and western countries to demonstrate commitment to rule of law by ensuring proper penalties against all those who take part in Russia’s farcical prosecutions and trials of Ukrainian nationals (and thus far one Estonian).

It was clear back at the end of May 2014 that Russia was seeking a Crimean show trial aimed at sending a chilling warning to other opponents of Russia’s annexation to keep their head low. The Stalinist echoes were present from the outset in the emphasis on the demonized Ukrainian far-right nationalist party Right Sector and in the public demonstration of the ‘confession’ of two of the men – Oleksy Chirniy and Gennady Afanasyev. Both Sentsov and Kolchenko insisted throughout on their innocence and Sentsov consistently repeated his account of the torture and threats he had been subjected to.

That was the Kremlin’s first miscalculation, and there have been many since. Moscow has effectively abducted Ukrainian nationals and its attempts to foist Russian citizenship on the men are overtly illegal. The defence could only be forced to remain silent about the file material for so long. Once the indictments were made public, and from the first day of the trial, it was clear for everybody to see that there was no ‘terrorist plot’, and no evidence at all against Sentsov.

As the Memorial Human Rights Centre pointed out in its statement declaring both men political prisoners, the one charge against Kolchenko was in no way ‘terrorism’. Memorial pointed to analogous cases in Russia where the charges had been different and the sentence at least three times smaller.

The prosecutor Igor Tkachenko ignored all of this, as did the three judges: presiding judge Sergei Mikhailyuk, Viacheslav Korsakov and Edward Korobenko.

There was no response from any of them to Afanasyev’s retraction of his testimony and statement in court that he had given it under duress. There was none when the first real lawyer that Afanasyev has had, Alexander Popkov, read out Afanasyev’s account of the torture he had been subjected to and the threats he had received both before and after his courageous act in court.

The prosecutor and judges are demonstrably complicit in the crime committed against Afanasyev, Kolchenko and Sentsov.

It took a long time for countries to agree to sanctions against people implicated in the death in detention of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. This case, that of Nadiya Savchenko and some other Ukrainians, as well as the trial of Estonian police officer Eston Kohver, are more straightforward. No country should be allowed to abduct foreign nationals and convict them in farcical court trials on fabricated charges.

In the Crimean case there is also compelling evidence of the use of torture, and two of the men are now already serving sentences. Afanasyev in particular is in danger, and measures are needed at international level to safeguard both him and his mother from likely reprisals.

A list is currently being drawn up of all those most implicated. It will almost certainly include four FSB officers identified by the Centre for Journalist Investigations as directly involved in the arrest and torture of, at least, Oleg Sentsov. All four are former officers of the Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] and are, or until recently were, Ukrainian nationals. The four men are Alexander Kulabukhov; Sergei Markov; Dmitry Vasilkov and Alexander Zinchenko. It will also include the investigators, prosecutors, judges and others implicated in the men’s prolonged detention; the refusal to investigate credible allegations of torture; and multiple other violations of the men’s rights.

A similar list is needed for former pilot and Ukrainian MP Nadiya Savchenko, with this certainly including people holding high position in Russia’s Investigative Committee. Ideally such a list could also include those responsible for the ongoing detention without properly legal services of 73-year-old Yury Soloshenko; the detention and torture of Serhiy Litvinov, and at least five other Ukrainians now in Russian detention.

A clear message is needed now. The ‘trial’ of Nadiya Savchenko has not begun, but there are all grounds for expecting a similar travesty. The sentences passed on Sentsov and Kolchenko will certainly be appealed.

The appeal court judges, as well as all those taking part in Savchenko’s trial and other demonstrations by Moscow of legal banditry should know now that their actions will have real consequences for them. Criminal orders to destroy human lives should not be obeyed, and those who arrest, torture, abduct and convict those the Kremlin wants punished should, as a minimum, face automatic bans on entry to EU and other democratic countries, and any other measures already applied to those on the Magnitsky List.

Edited to add: The Ukrainian Foreign Minister has said that he will be pushing for sanctions.

See also:

There is no "civil war" in Ukraine

A Russian war propaganda organ trumpeting the BBC's reaffirmation on terminology
Pump 'Ukraine + "civil war"' into Google and click the 'News' tab and you get dozens of results. Deutsche Welle, Newsweek, CNBC, Huffington Post, The Independent, The Nation, Washington Post, and The Daily Telegraph have all used that phrase to describe what is going on.

As does the BBC, although Euan McDonald, a Kyiv Post Editor, says that's because the BBC "has to use certain terminology to continue to have access to separatist areas." Its own reporters covered the initial takeover of government buildings in the Donbas and said that Russian Special Forces appeared to be involved and they have someone like Mark Urban, the Diplomatic and defence editor of the BBC's lead news show Newsnight, covering in March the presence of Russian troops.

Here Cambridge University's Dr Rory Finnin (Department of Slavonic Studies) and Dr Thomas D Grant (Faculty of Law) argue that what terms are used by someone as trusted as the BBC is not a minor issue and we should all stop employing euphemisms. Reblogged with permission.

====

The war in Ukraine, we are often told, is a “civil war” involving “rebels” fighting the central government in Kiev. Such restrictive, inaccurate terms greatly misrepresent the conflict, which has already killed over 6,500 and displaced at least 1.4m Ukrainians. Too often, the crisis is talked about as if it’s entirely internal to Ukraine, a domestic affair presumably brought on by language politics, identity clashes and historical grievances. Best, therefore, to leave it alone.

Wrong. Ukraine is waging a war of self-defence against an international aggressor – the Russian Federation – whose conduct threatens our collective security. This war is now 18 months old, and we should know better by now.

Face facts

It’s not as if the signs aren’t clear. Recent weeks have seen another intense spike in fighting in eastern Ukraine. Given all the prior sabre-rattling, nuclear threats and general rhetorical brinksmanship, it takes little imagination to see the conflict expanding beyond Ukraine’s borders into EU member states.

Labelling such a crisis a “civil war” serves no purpose of diplomacy or journalistic balance. It is a failure to serve the public interest. The war needs to be described as it really is.

Fundamentally, this conflict was started and is sustained by Russia’s armed intervention, not a Ukrainian civic collapse. In nearly a quarter century of independence, the Ukrainian public’s support for national unity has been stronger than in many long-established states, among them Spain, Belgium and Canada. As Vladimir Putin has since proudly admitted, it was Russian troops in the spring of 2014 who seized Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

The Russian military presence has not gone away. In August 2015, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors again encountered personnel in eastern Ukraine openly identifying as Russian regular military. These forces continue to lead, train, equip and fight alongside militants advancing Russian neo-imperial and ultra-nationalist ideologies against a government in Kiev espousing respect for democracy, transparency and the rule of law.

To tiptoe around the Kremlin’s armed intervention in Ukraine falls short of the basic standards of war reportage. And it’s absurd to call the Donetsk and Luhansk authorities “rebel” administrations when they would not have come into being and would not continue to function without Russian backing.

We do not talk about a Manchukuo “rebel” administration in 1930s China without mentioning that Japan had invaded it; scarcely anybody pays lip service to the myth of an organic, independent separatist movement in 1930s Manchuria. Nobody should credit Russia’s fiction about “rebel” administrations in today’s Ukraine.


Lest we forget, the purported “rebels” in eastern Ukraine agree. Here is Igor Girkin-Strelkov, a Russian national associated with Russian military intelligence who helped lead the “rebel” movement in eastern Ukraine, speaking only weeks ago: “You are making an idiot or fool of yourself if you think that [the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics] were formed by themselves.”

An important conclusion follows from these facts: the Russian Federation is an aggressor and should be characterised as such whenever we talk about areas of Ukraine that have fallen under the Kremlin’s effective military and political control.

There is no need to report aggression in inverted commas. Since early 2014, the Russian Federation has carried out a host of acts of aggression against Ukraine as defined in Article 3 of the UN General Assembly’s definition of aggression. Russia has invaded Ukrainian territory – Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk so far – and attacked Ukrainian forces without a shred of plausible legal justification; bombarded Ukrainian territory and killed Ukrainian citizens; and seized territory that belongs within the internationally recognised borders of Ukraine, declaring it part of Russia. These are nothing less than acts of aggression under international law.

Nor do the sham referenda in Crimea in March 2014 or in Donetsk and Luhansk in May 2014 offer any legal wiggle room, since these “Potemkin plebiscites” resulted directly from an invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

As far as the referendums go, the UN General Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly all agree they were unlawful and illegitimate. To argue or imply that there has been an act of “self-determination” in any part of Ukraine that calls into question Ukraine’s sovereignty over its recognised territory contradicts the highest available organised expressions of international law.

If editors and journalists are substituting their own judgement of the situation, then they must explain why.

A spade’s a spade

Then there’s the matter of Ukraine’s right to self-defence, which of course is a right of all states. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is just about the only case where a UN member state has seized and in effect sliced off whole regions of another UN member state.

In its official statements the Kremlin goes further still, repeatedly calling into question the right of Ukraine to continue in its current form, invoking a so-called “New Russia” across vast, strategic tracts of the country, and even threatening nuclear action in the wider context of the conflict.

This is not garden-variety geopolitical grandstanding. When Iraq attacked Kuwait in 1990, it was universally condemned, and Kuwait’s right of self-defence was affirmed. There is no principled reason for responding to Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine with different rhetoric or a different description.

It’s time to face reality. The continued escalation of the war in Ukraine poses a serious challenge to international public order. Journalists have risked everything to report events from this war, and we need to stop watering down their reports with euphemism and understatement. We need to call this what it is: a war of self-defence against an international aggressor.

The Conversation

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Ukraine has a new left party

A picket by Ukrainian left party Social Movement
Reblogged from Ukraine Solidarity Campaign.   

On 13th June in Kyiv, the founding conference of a new Ukrainian left party, Social Movement, took place.  The consolidation of the participants in the ‘Social Maidan’ has caused uproar among different forces.

Here we publish a collection of interviews with activists of the new party which was conducted by the Russian Socialist Movement.  This is part 1 of the interviews – part 2 with an interview with Fyodor Ustinov will appear shortly.

Translation by Valerie Graham and Jake Lagnado.

Social Movement - A new broad left party to counter "the Ukrainian version of Putinism"


What groups and activists make up the new party ‘Social Movement?

Andriy Ischenko
Andriy Ischenko (trade union militant, Odessa)

At the founding congress of the party, there were delegates from five big Ukrainian cities, Kyiv, Odessa. Dniepropetrovsk, Cherkassy and Krivyi Rih.

This was a technical congress to deal with the formalities of the Ministry of Justice and start the process of registering the party. In fact we have militants and groups of sympathisers in all the big cities in the country.

Since the congress there’s been a great deal of interest in the party and every day the interest grows and we get more people joining us.

The party is made up of people with different points of view, from moderate social democrats to radical Marxists. Among them are militants from left groups, human rights defenders, trade union militants, miners, scientists, journalists and many, many more.

We’re pleased that at the base of the party are the important trade unions which have for some time been spreading the idea of getting political representation. Our combative, independent trade union, Defence of Labour, (Zahist Pratsy) joined in the process of unification, a whole galaxy of important union militants from Kryvyi Rih, Kyiv and other regions of Ukraine.

It’s enough just to the mention the names of some of the people at the core of the party to understand the variety of people at its base and the kind of differences we are managing to solve on the difficult path of uniting the Ukrainian left…. Volodymyr Chimerys,  Zakhar Popovich,, Volodymir Ischenko,  Vitaly Dudin,  Andriy Repa, Nina Potarskaya, Denis Pilash,  Oleh Vernik,  Artiom Tydva, Evgeni Derkach,  Oleksandr Krauchuk ,  Andriy Voliansky,  Taras Salamaniuk,  Andriy Ischenko and many more important militants.

We contemplate the future with guarded optimism. We will work with determination – we’ll get results. The ideas, efforts and energy of so many people cannot disappear into nothing.

In Ukraine at present are there social groups among those supporting the “new left”?

Andriy Repa
Andriy Repa (Left militant, Cherkassy)

The new left can’t just sit back and rely on one social group or another – that would be very comfortable but it lacks perspectives. We have to find gaps, openings, hollows, cracks, every kind of point of conflict which appears within the capitalist system. That’s the place where the left must be present in society, as part of the social conflict.

From within this conflict we must create alliances. It may be the workers’ everyday struggles, student strikes, civil society meetings, art exhibitions, anything that might shatter the system of profiteering and oppression.

But the main means of struggle has not changed since the days of Marx. It is the class struggle between labour and capital. The focus of this central antagonism in our society are not necessarily the most numerous or the most “decadent” groups, but the revolutionary workers and progressive students.

In short you can say that as in May 1968 we need an alliance of the working class and intellectuals.

Oleksandr Ladynenko
Oleksandr Ladynenko (union activist, Odessa):

In Ukraine today it is hard to find a social group not interested in a broad left party. And the range of these groups is vast: from the unemployed and retired to the lower layers of the petty bourgeoisie. Our largest base is the thousands of persons in paid work.

You have to understand that the main enemy of the political left and our social base is big capital and oligarchs, foreign transnational companies, corrupt people of all kinds and other parasites.

Currently our party has a moderate programme of reforms whose necessity is recognised at virtually every level of society. And everything depends on whether we can convince civil society of the need for direct struggle for these reforms. Then in the struggle, with the trust of the masses, we can talk about a new programme of a truly revolutionary transformation of society. The task of the revolutionary wing of the party will be to develop this programme, because another revolutionary situation in our country can arise pretty fast.

How do you see the interaction of the party and the unions? Who needs the other most: the unions or the party?

Monday, 24 August 2015

'Very existence' of Crimean Tatars under threat

#everydaydiscrimination A Crimean Tatar worker being told not to speak his native language, speak Russian only. Via RyskeldiSatke.

Reblogged from Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. My only comment is to wonder where the solidarity from fellow Muslims (outside of Turkey) is. Such as those forming part of the so-called 'Stop the War Coalition'.


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Refat Chubarov, Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or representative assembly, has addressed an appeal to German Chancellor Angela Merkel; French President Francois Hollande and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko who are meeting in Berlin on Aug 24 [today].

Refat Chubarov writes that the leaders’ meeting will take place 542 days after the beginning of Russia’s special military operation against Ukraine that resulted in the occupation of Crimea and the bloody military conflict in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Russia has effectively been waging war with Ukraine for 542 days with thousands of soldiers and civilians killed; tens of thousands injured, and over one and a half million people forced from their homes.

In Russian-occupied Crimea, the Head of the Mejlis writes, the Crimean Tatars, the indigenous population of Crimea, are facing a direct threat to their very existence. The Crimean Tatars held mass demonstrations and protests in Feb-March 2014 against Russia’s invasion and they continue to support the UN General Assembly’s March 27, 2014 Resolution on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Chubarov points out that this Resolution, as well as numerous other calls by the UN, the EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, have been ignored by Russia which continues its unlawful occupation.

The tragic position of the Crimean Tatar is worsening from day to day. Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemiliev and Refat Chubarov, civic activist Sinaver Kadyrov and Ismet Yuksel have all been banned from Crimea and the Deputy Head of the Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz remains in detention, together with Crimean Tatars Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy. Dozens of young Crimean Tatars have been abducted or disappeared, with some later found murdered. There is still no trace of others. Hundreds of activists of the Crimean Tatar national movement have been subjected to repression by the occupation regime’s punitive organs.

Refat Chubarov addresses the three leaders, saying that history has placed on them, and the leaders of other sovereign states a huge responsibility not only for the fate of their own people and countries, but – without any exaggeration or pathos – for the future of all humanity.

Human civilization which in the twentieth century endured the mortal threats posed by the fascist and communist regimes must not be held hostage to the irresponsible actions of Russia’s rulers who have violated all norms of international law and ignored the right of people to freedom and peace.

No country or people should be sacrificed to please an aggressor. The Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar people who endured Holodomor and the Deportation have the right to receive full support and assistance from the international community.

Refat Chubarov ends by asking the leaders to take effective measures during their meeting aimed at restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders and ensuring Ukraine’s sovereignty over its entire territory, including Crimea.


See also:

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Keep an eye on Belarus

Mikola Statkevich + his wife

The news on Saturday that Belarus had released the last of its political prisoners took everyone by surprise. It happened, according to AFP, because "political expediency propelled the move as well as the need for risk management as main ally Russia is sinking into recession."

One of those released was the former Presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich. He said:
I will not leave Belarus under any circumstances. I will fight for creating a normal country.

Together we will make this country normal and free.
President Lukashenko is up for a fifth term in October and Statkevich's release came a day after the last day for Presidential candidates to register.

The EU issued statements welcoming the move with the Germans saying that the EU will have to "consider how a greater rapprochement can take place" with Belarus.

Here Window On Eurasia looks at the context, reblogged with permission.

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By Paul Goble

The five key assumptions on which Moscow’s policy toward Mensk over the last decade have been built appear increasingly shaky, as Belarus distances itself from Russia on Ukraine and other policies, a shift that has largely passed unnoticed the West which views Lukashenka as “the last dictator in Europe” and as an inevitable ally of the Kremlin.

On the one hand, these changes open the way to a fundamental reordering of the security environment in Eastern Europe given that Belarus not Ukraine is between Moscow and Berlin. But on the other, they also mean that Moscow may consider more radical means of imposing its will on Belarus, including hybrid war and the possible ouster of Lukashenka himself.

For the past decade or more, Moscow has operated on five assumptions about Belarus all of which are either completely false or are becoming so. They include:

· Moscow has assumed that Belarusians are not a separate nation. Even more than in the case of Ukraine, the Russian leadership has assumed and acted on the idea that Belarusians are not a self-standing nation. That was never the case, and ever more evidence of that is coming to the fore. See, for example, “Belarusian Language and Identity On the Rebound …,” windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/belarusian-language-and-identity-on.html.

· Moscow especially under Putin has felt that Belarusians are among those most likely to be comfortable with authoritarianism in Russia because they live under an authoritarian regime of their own. But that view understates the size and strength of the Belarusian opposition which supports democracy and human rights in both countries. See “Lukashenka’s Belarus on the Brink of an Explosion, Warsaw Paper Says,” windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/07/lukashenkas-belarus-on-brink-of.html.

· Moscow believes that it has Lukashenka’s regime in its pocket because it provides it with massive subsidies. But recently, Moscow’s ability to provide those is increasingly in question; and Lukashenka who needs assistance to remain in power is not only forced to look elsewhere but is increasingly willing to do so (slon.ru/posts/55313).

· Moscow is convinced that Belarus has no place to go because of the attitude of the West toward Lukashenka as “the last dictator in Europe.” No less critical of Lukashenka than it was, the West now recognizes it faces a much more dangerous dictator in Putin. And Putin’s own dislike for Lukashenka is making such changes easier in both Mensk and Western capitals. See “Putin Hates Lukashenka But Uses Belarus like a Russian Province, Shushkevich Says” at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/putin-hates-lukashenka-but-uses-belarus.html.

· Finally, Moscow has long convinced itself – and many in the West have shared this view – that Lukashenka’s critical remarks about Moscow are only to try to extract more resources from Russia or intended for domestic consumption to undercut the appeal of opposition nationalists. But in recent months and especially in recent weeks, the Belarusian leader has gone further than ever before, infuriating Moscow and raising questions about what Lukashenka really means. For his comments and Russia’s reaction, see regnum.ru/news/polit/1955677.html.
Released anarchist Artyom Prokopenko
In addition to this, there are three reasons for thinking that Lukashenka, long viewed as frozen in the status of a satellite to Moscow, is now in motion. First, the Belarusian leader has staked out positions on Ukraine, the defense of his own country, and his opposition to the whole notion of a Russian world including Belarus that suggest he is shopping for a new arrangement not only with Moscow but with the West as well. He is providing assistance to Ukraine and even conducting military maneuvers that from the perspective of some are not what Moscow would like to see (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/06/why-is-belarus-conducting-military.html).

Second, Lukashenka has more room for maneuver because Putin has almost no allies because of his aggression in Ukraine and thus doesn’t want to alienate completely the one country that is usually but not always accurately put in his column. As Slon.ru editor Petr Bologov puts it today, Putin right now has no other ally “west of Smolensk” and doesn’t want to alienate someone who might under certain conditions be one again. As long as the Ukrainian crisis goes on, Lukashenka will have that running room, and Moscow will be at risk of losing Mensk (slon.ru/posts/55313).

And third, Lukashenka now has an alternative grouping to turn to than the EU and the US, both of whom remain extremely critical of his regime’s repressive approach. That new grouping is the Intermarium alliance of the countries between the Baltic and the Black Sea now being pushed by Warsaw. Because Belarus would be a key component in such a grouping, Mensk may find it easier to enter that arrangement pending a fundamental change of heart in the West. And if Belarus is able to participate in that, such cooperation could lead to changes in Mensk and also changes in the West’s perception of Lukashenka’s regime. On this, see “New Polish President Makes Baltic–Black Sea Alliance a Centerpiece of His Foreign Policy” at jamestown.org/2015/08/new polish president makes balticblack.html.

Despite all this, Lukashenka may not make a Western turn. Moscow has enormous leverage in Belarus, including but not limited to the penetration of his regime, the aid it continues to provide, and the ability to portray Lukashenka in the worst possible light in Western capitals by playing up not just current human rights concerns but also largely inaccurate images of Belarus and Belarusians from the past.

Moreover, if Lukashenka goes very far in turning away from Moscow and does not get the backing of the West that he may hope for, Putin almost certainly would consider a hybrid war against Belarus, one that if it began, the West might be even more reluctant to oppose than it has been in the case of Ukraine. The Kremlin leader knows that, and the Belarusian government does as well.

But despite that, the shifts in Minsk are sufficiently serious that Russian commentators are now considering it actively. In an interview with Rubaltic.ru this week, Sergey Mikheyev of the Moscow Center for Political Conjunctions, said that “the change of a geopolitical partner for Belarus would be a catastrophe” (rubaltic.ru/article/politika-i-obshchestvo/20082015-smena/).

The fact that people like Sergeyev feel compelled to make that argument, however, shows just that some in Moscow are afraid that it could happen and represents an implicit acknowledgement that such a change would be “a catastrophe” not for Belarus but for the Russian Federation.