Now posts ↓

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Ukraine: workers organise at the grass roots

Workers’ meeting at Svetlodarsk hospital

Reposted with permission from People and Nature, translations by Gabriel Levy. This report confirms what I reported at the weekend, that the potential for 'counter revolution' inside the Donetsk and Luhansk 'republics' is the reason why international aid agencies have been expelled - a situation which started from their treatment of trade unions.

Pavel Lisyansy, founder of the Eastern Human Rights Group and lawyer for workers in eastern Ukraine, gives his view in this guest post of efforts to strengthen the labour movement at a time of military conflict and attacks on workers’ rights.


In 2015 breaches of Ukrainians’ social, economic and labour rights are becoming sharper and sharper. Politicians from oligarchic clans have started shouting about a social and economic revolution. And really, we have had two political revolutions – the “Orange revolution” [of 2004] and the “revolution of dignity” [of 2014] – but there has been no social and economic revolution.

In Ukraine there is a huge potential for protest, due to the widespread breaches of labour rights. There is a great need for new trade union and working-class organisations. Since Soviet times the trade union movement has not modernised itself. Trade unions have remained as they were: “distributors of holiday vouchers” and “lobbyists for the employers” in workplace collectives.

[Translator’s note. During the Soviet period, up to 1991, workplace trade union organisations functioned as a branch of management, ensuring collaboration with labour discipline. Workers appreciated them only for distributing vouchers for holiday trips and canteen meals, and other minor benefits.]

So far, the grass-roots trade union organisations are not numerous, and can not offer the sort of resistance to the oligarchs that is needed.

And there is an attack on workers’ rights along all fronts: the adoption of a new labour code, an increase in communal tariffs [for rent, electricity, gas, water, housing repairs, etc], and a mass of illegal sackings and lay-offs. To resist this offensive needs a new algorithm of trade union and workers’ struggle.

The most difficult situation with regard to working people’s rights is in the east of the country where the military conflict is going on. There, working-class resistance is completely absent. If employers don’t pay wages, they say: “there’s a war on. What the hell do you want?” But it’s exactly in eastern Ukraine that new trade union organisations are being formed, among workers who have lost all hope of anyone helping them, who are compelled towards self-organisation in order to defend their rights. (In Svetlodarsk, for example.)

If those who are ready to defend workers’ rights work systematically, there is a very good chance that the east of the country could become one of the bases of a new workers’ and trade union movement.

Meanwhile, the trade union leaders are an object of great interest for premier-league politicians. But this is not driven by any intention of defending working people’s rights, but as an instrument of getting power.

The workers’ and trade union movement itself is going through the first stage of a new, young formation. In Ukraine there is a process by which young politicians are appearing and old ones are leaving the scene, and there’s a corresponding process in the unions. But the trade unions’ “old guard” doesn’t want to leave its “place in the sun”, and so it is offering all kinds of resistance to initiatives from young activists. A gigantic amount of energy is used up fighting these internal battles, and the defence of labour rights gets forgotten.

The younger generation’s lack of trade union experience is a problem. In the grass-roots organisations, 80% of the young activists don’t have experience of the ins and outs of working class and trade union struggle. And that’s in the first place on account of the failures of the older trade union leaders, who are afraid of competition and – motivated by jealousy, greed and cowardice – “get rid of” their younger competitors. All this serves to knock the workers’ movement in Ukraine off course.

This is the time to hammer out new methods of struggle for working people’s rights. Time doesn’t stand still. New information and other technologies develop. It’s time to use the potential of young activists to counter the oligarchic clans.  

Workers’ meeting at Amstor supermarket, Severodonetsk, 27 September

Pavel Lisyansky regularly posts information about the workers’ movement in eastern Ukraine on his Facebook page (Russian only). Here Gabriel has translated a couple of interesting recent posts.

Pay scandal in Severodonetsk supermarket

27 September 2015. Today there was a meeting of the workplace collective at the Amstor supermarket in Severodonetsk. The situation there is appalling. The company owes workers pay for previous months; it refuses to release workers who want to leave; and it has failed to pay holiday pay. People continue to go to work and to demand that their elementary rights. In the building where they work light, water and the internet have been cut off. But they continue to go there, so that they can not be dismissed for failing to turn up.

Today [some other activists and myself] helped the workers to organise themselves. The workplace collective has formed a rank-and-file trade union organisation. From next week we will begin systematic work on the defence of labour rights. The newly-formed trade union has already sent an appeal to Artur Palatny, head of the parliamentary committee on families, youth and sport.

People are protesting in the centre of Severodonetsk (which is currently the administrative centre of Lugansk region [i.e. on the Ukrainian side of the front line – trans.]), where a range of international and civic organisations are based and where senior politicians turn up every week. But no-one reacts to the outrageous situation facing workers.

New rules for organisations in the Lugansk “republic”

25 September 2015. A source in the state security ministry of the LPR [Lugansk People’s Republic] has told me that the problems facing international organisations in the territories not under Ukrainian control is a new planned strategy, directed at external dangers and internal threats.

All this started with the trade union movement. More than a year ago, the “republics” thought up a procedure of re-registration, and then set about forming one united union [i.e. excluding those who didn’t register – trans].

Then they moved on to persecuting international organisations such as the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, the United Nations, the Salvation Committee [set up in Moscow in July by representatives of the Party of Regions], etc.

The source in the state security ministry said that a decision has been taken to constrain the activity of such international organisations in view of the danger they are said to present of counter revolution inside the “republics”.

Mineworkers’ day

29 August 2015. Tomorrow is the Mineworkers’ day! [A traditional industrial holiday that started in Soviet times – trans.] For my family, it’s an important day. My great-grandfather, grandfather, father and me were all mining engineers and consciously put our efforts into the mining industry.

I have seen the pits from every angle – as a worker (from the age of 15 I worked every summer as an ordinary miner), as a manager (in which capacity I worked, starting from shift leader to acting mine manager at the time of the military conflict in the summer of 2014 near Debaltsevo), and also as a trade union activist (I was the first in Donbass to set up an independent union organisation of students at the mining university, and when I went to work I joined the Independent Mineworkers Union of Ukraine).

In the coal industry there are many honourable and decent lads, including managers with whom I have been lucky to work. And there are many honourable trade union leaders – not those who sit in Kiev, but those who are to be found at the workplaces – who with their ideologies have earned industrial honours (Miners’ Pride awards, etc) and given their life to the pits.

But unfortunately there are also those who have earned themselves billions of dollars with these ideologies, and also those who have profited from the business of defending miners’ social and economic rights, and who have really played the role of protector for bosses of the highest rank. The bosses name their price, give the order “forward march” … and off goes the “defender of the workers” to the mass media, to defend the interests of a particular boss or particular financial-industrial group.

Real trade union leaders don’t live in Kiev and don’t drive around in fancy jeeps. They take the collectives to work, to produce coal, at this difficult time. And their reward is their wages and industrial awards, and not handouts and payments from oligarchs! Having seen since I was young the labour of real miners, and made my choice, I am following in my dad’s footsteps!

Congratulations to all the mineworkers in Ukraine, from Lugansk [in the east] to Lviv [in the west] on our day!

Afterword by Gabriel Levy

A year ago, I argued that war and military conflict in eastern Ukraine are “a means of social control” that have “disastrous impacts on social and labour movements”, producing “a new type of hierarchy – of the armed against the unarmed” that reinforces other social hierarchies. Pavel Lisyansky’s article suggests to me that all that still holds true – but also that there is another side of the story: the activity by him and many others directed at resuscitating and rebuilding the workers’ movement at grass roots level. Such efforts deserve support from social and labour movements all over Europe.

About the photos

The top photo shows the founding meeting of a new trade union organisation at the Svetlodarsk city hospital. Every single employee at the hospital has joined the new organisation. Pavel Lisyansky is on the left, sitting at the desk. The second photo is of a meeting at the Amstor supermarket in Severodonetsk, described in Pavel’s Facebook post of 27 September.

Also on People & Nature:

See also

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Russian hypocrisy on refugees explained

Reposted from Window On Eurasia with permission.


By Paul Goble

Russia’s Federal Migration Service says that there are now 12,000 refugees from Syria in the Russian Federation, of whom 2,000 have received residence permits. There are far more people in Syria who would like to come, including most prominently, the 100,000 Circassians, whose ancestors Russian officials expelled 150 years ago.

Circassian activists in the North Caucasus and their supporters both elsewhere in Russia and internationally are calling on Moscow to take more of them in, but so far, the Russian authorities have been blocked that flow fearful that it could change the ethnic balance in the North Caucasus and threaten Russian control there.

But as the war in Syria intensifies, Russian involvement there deepens, and the refugee crisis in Europe expands, the international community and the European Union in the first instance should demand that Moscow open the gates for more of those fleeing violence in Syria, including the Circassians.

A minuscule number of Syrians have fled to Europe via Russia, Moscow and Scandinavian media have reported over the last three weeks. (See and But most of the 12,000 who have come have done so only with Russian government blessing.

Most Russian discussions on the refugee issue have focused less on the needs of the refugees than on Moscow’s insistence that Europe has only itself to blame for the crisis because it is following the US lead in Syria and not supporting the Asad government. Indeed, Moscow insists, the refugees are fleeing ISIS, not Asad (

Yury Moskovsky, an advisor to Russia’s Federal Migration Service, says that “Russia is prepared to accept flows of Syrian migrants, but they are not coming to us. According to him, the reasons are geographic: the Black Sea is rough, and going through the Caucasus is not easy (

There are some 7,000 Syrian citizens in Russia now, he continues, who might be a magnet; but he adds that he does not think that many will come to Russia. Instead, they will continue to head to the European Union countries, even though Russia could take more in and even though Europe would like to block any further flows in its direction.

But there is at least one group of people in Syria who would be prime candidates to come to Russia as refugees, if Moscow would permit it. Fred Weir of the Christian Science Monitor provides the latest discussion as to why the Russian authorities are unlikely to allow the Circassians to come (

He quotes Maksim Shevchenko, a journalist and member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, who says that “so far Russia makes it very hard for Muslim refugees to come.” The problem is not geography, as Moskovsky says, but rather “a lot of bureaucratic obstacles.” And in the current situation, “this needs to change” or some of these people will be killed.

Konstantin Kalachev, a Moscow political analyst agrees. “Russia seems ready to digest large numbers of people,” as shown by the handling of the Ukrainian refugees a year ago, “but politicians are not ready to take responsibility … Russia only thinks about this issue in the context of bigger politics.” And in this regard, no issue is bigger than that of the Circassians.

In an act of genocide in 1864, Russian officials expelled and thus sent to their deaths hundreds of thousands of Circassians from the North Caucasus after the latter resisted Russian colonial expansion for more than a century. Those who survived prospered in the Ottoman Empire and its successors, including Syria and Iraq.

But in recent years, faced with rising nationalism and Islamism, many of the estimated five million Circassians in the Middle East have expressed interest in returning to their homeland. If even a portion of them did, that would change the ethnic balance in the North Caucasus and likely undermine Russian control.

As a result, the Russian authorities have done whatever they could to block almost all Circassians from returning. Moscow has not given them the assistance they had a right to expect under the compatriots program, and Russian officials have been anything but welcoming to those few who have arrived home.

Since 2011, when Syria’s civil war began, Weir reports, “about 1,000 Syrian Circassians have moved to the north Caucasus republics of Karacheyevo-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria, where their ancestral language is understood. But most report that they have received little official help.”

“Many people here have been good to us,” one of their number told the CSM journalist, “and we do feel wonderful to have regained our homeland. But economically, it’s very hard. Many of our people prefer to go to Europe, or America, though I would like to stay and make it work for my family here.”

Shevchenko says that Russians “need to change our views and become concerned about not only those who are Russian, or married to Russians, and start helping more people,” adding that he expects that to happen. But any movement by Moscow on the Circassian front seems unlikely.

Vladimir Putin and his regime are still furious for the efforts of Circassians around the world to call attention to the ugly fact that his 2014 Olympiad was held exactly at the site of the 1864 Circassian genocide, and consequently, neither nor other Russian officials appear ready to help the Circassians of Syria.

The international community needs to take note of this fact and to hold Russia accountable especially since Moscow routinely claims it is engaged in humanitarian efforts – when the reality is that its work in this area is highly selective and to date, the Circassians have been very much excluded from any of its benefits.

"There is no policy on refugees in our state," says Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the Committee for Civil Assistance, a nongovernmental organization that works with migrants. "When large numbers of Ukrainians started coming here, they were at first met with kindness. But soon all official interest in them disappeared."

See also:

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Donbas can starve say 'rebel' leaders

Last winter there were some reports that people had starved to death in Eastern Ukraine. The reason was that humanitarian aid was being stolen by the criminals who run the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk 'People's Republics' (DPR/LPR).

The insidiousness of Russian propaganda is shown by what you'll find if you look for that information, which is widespread Western media reports of deaths being blamed on Ukraine and not the 'rebels'. This is because Ukraine stopped social payments and because some truck convoys were blocked.

That humanitarian aid to the Donbas was being stolen was the claim of former rebel leader Igor Girkin on Russian TV. Another rebel commander, Pavel Dremov, said that only one in ten of Russian aid convoys actually reached the people. Trucks supposedly delivering aid through Ukrainian checkpoints have been found to be carrying alcohol instead.

International agencies operating in the Donbas have come under increasing pressure. Monitors from the OSCE, there because of agreements signed by the 'rebels' and by Russia, have been harassed and had their vehicles destroyed. In April the International Rescue Committee, which looks after refugees, was expelled after being kidnapped and accused of 'spying'. Aid from the European Union that does get through has been repackaged to appear to come from the 'republics'.

Now, just weeks before temperatures plunge, the rebels have expelled every single international aid body bar the Red Cross - and Russian groups. This includes the United Nations and Médecins Sans Frontières. The Red Cross may be next given that they have been harassed in the past.

According to the UN, this is the situation in Luhansk:
Sick children deprived of essential medications, patients forced to undergo surgery without anesthesia, and food prices so high that many residents can’t afford to eat properly.
The UN also said that when the 'rebels' switched pension payments to rubles they "duped" pensioners by rigging the exchange rate.

Said the UN's Stephen O’Brien:
Some 150,000 people are not receiving monthly food distributions, 1.3 million people’s access to water is at risk, and more than 30,000 people have not received shelter materials and household items they urgently need.
Those most at risk are in the villages and small towns, especially in the east. Well away from Donetsk itself, so unlikely to be seen by Western journalists. Much trumpeted Russian humanitarian aid convoys have time and again been found instead to contain weapons.

So why are the 'rebels doing this? According to the newspaper News of Donbass it is because of "a new strategy for the external security and counter external and internal threats." Specifically a "threat posed by these counter-revolution within the republic."

Just let that sink in. So because of politics, because of ideology, because of paranoia their 'people' can be sacrificed? 

The mentality that 'foreign' organisations must be a threat of course comes from Russia, where numerous human rights and even scientific groups have been effectively closed down after being labeled as 'foreign agents'. It is also indulged by many in the West who think that Russia is 'surrounded' and at risk of a Western supported 'colour revolution'. Russian TV (all the people in the Donbas are allowed) is devoted to feeding this paranoia so of course a benign humanitarian group like Doctors Without Borders cannot be what the sane people reading this blog post see it as. No, it must be peddling 'illegal psychotropic drugs'!

But these are the lunatics that the likes of Unite's Andrew Murray, the RMT union and Stop The War Coalition's Lindsey German (and many, many others) are supporting. So called 'anti fascists' who think the UN will foment counter revolution and who are prepared to see their 'citizens' starve or die in agony, the weakest among them first.  Thousands will die because of this decision.

It is not like there has not been fair warning aplenty before but this should be the final straw. 'Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine' should shut up shop and anyone on the left who continues to back these people deserves to be shunned. 

Edited to add: KHRPG reports that:
Ukrainian billionnaire Renat Akhmetov’s humanitarian aid is also not affected by the ban.  Jock Mendoza-Wilson from Akhmetov’s Foundation is reported to have suggested that the militants are hoping to receive humanitarian aid from Western countries via Russia.  His idea is that the aid would be presented as though from Russia.  It seems difficult to believe that western agencies would agree to this, especially given that they would be in breach of Ukraine’s law on temporarily occupied territory if they entered such territory from Russia, without Ukraine’s permission.
Edited to add: IRIN, the UN's news agency reports:
Some 500,000 children up to 10 years of age urgently need polio vaccination in rebel-held areas, and many of the 8,000 tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS patients will die unless medicine is provided, [UNICEF] said.
Edited to add: Watch a discussion (after the jump) on the humanitarian crisis from Al Jazeera with guests Petro Burkovsky (Deputy Head of Analysis and Information Division, National Institute for Strategic Studies), Pavel Felgenhauer (Defence Analyst and Columnist for the Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazetta), and Bart Janssens (Director of Operations for Doctors Without Borders).

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Time to defend Diane Abbott

Twitter image search on Corbyn + Abbott, sorry but you should see this

The Times' story about the new Labour party leader having an affair 40 years ago with a new shadow cabinet member should be a bizarre irrelevance. But it is not.

Because she's black and he's white. And he is Jeremy Corbyn.

Anyone reading me will not be unaware of my issues with Corbyn. Similarly, my issues with Diane Abbott over Syria meant that the bloody woman blocked me on Twitter.

Don't care. As soon as the Times piece came out vile racist attacks on Abbott appeared. Now disgusting racist imagery aimed at Diane is everywhere.

Of course it is. She has had this countless times before.

People I enormously respect started tweeting the Times' story as if it were a joke. It's not. I challenged them - so should you.

Anyone opposed to either Corbyn or some of his policies who indulges this is, or will end up, indulging racism - end, of.

I have no time for anyone who fails to reflect and act when we are surrounded by these sort of vile racist attacks on Diane.

Neither should you. As I wrote last night when explaining why people needed to be very careful 'be aware' of the context this is all happening in and don't feed the beast.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Ukraine's #fail over Odesa 'massacre' meme

'Euromaidan' activists helping rescue people from fire at Trade Union House in Odesa, May 2 2014. Pic
Since May 2014 Russian propagandists and fellow travelers, like John Pilger*, have made hay with the events during disturbances in Odesa. The fire which killed dozens of people has been dubbed by them 'the Odesa massacre'. Russia has toured exhibitions around Europe and pumped out massive amounts of material using the events to condemn Ukraine as 'fascist'.

Most disturbingly, the events have been cited by numerous left-wing activists who have traveled to the Donbas to 'fight the fascist regime'.

Civil society activists in Odesa. the 'May 2 Group'*, have conducted extensive investigations showing that the events were very different to how they have been painted but, as Halya Colnash explains, their work is being cut off at the knees by the useless Ukrainian state. This failure by the state to do its job properly is handing the Russians and their supporters an undeserved and dangerous propaganda victory.

Reblogged with permission.


Despite the clear importance of a proper investigation into the deadly disturbances and fire in Odesa on May 2, 2014, and the mileage gained by Russia’s propaganda machine from any delay, the number of investigators has been drastically reduced, just when they seemed to be making headway. The trial of one man facing serious charges is constantly obstructed and the ongoing detention of others accused of lesser offences has already been used by a Moscow-backed initiative to claim political prisoners in Ukraine. The Council of Europe’s International Advisory Panel has been assessing the investigation. Its report, due at the end of October, 2015, seems likely to be critical. (It was, see report here.)

It was widely feared in Spring 2014 that a scenario similar to the orchestrated seizure of control by Kremlin-backed militants in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts could be expected in Odesa. There had been express warnings from both the Security Service [SBU] and Interior Ministry of likely trouble, in particular with respect to a football match scheduled on May 2 between the Odesa Chernomorets team and Kharkiv’s Metalist, and the pro-Ukrainian unity march before it.

A crucial action plan codenamed Khvylya [Wave] had been prepared for the event of disturbances, yet was not registered and therefore did not come into effect.

People being rescued from the fire
Six people died of gunshot wounds and many others were injured during disturbances in the city centre after the pro-unity march was attacked by anti-Maidan (and pro-Russian) activists. The first two people killed were Euromaidan activists and the news of those deaths was instrumental in turning the disturbances uncontrolled and violent. More weapons began being brought to the scene and the other four deaths were of anti-Maidan activists. A large number of people were injured, including police officers. A further 42 people – all anti-Maidan activists - died as a result of a fire in the Trade Union building on Kulikovo Pole. That fire was certainly caused by a Molotov cocktail, however these were being hurled by activists on both sides and specialists agree that there is no way of knowing whether the fatal incendiary device was thrown from outside the building, or from inside. There would have been far fewer casualties had the emergency services responded when the first reports of fire were received. The 40 minute delay was fatal.

There are clearly major questions needing to be answered, most crucially:
  • Who was responsible for not registering and/or implementing the Action Plan?
  • Why were the emergency services so criminally slow in arriving at a fire they were informed about repeatedly from the beginning?
  • The guilt or innocence must also be established of specific individuals.


Maidan supporters desperately trying to save opponents from the fire
On Aug 18, Svitlana Pidpala from the May 2 Group reported that the investigative team was being reduced from 8 to 3 investigators. Her frustration was palpable. After a year the investigators, she says, had processed around 10 criminal prosecutions, some of them already in court, and they were also investigating others. She names, for example, the case of Astakhov who is believed to have brought weapons and ammunition to the centre of Odesa that day.

Now, suddenly, the team has been reduced with the head of the team, Mykola Rudnytsky recalled to Kyiv. “They reduced the team immediately after specific results appeared and criminal proceedings were initiated against the Emergencies Ministry and other cases. And after specific representatives of the Interior Ministry system began to be affected”, Pidpala writes. She is convinced that the removal of Rudnytsky and others is an attempt to effectively stop the investigation and suggests that this may be because it could get too interesting.

The Police

On May 13, Petro Lutsyuk, ex-head of the Odesa regional police was placed under house arrest on charges of professional negligence (Article 367 of the Criminal Code). Lutsyuk had given a verbal order for the Action Plan to be implemented and signed the document confirming this order. He is accused of not having ensured that the Plan was registered and implemented. Lutsyuk was freed from house arrest on Sept 1, with the court not convinced by the prosecutor’s argument that Lutsyuk could abscond or try to influence the investigation if free.

Lutsyuk’s deputy, Dmytro Fuchedzhy has been on the international wanted list since May 2014, and is believed to be in hiding in Transnistria. In his case, there are grounds for suspecting him of helping the anti-Maidan activists. He is believed to have enabled Vitaly Budko, known as ‘Botsman’, who is clearly visible in video footage shooting from a Kalashnikov rifle at pro-unity activists, to have escaped.

The May 2 Group have on a number of occasions stressed that they have found no evidence of a general police conspiracy and say that many officers were themselves injured trying to deal with the disturbances.


There is almost no movement on an important bill No. 2885, tabled by Oleksy Honcharenko on May 20. This proposes to waive liability for all those accused only of taking part in the disturbances. In June, the relevant parliamentary committee found the bill to be in line with the Constitution, but no more has been heard of it since. Honcharenko stresses that the bill is aimed at easing social tension. It could also help identify those responsible for the violence. At the moment, activists are nervous to come forward, fearing that they will face charges of participating in the riot.

Another shot showing rescue attempt
If the law is to be passed, then there is no excuse for delay given the number of people currently in detention who would be directly affected. The May 2 Group have long expressed concern over the arbitrary nature of the charges against all but one of the 21 anti-Maidan activists on trial over the disturbances. For a long time, all were accused of the same vague “participation in mass riots’. The charge is now of causing mass disturbances in the course of which they attacked a peaceful march, using firearms, stones, Molotov cocktails, etc.

The charges are more serious, but the very fact that the wording is the same in each case raises doubts about how proven they are in any given case. This is especially disturbing since until recently, 11 of the young men had been in custody for well over a year. A court on Aug 27 released three of them pending trial, but that still leaves 8 men in detention.

There appears to be hard evidence against only one defendant – Serhiy Dolzhenkov – who is alleged to have organized and led the attack on the pro-Ukrainian unity march. Artem Davydchenko is in hiding but would otherwise be facing the same charges.

The May 2 Group believe that Budko (Botsman) was provably responsible for at least the first death of Ihor Ivanov.

There is also Serhiy Khodiyak, a Euromaidan activist, who is charged with shooting at people on Hretska Square and causing the death of at least one person (Yevhen Losynsky), Tetyana Herasimova from the May 2 Group, says that it is likely that Khodiyak’s lawyer will seek to get the charge of murder withdrawn since no weapon was ever found. Khodiyak was initially placed only under house arrest, while others, facing lesser charges, were remanded in custody. House arrest can only be extended twice and there are now no restrictions on his movements.

His separate case has just been transferred to the same court as the cases of the anti-Maidan activists. There has up till now been very little progress, largely because hearings into his case are regularly obstructed by members of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector who clearly don’t want him tried at all.

It has been argued that Khodiyak should be acquitted on the grounds that he was defending the country. There probably is reason to believe that a takeover, similar to that in parts of Donbas, was being planned and that the tragic events of May 2 were the jolt that saved Odesa from this fate. It is harder to accept that the use of firearms by anybody during riots can be viewed as necessary defence. In Kyiv on Aug 31, 2015, an activist angered by the ‘decentralization’ bill passed in its first reading in parliament threw a grenade causing the death of three National Guard conscripts. He may well have believed he was defending his country in opposing the bill. Many of the MPs who voted for the bill may equally have viewed their support as defence of the country, as a necessary measure, vital to ensuring an end to the conflict in Donbas.

'Pro-Russians' shooting demonstrators prior to the fire
Justification of one killing and not another is seriously dubious from a legal point of view and politically very dangerous. It is the country’s leaders ultimately who will end up making decisions which are not their prerogative. In neighbouring Russia, it is increasingly people who oppose the regime of Vladimir Putin who are accused of being against the state. Rule of law demands a different approach.

Respect for the law and the value of human life are the paramount reason why Ukraine’s leaders must make good their commitment to properly investigate the events of May 2, 2014. They should also, however, consider the damage their inaction is doing Ukraine. Moscow and the Russian media have pushed claims of a ‘massacre’ from the outset, using cynical lies and deliberately edited video footage to distort the truth. It is likely that they will continue to do so in any case, but they are only helped by Ukraine’s failure to fully examine what went wrong that day and ensure that those responsible are held to answer.

*Watch an interview with the May 2 Group on Ukraine Today.

* Pilger's Guardian article a week after the events included content directly lifted from debunked Russian propaganda - see the weaselly footnote added by the Guardian.

See also:

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Elton John tells Ukraine to back LGBT rights

LGBT rights in Ukraine received a fillup this weekend as Sir Elton John told an elite audience in Kyiv that they should support LGBT rights as human rights.

The Annual Yes Ukraine shindig brings figures from the world elite together with Ukraine's political and business leaders. The context for John's remarks was that this year's event has featured robust criticism of progress on reform and issues such as corruption.

In Ukraine little if any progress has been made on LGBT rights. There have been recent assaults on two community centres, in Kryvyi Rih and Odesa. Earlier there was the assault on the Kyiv Pride March.

We just learned that the county's human rights strategy had been drawn up without any mention of LGBT people. One of the basics of being in the EU is anti-discrimination laws but although LGBT were included in a draft law drawn up last December they were dropped from subsequent versions, reportedly as a result of pressure from churches. So the trade agreement with the European Union will start at the beginning of next year without such protections.

According to regional LGBT groups there has been a "lack of consistent and uncompromised commitment of the EU to human rights of LGBTI persons, non-discrimination, and respect of diversity in its cooperation with eastern neighbours."

Some progress has been made in the way the state treats trans people.

Elton John has played two outdoor concerts on the Maidan. His AIDS Foundation has spent $11 million on programs designed to fight the AIDS epidemic in Ukraine since 2001.

Here is John's speech, video of it after the jump:
I’m indeed humbled to be included in the group of distinguished business and government leaders, diplomats and humanitarians who have addressed this important annual gathering. And especially so in speaking about building a more tolerant country, the subject of this session.
I want to give special thanks to my friend Victor Pinchuk for inviting me and encouraging me to come and speak my truth.

Since this conference is all about dialogue, I'm hoping you will permit me to start one; one which may be uncomfortable for some, but one which we have to have.

We have to have it because there is a revolution of acceptance and understanding happening around the globe. And for any country wanting to build a more tolerant society, you have to be a part of it.

John at orphanage for HIV+ children in Makeyevka
Of course, the dialogue I’m suggesting is about human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other gender nonconforming citizens.  I want to also talk about the important role the business community can play in creating a new paradigm of inclusion -- one that benefits individuals personally and society at large, and one that is also uniquely good for business. 
We are tackling one serious challenge together already. I have been so proud and honored to be part of the compassionate… thoughtful… and scientifically based response by the people of the Ukraine to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Now, today, I ask you to join me in yet another opportunity.

I know firsthand why many people stay in the closet. It’s because of fear. Fear that they will lose their job, fear that they will lose the affection of family and friends. Fear that they may be physically assaulted either by the authorities or by their fellow citizens.

It may be hard for you to understand that I too felt such fear. Even someone like me – a prominent and protected citizen – is not immune from fear and prejudice. I was able to overcome that fear with the help of family friends, and because of my privileged position. Many others are not. These are the people that need our help.

I tell you with great sadness that right here in this very city, earlier this summer, a simple and modest gay pride parade had to be organized at a secret location to try to prevent hooligans from disrupting it and committing acts of violence against the celebrants. The 250 people marching had to be surrounded by twice as many police in riot gear in order to protect them while they exercised their simple, basic human right to gather in public to celebrate their identity. And still they came under attack. Both physically and with shouts of "death to the faggots." The March lasted all of 10 minutes. The fighting lasted over an hour.  This all happened not in some faraway place nor in some faraway time. This happened right in this very city just weeks ago. So I tell you soberly– we have a long way to go...

There are moments in a person’s life which change everything: they are critical to one’s entire future and legacy: having children, choosing sides in a war or conflict, telling the truth.

For me, that moment was about owning up to the world about my sexual orientation.  At a time when almost all gay public figures were in the closet, to publicly admit I am gay  changed the way the world saw and still sees me, and changed how I felt about myself.  A lot of people no doubt despised me for that fact.  But what I discovered was that many, many more admired my honesty and integrity.

Ultimately, that decision is what emboldened me to find a partner and openly give him the love and respect that he deserved – and to receive it in return.  It gave me the grounding to feel that I could be a good parent and that I knew and accepted myself enough to help guide a new soul to that sense of self-knowing.

It also profoundly changed the way I viewed the world – altering my perspective in a very positive way.  It gave me the courage to quit my addictions and to establish the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which I’m deeply proud to say has helped save the lives of millions of people in dozens of countries over the past 23 years. And which has partnered with some of you to help address the HIV/AIDS crisis here in Ukraine.

What has any of this to do with a conference about the future of politics, security and the economy of the Ukraine? Because critical moments also exist in the lives of societies and nations. The choice of freedom over repression; democracy over totalitarianism; acceptance over hatred.

Today there are more critical choices.

What is Ukraine’s appetite for dissent? How will it define its partners and friends in the years to come? What will be its ethical and moral compass?  As you have already been discussing, the resolution of these issues will affect Europe and the world.

I suggest to you that your stance on human rights will also be a defining characteristic of the new Ukraine, and that there is no clearer touchstone on the issue of human rights than the respect and dignity afforded your LGBT citizens.

I know this issue has been historically contentious.

So let’s set aside, for a moment, the argument, as Hillary Clinton declared in her historic UN speech in Geneva, that “gay rights are human rights.”  Let’s be practical here.  You are, after all, businessmen!

Inclusive, diverse societies are better for business and better for economic growth. Don’t take my word for it.  This comes from your community.  In 2013, 300 of the world’s most successful businesses signed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court protesting against the Defense of Marriage Act. They explained their plea for LGBT inclusion thus:
“Our principles are not platitudes. Our mission statements are not simply plaques in the lobby. Statements of principle are our agenda for success: born of experience, tested in laboratory, factory, and office, attuned to competition. Our principles reflect, in the truest sense, our business judgment.”
That business judgement is sound.  Laws which protect human rights are good for business. They promote diversity. They expand the talent pool. They allow employers to hire and retain the best and the brightest. They ensure a workplace where employees feel comfortable and feel valued. People are more productive. Diverse, open workplaces encourage creativity, innovation and new idea.
Recently studies by the USAID and others confirm this. They show that emerging economies that protect more rights for LGBT people through decriminalization of homosexuality, nondiscrimination laws, and recognition of LGBT families have higher GDP per capita, even after controlling for other influences on a country’s economic output.  Each additional right is associated with a 3% increase in GDP per capita for those countries.

And we know that laws and policies designed to repress LGBT citizens and to keep people in the shadows hinder economic development. Such policies are detrimental to business and economic interests. They jeopardize the safety and well being of employees and workers.
Today some 78 countries make being gay a crime. It's hard to imagine that something so personal and so key to one’s very essence and identity could be criminalized. I and others like me could be arrested.  Indeed we would be arrested in many of those places just for being who we are at our core. In some places we could be tortured or put to death for it. Such intolerance harkens back to some of the darkest times in history. It is beyond inhumane. Such policies are a disgrace. 
Many of you in the policy and business arenas are already taking steps to ensure and promote LGBT anti-discrimination measures, including Leshenko, Zalishuk and Naem.  To those of you doing so, I offer my thanks. I applaud you. To those of you who could do more, I beg of you, please protect the human rights and basic dignity of the people who show up to work for you. They deserve it.

So, being tolerant and inclusive is not only the morally right thing to do, for the new Ukraine it is the smart thing to do. Basic fairness is an investment in human capital, and human capital is what drives business.

You can choose to make this part of Ukraine’s future and change its legacy for generations to come. This is not a fantasy, recent events have shown it is a very real possibility.

When I was born, homosexuality had only newly been legalised in the UK. Last year, I married my partner and shared my joy with the world through social media.

And just a few months ago, the United States legalised gay marriage in every state of the Union. Rainbow flags lit up the White House. It’s true. Now even the Pope asks, “Who am I to judge? Who am I to judge?”

Elton John on the Maidan
On my first visit to Kiev, on a beautiful summer night, I played a free concert on Maidan (“Mi-Dan”) to promote awareness and tolerance of HIV.  Over 300,000 people – including politicians, priests, the young and old -- listened to the music, and the message, and cheered.  It felt like a mandate to the Elton John AIDS Foundation to support projects across this beautiful country – 40 projects to date - offering life saving help to many thousands of Ukrainian men, women and children – gay, straight, young, old.

That night it felt like everyone there on Maidan was on the right side of history.  It’s the Maidan I long to see in the new Ukraine – proud and beautiful, where everyone is welcome. 
I suggest to you that accepting people regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation is today the measure of an open, tolerant, and democratic society.  I ask you to begin this dialogue. I ask you to reach for a level of compassion that you may not think possible. I ask you on behalf of myself but also for all LGBT citizens of Ukraine and the world. This is a moral imperative. Let us not fail each other.

The people in this room are among the most powerful in the Ukraine, and in some cases the most powerful anywhere in the world. You have the power to help bring about this new era. 
I'm asking you to use that power wisely, to seize this opportunity, and to guarantee human rights for all. And one day I hope to come back to this blessed nation and to extend my thanks to all of you for not only for beginning the dialogue, but for changing lives and ultimately changing the course of history.

Thank you.
Edited to add: John said in a post on Intagram that during his meeting with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, he told the President that "it is important to support the LGTB community."

"In particular, I asked him to prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexuality and gender identity, as well as to provide criminal penalties for hate crimes," John wrote.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

More on Ukraine's new left party

Logo for Social Movement party

'Social Movement' is a new broad left party to counter "the Ukrainian version of Putinism." Established in June it is represented throughout the country.

These interview with activists are via the Free Interprofessional Workers' Union (SMOT Belarus) and reblogged from Ukraine Solidarity Campaign.


By correspondent in Belarus Anatol Matsveenka

Fyodor Ustinov (social activist, Khmelnitsky):

Borotba, who said, “Fyodor Ustinov, one of the leaders of the Social movement party, was a member of the punishments section of the Tornado battalion?

The information that I have regarding the “Tornado” battalion is that it is just a lie made up by shabby politicians who feel very comfortable working for Russian imperialism. I, Fyodor Ustinov, an ordinary member of the “Social movement” party, am not and never have never a fighter in the “Tornado” battalion, although yes, I was in the ​​counter-terrorism operations area in July 2014.

Borotba members know me personally, but did not bother to verify and substantiate the information. The group’s infamous official Victor Shapinov is suffering from the crisis and isolation of his organisation as a result of his adventurist spirit, and he hastily prepared the text about the new party of the Ukrainian left in general and myself in particular. This whole story about the “rapist and murderer Ustinov” shows exactly what kind of a journalist and politician is this citizen of the Russian Federation, Shapinov. I have already published a detailed rebuttal of this lie on my Facebook page and I repeat once again that is just a lie aimed at slandering our party.

I don’t want to answer just by analysing a dirty lie. So I think I should state my own opinion about the war.

I think that the military intervention in the Crimea and the instigation of the military conflict in Donbass suits the Kremlin, its protégés in LNR and DNR, and the miscreants in power in Kiev. The existence of an external threat stabilizes their power and to some extent reduces the risk of new Maidans, but with a social focus. In addition, to some extent the controlled instability of the latent conflict in the region is good for Western countries, as they can use it as a means of putting pressure on the Kremlin.

What the people of Ukraine and LNR / DNR have to do is to stop the war and focus on domestic social problems. All the Russian and Ukrainian left need to do now is to build bridges between waged workers in Ukraine and Donbass. We can not entrust the conversation to Putin, Poroshenko and [DNR leader] Zakharchenko. Negotiations and the search for means of peaceful integration should take place between the groups of workers in companies that are still part of a common economy.

During the mass protests in Kiev and at the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, anti-oligarchic voices could be heard. And if it were not for the ghosts of the past that got involved in the situation and in the end took a hold of the masses, the situation would not have become so dramatic.

There are no wars without torture, kidnapping or rape. At the end of the day any war is a crime against living peacefully. I believe that stopping the war is the way to stop the growth of our own “Putinism” in Ukraine today in the shape of an ultraconservative order, political censorship, and the omnipotence of “forces” and oligarchs.

Vitaly Dudin:

Lately we give us if it is difficult to distinguish the Stalinist Shapinov of anarcho-fascist Volodarsky. Both rain with false statements about various serious crimes having the sole purpose of preventing the creation of a genuine workers’ party left. But the truly serious crime is on the activities of these subjects. They, being outside Ukraine, risk those trying to expose the leftist movement from the dark labyrinths of sectarianism.

Our party will unite people with different experience. Among them there are people who fought on the side of Ukraine, people motivated to fight against Russian imperialism. And workers must learn to manipulate the weapon. We can not allow this habit is privilege of the fascists and oligarchy. At the same time we are pleased that our partners are not tainted by the relationship with military crimes. According to eyewitnesses soldiers they were sometimes victims of crimes coming under the control humiliation and aggression.

Stalinist organisations in Ukraine have been in a state of degeneration. Here [picture, right] the Communist Party and Borotba demonstrating with the Russian far-right behind a banner hailing heroes of the Tsar.

Andry Ischenko:

The attacks on the newly created broad left party by all kinds of “old left” are expected. The old forces left behind his political capitulation during the recent events in Ukraine following its dissolution in one or another imperialist camp, fail or are able to understand the role of the party. They are used to living in their small sects. We see clearly sectarian practice and unite with the opportunists to fight our healthy company. Certainly our party consolidated these personalities represents a direct threat. At the end of the day, our first militant workers and they begin to open their eyes and understand that especially the absence of a powerful organisation is because of the defeat of progressive forces left the revolutionary situation in the years 2013-2014 in Ukraine .

Our current critical period in the years 2013-2014 deliberately gave up the growing revolutionary situation, “immobilized” to their own members, they disrupted the people sympathetic to the left and almost left the protest in the hands of right-wing eaters. Unlike, for us there is no confusion since the early days of the protest.

We take every opportunity to develop our initiative in Maidan and beyond. From the first days trying to start creating a third force because we understood that both sides are reactionary. We saw clearly that US imperialism, European and Russian based their hopes on the most reactionary forces in Ukrainian society: liberal and conservative Russian and Ukrainian nationalists. Imperialism has invested thousands of dollars and abort the revolutionary situation in Ukraine waging war.

At that time the confusion also occurred in the minds of some left who considered their main enemy, comfortable with either imperialism. Especially in Ukraine then the social-patriots were two courses. The Socialists declared and actually chauvinists. In the end these forces became satellites of imperialism, rather, in the same puppets. Some “left” stood in the queue of the Ukrainian oligarchs, Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Russian others. And of course at a time when the impression created artificially good perspective of the social-patriots. It seemed that this left through a small economic aid and political situation are able to stick to the ground each in its segment. They had failed yesterday and today in any way try to stop the ongoing process of creating a viable organisation left in Ukraine.

Going volunteer at Donbass, Fyodor Ustinov took not the right decision but it was his. So did many anarchists who are acquaintances. It was his view at that time. And at least he saw what was happening and soon passed the point of view anti-military. The fact that people can have their own opinion and make independent decisions come to us is a good sign. The process of formation of the party is a truly progressive process which can not stop anyone.

Will the “Social movement” take part in the elections? How do you assess the chances of the left?

Andry Ischenko:

I think the match will be present in any elections based on the interests of labor and social movement. If the party’s participation will strengthen the positions of our grassroots movement we presented. If there will be no benefit to the movement of workers we do not present ourselves. In any case we will carefully analyze the situation in each context of social-political situation. We can only be stated that the actual changes in society are not made through elections. The elections solve little. But it would be a blunder reject the use of this tool to consolidate and strengthen the grassroots movement. So my opinion is that the “anti-parliamentary cretinism” not unlike the parliamentarian.

We can often hear the argument that MPs are torn from the masses. it’s like that. You are informed of this we must understand that only constant control of the masses can prevent the transformation of the deputies. And not just them. Often betray transform and party officials, journalists, public volunteers and even activists.

Now the threat is not actual transformation of our future members that currently do not have, and who simply do not have to go to the Department of the Interior to take away the militants. They threaten the state apparatus of repression against leftists. And that’s what we have to pay attention. We must focus on the need for furthering our grassroots movement. And deny this fomentation with one of the possible tools as participation in elections is unreasonable.

I think in the case of progress in the party constitution we can in the next elections promote our representatives to members of local administration bodies. This would allow the whole movement the podium to receive widely spread progressive ideas and develop an effective social struggle.

Does the law decommunisation mean for your activities? What is the threat from the far right?

Andriy Repa:

Of course they will try to stop us by social pressure and censorship. The right-wing block simply do all the work by the “gentlemen” (ie, liberals) who only dream of it. Decommunisation laws as any other law in the population cause a conformist thinking, gregarious: If something is prohibited by law, case solved. These laws are part of formation of a consent in society. They dictate to us to speak, to think, to do. To hell! For the reasonable sense of a free person this is unacceptable. We have to run all kinds of consensus with the state. We have to remember what was communism for Marx: “real movement up the situation”, i.e. the exploitation suspended, private property, state. In this sense communism it is still current. If forbid, is that fear.

Oleksandr Ladynenko:

Decommunisation laws are simply populism and mystification of the current regime. They are simply incitement of discord and division based on history and culture. The task is not only to the persecution of communists, but discredit the idea, which the oligarch to try to associate the perception of the masses with Stalinism. What they say now that the law will chase people simply because of their communist conception it is unlikely. It is the struggle to the crime of thought … The law is absurd per se, although there is stupidity that can not realize capitalism.

The main threat of persecution now comes from the state apparatus. Pretty advertising and activity level left severely limit the potential threat from right-wing lackeys of the oligarchs to individual attacks. We must be prepared to face planted it in front of each centimetre of social struggle and being at the core of the movement of the masses.

What political forces are your main rivals today?

Andry Ischenko:

We do not have competition. Our main rival is ourselves. I think the main danger in creating wide left in Ukraine is where it was at the time of creation of the famous “left political subject” a few years ago. As we all remember, at the time the consolidation process was initiated by the flank Borotba ex “Marxist organisation”. As the process began to develop as a flood, the small group of the initiators of the creation of the “subject” realized that the consolidation process is no longer controlled by him. And they did not want to be minority. To understand the Borotba part of the former “Marxist organisation” the process went quickly and I think his little sect Borotba a small organisation but well controlled by the group of founders. What came out of this we know perfectly and it was natural, they became puppets of Russian imperialism and self-destructed.

The same risk is the consolidation process now. And we must oppose this transformation possible scenario of future wide left on a small project controlled by either spree Kyiv or any other maximum transparency, public and democratic process. Only then we can achieve something.

We must put the future of Ukraine wide left outside the danger of any scenarios of its transformation into an ordinary political project of the bourgeoisie. For this reason we must take into account the danger of bureaucratic transformation of the leading circles in the capital and that such a transformation can occur in the early stages of building this force. We from Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Cherkassy, ​​Khryvyi Rih, Khmelnitsky, Lviv and Kyiv will fight for the consolidation of a truly democratic party and left from the beginning to the end. We are prepared to fight.

For us, this organisation is not a goal per se, but a tool that must function effectively for the good of the Ukrainian workers. And if it will work for the benefit of a small group, we will create a new instrument more effective.

We have nothing to hide nor do Zala. In this complicated and delicate process can not be any prepared script. We are now reserved and optimistic at the same time. I, for one, think that the future revolutionary vanguard without which no revolution will the new party Social movement rather than micro-sects. Time will show whether our decision was correct. As he said after the congress consolidation one of its most famous participants, the human rights activist Volodymyr Chemerys, “in a few months we will see if it works our party.” We hope it will work and we will strive to achieve.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Putin fans in love with a myth

Crosspost from Little Green Footballs:
Just as Western communists used to espouse not the real situation in the USSR but the myth of the USSR in the past, there also exists a myth about Putin. Unlike fairly solid communist mythology, this myth is eclectic: strength; efficiency; economic success; the fight against evil - from terrorism to ‘oligarchy’. And mutually exclusive arguments circulate depending on the sector of agitation.

Let us take a walk through this mythology: ‘from right to left’. Thus, according to the ‘right-wing myth’ about Putin (the myth favored by those who think more about economics and those, first and foremost, in favor of ‘traditional values’ and who are anti-migration) which is quite well represented in the famous manifesto of terrorist Anders Breivik or the statements of Ron Paul, or the former US Republican, TV presenter and now outcast Patrick Buchanan who considers Putin to be ‘one of us’, Putin appears to be a classic conservative who introduced low taxes in Russia, a supporter of family values and an opponent of the migration of alien culture. In fact, if we look at the classic research: Paying taxes (see page 155 and below), we can see that tax rates in the RF are higher than the global average and are even higher than in the USA and many European countries (48,1% compared to a mean of 40% globally; to compare: 44% in the USA, 21% in Canada, 34% in the UK, 29% in Switzerland, 48% in Germany, too, and even ‘socialist Sweden’ has a rate which is only 0.5% higher - 49,4%).

Labor costs are very high in Russia - in fact, apart from the income tax of 13% one should also include welfare contributions of 30% (some enjoy allowances on welfare contributions and that is why the total labor tax rate is estimated at the level of 36% and not 43%). That being said, in contrast to developed countries, there are almost no tax deductibles in the RF and it is not a family but rather a natural person of legal age which is a taxable entity. As a result, the effective tax rate is several times higher when compared to let’s say the USA or UK. The RF is the only one of the emerging economies to have a visa-free regime with underdeveloped Muslim countries of Central Asia. That is why in the RF approximately 9-10 million migrants are only ‘legally present’: about 10 % of Russia’s adult population and an even higher proportion of the able-bodied population. Due to the visa-free regime, a huge number of migrants can enter the territory and reside there illegally. One of the closest associates of Putin’s, Ramzan Kadyrov, organized a mass rally in support of the Islamic terrorists who killed journalists in France while Foreign Minister Lavrov participated in a mourning procession in their memory. As for the number of abortions, twice as many are carried out in the RF as in the USA, one-and-a-half times more than the most disadvantaged countries in Europe and over three-times more than in the prosperous ones. The homicide rate in the RF amounts to approximately 10 per 100 thousand citizens, which is twice as high as in the USA and eight-ten times higher than in the European countries.
More (including the myths lefties buy into): Putintern: A View From Russia

Friday, 4 September 2015

Back brave LGBT comrades in Ukraine

There have now been a series of attacks on LGBT organisation in Ukraine by the far right. Back in June, following comments backing the right to demonstrate by the President, the Kyiv LGBT Pride March went ahead but it was then attacked by the far right. One of the police officers protecting the marchers was seriously injured.

Then last month a march in the Southern city of Odesa was banned and the offices of the local LGBT organisation attacked with firecrackers. Despite the threats activists in Odesa held a flash mob without incident. The banning of the march was criticised by the US Embassy.

Last week we learned that the county's human rights strategy had been drawn up without any mention of LGBT people. And last week a party and home in Kryvyi Rih was attacked and several people badly injured.

In occupied Crimea and in the Donbas, where homosexuality has been recriminalised, of course the situation for LGBT is far worse.

Maxim Eristavi wrote last year about how gay people were part of the Maidan demonstrations that overthrew the corrupt government of Yanukovych. Eristavi counted seven gay people among the 'Heavenly Hundred' murdered by Berkut/Russian special forces. He also wrote about the spinelessness shown by the EU on LGBT rights in their negotiations with Ukraine - a fact which has gone unreported and completely undermines Russian propaganda.

One of the basics of being in the EU is anti-discrimination laws but although LGBT were included in a draft law drawn up last December they were dropped from subsequent versions, reportedly as a result of pressure from churches. So the trade agreement with the European Union will start at the beginning of next year without such protections.

The unbanning of the Kyiv Pride march after Mayor Klitscho blocked it 'in time of war' shows that Western pressure can have an effect.

LGBT must not be sacrificed in the name of solidarity with Ukraine or in the name of national solidarity.

Western supporters of Ukraine and Western LGBT rights groups must keep on the pressure and must put a boot up the backside of the EU. Ukraine has no excuses, none, and must be firmly told that.

As many have commented, the deaths of three young soldiers outside the Ukrainian parliament last week during the violent demonstration by the far right was a sharp reminder to the government that it is past time to ensure that the same far right forces also attacking LGBT people are put back in their box.

According to a report put out earlier this month by the Equal Rights Trust on inequality in Ukraine:
LGBT rights have become a fragile off-shoot of a pro-European choice: “we’d rather have a gay pride in the streets of Kyiv than Russian tanks”, a Kyiv resident told the Trust.
This underlines why we must have the backs of our brave comrades in Ukraine, like these people who protested openly in Kyiv last Sunday.

Translation courtesy Olena Shevchenko. Reblogged with permission from Insight.


LGBTQI public action-performance was held in Kyiv aimed at protecting the rights LGBTQI community, titled "I will disappear soon." The event took place at 1 PM at the Kyiv city administration with the participation of the NGO "Insight" and other activists.

One activist performed a performance, during which she was lying on the ground covered with rainbow flag and a banner: "I will disappear soon." Other participants were standing around, holding banners: "For freedom of speech", "All Different All Equal", "not ashamed to be gay" and others that you can see in the photos.
"We are trying to say that we live in this country, we are as citizens, we live here and now, and we demand freedom - the same as other people. We want freedom not only for ourselves but for each and every one of us. We say that the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful protest, the right for self determination is violated in Ukraine.

We believe that this is a right time to begin to deal with it. We believe that this requires laws and mechanisms as well as education on human rights.

We call for tolerance towards all of us, and we are against violence. We are not afraid - we will go further, and will fight for human rights," said the head of the NGO Insight, Olena Shevchenko.
Loud music from speakers in front of the Kyiv City administration muffled speech. But no one can force us to shut up.

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

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.

* There's so much of it one loses track ... of course Jeremy opposes any sanctions on Russia.
** On the appointment of the Guardian journalist Seumas Milne as Corbyn's PR + strategy guy I discovered that Milne has said similar stuff.

Edited to add: When the MH17 report came out it was worse than Corbyn saying something stupid - no one from Labour said anything at all. No one.