Ukraine’s descent into ruin and fascism

Ukraine’s descent into economic chaos is accompanied by organised fascist repression of opponents to the government. The government was selected by US and European capitalism and Ukraine’s army is being trained by US and British soldiers. In late May 2015 Ukrainian state forces were shelling towns in the Donbass (Donetsk and Luhansk) in defiance of the Minsk 2 agreement signed by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in February 2015.

Ukraine’s industrial output dropped by over 21% in the year to March 2015 and gross domestic product fell by 17.6% in the first quarter of 2015. Inflation is running at 40% and foreign currency reserves are down to $5bn. Ukraine is attempting to restructure $23bn of its foreign debt this June. Russia is due to be repaid a $3bn bond by the end of the year and its finance minister has said Russia will turn to arbitration courts if the money is not forthcoming. Ukraine’s parliament passed a law in May to halt debt repayments to foreign private creditors unless they agree to terms set by Ukraine. Such a law has no international standing and if Ukraine attempts to enforce it the government will be blocked from access to international capital and its banks are likely to shut down.

None of this dims the enthusiasm of the Financial Times, ‘Kiev’s current administration is arguably the most talented since Ukraine’s independence. It deserves the west’s moral and material support,’ (29 April 2015). Ukraine’s administration has been imported by imperialism; half a dozen foreigners have been recruited to key government posts. The finance minister, Natalie Jaresko, is a Harvard educated US citizen; the economics minister, Aivaras Abromavicius, is an investment banker brought in from Lithuania. Two Georgians who served under former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili act as health minister and deputy general prosecutor plus two more work as deputy interior ministers. Saakashvili himself heads a consultative council on Ukraine’s reform. Ukraine refuses to extradite him to Georgia where he is wanted for embezzlement, corruption and brutality.

The leader of Ukraine’s fascist Right Sector, Dmytro Yarosh, has been appointed army adviser, serving as ‘a link between volunteer battalions and the General Staff’; such battalions wear Nazi insignia. Ukraine’s parliament has passed two laws, one making it a criminal offence to deny the ‘criminal character of the communist totalitarian regime of 1917-1991 in Ukraine’ and the other making it a criminal offence to question the legitimacy of the actions of two organisations that collaborated with the Nazis. Journalists and opponents of the government have been murdered and others have been arrested and framed or beaten by police and fascists. A report, ‘War crimes of the armed forces and security forces of Ukraine: torture and inhumane treatment’ published by the Moscow-based Foundation for the Study of Democracy recounts interviews with over 200 prisoners released by the Ukrainian state. Electric shocks, waterboarding, strangulation, repeated beatings, exposure to freezing temperatures, cutting, drugging and rape of men and women are commonly used. Human Rights Watch reports Ukraine’s armed forces using cluster bombs on civilians.

At the time of writing (late May) Ukrainian Armed Forces were increasing their deployment with heavy weapons along the front line in Donbass. The number of ceasefire violations has increased. NATO is continuing its build-up against Russia using the pretext of Russian involvement in Ukraine. In May, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia asked for permanent NATO deployments on their territories. NATO is to station ground-based missile defence systems in Romania later this year and in Poland by 2018. On 4 May 2015, ten NATO countries plus Sweden launched a two-week naval exercise in the North Sea to improve their anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Finland, not a NATO member, sent letters to 900,000 reservists putting them on alert.

British Prime Minister Cameron, US President Obama and other imperialist leaders boycotted Russia’s Victory Day parade in Moscow on 9 May celebrating the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazism. Cuba’s President Raul Castro attended, as did President Xi Jinping from China and India’s President Pranab Mukherjee. A contingent of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army marched with the Russian troops, as did the Indian Army. Three days later US Secretary of State John Kerry paid a surprise visit to Russian President Putin at the Russian resort of Sochi. Kerry affirmed US commitment to the Minsk agreement for Ukraine. The prospect of a Russia-China military alliance must be sobering even for the US ruling class with its dreams of global domination.

Trevor Rayne