Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Looking For Normal

Post-election in Ukraine, with a new, duly elected president whose firm conviction remains that he will not negotiate with the criminal element that has taken Ukraine's Donbass region hostage to their demands of secession to become part of the Russian federation, the million people living in Donetsk are re-living their fear and trepidation. During the night, secessionist elements torched a hockey arena, challenging the fire department to put out the night blaze.

Four monitors representing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- a Dane, an Estonian, a Turk and a Swiss -- are missing. They had approached a road checkpoint near Donetsk on Monday, and have not been seen nor heard from, since. Seven OSCE monitors had previously been held for eight days earlier in the month by pro-Moscow thugs.
"We warned Russia and we warned the international community that the elections on the 25th of May would not change the situation. Poroshenko is again coming to us for more bloodshed."
Pavel Gubarev, Donetsk separatist leader
President-elect Petro Proshenko, elected in a landslide vote, promised to directly confront "a bandit state", threatening to transform Ukraine into "Somalia". Turning words to action he sent attack jets, assault helicopters and commandos to retake the Donetsk airport from heavily armed separatists. Spurning, in effect, Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning that the government refrain from military assaults against the Russian-speaking rebels.

A Ukrainian helicopter gunship fires decoy flares after attacking Donetsk international airport
Ukrainian helicopter gunships mounted an attack on the rebel-held international airport terminal at Donetsk on Monday. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
Government troops did eventually retake possession of the airport, even as the control tower burned. Journalists reported wild clashes resulting in the airport's ultra-modern glass, metal and wood terminal were shot up in a fierce gunstorm. The result was the death of 50 rebels. Ukrainian helicopters and gunships strafed the rebels from the air while paratroopers were sent in to root out the rebels.

A truck used to convey fighters sat on the airport highway, torn apart by machinegun fire, with blood sprayed on the road and splatted on a billboard high above the road. "The airport is completely under control. The adversary suffered heavy losses. We have no losses", stated Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. "We'll continue the anti-terrorist operation until not a single terrorist remains on the territory of Ukraine", said First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema.
The insurrectionists appear to have deliberately staged the assault in an effort to bring the Kremlin back into the immediate equation. In response to Vladimir Putin's declaration his government planned to recognize Mr. Poroshenko's victory and to "co-operate with him". President-elect Poroshenko has stated that he knows Putin well from his years of conducting business in Russia; he hoped to meet with him to discuss a mutually acceptable way of halting the crisis.

A crisis wholly owned by Moscow for ordering the presence of 40,000 Russian troops on Ukraine's eastern border, to the fiercely belligerent hyperbole that resulted, leading to limited sanctions against Russian interests by the governments of Canada, the U.S. and the European Union, as a means of disciplining Moscow for its intransigent aggression against Ukraine.

Without Moscow's intervention in Ukraine, its exploitation of the Donbass region's general dissatisfaction with the current management of their geography by the central government, and provocations meant to heighten that sense of disaffection, leading to the rise of pro-Russian thugs and henchmen of the Kremlin, the current situation would never have come to a head, as it did, with the loss of Crimea, the loss of lives and threatened further loss of territory.

Some things appear to have changed, possibly with the growing realization in Moscow that there are insufficient numbers of people among the millions in the Donbass region dedicated to leaving Ukraine; their numbers were clearly overestimated in the campaign to forge an overwhelming contingent of supporters of secession and annexation by Russia.

Perhaps the sobering realization that Russia must now expend billions it can scarcely spare given its economic downturn, on securing Crimea has made its impact. Temporary financial hardships imposed on the cronies of Mr. Putin may be viewed as an irritant to be toughed out, but the turn that Vladimir Putin's devious mind will next think of can never be anticipated to prepare for a usefully swift reaction.

What seems abundantly clear, however, is that a large number of eastern Ukrainians have been less than impressed by the thuggish violence perpetrated upon their region by the separatists claiming to be acting in Moscow's name. They appear far more prepared to live with the renewed promises from Kyiv to grant them greater autonomy.

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