Sunday, March 05, 2017

A Nation Divided and Sub-Divided

"[The goal is to return Ukrainian prisoners of war and] forbid all kinds of trade except humanitarian aid, urgently needed goods, and food."
"[And] to adopt a law which regulates occupied territories -- to call them occupied officially and to call Russia an aggressor."
Ukrainian protestors' demands, Bakhmut, east Ukraine

"Putin wants us to finance the war he started."
"He wants the republics [self-styled Luhansk, Donetsk] to finance themselves, by selling coal."
Volodymyr Parasiuk, Ukrainian member of Parliament
Dozens of people block the railways in Bakhmut city, the police opened criminal proceedings. The correspondent of TV channel 112 Ukraine reported this.

In eastern Ukraine, volunteers in camouflage have been blocking train tracks for the purpose of stopping any vestige of trade across the front line through to the territories the Russian-backed separatists control. The protesters see themselves confronting Ukraine's oligarchs, its corruption, revolving from the original Maidan square revolution removing Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-backed president, to turning their attention to the accommodation reached by the government with Russia and the separatists.

Ukraine, beset by traditional corruption, is also in dire financial straits. Anything that will further erode its economy would be seen as anathema. Trade with Russia has always been an economic lifeline for Ukraine, and now the irony is that the 'republics' in the east bank on coal to finance themselves. The volunteer protesters see no reason why the ethnic Russian separatists should profit by their hijacking Ukrainian territory and making use of its natural resources.

The Government of Ukraine sees things in a different, more rounded light; during this period of instability but inactive conflict, it sees its financial prospects endangered with the stoppage of trade between its neighbour whose hostile actions and intentions have robbed it of the Crimean Peninsula, its deep-sea port, and parts of its eastern territories, with aspirations to seize even more through annexation. All of it deeply vexatious, threatening more to come.

But Ukraine is feeling the trade blockade impacting on its energy sector imperilling the country with rolling blackouts, job cuts and halted production at mills, factories and coal mines. The entire country is being impacted by the blockade with estimates of $2-billion a year losses for the country should it continue. According to some economists, the loss could rise to $3.5-billion to Ukraine's economy.

The protesters are adamant that their patriotic duty is to defy both the separatists' aspirations and to deny the oligarchs continuing to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary Ukraines. "We have one enemy on this side, and one behind our back", said a special forces police officer, in reference to the Kyiv political establishment.

"I lose something as well, but we should have (stopped trade) in the first days (of the war). If we had done it in the beginning of the war, (the conflict) would have ended a long time ago", said a local from Donetsk, a train driver who had run coal from separatist territories to Ukraine since the conflict began. The Donbas has been polarized as a result of the protest, where ordinary Ukrainians feel resentful of the Kyiv establishment, while they remain separate, in the east.

Though the protesters in Bakhmut, a city taken back from separatists by pro-Ukrainian forces several years earlier, have succeeded in isolating the regions held by separatists, reintegration reflecting the Minsk II peace agreement becomes more remote, and generalized frustration with the impasse assumes greater proportions. "The future of Ukraine is being decided ... at the blockade in Bakhmut", remarked a musician on the front line entertaining volunteers and soldiers.

Donbas veterans blocked railway near Bakhmut

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