‘School lessons and shelling forge new identity in east Ukraine’ | FT.com

It’s refreshing to see some genuine reportage about Ukraine appearing in mainstream western media.

While some may see this week’s Minsk memorandum, which calls for a ceasefire in east Ukraine and the eventual re-establishment of national borders, as the first step towards the DPR’s disbandment, there are few signs in the region of a rebel leadership preparing to relinquish control — or a society that wants them to.

After a months-long siege that has destroyed local infrastructure, and left the population under the near-constant percussion of artillery, a new sense of regional identity has taken hold in Donetsk. Though some of it is being transmitted through top-down initiatives such as Ms Prussova’s class, much of it has come through the Ukrainian army’s shelling, which has turned many formerly pro-Ukrainian locals against Kiev.

Courtney Weaver’s piece for the FT included this sad but amusing quote from a previously pro-Ukrainian 20-year-old student Continue reading


Merkel and Hollande in Moscow

The tragedy in Ukraine grinds on. After the comparatively peaceful period ushered in by the Minsk agreement in September, renewed fighting has broken out in recent weeks. Russia is copping most of the blame with the US (and more aggressive European players) considering sizeable arms transfers to Ukraine.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. In (most) western eyes, Russia is ipso facto guilty. That Ukraine has failed to honour their side of the Minsk agreement is never mentioned. The obligations, it seems, are entirely one-sided.

At any rate, the more important (or at least intriguing) news is that Merkel and Hollande are in Moscow this weekend. They arrived on Friday night, direct from Kiev, and went straight to the Kremlin where they remained closeted with Putin for an initial five hours. Media were not welcome; apparently photographers were allowed in for about 30 seconds and not a word was spoken.

German Chancellor Merkel gets into a car upon her arrival at Moscow's Vnukovo airport

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gets into a car upon her arrival at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport February 6, 2015. (Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin) – Courtesy RT

What does this all mean? Continue reading

Putin interview with German TV

In an interview with German TV channel ARD on November 13, Putin expressed cautious optimism about Ukraine’s future before adding:

You know, there is only one thing that is missing. I believe, what is missing is the understanding that in order to be successful, stable and prosperous, the people who live on this territory, regardless of the language they speak (Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian or Polish), must feel that this territory is their homeland. To achieve that they must feel that they can realise their potential here as well as in any other territories and possibly even better to some extent. That is why I do not understand the unwillingness of some political forces in Ukraine to even hear about the possibility of federalisation.

Pushed by Hubert Seipel about whether Russia “can do more” to rein in the separatists, Putin eventually went back to what he sees as “the essence of the problem”. Continue reading

Is the battle in eastern Ukraine at a turning point?

A few weeks ago, the separatist militias appeared to be under the gun. In the last few days, the Ukrainian forces have been melting away in an apparent stunning reversal.

The western narrative puts this down to recent direct Russian intervention. Maybe, but there seem to be real grounds for doubt.

At Sic Semper Tyrannis (SST), one of their contributors with a deep military and intelligence background suggests a very different narrative may be called for. While Russia has almost certainly been covertly supplying materials and intelligence to the militias throughout the conflict, there seems little or no credible evidence that they’ve become directly involved. Instead, the separatist forces (with indirect Russian assistance) may have survived the Ukrainian onslaught and, through a mixture of luck, pluck and smart manoeuvring (and, probably, Russian intelligence), turned the tide. Continue reading

Ukraine factories equip Russian military despite support for rebels | The Washington Post

Ah, what a tangled web.

But Kiev’s pleas for an end to trade ties have run into strong resistance from workers at companies like Motor Sich, here in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, where 27,000 employees build engines tailor-made for Russian military helicopters and planes. Most senior executives here grew up as part of the same Soviet military-industrial club as their Russian peers.“

We have our own party, the party of Motor Sich,’’ company spokesman Anatoliy Malysh said.

The competing pulls are complicating Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s efforts to chart a new course with Moscow at a time when Ukraine and Russia’s economies remain deeply intertwined.

There’s no simple solution here. The economic, social and cultural ties run deep.

“We’re dependent on Russia,” said Malysh, the company spokesman. Leaders in Kiev “think that national interests are more important than the economy. But let them speak to people who live without jobs. We are also patriots,” he said. Motor Sich hasn’t stopped exports to fulfill existing contracts, he said.

Many people tied to the plant say they have conflicted feelings about severing ties with their neighbor.

“Nobody ever thought about this. We’re brothers,” said Alla Kozlovskaya, 47, a teacher at a trade school designed to funnel students onto the factory floor. She said she had family in Moscow.

Continue reading