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Communist party briefing Eight BACKGROUND TO EVENTS IN Ukraine

go to communistparty.org.uk June 2014

Ukraine currently stands at the centre of a geo-political battle by the United States and the European Union to isolate and militarily surround Russia and China and minimise the wider influence of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Customs Union of Russian, Belarus and Kazakhstan. In this battle the United States and Germany have adopted somewhat different tactics and have somewhat divergent interests but were both deeply implicated in the February 2014 coup against the elected government and in the subsequent establishment of a regime in which openly fascist forces have a significant place. These notes seek to explain the background

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Ukraine – economically devastated by the dismantling of the Soviet Union In 1990 the Ukraine had the second biggest GDP in the SU after the Russia Federation. It specialised in metallurgy, coal, aircraft, motor production and space craft as well as agriculture. Its population grew from 38m in 1952 to 52m in 1991. In the ten years after the dismantling of the Soviet Union its GDP fell to 40 per cent of the previous level. Almost all sectors of the economy were privatised. The population has fallen sharply - to 45m.in 2012. Living standards collapsed. Per cap income is now $6,700.

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A multi-national country The borders of Ukraine today were defined in 1945. Historically this geographical area had straddled the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russia empires and included Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, Slavic Ukrainians , Russians and Europe’s largest Jewish community. Kiev had been the historic base for Russian Orthodox Christianity and for the first Russian state. In December 1917 a Soviet government was declared in Kiev. It was quickly driven east by pro-Axis forces of Germany and Austria and, after the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, into exile. After the defeat of the Axis powers in 1918 the revolutionary movement redeveloped and a Ukrainian Soviet Republic was formed in March 1919. In the wars of Western intervention that followed most of western Ukraine was absorbed into Poland and the south-west in Romania. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic became a member state of the USSR in 1922 – although western (mainly British) intervention sustained right-wing nationalist resistance into the 1930s. In the late 1930s the Ukrainian nationalists in both Polish occupied Ukraine and the Soviet Ukraine switched allegiance to Nazi Germany and were heavily financed to undertake subversive activities.

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In June 1941 their leader Stepan Bandera established a quisling state and adopted an ‘elimination’ policy against the very large Jewish population. Bandera was removed by the Nazis in December 1941 but reinstated in November 1944 to mobilise resistance to the advancing Soviet army. Under the Nazis up to 3m Ukrainians were killed – most of them Jewish but including many non-Jews involved in the resistance. The great bulk of the population in Soviet eastern Ukraine, industrialised in the 1920s and 30s, opposed the Nazi occupation and fought with Soviet forces.

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Post-Soviet Ukraine In 1991, after Yeltsin’s dissolution of the Soviet Union, the previous third Secretary of the Ukrainian party, Leonid Kravchuk, became President, took pro-Western positions and initiated a process of very rapid privatisation – creating powerful clans of industrial oligarchs. He was replaced in 1994 by Leonid Kuchma, whose power base was in Eastern Ukraine, and who followed a policy of closer alignment with Yetsin’s oligarch government in Russia. He left office in 2004. All the contenders for political power in the period since served as ministers under Kuchma: Julia Timoshenko, Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych. All head (or headed) oligarch clans. The Communist Party was re-formed in the 1990s. The party has a significant base in southern and eastern Ukraine, mainly among industrial workers. It has actively campaigned against privatisation and oligarch rule. In the most recent parliamentary elections (2012) it secured 13.1 per cent of the vote.

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Developments since 2000 The replacement of Yeltsin by Putin in 2000 saw the United States revising its policies in Eastern Europe and seeking to pull frontline states, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine, into alignment with NATO. It gave active backing to Viktor Yushchenko and Julia Timoshenko in their bid to prevent Viktor Yanukovych succeeding Kuchma in the 2004 presidential election. The Orange Revolution was the result – with major mobilisations in the nationalist west forcing the annulment of the election and the holding of new elections which returned Yushchenko as president and Timoshenko as prime minister. Ukrainian troops were sent to assist NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two oligarch clans subsequently fell out – and this, combined with the impact of the 2008 economic crisis, allowed Yanukovych to return as president in the 2010 election on a policy of non-alignment. Yanukovych represented oligarch interests principally oriented towards trading with Russia but has pursued highly opportunist policies – playing off the EU and Russia for the best results. In October 2013 he won a vote in parliament allowing him to negotiate for associate membership of the EU. Only the Communist MPs voted against. Then in December he reversed his position to seek a closer relationship with the proposed Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. This resulted in mass protests – spearheaded by right-wing nationalists and fascists.

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The Communist Party of Ukraine The party has approaching 100,000 members, in 2012 won 13 per cent of the popular vote and secured 32 seats in the parliament.

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The party characterises current events as a coup which threatens civil war and the disintegration of the Ukrainian state. Since the February coup it has been the main target of right-wing and fascist violence. Its offices have been burnt, members killed and its deputies repeatedly excluded from the parliament. It currently faces proscription.

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Although the CP Ukraine opposes any alignment with the EU, it had called in 2013 for a referendum on the issue. It also called for an end to the presidential system and the establishment of a parliamentary republic with a significant measure of federalism and elections based on proportional representation.

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It points out that any free trade treaty with the EU would wipe out the Ukraine’s relatively advanced shipbuilding, motor and aircraft industries and only benefit those oligarch clans trading in raw materials and those who have seized control of Ukraine’s land resources.

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In December 2013 it condemned the Yanukovych government’s handling of the protests but highlighted the level of US, German and NATO intervention and the degree to which there has been active support for extreme rightwing politicians. Senator john McCain shared a platform in December with the leader of the fascist Svoboda party, Oleh Tyahnybok, who shortly before had led a 15,000 march through Kiev in honour of Stepan Bandera. The Secretary General of NATO Anders Rasmusen described the proposed EU pact as ‘a major boost to EuroAtlantic security’.

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The pro-coup forces The main pro-coup forces were Timoschenko’s Fatherland Party (base in the west and with 25 per cent of the vote in the 2012 election, historically looking back to Bandera and with strong US links), the pro-EU German-funded Democratic Alliance of ‘the boxer’ Klychkov (13 per cent in 2012) and the fascist Svoboda (9 per cent in 2012). The Fatherland Party and Svoboda fought the 2012 election in an electoral pact. Svoboda now controls several cities in Western Ukraine and has been erecting statues to Bandera and destroying Soviet war memorials. However, much of the street mobilisation was organised by even harder line neo-Nazi elements: Spilna Sprava (Common Cause), Trizub (Trident)and Right Sector.

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Timeline 2013 13 November President Yanukovych announces ending EU negotiations Late Nov Street demonstrations and the camp in the Maidan established December Senator John McCain visits Kiev and shares a platform with Tyahnybok January RightSector and other fascist groups become dominant in Maidan Early February Government buildings stormed and occupied; police killed and injured 18 February Shooting breaks out between Maidan and police: several dozen killed 21 February Negotiations between EU leaders and Ukraine government agree timetable for new presidential elections as basis for de-escalation of protests 22-24 Feb Right-wing and fascist forces go on rampage; Yanukovych leaves Kiev; parliament invaded; proYanukovych and Communist MPs (the majority) excluded by force; ‘Provisional Government’ established by minority. 23 February The rump Duma votes to end the legal status of Russian, Hungarian, Polish and Romanian languages in Ukriane 24 February EU and US governments recognise coup regime despite agreement signed the previous week 27 February Yatsenyuk of the Fatherland Party becomes Prime Minister. The Deputy PM is a member of Svoboda , Alexander Sych. So also are the Environment Minister Andriy Mokhnyk, the Agriculture Minister Ihor Shvaika and the Defence Minister Igor Tenyukh. Fascist right wingers secured control of the key Defence and Security Committee. The Secretary is Andrey Panubiy of the fascist and anti-semitic Ukrainian Social National Party; Deputy Secretary is Dmitry Yarosh of Svoboda. 28 February Crimean Parliament agrees a referendum on the future status of Crimea 16 March Crimean referendum produces 94 per cent vote in favour of resuming pre-1954 status as part of Russian Federation 16 March The Coup government establishes a National Guard incorporating the militias of Right Sector and other fascist groups 18 March Russian President announces agreement to Crimean request for accession to Russian Federation 20 March Svoboda MPs enter state TV, physically attack Director and force him to sign resignation letter Late March Coup government begins movement of National Guard and army units into Eastern Ukraine; restance by Russian speaking communities begins 17 April Meeting in Genvea between Russian, Ukraine, EU and the US produces agreement on an end to hostilities overseen by OSCE monitors. 2 May Over 40 pro-Russian protesters burnt to death or subsequently killed as Right Sector militia attacks demonstrators outside Trade Union House in Odessa. Police accused of standing aside to allow Right Sector to attack. 3 May Swiss Prime Minister and Russian Foreign Minister issue statement calling for end to Kiev regime’s military offensive and an honoring of the Geneva agreement 25 May Rump Duma votes to ban Communist Party and proscribe members 25 May Presidential elections held with 60 per cent turnout: Poroshenko (Independent) 54.7 per cent; Timoshenko (Fatherland) 12 per cent (Petro Symonenko CP withdrew on 16 May) 27 May Military assault on Donbas resumed: occupation of Dontsk airport with many casualties 5 June Central Lugansk bombed by regime jets; many casualities 6 June Discussions between Russian President and Poroshenko


US involvement with coup planning The US state department appears to hasve been closely involved in mobilising support for the Maidan protests and subsequent events. The official with primary responsibility is Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia. Previously foreign policy adviser to Cheney, she is married to Robert Kagan, co-founder of the Project for a New American Century. On 13 December 2013 she told an International Business Conference on Ukraine that the US was committed to defending democratic forces in Ukraine and had spent $5billion over the previous decade inside Ukraine to support them.

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On 5 February (two weeks before the coup) she was recorded talking on the phone to the US Ambassador in Kiev. She described the need for urgent intervention to pull together a replacement government and of her discussions with Ban Ki-Moon, UN Sec Gen, to send an envoy to Kiev, the previous Dutch ambassador, to do so and to ‘F..k the EU’ which she accused of failing to act.

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On 19 February (five days before the coup) the Wall Street Journal carried a feature quoting State Department sources calling for action. ‘Ceding Ukraine to Moscow could turn into a broader undermining of Western credibility’. The feature reminded readers of the active policy previously pursued by the Bush administration in containing Russia and expanding the sphere of Western influence in Eurasia. Support had been given to the Rose Revolution in Georgia, trade and military agreements made with the central Asian republics and backing accorded to the Orange revolution in the Ukraine in 2004.

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The Obama administration, it argued, had squandered these gains by concentrating on the domestic agenda, shifting its foreign policy focus to Asia and believing it could secure a detente with Russia. Recently, however, perceptions had started to change. Outwitted over Syria, the State Department had hardened its position on Putin’s Russia and what it saw as the attempt to build a counterweight to the US in world affairs. More specifically the State Department saw the possibility of exploiting a ‘policy asymmetry’ in Eastern Europe. For the West the Ukraine was not itself of great economic significance. For Putin, by contrast, it was central. Any attempt to redevelop an economic and political bloc in Eastern Europe and Asia, depended for its credibility on the involvement of Ukraine. Belarus and Kazakhstan by themselves would not be enough. By intervening here, the West could land a major strategic blow on Russia at only limited economic cost. The US had therefore given full backing to the initiative of the European Union last year to offer ‘associate status’ to the Ukraine in return for internal ‘economic and political reform’.

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Poroshenko In 1989-1992 used his position in the Kiev State University International Economic Relations Department to start international trading in cocoa beans. By the 1990s he had developed a monopoly control over Ukraine’s confectionary industry. Politically he supported Kuchma and added the auto-industry, shipyards and a major TV channel (Channel 5) to his holdings in the 2000s. He was associated with Yushchenko in the Orange revolution and became a member of subsequent governments. He faced a number of accusations of corruption and it was mutual accusations of corruption between Poroshenko and Yulia Timoshenko that led to the fall of her government. He became Foreign Minister under Yushchenko in 2009-2010 when he supported closer links with the EU and NATO. He gave financial support to the Maidan protest in December 2013 and used his TV Channel 5 to mobilise support. He represents a ‘centrist’ or opportunist position in Ukrainian politics – rather the ideologically nationalist right – and has links with both US and the EU

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Solidarity organisation Solidarity with Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine


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CP briefing eight Ukraine june 2014  

Communist Party briefing to background of events and politics in Ukraine

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