Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ukraine military in Crimea defect to Russia

Pack up your troubles; a Ukrainian soldier departs Crimea


Of the 25,000 Ukrainian troops remaining in Crimea this week only 4,300 want to return to Ukraine. The rest have defected to Russia.

This is a stunning defeat for the schemes of EU/NATO to provoke confrontation in Crimea
 and frighten the newer east European members of NATO into increasing their military budgets and strengthen their links with US Imperialism and its global warfare agenda. The peoples of these countries will not benefit, only the US/EU military  corporate businesses will do so.

Distintegration of the remaining Ukrainian military in Crimea after the region rejoined the Russian Federation last week puts in question once again the competence and lack of ability of the Kiev Junta to have any kind of effective government in the country, a shame and a crime against the Ukrainian people who deserve better than a motley collection of EU/NATO muppets, including some dangerous neo-nazis, jumping up and down in the few streets of Kiev they have control over while the rest of the country faces economic ruin. Those who protested legitimately over past months are now beginning to realise that you can’t eat EU/NATO promises, you can only contemplate at leisure your mistakes in believing them in the first place.

The rump parliament in Kiev accepted the resignation of acting Defence Minister Ihor Tenyukh over his handling of the Crimea crisis and approved the nomination of General Mykhaylo Koval as his replacement. Koval was one of the Ukrainian military briefly detained by pro-Russian forces some weeks ago before the independence referendum decided in favour of Crimea rejoining the Russian Federation which was legally sealed in Moscow last Friday. Tenyukh submitted his resignation on March 25 amid criticism that he had failed to give timely orders to Ukrainian military units in Crimea during the recent events in the peninsula. Junta appointed interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov had requested that Tenyukh be relieved of his duties.

The departure of Tenyukh, a politician who belongs to the right-wing neo-nazi Svoboda party, and his replacement by Col. Gen. Mykhailo Koval, came as the depth of the defeat in Crimea and the Junta’s inability to respond to the crisis despite EU/NATO diplomatic and political support with promises of financial aid, but mostly high-pitched belligerent rhetoric, left the Junta wallowing in its own bullshit as the Ukrainian military stationed in Crimea rapidly disintegrated in face of the objective fact that Crimea was now Russian territory again.

The Junta Defence Ministry said it expected only 4,300 of the troops who were stationed in Crimea to remain in the Ukrainian military – less than 24 percent. Others said they expected that most of the rest would join the Russian army, which has offered much higher pay and more generous retirement benefits to any Ukrainian soldier who chose to join the Russian forces..

“They are Russian, and they will serve Russia,” said Sergey Kunitsyn, a former mayor of Sevastopol in Crimea who’s now a member of parliament representing the region. “What else would they do? They speak Russian. Their heritage is Russian. They accept Russian culture. Their loyalty was to Crimea, not Ukraine.”

More Ukrainian troops departing Crimea

The Junta in Kiev apparently has no plan for absorbing the few Ukrainian soldiers who are expected to come to the mainland, and no plan for their evacuation from Crimea. Reports circulating in the city said 400 soldiers had banded together in Crimea to try to escape to Ukraine amid expectations that they would attempt to drive out. It was uncertain, if they do make it out, whether they have military jobs waiting for them or housing for their families. Several parliamentary figures called the soldiers’ coming to the mainland “a personal decision, not a policy one.” “These soldiers have family and homes and, in many cases, heritage in Crimea,” said David Zhraniya, a member of the parliament. “It’s a personal decision.” Despite the apparent disarray in Ukraine’s military,most interviewed after the vote installing Koval in the post, said Tenyukh had done the best he could with a military they admitted was in  a shambles. “He wasn’t to blame but it was a catastrophe and someone had to fall on the sword,” said Kunitsyn, the former mayor of Sevastopol.

The military’s disorganisation was a reflection of a general sense that Junta which installed itself in office contrary to the Ukraine Constitution on 22 February 2014, is falling apart. “This parliament is absolutely not prepared to govern in this crisis”, said Zhraniya, “We don’t have the experience, we don’t have unity and we don’t have the support,” he said. “Everyone here thinks of themselves as a short-timer, so there’s no long-term planning, and our day-to-day plans lack consistency.” Zhraniya’s views were repeated with slightly different phrasing again and again at the Rada. Every member of government has the term “interim” in front of his title. The members who make up the ruling coalition seem to change vote to vote.

 “Our government is weak, and corrupt, and the reality is that right now we really have no state,” said Yegor Sobolev, a leader of the months-long Maidan protests who’s now a member of a government watchdog commission. “We have an enemy at the gate, but we have no army. Everything is a mess, and it is likely that even this government will fall. But if it falls, we have absolutely nothing. So, against all odds, we need our wreck of a state to function.”

As if to underscore the disarray, dozens of members of the Right Sector, a right-wing group that’s blamed by many unbiased observers for much of the violence during protests in Kiev and is considered the military wing of the Svoboda political party, gathered in front of the Rada to protest Tenyukh’s resignation. The protesters said they were also angry over the killing Monday of Oleksandr Muzychko, a leader in the group. He was shot outside a cafe in Rivne in western Ukraine after an argument that news reports said involved several groups.

The appearance of the Right Sector in the square prompted a line of uniformed security volunteers to form in front of the Rada building, and for a tense half-hour there were fears that the building might be stormed. In the event, there was no confrontation but the danger remains of further provocations since the rump parliament remains factionalised and divided polticallly.


Ukraine’s maritime forces have been mostly dissolved in Crimea, with 12 of its 17 major warships and much of its naval aviation assets falling under Russian control. Almost every Ukrainian naval base and ship on the peninsula has been sequestered by Russian forces or local pro-Moscow self defence units. The scale of the crisis facing the Ukrainian navy is apparent from the fact that around 12,000 of its 15,450 personnel were based in Crimea. Over the past three weeks, the majority of the Ukrainian military personnel on Crimea have defected to the Russian military or resigned from military service. In Sevastopol, the Russians obtained intact four major warships, the Grisha V-class frigates Ternopil and Lutsk , the Pauk-class corvette/patrol vessels Khmelnytskyi , and the Bambuk-class command ship Slavutych , as well as Ukraine’s only submarine, the Foxtrot-class Zaporizhzhia . Also acquired in Sevastopol was the ocean-going tug Korets .

Most of Ukraine’s Navy was stationed in Crimea including 12,000 out of a total of 15,400 Navy personnel.  The remaining naval forces are stationed in Odessa.

The rump of the Ukrainian navy is now concentrated at the service’s Naval Base North at Odessa. This force boasts less than half a dozen large surface combatants as well as several small patrol craft. Russian naval patrols have also blockaded the access to the Sea of Azov to the east of Ukraine, cutting off military and civilian access to ports in the east of the country.

Speaking before the referendum result in Crimea, Canadian diplomat, James Byron Bisset, onetime Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria, gave a sober analysis of the situation:

"I think they (the events in Ukraine) are very tragic but, almost inevitable. I think that you have to go back to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and I think that the West made a fatal mistake there, a historic mistake: instead of offering help to the Russians, as we had done with the Germans during the Marshall Plan (we won the war and did everything to help the Germans recover), we didn't do that. On the contrary, we had NATO do everything it could to threaten the Russians. We expanded eastward and broke our promises to Gorbachev, who said that if he allows a united Germany entering into NATO, NATO would never advance eastward. But, of course, they did do that and they did it in 1999 by having the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland enter NATO. Since then, they have, in effect, encircled Russia with NATO countries, some of who had missiles. In 2003 the Americans unilaterally pulled out of the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, so I mean if you look at it, you'll see that NATO has played a very aggressive and, from a Russian point of view, a very threatening position and it is inevitable that at some point they were going to go over the line and I'm afraid they've done it in Ukraine.

Putin was given the opportunity to act because, in effect, what the Americans have done - and I blame the Americans here because the fact of the matter is that when Yanukovich rejected the European Trade Association Agreement, Putin came in and said 'Look, wouldn't it be more sensible to have the three of us involved (the EU, Ukraine, and Russia)?', the European Union dismissed Putin and told him "Mind your own business". Regarding the demonstrations that took place in Kiev, there's very serious evidence to show that many of the protesters were being paid to protest. In addition to that, you had John McCain, who only met only with opposition leaders. Also, Victoria Nuland (the head of the State Department, European Division) made a speech before the Press Club in Washington that she had made three visits to Kiev in the last five weeks. In a period of 15 or so years, the Americans have spent 5 billion dollars urging opposition parties to have a pro-European stand. I mean, this is meddling in the affairs of Ukraine and encouraging Ukraine to break away from Russia.

What does Putin want to achieve? He is basically saying, "Hands off. From a geopolitical point of view, this is my backyard and you've been meddling in our affairs for a long time and you threaten our national interest." So, what's happened really is that the Europeans and the Americans, in combination, have handed Putin the Crimea, because the inevitable referendum will clearly choose to go back to Russia. What a lot of people don't mention is that when Khrushchev did give Crimea to Ukraine, it didn't necessarily mean anything because it was a decision made within the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union broke up, Ukraine retained Crimea but under certain conditions. One of the conditions was that it would be an autonomous region and secondly, that it would have 25,000 Russian troops located there. Putin didn't invade Crimea, it already had been invaded.
I don't think he (Putin) 'lives in another world' (a reference to the comment made by Merkel), I think he is in a very real world and he is a hardcore realist who's popular in Russia because the Russians see him as protecting their interests. He didn't start the protest in Kiev. Those protests were extremely violent. If they had occurred in any American city or Canadian city, the protesters would have been immediately arrested. They were throwing fire bombs, some of them were armed, they seized government buildings, I mean, this is an engineered protest designed to destabilize Ukraine and invite parts of it, at least, into NATO.

I think they (the West and especially, the White House) are in real jam. They've overextended their position and they are in a mess at the moment, Ukraine is in a mess. Putin can sit back, he can get Crimea and he can say to Ukraine, who totally relies on Russia for economic reasons, 'we'll let the European Union and Americans resolve the Ukrainians economic problems and we'll sit back and watch it.' Sanctions never have worked and won't work with Russia and stopping a few senior Russian officials from travelling is not going to do any good. The problem is that there is a good part of the government of the new regime, which the Russians are quite right is illegitimate, that are extremists and are armed and could cause violence to erupt at any point, and that could spread and we could have a tremendously dangerous, if not catastrophic situation in Ukraine.
A lot of double standards are being applied and a lot of vehement anti-Russian positions in the western media, in particular the United States', is almost adolescent in its fever. A lot of the facts are not coming out and I think that's part of the problem. People in Ukraine are being encouraged that all they have to do is call for help and the United States is going to come in and provide them with the arms and the materials to take on Russia. That's a very dangerous position.

One more point, the double standard is so blatant: I mean, here we have the NATO countries led by the United States taking a big chunk of territory away from Serbia, bombing Serbia, encouraging the Kosovars to declare independence without any kind of referendum, all of the western countries recognizing it despite Putin's warning that doing that is against international law and the United Nations Charter and would open a Pandora's Box for other countries to do it and, frankly, to do it himself in some of the countries of the former Soviet Union, if they continued to recognize Kosovo. So, what goes around, comes around and we all have short memories, it seems, but what's good for the goose is good for the gander."

(Transcript of broadcast on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation "Cross Country Checkup" phone-in programme re Ukraine)

Ukraine: what the public are not being told:

[Putin speech on Crimea, 18 March, 2014: ]