Ukrainian troops have seized an airfield in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, said anti-government protesters. Four people were killed and two injured, activists added. At the same time Slavyansk is being raided by the Ukrainian military. Armored personnel vehicles are entering the city, there are many troops and the men are getting ready to defend the city, the head of the Donbass people’s militia, Sergey Tsyplakov.
Anti-government protesters have been holding rallies in the south-eastern part of Ukraine following the coup in Kiev on February 22. Activists have seized government buildings in most of the cities in the Donetsk region. On Sunday, the Kiev government launched a crackdown operation in Slavyansk. Following the event, Ukraine’s Security Council approved a full-scale security operation in the country’s eastern regions. On Monday, coup-imposed President Aleksandr Turchinov signed a decree to officially begin a “special anti-terrorist operation” in the east of the country. Voice of Russia discussed the situation with a political analyst Dmitry Babich.
Dmitry? You know the latest news. What is the likely scenario for further developments now in the country?
My impression is that the Ukrainian authorities already made a mistake, because the only way they could indeed win this war would be just to quickly attack several most important locations using the factor of unexpected attack to take back Donetsk and Kharkov maybe in just one or two days. What they did was to launch first an operation in Kramatorsk and also to block Slavyansk. So, they are losing time and, unfortunately, there are already reports about people being killed and injured. All of this will certainly make their victory, if they have some sort of victory, a mixed story.
Also, I would like to add that the people who are conducting this operation, such as the Secretary of the National Security Council of Ukraine – Andrei Paruby – these are real neo-Nazis. I’m very sorry, but Paruby was one of the founders of the National-Social Party of Ukraine in 1991 together with Oleg Tyagnibok. And you can understand very well that National-Social was just a euphemism for national socialists. These people are national socialists. That’s their true name.
Still, the authorities in Ukraine, whether we like it or not, are more or less recognized by most of the world and they are saying that they are preserving the unity of the country. In some cases Russia as well supports the actions of governments who somehow try to keep the unity of the country and fight separatists. Why in this case you believe this is a mistake?
Because in this case we just recently had similar protests in Kiev and then the West and all the countries that you just described recognized the legitimacy of this new Kiev Government. At that time all these people said that the use of force would be a sort of a death penalty for Mr. Yanukovych. They said it was the reddest of all red lines. And now we see the Army being used in fighting the civil unrest and we have no protest from the West.
So, if you point out to certain inconsistencies in Russia’s position, I think that there can be many ways to answer that question. First, neither in Yugoslavia, where Russia supported the unity of the country, nor in other countries, that I can remember of during the last ten years, the authorities fighting for the unity of their country did have Nazi slogans, did use Nazi paraphernalia, did have an openly racist ideology.
Milosevic, as bad as he was, if you read all of his speeches, he was very politically correct, he never made any ethnic slurs. Mr. Paruby made terrible ethnic slurs and now he heads this operation using the Army against the civilian protesters.
If we get back to separatism in general, do you consider those disturbances in Ukraine as a reflection of separatist movement in general or it is not separatism at all?
Well, formally speaking, these people are demanding a referendum and they are demanding some kind of federalization for Ukraine. Legally, speaking this is not separatism. Some of them may want to join Russia, that’s true. But this is not a reason to use the Army against them.
And also, I think I can understand them from the human point of view, because I have been reading the Ukrainian nationalist press during the last 20 years. And in that press people from Donbas and from Kharkov were insulted in all possible ways as Soviet conservatives, as drunkards, good-for-nothings who should be exiled to Russia or maybe even cut to size and put in prison.
So, I understand why people in Donetsk are worried about being governed by the Government that basically believes in this kind of ideas. And I understand why they don’t believe they can achieve their aims by voting, because they have been trying to achieve their aims by democratic means, by voting for 20 years.
But, unfortunately, now that Crimea is no longer a part of Ukraine, the east of Ukraine is losing to the West in terms of a number of votes. Until Crimean was part of Ukraine the east and the center of Ukraine together had about 55% of the vote. Now they have less than 50% and that’s why I think they want autonomy for themselves, they want to elect their own governor, they don’t want the governor sent from Kiev. And that’s why we have all these passions running high right now.
If we get back to those latest developments, those latest news we’ve heard just now, some media have already dubbed the current situation “a point of no return”. Do you think this is the case?
No, I think that there is always a way to start a dialog, because the vast majority of Ukrainians and Russians are capable of having a dialog and the vast majority of Ukrainians and Russians do not want an open confrontation or, heaven forbid, a war. So, I think that there is always a possibility to restart a dialog.
But certainly, the Government that is now ruling the country in Kiev is discrediting itself very quickly. And I can only hope that this Government’s tumbling down will not take all of Ukraine with itself. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the Western support for this Government is almost 100%. The West has engaged itself completely with one of the sides in the conflict and this is very dangerous and very sad.
You’ve just mentioned the West, what do you think should Russia do in this situation?
Russia has been doing everything it could in terms of legally attracting attention of the West to the problems of Ukraine, trying to help the West save that country.
But if the West does not react to beatings of the two presidential candidates that happened just hours ago, if the West keeps talking about the Russian troops and Russian agents doing all the unrest in eastern Ukraine, if the West doesn’t want to notice that there are probably tens of thousands of regular civilians taking part in these protests, then the West just sort of disqualifies itself from being a party to the solution of the problem.
The West created this problem by pressuring Ukraine to sign the association agreement. And now the West just doesn’t want to become a part of the solution.