[Marxism] A report from the Donetsk People's Republic

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri May 30 12:32:56 MDT 2014

NY Times, May 30 2014
Pro-Russia Troops Take Symbol of Ukraine Uprising

DONETSK, Ukraine — The revolution was interrupted by a coup on Thursday, 
with one faction in this self-declared republic ousting another from the 
regional administration building that had become the symbol of the 
uprising here.

Methodically and in full view of the news media, soldiers from a 
well-equipped militia group, the Vostok Battalion, evicted the ragtag 
band of locals who had occupied the building since taking it over in 
March, using backhoes and dump trucks to clear away barricades, tires 
and debris.

The soldiers claimed that they had come to purge the dark, dank halls of 
the building, which smelled of alcohol, cigarettes and unwashed bodies, 
from rebels who had been accused of looting a grocery store near the 
city’s airport during fighting on Monday.

Yet the bold assault seemed intended more to strengthen the position of 
Alexander Borodai, a Russian citizen who was also involved in Russia’s 
seizure of Crimea. He denies any connection to the Russian government, 
though many experts say his activities would be unlikely to continue if 
the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, did not approve.

Increasingly, a cadre of commanders with Russian citizenship like Mr. 
Borodai and a shadowy military commander named Igor Strelkov seem to be 
seizing control of the often rudderless rebellion as clashes with the 
Ukrainian Army intensify.

Yet the complex and opaque allegiances of rebel groups here do not seem 
to be crimping their ability to inflict damage on the Ukrainian 
military. On Thursday, rebels shot down a military helicopter near the 
separatist stronghold of Slovyansk. Ukraine’s National Guard reported 
that it had lost 12 people, including a general, and that the helicopter 
had been shot down by a shoulder-fired missile.

Russia’s role in the upheaval in eastern Ukraine continues to rankle the 
United States, and on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry raised 
concerns with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, about reports 
of foreign fighters, including Chechens, crossing into Ukraine from 
Russia, the State Department said.

New questions had surfaced on Tuesday, when local officials revealed 
that a large share of rebels killed in intense fighting with the 
Ukrainian military on Monday were Russian citizens.

On Thursday, commanders of the separatist forces said they planned to 
repatriate the bodies of 33 Russians from brigades that were organized 
in border cities on Russian territory and then traveled to Donetsk. 
Thirty-three coffins would be trucked to the border on Thursday, a 
member of the rebel force said.

Yet even as the coffins were being prepared for transport, dozens of 
camouflaged rebels from the Vostok Battalion, which many of the Russians 
had joined, were breaking down doors in the rebel headquarters, where 
the leadership of the fledgling republic sat.

It was a sign of the growing dominance of the military wing of the rebel 
forces over the political wing, or wings, and came shortly after 
Ukrainian troops hammered separatist forces, including the Vostok 
Battalion on Monday, leaving more than 50 dead, including the 33 Russians.

“These men are just as dangerous to the Donbass as the Ukrainians,” said 
Viktor, one of few rebel soldiers who did not use a code name, speaking 
of the separatists who had been evicted. As he spoke, he and dozens of 
other fighters drank tea in the lobby of the administration building, 
which has been seized and reseized by government and multiple 
pro-Russian forces more than a half-dozen times in the last several months.

On the higher floors, where the separatist leadership had held sway and 
where captives were rumored to have been tortured, men from the 
battalion kicked, beat and crowbarred doors open in front of several 
foreign journalists in an obvious attempt to embarrass the political 
leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

The men, many of whom had been involved in heavy fighting, became angry 
when they saw pilfered wheels of cheese and bottles of aged whiskey.

The professed reason for the ouster was the looting of cheese, grapes 
and other groceries from a supermarket by some of the locals, many of 
whom had been living in the building on couches and blankets. But most 
believed that was little more than a pretext for what amounted to a 
naked power grab on the part of the militia and Mr. Borodai.

In an interview on Wednesday, he said the building, which had become a 
symbol for many of the local separatists, was nevertheless “not the sort 
of object that needs to be protected.”

Mr. Borodai said those occupying it were “poorly organized individuals 
who have guns.” Fighters, on the other hand, like those who had taken 
part in Monday’s battle were “better organized, better equipped and a 
more monolithic force.”

Estonia’s foreign minister, Urmas Paet, confirmed that the four missing 
monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe 
had made contact with the headquarters after losing contact on Monday. 
He said they were in good health and were being held by a rebel group, 
though “not one of the main groups.”

More information about the Marxism mailing list