According to Mikhail Kasyanov, quoted in an interview for VoA’s Ukrainian service, Putin is not going to attack Ukraine, and is using his troops on the border and acts of sabotage inside Ukraine as a form of blackmail to gain recognition for Russia’s control of Crimea, the payment of Ukraine’s gas debt, Russian as Ukraine’s second state language, and changes to the country’s constitution. But Putin is bluffing. His regime is on its last legs – the Russian economy is in a bad way, and the confidence of investors and creditors is falling. The West need only apply some firm and concerted economic pressure in order to secure Russia’s total collapse.
In LRB Keith Gessen takes a tour of post-revolutionary Odessa – and has some commentary on the historical background to recent events:
Concerns over the collapse of the Russophone political space are nothing new. In the 1990s such disparate writers as Solzhenitsyn, Brodsky and Eduard Limonov worried over it. Solzhenitsyn proposed creating a Russian-language superstate, encompassing the Russian Federation as well as the Russian-majority sections of northern Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine. Limonov actually took up arms, or tried to: he was arrested in 2001 for trying to transport a cache of Kalashnikovs and some explosives which he may have been planning to use in an invasion of northern Kazakhstan, with the intention of declaring a Russian republic there. Brodsky’s poem ‘On Ukrainian Independence’, written in the early 1990s, excoriated Ukrainians for wanting independence from Russia. He read the poem once at a public gathering in New York, then forbade its publication, but it’s circulated online for years. It’s a furious poem, but I had never truly realised, until seeing the Russians in Odessa, just how nasty it was. Brodsky warns his Ukrainian readers that on their deathbeds they’ll remember the poetry of Pushkin, not the brekhnya (‘gibberish’) of the Ukrainian national poet, Taras Shevchenko. And maybe he’s right: maybe Pushkin is the better poet, and maybe a Ukrainian inclined to remember poetry on his deathbed would choose Pushkin. But maybe he wouldn’t. And in any case Ukrainian independence isn’t a poetry competition.
In this Al Jazeera article, Halya Coynash discusses the irony in the fact that accusations of “fascism” are being made against Ukraine by a Russian government that’s increasingly establishing close links with the parties of the European far right. In addition,
A number of the main actors in the pro-Russian protests in the Donetsk region have strong links with far-right parties. Pavel Gubarev, for example, is a Donetsk business owner and the head of the “People’s Militia”. On March 1, he was supposedly elected “people’s governor” and led a crowd in storming the Donetsk regional administration building, demanding that a referendum be held on the oblast’s secession and calling for Russian military intervention. His detention was presented by Russian TV channels as politically motivated persecution. They preferred not to delve into Gubarev’s ideological roots as a member of the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity Party.
On his Facebook blog, Ukrainian military expert Dmitry Tymchuk observes a difference in the behaviour of Russian forces in East Ukraine:
It is worth noting that earlier Russian troops tried to hide their affiliation to the Russian Armed Forces. But immediately after yesterday’s signing by Moscow of the so-called Geneva agreements, they began to “legitimize themselves”, though the Russian government sharply denies their presence in eastern Ukraine.
And in Novaya Gazeta a report from Slovyansk suggests that Russian servicemen are no longer bothering to conceal their identity on the ground.
In the New Atlanticist, Taras Kuzio writes that the unthinkable has happened in Europe – Russia has invaded Ukraine. But there are obstacles in Russia’s path:
First, the aim of the “green men” is to mobilize support for separatism in Russian-speaking eastern and southern Ukraine opinion, but polls do not give high levels of support for either federalism, a strong Russian demand, or for union with Russia. In a poll conducted by the Kyiv-based Democratic Initiative foundation, only 6 to 7 percent in eastern and southern Ukraine support their region’s separation and union with Russia. That support reaches its high, 18 percent, in the Donbass region, in the far southeast. Nowhere does secession have majority support.
Second, Ukraine ultimately will fight for its eastern regions, meaning there will be high numbers of casualties on both sides.
The blog of Alexei Navalny, blocked by Roskomnadzor, now has a new home at navalny.com