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By Gaius Baltar | SONAR | April 19, 2023

Recently I heard an “expert” offer the opinion that Putin and the Russian Army had made a serious mistake when they organized the “special military operation” (SMO) in the Ukraine the way they did. It would have been far better to just send the army into Lugansk and Donetsk to defend them rather than make an ill-advised dash toward Kiev.

Instead of following this belated advice from that expert, the Russians chose to move fast into northern and southern Ukraine. Why did they do that? There are many theories; some good, some illogical, and some completely incoherent. I thought it might be a good idea to step back and look at the situation before the SMO from the Russian point of view. Russians tend to be practical and logical people and the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces probably more so than most. Their plan must have had logical reasons based on what they saw at the time. So, how did the Russians see the situation before the SMO, at the end of 2021? Let’s put ourselves in their shoes and come up with a theory. Note that this is not a theory of what did happen, only of what the Russians may have thought that might happen when they planned their SMO.

The defensive lines and the siege of the Donbass

The first thing the Russians must have noticed was the construction of the massive Ukrainian defensive lines around the Lugansk and Donetsk republics. The Ukraine Government had made no secret of their plan to capture the republics and the Ukrainian Army should have had an “offensive posture” rather than defensive. It makes perfect sense to construct defensive lines while planning an attack to prevent disruptive counterattacks, but the Ukrainian defenses went far beyond that. They were truly massive and built over a period of 8 years. We know how strong they were because it has taken the Russians more than a year to break through them.

The Russians must have taken a look at those defenses and reached the following conclusion: Their purpose is to contain the Russian Army if necessary – even if a large part of the Russian Army is used against them.

The second thing the Russians must have noticed was the absolute determination of the Ukrainians to attack the republics, even if this ensured a Russian response. We saw that determination when the Russian Government recognized their independence just before the war started. According to the OCSE artillery monitoring map, Ukrainian artillery attacks on the republics decreased right after the recognition of independence, but then increased again – most likely after having received orders from Kiev to keep going. At that point in time Russian involvement was ensured, but the Ukrainians still kept attacking the republics.

The Russians would have connected those two things; the determination to attack and the massive defenses. They must have come to the following conclusion: “They want us to attack through the Donbass, and then they are going to use those defensive lines to contain us. Why?”

The trap

Having observed all this the Russians must have started to think about the Ukrainian plans. They would have assumed that those plans were not just Ukrainian plans, but NATO plans as well. So, what were the Ukrainians and NATO planning?

The Russians must have made the following deduction: “The Ukrainians and NATO want us to attack through the Donbass and clash against those lines. Why would they want that? It must be because it is a precondition for some kind of plan on their part – some kind of larger plan. What is that larger plan?”

Then they must have thought about what it would take to confront the Ukrainian army in the Donbass and take on the defensive lines. What would that require? It would require a large force and a lot of time. That would mean that a considerable part of the Russian Army would be tied down there for quite some time. Was that perhaps the precondition for the larger Ukrainian/NATO plan? Was the whole thing perhaps about forcing the Russian Army to attack through the Donbass and taking on the defensive lines – specifically to tie it down – to keep it busy while the Ukrainians and NATO carried out the rest of their plan?

After having considered this, the Russians must have asked themselves the following question: “What do the Ukrainians and NATO want more than anything?” And since it’s actually the Americans and the British running the show: “What do the Americans and the British want more than anything?” The question isn’t hard to answer. What the Americans, the British, and the Ukrainians want more than anything is Crimea. Crimea is the key to “dominating” the Black Sea, and capturing it would be a dagger into the belly of Russia.

After having run through this logic, the Russians would have come to the conclusion that the Ukrainian attack on the Donbass republics and the defensive lines was a trap to tie them down. Then they started planning countermoves.

The Russian plan

The first thing the Russians may have thought about when planning the countermove was timing. How long after the war started would the Ukrainians move on the Crimean peninsula? They wouldn’t do it right away because they would want the Russian Army to be well and truly engaged in the Donbass before making a move. They would also not want to tip the Russians off by assembling a big force near Crimea before the Russians engaged the defensive lines in the Donbass. This would mean that the area north of Crimea, i.e. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, would be lightly defended for a while.

After having reached this conclusion, the Russians put together a plan to preempt the Ukrainian/NATO plan. The plan had one main objective and two secondary objectives.

Objective 1 (main objective): To capture Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts to create a buffer zone between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine. This objective had to be reached extremely fast while the area was still lightly defended. This operation was all-important at that point in time, far more important than anything happening in the Donbass or the Kiev area. Capturing Kherson was not enough to create the buffer zone because the Ukrainians had to be prevented from attacking the Crimean Bridge. The Zaporizhzhia coast line is only 150 kilometers from the bridge so Zaporizhzhia oblast had to be taken immediately as well.

Objective 2 (secondary objective): While a large part of the Ukrainian Army was positioned in the Donbass, there was still a large force kept back, possibly for the Crimean operation. This part of the Ukrainian army would have to be kept from engaging the Russian forces going after Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The only way to do that was to threaten something that had to be defended at all cost, even at the cost of the Crimea plan. There was only one location the Ukrainians would defend at all cost outside the Donbass – Kiev itself. The Russians therefore decided to advance on Kiev in an extremely threatening manner. The forces they used were not sufficient to take Kiev outright but enough to hold the area north of the city and seriously threaten it. The Ukrainians would have no choice but to take the threat seriously and move forces toward Kiev, including the forces intended for the Crimean operation. This would prevent the Ukrainians from responding to the Russian occupation of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.

Objective 3 (secondary objective): To force Ukraine to negotiate peace on Russian terms. The Russians most likely assumed that if the Kherson/ Zaporizhzhia buffer operation was successful the Ukrainians might want to negotiate. They would want to negotiate not only because Kiev was threatened, but primarily because their main objective, the capture of Crimea, had been thwarted. This part of the plan was partly successful because the Ukrainians were ready to sign a treaty before the Americans and the British intervened.

The conclusion from this (perhaps dubious) mind-reading of the Russian General Staff is that the main objectives of the initial Russian operation were Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, not Donbass, Kiev, or a treaty with the Ukrainians. When the negotiations fell through, the Russians moved back to their contingency plan with the main objective of destroying the Ukrainian Army.

It is important to keep in mind that this is not a theory intended to explain what happened. It is only a theory to explain the Russian plan based on what the Russians may have been thinking at the time. It’s highly speculative and perhaps wrong, but it explains a lot nevertheless – including Ukrainian and Western reactions to the Russian operation.

The Ukrainian plan

Let’s describe the theoretical Ukrainian/NATO plan before moving on. The plan, according to this hypothetical Russian pre-war theory, had three main objectives:

  1. To tie down the Russian Army in the Donbass using the massive defensive lines and a good part of the well-trained and well-equipped Ukrainian Army.
  2. To carry out a surprise attack on the Crimean peninsula, occupy it and turn the Black Sea into a NATO-controlled area – and putting massive pressure on Putin as a bonus. For this a significant part of the Ukrainian army was held back from the Donbass.
  3. To bog down and bleed the Russian Army in the Donbass with the goal of engineering a regime change in Russia. The sanctions blitz was planned as an integral part of that goal.


It’s April 2023 and so far none of these objectives have been achieved. Let’s assume that this theory is correct and this was actually the plan – and let’s look at what the Ukrainians and the West have been up to since it failed.  Again, this is highly speculative.

The obsession with the plan

If we look at what the Ukrainians and the West have been doing in this war, a pattern seems to emerge: They still seem to be carrying out the initial plan, even though it failed. Almost every decision they make seems to be in accordance with the plan, or more specifically, in accordance with a pathological denial of the failure of the plan. Let’s look at a few examples:

The obsession with Crimea: The Ukrainians and the West are still planning to take Crimea, even though it is impossible. Still, the capture of Crimea is alive in their minds and a realistic option. Zelensky even at one point said that the Ukraine had started the liberation of Crimea … “in their minds.” Occupying Crimea was a part of the plan and abandoning Crimea means that the plan has failed.

The attack on the Crimean Bridge: Destroying the bridge was a part of the plan, and even after the Crimea was out of Ukraine’s grasp and the Russians had secured a land corridor to Crimea, the bridge was still a priority. It had to be attacked because that was a part of the plan. Now that itch has been scratched and they have, so far, not had the need to try again.

The obsession with Bakhmut: The Ukrainian Army has probably lost close to 40,000 soldiers defending Soledar and Bakhmut. The enclosed area is a kill zone for Russian artillery which the Ukrainians supply with endless cannon fodder. Even the Americans have doubts that hanging on to the city is the right option and the Ukrainians may even be willing to sacrifice their spring offensive to hold on to it just a little bit longer. More and more military experts are shaking their heads and talk about Bakhmut as a Ukrainian obsession, which it is. Holding Bakhmut prevents the last part of the plan from failing, i.e. to hold the Russian army on the other side of the defensive lines. If the Russians break through, the plan will have failed completely. Therefore Bakhmut must be defended.

The obsession with the sanctions: One of the biggest shocks of the war was the failure of the Western economic sanctions. The response of the West to the failure has been interesting. They didn’t cancel the sanctions or freeze them or rethink them. Instead they keep on sanctioning everyone and everything even though it is clearly pointless and even counterproductive. The situation is becoming increasingly surreal but they can’t stop. If they stop, the plan will have failed.

The initial panic

There is one other issue which the failure of the Ukrainian/NATO plan may explain. Every significant person in the West expected the Russians to invade the Ukraine before it happened. This was, in fact, what many of them wanted. One would have expected them to show indignation, to condemn the brutish Russians, and so on and so forth. The initial reaction in the West went far beyond that. There was extreme anger, panic and hysteria. There were even threats of using nuclear weapons. I always thought these reactions were far more extreme than the Russian invasion warranted. Why completely lose your mind over something you knew was going to happen? I suspect all the anger, the panic and the threats were because the Russians thwarted the Western Crimea plan. They were going to trick the Russians but the Russians tricked them instead. The Westerners were humiliated and nothing motivates anger and threats of nukes more than humiliation.

The anger and obsession with the failed plan in the Ukraine and the West are without doubt the result of the psychology and personality of the incredibly uniform Western and Ukrainian leadership class. They don’t accept personal failure easily, or the intrusion of reality into their plans. But that is a matter for another essay, and a long one at that.

Finally, remember that this is all speculation – a thought exercise if you will – but who knows…

April 19, 2023 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , | 3 Comments

Zelensky’s Senior Advisor Brazenly Admitted To Kiev’s Genocidal Intentions

By Andrew Korybko | April 7, 2023

Senior Ukrainian presidential advisor Mikhail Podolyak brazenly admitted to Kiev’s genocidal intentions in the NATO-Russian proxy war that’s presently being fought in his former Soviet Republic during an interview with US Government-controlled “Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty” (RFERL). The relevant excerpt will now be shared in order to raise awareness of his words, which can be read in their original Ukrainian at that outlet’s website here for those skeptics who doubt that he truly said them:

“We have to completely close everything related to the Russian cultural space [in Crimea after its reconquest]. We have to eradicate everything Russian. There should be only Ukrainian cultural space or global cultural space. We should not have a dialogue about whether a person has the right to use the Russian language or not. At home, please use it, but it is not a tool of pressure, it is not a tool of protest, it is not a tool of blackmail.”

Podolyak admitted to precisely what Moscow has always accused Kiev of intending since the Western-backed fascist coup of early 2014 popularly known as “EuroMaidan”, namely the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Crimea’s indigenous Russian population. He therefore inadvertently justified its democratic reunification with Russia that was carried out for the purpose of defending its people’s UN-enshrined human rights, thus discrediting his side’s and its foreign patrons’ moral stance in this conflict.

Not only that, but the so-called “rules-based order” that’s aggressively being promoted by the US-led West’s Golden Billion was exposed as a hypocritical sham. That de facto New Cold War bloc isn’t waging their proxy war against Russia in order to defend “democracy” and “human rights” like its propagandists claim, but to advance Kiev’s publicly confirmed goals that stand in direct contradiction to those two concepts.

Any political force in the West that agitates for literally eradicating another culture and prohibiting its people from speaking their native language outside of their homes would rightly be condemned by society as fascist, yet there’s no chance that the US or EU will ever normalize describing Kiev in that way. These double standards speak to the ulterior motives connected to the previously mentioned “rules-based order”, which has always been about advancing American hegemony on any given pretext.

Returning to Podolyak’s candid admission, nobody can credibly claim that funding Kiev isn’t equivalent to funding fascism. There’s no other way to describe that side’s intention to eradicate Russian culture in its entirety and prohibit its people from speaking their native language in public. This bonafide fascism is being funded by the West in violation of its own self-proclaimed “values”, which reveals that everything it’s claimed about wanting to defend “democracy” and “human rights” across the world was simply a lie.

April 7, 2023 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Zelensky Take Back Crimea?

By Rick Sterling | Global Research | April 3, 2023

Seventeen months ago the US State Department officially declared the US will “NEVER” recognize Crimea as part of Russia. Three months ago Ukrainian President Zelensky vowed to “take back” Crimea. Is this possible?

In June 2016 I visited Crimea with a delegation from the Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI). This is a US organization which has conducted people to people exchanges with Russia for decades. They have never received financial support from Russia but did receive some grants from USAID in the 1990’s. CCI especially promotes exchanges with Rotary clubs.

In Crimea, we were based in Yalta, a small city on the Black Sea. From Yalta we did trips to  the capitol Simferopol, the naval port at Sebastopol, the “valley of death”  and many other destinations.

Crimea is beautiful and the people were very friendly and  happy to see us.  At that time, they had been under Western sanctions for two years because of their decision to secede from Ukraine in March 2014. Tourist ships that previously visited their ports no longer stopped because of sanctions. Students who graduated from Crimean universities no longer had their academic achievements recognized in the Europe. Visa and Mastercard could not be used. The sanctions caused a myriad of problems.

We met with many groups including the elected city council of the capital Simferopol, college students, high school students, Armenian and Tatar ethnic groups, a Rotary business group  and more. They all said the decision to secede from Ukraine was overwhelmingly popular. The official referendum results confirmed what they said: with 83% of the voting public participating, 97% of voters said they wanted to “re-unify” with the Russian Federation.

When we asked why they preferred to be part of Russia, there were various explanations. Everyone referred to the Feb 2014 coup which overthrew President Yanukovich. Over 75% of the Crimean population voted for Yanukovich in the 2010 election which was deemed to free and fair by European monitors. They did not like the violent coup which ousted their elected president.

Another reason was because the coup government immediately repealed legislation that the Russian language could be used in schools and institutions. The majority of the population in eastern Ukraine and Crimea have Russian as their native language. The hostility of  the coup government was unmistakable.

A third reason was because of the violence and thuggery of the forces which drove the coup. Over a few days almost 100 people  were killed on the Maidan plaza. There is overwhelming evidence the killing was done by snipers shooting from rooms and the roofs of  opposition controlled buildings. The fact that BOTH protesters and police were killed indicates purposeful intent to exacerbate and ignite the crisis which is exactly what happened.

A fourth reason for the Crimean decision was because of an incident on the night of Feb 20. Hundreds of Crimeans had gone to Kyiv to peacefully demonstrate in favor of the government and against the increasingly violent mob. When the killing peaked on Feb 20, they realized it was too dangerous and peaceful protests were hopeless. They headed home in an 8 bus convoy. One hundred miles south of Kyiv the bus convoy was stopped by ultra-nationalist thugs. All the passengers were terrorized, many were beaten and seven killed.  News of this violence rapidly spread and shocked the people of Crimea. The referendum was quickly organized and held without violence on March 16.  Turnout was huge and the results decisive. Two days later, Russia welcomed  Crimea  into the Russian Federation.

When we visited, just two years after the coup, we learned there were no regrets about the decision to leave Ukraine despite the problems caused by western sanctions. People told us that Crimea had been neglected under Ukraine. Now, as part of the Russian Federation, all sorts of  infrastructure improvements were being made. We saw this first hand at the new Simferopol airport. We  heard about the coming Kerch Straight bridge, which was completed a few years later. We saw the remodeling and rebuilding of the famous Artek youth summer camp.

It was very interesting to meet with young Tatars. This is an Muslim indigenous ethnic group in Crimea. When asked  if western NGOs were active in promoting opposition, they smiled and said “Yes … Soros”.  Looking it up later, I learned that the US billionaire gave grants of $230 million to influence Ukraine.

On our trip we also learned about Crimea’s long history as part of Russia. The Crimea peninsula and naval port at Sebastopol has been Russian ever since 1783. It has been the Russian Navy’s only southern freshwater port for 240 years.

In 1954 Crimea was designated to the Ukrainian republic by Soviet Premier Krushchev. There was no consultation but it was not critical because they were all part of a centralized Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union broke up, 94% of Crimean voters wanted to leave Ukraine and  re-establish the Crimean Soviet Socialist Republic. Those wishes were ignored by Kyiv.

The 2014 coup  was the last straw. The Maidan violence, coup government decisions on language, and attacks on civilians made it imperative to quickly secede. Russia already had soldiers in Crimea at the leased naval base at Sebastapol. The referendum proceeded quickly and peacefully.

Western hypocrisy and double standards are breathtaking. The West actively promoted the breakup of Yugoslavia, the secession of Kosovo from Serbia and South Sudan from Sudan. The right and popular will of Crimeans to secede from Ukraine and re-unify with Russia is clear. Yet the West continues to falsely claim that Russia “occupies” Crimea.

In November 2021 the US signed a “Charter on Strategic Partnership” with Ukraine. It declares, “The United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea.” Evidently it does not matter what the Crimeans think and want. What kind of “democracy” is this?

Any attempt by a Ukrainian government to “take back” Crimea would be met with firm opposition and resistance from the people who live there. The chance of this happening is near zero.

The misinformation about Crimea shows how distorted media coverage of  the entire Ukraine conflict is.

April 3, 2023 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 1 Comment

The Hidden Truth about the War in Ukraine

By Jacques Baud | The Postil Magazine | August 1, 2022 

The cultural and historical elements that determine the relations between Russia and Ukraine are important. The two countries have a long, rich, diverse, and eventful history together.

This would be essential if the crisis we are experiencing today were rooted in history. However, it is a product of the present. The war we see today does not come from our great-grandparents, our grandparents or even our parents. It comes from us. We created this crisis. We created every piece and every mechanism. We have only exploited existing dynamics and exploited Ukraine to satisfy an old dream: to try to bring down Russia. Chrystia Freeland’s, Antony Blinken’s, Victoria Nuland’s and Olaf Scholz’s grandfathers had that dream; we realized it.

The way we understand crises determines the way we solve them. Cheating with the facts leads to disaster. This is what is happening in Ukraine. In this case the number of issues is so enormous that we will not be able to discuss them here. Let me just focus on some of them.

Did James Baker make Promises to Limit Eastward Expansion of NATO to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990?

In 2021, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that “there was never a promise that NATO would not expand eastward after the fall of the Berlin Wall.” This claim remains widespread among self-proclaimed experts on Russia, who explain that there were no promises because there was no treaty or written agreement. This argument is a bit simplistic and false.

It is true that there are no treaties or decisions of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) that embody such promises. But this does not mean that they have not been formulated, nor that they were formulated out of casualness!

Today we have the feeling that having “lost the Cold War,” the USSR had no say in the European security developments. This is not true. As a winner of the Second World War, the USSR had a de jure a veto right over German reunification. In other words, Western countries had to obtain its agreement, in exchange for which Gorbachev demanded a commitment to the non-expansion of NATO. It should not be forgotten that in 1990 the USSR still existed, and there was no yet question to dismantle it, as the referendum of March 1991 would show. The Soviet Union was therefore not in a weak position and could prevent the reunification.

This was confirmed by Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the German Foreign Minister, in Tutzing (Bavaria) on 31 January 1990, as reported in a cable from the U.S. embassy in Bonn:

Genscher warned, however, that any attempt to expand [NATO’s] military reach into the territory of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) would block German reunification.

German reunification had two major consequences for the USSR: the withdrawal of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG), the most powerful and modern contingent outside its territory, and the disappearance of a significant part of its protective “glacis.” In other words, any move would be at the expense of its security. This is why Genscher stated:

… The changes in Eastern Europe and the process of German unification should not “undermine Soviet security interests.” Therefore, NATO should exclude an “expansion of its territory to the East, i.e. to get closer to the Soviet borders.”

At this stage, the Warsaw Pact was still in force and the NATO doctrine was unchanged. Therefore Mikhail Gorbachev expressed very soon his legitimate concerns for USSR national security. This is what prompted James Baker, the American Secretary of State, to immediately begin discussions with him. On 9 February 1990, in order to appease Gorbachev’s concerns, Baker declared:

Not only for the Soviet Union but also for other European countries, it is important to have guarantees that if the United States maintains its presence in Germany within the framework of NATO, not one inch of NATO’s current military jurisdiction will spread eastward.

Promises were thus made simply because the West had no alternative, to obtain the USSR’s approval; and without promises Germany would not have been reunified. Gorbachev accepted German reunification only because he had received assurances from President George H.W. Bush and James Baker, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, her successor John Major and their Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd, President François Mitterrand, but also from CIA Director Robert Gates and Manfred Wörner, then Secretary General of NATO.

Thus, on 17 May 1990, in a speech in Brussels, Manfred Wörner, NATO Secretary-Geenral, declared:

The fact that we are prepared not to deploy a NATO army beyond German territory gives the Soviet Union a solid guarantee of security.

In February 2022, in the German magazine Der Spiegel, Joshua Shifrinson, an American political analyst, revealed a declassified SECRET document of March 6, 1991, written after a meeting of the political directors of the foreign ministries of the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany. It reports the words of the German representative, Jürgen Chrobog:

We made it clear in the 2+4 negotiations that we would not extend NATO beyond the Elbe. Therefore, we cannot offer NATO membership to Poland and the others.

The representatives of the other countries also accepted the idea of not offering NATO membership to the other Eastern European countries. So, written record or not, there was a “deal,” simply because a “deal” was inevitable. Now, in international law, a “promise” is a valid unilateral act that must be respected (“promissio est servanda“). Those who deny this today are simply individuals who do not know the value of a given word.

Did Vladimir Putin disregard the Budapest Memorandum (1994)

In February 2022, at the Munich Security Forum, Volodymyr Zelensky referred to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and threatened to become a nuclear power again. However, it is unlikely that Ukraine will become a nuclear power again, nor will the nuclear powers allow it to do so. Zelensky and Putin know this. In Fact, Zelensky is not using this memorandum to get nuclear weapons, but to get Crimea back, since the Ukrainians see Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a violation of this treaty. Basically, Zelensky is trying to hold Western countries hostage. To understand that we must go back to events and facts that are opportunistically “forgotten” by our historians.

On 20 January 1991, before the independence of Ukraine, the Crimeans were invited to choose by referendum between two options: to remain with Kiev or to return to the pre-1954 situation and be administered by Moscow. The question asked on the ballot was:

Are you in favor of the restoration of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Crimea as a subject of the Soviet Union and a member of the Union Treaty?

This was the first referendum on autonomy in the USSR, and 93.6% of Crimeans agreed to be attached to Moscow. The Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Crimea (ASSR Crimea), abolished in 1945, was thus re-established on 12 February 1991 by the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR. On 17 March, Moscow organized a referendum for the maintenance of the Soviet Union, which would be accepted by Ukraine, thus indirectly validating the decision of the Crimeans. At this stage, Crimea was under the control of Moscow and not Kiev, while Ukraine was not yet independent. As Ukraine organized its own referendum for independence, the participation of the Crimeans remained weak, because they did not feel concerned anymore.

Ukraine became independent six months after Crimea, and after the latter had proclaimed its sovereignty on September 4. On February 26, 1992, the Crimean parliament proclaimed the “Republic of Crimea” with the agreement of the Ukrainian government, which granted it the status of a self-governing republic. On 5 May 1992, Crimea declared its independence and adopted a Constitution. The city of Sevastopol, managed directly by Moscow in the communist system, had a similar situation, having been integrated by Ukraine in 1991, outside of all legality. The following years were marked by a tug of war between Simferopol and Kiev, which wanted to keep Crimea under its control.

In 1994, by signing the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine surrendered the nuclear weapons of the former USSR that remained on its territory, in exchange for “its security, independence and territorial integrity.” At this stage, Crimea considered that it was—de jure—no longer part of Ukraine and therefore not concerned by this treaty. On its side, the government in Kiev felt strengthened by the memorandum. This is why, on 17 March 1995, it forcibly abolished the Crimean Constitution. It sent its special forces to overthrow Yuri Mechkov, President of Crimea, and de facto annexed the Republic of Crimea, thus triggering popular demonstrations for the attachment of Crimea to Russia. An event hardly reported by the Western media.

Crimea was then governed in an authoritarian manner by presidential decrees from Kiev. This situation led the Crimean Parliament to formulate a new constitution in October 1995, which re-established the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. This new constitution was ratified by the Crimean Parliament on 21 October 1998 and confirmed by the Ukrainian Parliament on 23 December 1998. These events and the concerns of the Russian-speaking minority led to a Treaty of Friendship between Ukraine and Russia on 31 May 1997. In the treaty, Ukraine included the principle of the inviolability of borders, in exchange—and this is very important—for a guarantee of “the protection of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious originality of the national minorities on their territory.”

On 23 February 2014, not only did the new authorities in Kiev emerge from a coup d’état that had definitely no constitutional basis and were not elected; but, by abrogating the 2012 Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law on official languages, they no longer respected this guarantee of the 1997 treaty. The Crimeans therefore took to the streets to demand the “return” to Russia that they had obtained 30 years earlier.

On March 4, during his press conference on the situation in Ukraine a journalist asked Vladimir Putin, “How do you see the future of Crimea? Do you consider the possibility that it joins Russia?” he replied:

No, we do not consider it. In general, I believe that only the residents of a given country who are free to decide and safe can and should determine their future. If this right has been granted to the Albanians in Kosovo, if this has been made possible in many parts of the world, then no one is excluding the right of nations to self-determination, which, as far as I know, is laid down in several UN documents. However, we will in no way provoke such a decision and will not feed such feelings.

On March 6, the Crimean Parliament decided to hold a popular referendum to choose between remaining in Ukraine or requesting the attachment to Moscow. It was after this vote that the Crimean authorities asked Moscow for an attachment to Russia.

With this referendum, Crimea had only recovered the status it had legally acquired just before the independence of Ukraine. This explains why it renewed its request to be attached to Moscow, as in January 1991.

Moreover, the status of force agreement (SOFA) between Ukraine and Russia for the stationing of troops in Crimea and Sevastopol had been renewed in 2010 and to run until 2042. Russia therefore had no specific reason to claim this territory. The population of Crimea, which legitimately felt betrayed by the government of Kiev, seized the opportunity to assert its rights.

On 19 February 2022, Anka Feldhusen, the German ambassador in Kiev, threw a spanner in the works by declaring on the television channel Ukraine 24 that the Budapest Memorandum was not legally binding. Incidentally, this is also the American position, as shown by the statement on the website of the American embassy in Minsk.

The whole Western narrative about the “annexation” of Crimea is based on a rewriting of history and the obscuring of the 1991 referendum, which did exist and was perfectly valid. The 1994 Budapest Memorandum remains extensively quoted since February 2022, but the Western narrative simply ignores the 1997 Friendship Treaty which is the reason for the discontent of the Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens.

Is the Ukrainian Government Legitimate?

The Russians still see the regime change that occurred in 2014 as illegitimate, as it was not done through constitutional process and without any support from a large part of the Ukrainian population.

The Maidan revolution can be broken down into several sequences, with different actors. Today, those who are driven by hatred of Russia are trying to merge these different sequences into one single “democratic impulse”: A way to validate the crimes committed by Ukraine and its neo-Nazis zealots.

At first, the population of Kiev, disappointed by the government’s decision to postpone the signing of the treaty with the EU, gathered in the streets. Regime change was not in the air. This was a simple expression of discontent.

Contrary to what the West claims, Ukraine was then deeply divided on the issue of rapprochement with Europe. A survey conducted in November 2013 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) shows that it was split almost exactly “50/50” between those who favored an agreement with the European Union and those favoring a customs union with Russia. In the south and east of Ukraine, industry was strongly linked to Russia, and workers feared that an agreement excluding Russia would kill their jobs. That is what would eventually happen. In fact, at this stage, the aim was already to try to isolate Russia.

In the Washington Post, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor, noted that the European Union “helped turn a negotiation into a crisis.”

What happened later involved ultranationalist and neo-Nazis groups coming from the Western part of the country. Violence erupted and the government withdrew, after signing an agreement with the rioters for new elections. But this was quickly forgotten.

It was nothing less than a coup d’état, led by the United States with the support of the European Union, and carried out without any legal basis, against a government whose election had been qualified by the OSCE as “transparent and honest” and having “offered an impressive demonstration of democracy.” In December 2014, George Friedman, president of the American geopolitical intelligence platform STRATFOR, said in an interview:

Russia defines the event that took place at the beginning of this year [in February 2014] as a coup organized by the US. And as a matter of fact, it was the most blatant [coup] in history.

Unlike European observers, the Atlantic Council, despite being strongly in favor of NATO, was quick to note that the Maidan revolution had been hijacked by certain oligarchs and ultra-nationalists. It noted that the reforms promised by Ukraine had not been carried out and that the Western media stuck to an acritical “black and white” narrative.
A telephone conversation between Victoria Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Kiev, revealed by the BBC, shows that the Americans themselves selected the members of the future Ukrainian government, in defiance of the Ukrainians and the Europeans. This conversation, which became famous thanks to Nuland’s famous “F*** the EU!”

The coup d’état was not unanimously supported by the Ukrainian people, either in substance or in form. It was the work of a minority of ultra-nationalists from western Ukraine (Galicia), who did not represent the whole Ukrainian people. Their first legislative act, on 23 February 2014, was to abrogate the 2012 Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law, which established the Russian language as an official language along with Ukrainian. This is what prompted the Russian-speaking population to start massive protests in the southern part of the country, against authorities they had not elected.

In July 2019, the International Crisis Group (funded by several European countries and the Open Society Foundation), noted:

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began as a popular movement. […]
The protests were organized by local citizens claiming to represent the Russian-speaking majority in the region. They were concerned both about the political and economic consequences of the new government in Kiev and about that government’s later abandoned measures to prevent the official use of the Russian language throughout the country 
[“Rebels without a Cause: Russia’s Proxies in Eastern Ukraine,” International Crisis Group, Europe Report N° 254, 16 juillet 2019, p. 2].

Western efforts to legitimate this far-right coup in Kiev led to hide the opposition in the southern part of the country. In order to present this revolution as democratic, the real “hand of the West” was cleverly masked by the imaginary “hand of Russia.” This is how the myth of a Russian military intervention was created. Allegations about a Russian military presence were definitely false, an event the chief of the Ukrainian Security service (SBU) confessed in 2015 that there were no Russian units in Donbass.

To make things worse, Ukraine didn’t gain legitimacy through the way it handled the rebellion. In 2014-2015, poorly advised by NATO military, Ukraine waged a war that could only lead to its defeat: it considered the populations of Donbass and Crimea as enemy foreign forces and made no attempt to win the “hearts and minds” of the autonomists. Instead, its strategy has been to punish the people even further. Bank services were stopped, economic relations with the autonomous regions were simply cut, and Crimea didn’t receive drinking water anymore.

This is why there are so many civilian victims in the Donbass, and why the Russian population still stands in majority behind its government today. The 14,000 victims of the conflict tend to be attributed to the “Russian invaders” and the so-called “separatists.” However, according to the United Nations—more than 80% of civilian casualties are the result of Ukrainian shelling. As we can see, the Ukrainian government is massacring its own people with the help, funding and advice of the military of NATO, the countries of the European Union, which defends its values.

In May 2014, the violent repression of protests prompted the population of some areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine to hold referendums for Self-Determination in the Donetsk People’s Republic (approved by 89%) and in the Lugansk People’s Republic (approved by 96%). Although Western media keeps calling them referendums of “independence,” they are referendums of “self-determination” or “autonomy” (самостоятельность). Until February 2022, our media consistently talked about “separatists” and “separatist republics.” In reality, as stated in the Minsk Agreement, these self-proclaimed republics didn’t seek “independence,” but an “autonomy” within Ukraine, with the ability to use their own language and their own customs.

Is NATO a Defensive Alliance?

NATO’s rationale is to bring European Allies under the US nuclear umbrella. It was designed as a defensive alliance, although recently declassified US documents show that the Soviets had apparently no intention to attack the West.

For the Russians, the question about whether NATO is offensive or defensive is beside the point. To understand Putin’s point of view, we have to consider two things that are usually overlooked by Western commentators: the enlargement of NATO towards the East, and the incremental abandonment of international security’s normative framework by the US.

In fact, as long as the US didn’t deploy missiles in the vicinity of its borders, Russia didn’t bother so much about NATO extension. Russia itself considered to apply for membership. But problems started to appear in 2001, as George W. Bush decided to unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty and to deploy anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) in Eastern Europe. The ABM Treaty was intended to limit the use of defensive missiles, with the rationale of maintaining the deterrent effect of a mutual destruction by allowing the protection of decision-making bodies by a ballistic shield (in order to preserve a negotiating capacity). Thus, it limited the deployment of anti-ballistic missiles to certain specific zones (notably around Washington DC and Moscow) and prohibited it outside national territories.

Since then, the United States has progressively withdrawn from all the arms control agreements established during the Cold War: the ABM Treaty (2002), the Open Skies Treaty (2018) and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (2019).

In 2019, Donald Trump justified his withdrawal from the INF Treaty by alleged violations by the Russian side. But, as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) notes, the Americans never provided proof of these violations. In fact, the US was simply trying to get out of the agreement in order to install their AEGIS missile systems in Poland and Romania. According to the US administration, these systems are officially intended to intercept Iranian ballistic missiles. But there are two problems that clearly cast doubt on the good faith of the Americans:

  • The first one is that there is no indication that the Iranians are developing such missiles, as Michael Ellemann of Lockheed-Martin stated before a committee of the American Senate.
  • The second one is that these systems use Mk41 launchers, which can be used to launch either anti-ballistic missiles or nuclear missiles. The Radzikowo site, in Poland, is 800 km from the Russian border and 1,300 km from Moscow.

The Bush and Trump administrations said that the systems deployed in Europe were purely defensive. However, even if theoretically true, it is technically and strategically false. For the doubt, which allowed them to be installed, is the same doubt that the Russians could legitimately have in the event of a conflict. This presence in the immediate vicinity of Russia’s national territory can indeed lead to a nuclear conflict. For in the event of a conflict, it would not be possible to know precisely the nature of the missiles loaded in the systems—should the Russians therefore wait for explosions before reacting? In fact, we know the answer: having no early-warning time, the Russians would have practically no time to determine the nature of a fired missile and would thus be forced to respond pre-emptively with a nuclear strike.

Not only does Vladimir Putin see this as a risk to Russia’s security, but he also notes that the United States is increasingly disregarding international law in order to pursue a unilateral policy. This is why Vladimir Putin says that European countries could be dragged into a nuclear conflict without wanting to. This was the substance of his speech in Munich in 2007, and he came with the same argument early 2022, as Emmanuel Macron went to Moscow in February.

Finland and Sweden in NATO—A Good Idea?

The future will tell if Sweden’s and Finland’s decision to apply for NATO membership was a wise idea. They probably overstated the value of the nuclear protection offered by NATO. As a matter of fact, it is very unlikely that the US will sacrifice its national soil by striking Russian soil for the sake of Sweden or Finland. It is more likely that if the US engages nuclear weapons, it will be primarily on European soil and only as a last resort on Russian territory, in order to preserve its own territory from nuclear counter-strike.

Further, these two countries, which met the criteria of neutrality that Russia would want for its direct neighbors, deliberately put themselves in Russia’s nuclear crosshairs. For Russia, the main threat comes from the Central European theater of war. In other words, in the event of a hypothetical conflict in Europe, Russian forces would be engaged primarily in Central Europe, and could use their theater nuclear armies to “flank” their operations by striking the Nordic countries, with virtually no risk of a U.S. nuclear response.

Was it Impossible to Leave the Warsaw Pact?

The Warsaw Pact was created just after Germany joined NATO, for exactly the same reasons we have described above. Its largest military engagement was the invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 (with the participation of all Pact nations, except Albania and Romania). This event resulted in Albania withdrawing from the Pact less than a month later, and Romania ceasing to participate actively in the military command of the Warsaw Pact after 1969. Therefore, asserting that no one was free to leave the treaty is not correct.

Jacques Baud is a widely respected geopolitical expert whose publications include many articles and books, including Poutine: Maître du jeu? Gouverner avec les fake news, and L’Affaire Navalny.

© 2017-2022 The Postil

August 8, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

Timeline: The Crimean Referendum

Brutal act of military conquest, or peaceful (and popular) transition of power? Here are the facts to help you decide.

OffGuardian | March 8, 2022

In part one of our recap on the recent history of Ukraine, we looked at the chain of events that lead to the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych from power.

You can read that here.

In this second part, we will be focusing on Crimea, how the peninsula came to be a part of the nation of Ukraine, whether or not this was ever popular with the public, and how the transition back to being a part of Russia was handled.


Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev signs a decree transferring Crimea from the Russian SSR to the Ukrainian SSR. His motivation for doing so is a matter of historical debate, as is the constitutionality of the decision. However, as they were all one nation at that time, the administrative decision is more of a “symbolic gesture” than anything else.

Prior to this, Crimea had been a part of Russia since 1783 when the Russian Empire took control of the Crimean Khanate following the decline in power of the Ottoman Empire.


Sevastopol, Crimea’s major port city, is officially named a “Hero City” of the USSR, an honour given to 12 cities across the country to mark the 20th Victory Day. Sevastopol held against major assaults from the Axis powers in October and December of 1941, before holding out for a six month siege and finally falling to the Nazis in June of 1942.


As the USSR begins to crumble, Ukraine declares itself an independent republic, beginning the process of leaving the union and taking Crimea with it.


January: The Crimean government hold a referendum asking if Crimea should declare its independence from Ukraine, reform itself as the Crimean Soviet Socialist Republic (as it had been prior to 1945), and rejoin the USSR. The vote passes with 94% support, and Crimea declares independence.

February: The Ukrainian parliament recognises this independence, passing the “Law On Restoration of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialistic Republic as part of USSR”.

September: Ukrainian parliament reverses their February decision and declares Crimea a part of Ukraine once again. There is historical debate over the legality of this decision.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and official Ukrainian independence, Crimea is no longer politically unified with Russia for the first time in over 200 years.


Crimean parliament again declares itself independent as “The Republic of Crimea”, they draft their own constitution and plan a referendum on secession from Ukraine. The Ukrainian parliament refuses to acknowledge the declaration and forces the cancellation of the referendum.

As a compromise, Crimea is granted special status as an “Autonomous Republic”, and given control over its own budget and other devolved powers, as long as they add a line to their constitution designating Crimea a part of Ukraine.


Newly-elected President Yuriy Meshkov of Crimea holds a referendum, asking the population of Crimea three questions, most notably:

  1. Do you support a return to the May 1992 constitution that didn’t guarantee Crimea was part of Ukraine?
  2. Do you support establishing that all Crimean citizens were entitled to dual citizenship with Russia?

All three parts of the referendum pass with at least 77% of the vote, and President Meshkov restores the old constitution. The Ukrainian government declares the referendum illegal and refuses to recognise either the results or the new constitution.


Ukrainian government abolishes the post of President of Crimea, and cuts the powers of their parliament. For the rest of the year the President of Ukraine governs the peninsula by decree.


The 2001 Ukrainian census records that over 60% of the population of Crimea describe themselves as ethnically Russian. In total 77% of Crimeans, and over 94% of the people of Sevastopol, reported being native Russian speakers.


Following the “Orange Revolution”, and over-turning of Viktor Yanukovych’s victory in the Presidential election, leaders of Eastern Ukrainian oblasts – including Crimea – raise the issue of increased autonomy and even secession from the country. A conference of politicians from the Donbas region call for a referendum on federalization, but are ignored.


A US Navy ship docks at the Crimean port of Feodosiya, leading to mass protests on the peninsula and a peaceful blockade of the port. Then-leader of the opposition Viktor Yanukovych claims that allowing foreign military units onto Crimea’s soil without consulting the regional parliament is a violation of both the Ukrainian and Crimean constitutions. A contemporary Radio Free Europe article notes that 55-60% of all Ukrainians oppose joining NATO.


Following the Russo-Georgian war, and on the back of increased calls for Ukraine to join NATO, the BBC sends a reporter to Crimea. Their article details the strong pro-Russian feeling on the peninsula, the key part Sevastopol has played in Russia’s history, and warnings from Crimeans that “nationalists in Kiev” are trying to “force Russians out”.

A 2008 poll by the Ukrainian Centre for Economic and Political Studies found 64% of Crimeans favored secession from from Ukraine to rejoin Russia, and 55% favored increased autonomy from Kiev.


Between 2009 and 2011 the United Nations Development Program conducts a series of polls in Crimea on the question of Russian reunification. Every single poll returns 65-70% positive response, with another 16-25% undecided and only 9-14% favoring staying with Ukraine.


A poll done by the US-based Gallup agency finds 82% of Crimeans speak only Russsian at home, and further 6% speak Russian and one other language. Only 2% report speaking only Ukrainian.

The pro-EU/pro-NATO Maidan protests begin, violence erupts in Kiev.


27/1 – As protests intensify in Kiev and Ukraine becomes increasingly unstable, local officials in Simferopol and Sevastopol propose Crimea become a federal state, and prepare legal groundwork:

to use its right to self-determination and to exit Ukraine’s legal space in the event of a state coup, or seizure of power by force.”

28/1 – An open letter from the Sevastopol city council calls on President Yanukovych to outlaw the “extremist group” Svoboda, and invites the people of the city to form “People’s Squads” as described under Ukrainian law, and defend the border of Crimea:

It is impossible to allow specially trained and armed militants of the “Right Sector” and other pro-fascist and extremist organizations to penetrate our city and dictate their terms. We will provide reliable defense of Sevastopol. Extremism, lawlessness, banditry will not pass in the hero city.

14/2 – Yahoo News reports “Ukraine’s autonomous Crimea region leans towards Moscow “. The article notes that the Crimean parliament amended the constitution to describe Russia as a “guarantor of Crimea’s safety”, and that elected officials have asked Russia for help if the Maidan protesters should attempt to move into Crimea.

18/2 – Radio Free Europe reports on the “rise of pro-Russian separatism in Crimea”. They interview Crimean MP Sergei Shuvainikov, who claims the Ukrainian nationalists want to ban the Russian language and kill Russian culture in Ukraine.

20/2 – Crimean MP and Speaker of Parliament tells an international meeting in Moscow that Crimea “may secede form Ukraine, if the country splits”.

22/2 – Less than 24 hours after signing a peace deal, Maidan protesters storm government buildings in Kiev and take control of the country. President Yanukovych flees to Kharkiv.

In a vote that violates the consitution of Ukraine, the Rada removes Yanukovych from office for being “unable to carry out his duties”.

The same day, The Washington Post publishes this article:

“The battle for Kiev is over, is the battle for Crimea about to begin?”

23/2 – One of the first bills passed by the new government repeals the law making Russian an official state language. Neo-Naziprit leaders Oleh Tyanobohk and Dimitri Yarosh propose going further and banning both the Party of the Regions and the Ukrainian Communist Party, both traditionally political parties representing Eastern Ukraine, including Crimea.

The same day, thousands of Crimeans attend a protest in Sevastopol, chanting about re-uniting with Russia. The Guardian headlines Ukraine crisis fuels secession calls in pro-Russian south”, reporting that when the Crimean Prime Minister ruled out secession in his speech he was booed by the crowd.

26/2 – Crimean parliament meets in a special session to discuss the crisis and situation in Kiev. Thousands rally outside the building as the meeting is taking place, chanting “Russia! Russia! Russia!” and “Crimea Rise Up!”

The Parliamentary speaker emerges from the session to address the crowd, saying:

I share your alarm and worry over Crimea’s fate… We will fight for our autonomous republic to the end… Today Kiev doesn’t want to solve our problems, therefore we must unite and act decisively. The people of Crimea have enough strength. Neo-Nazism will not work in Crimea. We will not betray Crimea.”

The Irish Times reports “Many Russian-speakers worry that Ukraine’s new government will be pulled to the right by ultra-nationalist groups that played a major role in the protests”.

28/2 – In the early hours of Friday 28th February, men in fatigues bearing no insignia take control of every airport, seaport, train station and border crossing on the Crimean peninsula. They also secure all government buildings in Simferopol. These men are later revealed to be Russian troops from the bases at Sevastopol.

Kiev and their NATO backers call the troops’ presence an invasion, but Russia defends their deployment, claiming the troops are there at the invitation of both the local Crimean authorities and Viktor Yanukovych, whom they still recognise as the legitimate President of Ukraine.

Further, the Russians claim their lease agreement allowed up to 25,000 Russian military personnel to be stationed in Crimea, and they did not exceed that number.

With the peninsula effectively cut off from mainland Ukraine, a second special session of Parliament is held, during which they vote to terminate the current government and choose a new Prime Minister. They also established plans for an independence referendum to be held in May.

11/3 – Crimean parliament, along with the Sevastopol city council, issue a decree declaring Crimea independent.

The new Autonomous Republic of Crimea brings forward the planned referendum from May to March 16th, changing the question from one of independence to a choice between re-joining Russia or re-joining Ukraine.

12/3 – The Crimean government formally invite members from the OSCE to observe the referendum and make sure its fair. The OSCE describes the vote as “illegal”, and refuses to attend.

16/3 – The referendum goes ahead, with the ballot papers asking:

  • Do you support the reunification of Crimea with Russia with all the rights of the federal subject of the Russian Federation?
  • Do you support the restoration of the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea in 1992 and the status of the Crimea as part of Ukraine?

Though official observers from both the OSCE and UN refused to take part, the Crimean authorities claimed to have invited 190 independent observers from 23 different countries, including the majority of the nations of th EU.

Kiev, along with most western governments, claim the vote is illegitimate because it took place “at the barrel of a gun”.

The reported results are massively in favour of joining Russia, 97% vs 3% against, on an estimated turnout of 83%.

21/3 – President Vladimir Putin of Russia officially signs the law recognising Crimea as part of the Russian Federation. Street parties are held in Sevastopol and Simferopol, and all across Russia.

Claiming they are owed money, the Ukrainian government closes dam on North Crimea Canal, reducing flow of fresh water to the peninsula. Access to water is protected by article 29 of the Geneva convention, and its use to punish a civilian population could be a warcrime.


Forbes publishes this article, headlined “One Year After Russia Annexed Crimea, Locals Prefer Moscow”, it details all the polling done by Western polling agencies since the referendum:

  • A Gallup study from June 2014 found 83% Crimeans agreed with the result of the referendum, including 94% of ethnic Russians. 74% said being part of Russia would make life better for them and their families.
  • In January 2015, a joint German-Canadian study done by GfK for “Free Crimea”, found 82% of Crimeans fully supported the referendum and thought Crimea had made the right choice, with another 11% partially supporting it and only 4% opposing it.
  • A Pew Research study from 2014 found 91% of Crimeans thought the vote was free and fair, and 88% thought Kiev should recognise the results.
  • A US government-funded study published on the Soros-backed OpenDemocracy website found 84% of Crimeans “absolutely” supported the Crimean referendum, and 88% thought Crimea was moving in the right direction.


So, there it is, a timeline of the key events leading to Crimea’s separation from, and evenutal reunification with, Russia. Military occupation and annexastion, or a referendum supported by the majority of the population? You decide.

We previously catalogued Ukraine’s Maidan revolution and eventual fall of Viktor Yanukovych in part 1 of this series here. In part three we will be going into Kiev’s “anti-terror” operations in Donetsk and Luhansk and the collapse into chaos and civil war.

March 8, 2022 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

The Facts About Crimea Should Be Recognised. And So Should Crimea

By Brian Cloughley | Strategic Culture Foundation | April 14, 2020

Although the redoubtable New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that the Covid-19 virus “has been ahead of us from Day One. We’ve underestimated the enemy, and that is always dangerous, my friends. We should not do that again” it is too much to expect of most political figures that they should ever admit they were wrong about something. President Trump, for example, flatly refuses to acknowledge that in January 2020 he declared that “we have [the virus outbreak] totally under control”, and there are countless similar instances of denial of realities by other leaders, not only about the pandemic, but about very many facets of international affairs. This reluctance extends to the media, although sometimes, it has to be said, some of the media are forced to recognise facts that to them are unpalatable, and to adjust their position accordingly.

One recent instance of non-adjustment, however, is the Western media’s continuing public relations and propaganda campaign against Russia.

On 9 April Al Jazeera carried a report that “A U.S.-Russian space crew blasted off Thursday to the International Space Station following tight quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner lifted off as scheduled from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.” There was an excellent 400-word piece about the mission, just as one would expect from Al Jazeera.

On the other hand, the New York Times, as ascertained from a search of its website on 10 April, didn’t mention the mission at all. The Washington Post carried a twelve-word item that read in its entirety “By Associated Press April 9, 2020 — A U.S.-Russian space crew has blasted off to the International Space Station.” End.

The reason for reluctance on the part of the U.S. mainstream media to inform the world about such an important international event is that Russia played the major part in a successful space mission with the United States. Imagine the news cover if the spacecraft hadn’t been a Russian Soyuz, but a U.S.-produced SpaceX (still under vastly expensive development) launched from the Kennedy Space Centre. There would have been front-page headlines with “Keep America Great” exhortations from the space commander in Washington.

And so the propaganda of the third Cold War continues, involving all sorts of important international affairs, not least being Crimea which (whisper this) is doing very nicely, thank you, having been restored to Mother Russia.

It must be acknowledged, however, that the Washington Post marked the sixth anniversary of the restoration with a piece on 18 March that (albeit reluctantly) recognised Crimea’s accession to Russia. It noted, among other things, that “in Crimea itself, the annexation was popular, especially among Crimea’s large population of older ethnic Russians. More than five years later, and billions of roubles of investment later, it remains popular.” It is mandatory in the West to use the word “annexation” when referring to the accession of Crimea to Russia following a popular referendum, but even the Post can’t escape the facts, which are so distasteful to the propagandists.

In 1783 Crimea became part of Russia and remained so until, as recorded by the BBC, “In 1954 Crimea was handed to Ukraine as a gift by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who was himself half-Ukrainian.” The majority of citizens wanted to rejoin Russia rather than stay with crippled post-revolution Ukraine which would have victimized them because of their Russian heritage. One of its first actions “was to repeal a 2012 law recognising Russian as an official regional language” and governance from Kiev boded badly for minorities.

It was rarely stated that 90 percent of the inhabitants of Crimea are Russian-speaking, Russian-cultured and Russian-educated, and they voted to “dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another” (in the words of the Declaration of Independence of 1776) in order to rejoin Russia. It would be strange if they had not wanted to accede to a country that not only welcomed their kinship, empathy and loyalty but was economically benevolent concerning their future, as has now been amply demonstrated by ensuing growth and prosperity. As even the Washington Post had to acknowledge, “Crimea’s three largest ethnic groups are, by and in large, happy with the direction of events on the peninsula.”

At the time that these ethnic groups were voting to rejoin their mother country, five years ago, the West, and most notably the administration in Washington, decided to oppose any such move. It didn’t matter that it was a fair and free vote, because there are ways to defeat common sense and national aspirations while creating the impression that it is wrong for people to express their feelings and wishes if these favour a nation that is anathema to those who make the rules.

For example, the government in Crimea invited observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to witness and assess the conduct of the referendum held to determine whether the people of Crimea wished to remain under the Kiev government or rejoin Russia. There were no strings attached, and the invitation was sent to the HQ of the OSCE in Vienna. Then there was a pause during which the matter was considered in who knows what halls of power. And the OSCE conjured up an intriguing excuse for refusing to assess conduct of the plebiscite. As Reuters reported, “a spokeswoman said Crimea could not invite observers as the region was not a full-fledged state and therefore not a member of the 57-member organization. ‘As far as we know, Crimea is not a participating state of the OSCE, so it would be sort of hard for them to invite us,’ she said. She also said that Ukraine, which is an OSCE member, sent no invitation and that the organization ‘respects the full territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine’.” You couldn’t make it up.

The feelings and aspirations of Crimea’s citizens didn’t matter to the OSCE or to the West as a whole. The West wanted, and still wants, Ukraine to rule Crimea, and seems determined to pester and sanction Russia accordingly. But nobody can seriously imagine for one moment that Russia is going to hand over Crimea to the Kiev government. So what is the answer?

Nobody expects the Great and the Good of the West to openly admit they were wrong about Crimea, and that the region and its citizens are in fact immeasurably better-off than they would be had they been subjected to rule by Kiev. But there is usually a way out of such a dilemma, and one that can be gently implemented without embarrassment. All that the West needs to do is quietly accept the status of Crimea and remove anti-Russia sanctions without fanfare. There would be discontent among the ultra-nationalists in Kiev, of course, but the world would be a more secure and happier place. Surely that’s a worthy aim to be achieved?

April 14, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

US imposes additional sanctions on Russia over Crimea

Press TV – November 8, 2018

The United States has slapped additional sanctions on Russian individuals and a company over Crimea’s re-integration with Russia in 2014.

“The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today imposed additional sanctions in response to Russia’s continuing malign activity and destabilizing behavior by designating three individuals and nine entities under Ukraine-related authorities,” it announced on Wednesday.

“Our sanctions are a clear reminder that efforts seeking to normalize investment and economic relationships with those operating in Crimea will not be tolerated,” said US Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker.

The sanctions will freeze any US-based assets and ban financial transactions with the targets, who include Vladimir Zaritsky, the former commander-in-chief of Russia’s missile forces and artillery who is leading a hotel project in Crimea.

Zaritsky’s firm bought three hotels in Crimea that had been owned by the Ukraine state and were taken over after the integration.

Under the new sanctions is the Mriya Resort and Spa, a luxury hotel that opened in the resort of Yalta shortly after the annexation and which the Treasury Department called “the main Russian platform for showcasing investment opportunities in Crimea.”

One of the entities sanctioned – the Limited Liability Company Southern Project – was linked to Bank Rossiya and Russian businessman Yuri Kovulchuk, the Treasury said in a statement.

The US Congress had mandated the latest round of sanctions slapped on Russia.

The sanctions come as the US State Department says it is preparing more sanctions against Russia, as required by Congress, over an alleged nerve attack carried out in Salisbury, UK against a former double agent and his daughter.

Russia has hit back over US sanctions and vowed reciprocal measures, further damaging the US-Russia relationship despite President Donald Trump’s stated goal of forming a closer relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump has described an affinity for Putin and has at times appeared to be following a different agenda than his administration when it comes to punishing Russia over Crimea.

Both leaders are expected to attend events in Paris this weekend commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

During a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, Trump did not rule out the possibility when asked about a meeting with Putin in Paris.

Instead, Trump referred to his “good” July summit in Helsinki with Putin. “I had a very, very good meeting — a very, very good meeting with President Putin, and a lot was discussed about security, about Syria, about Ukraine, about the fact that President Obama allowed a very large part of Ukraine to be taken,” Trump said.

When a reporter pointed out it was Putin who decided to integrate Crimea, President Trump insisted, “No, no. It was President Obama that allowed it to happen.”

In 2014, after a referendum Russia integrated Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula whose population is largely ethnically Russian but was part of Ukraine. Western powers have vowed never to recognize the integration.

November 8, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Gaza Massacre Exposes Western Hypocrisy on Russia’s ‘Annexation’ of Crimea

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.05.2018

This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a new 19-kilometer bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula with mainland southern Russia. Thousands of kilometers away, in occupied Palestine, a massacre was being carried out by Israeli soldiers with full support of the United States as it opened a new embassy.

The two events are not as disparate as one might think at first glance. They both involve “annexation” – one fictitious, the other very real. But Western hypocrisy inverts the reality.

While US dignitaries were opening the new American embassy in Jerusalem amid pomp and ceremony, some 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters were shot dead in cold blood by Israeli snipers. Among the dead were eight children. Thousands of others were maimed by live fire. The bloodshed could increase in coming days.

The relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli-occupied city of Jerusalem, ordered by President Trump, has been rebuked by the majority of nations. The American move pre-empts any negotiated peace settlement which was supposed to bequeath East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Trump’s decision to relocate the American embassy effectively endorses Israeli claims to the whole of Jerusalem as the “undivided capital of the Jewish state”. Israel has occupied all of Jerusalem in contravention of international law since the 1967 Six Day War.

In other words, Washington has shifted from tacit acceptance to an openly complicit policy in Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory, an annexation which has been going on for seven decades since the inception of the Israeli state in 1948. The now de facto American approval of the annexation of all Jerusalem marked by the opening of the US embassy is the culmination of 70 years of Israeli expansion and occupation.

Meanwhile, Putin’s unveiling this week of the bridge linking southern Russian mainland to the Crimea Peninsula is a timely reminder of the brazen hypocrisy of American and European states.

Since Crimea voted in a referendum in March 2014 to rejoin its historic homeland of Russia, Washington and its allies have continually complained about Moscow’s alleged “annexation” of the Black Sea peninsula.

Never mind that the Crimean people were prompted to hold their accession referendum following a bloody coup in Ukraine against an elected government by CIA-backed Neo-Nazis in February 2014. The people of Crimea voted in a peacefully constituted referendum to secede from Ukraine to join Russia, which it was historically a part of until 1954 when the Soviet Union arbitrarily assigned Crimea to the jurisdiction of the Soviet Republic of Ukraine.

For the past four years, Western governments, their corporate news media and think-tanks, as well as the US-led NATO military alliance, have mounted an intense anti-Russian campaign of economic sanctions, denigration and offensive posturing all on the back of dubious claims that Russia “annexed” Crimea.

Relations between the US and the European Union towards Russia have descended into the freezer of a new and potentially catastrophic Cold War, supposedly motivated by the principle that Moscow had violated international law and changed borders by force. Russia’s alleged “annexation” of Crimea is cited as a sign of Moscow threatening Europe with expansionist aggression. Putin has been vilified as a “new Hitler” or “new Stalin” depending on your historical illiteracy.

This Western distortion about the events that occurred in Ukraine during 2014, and subsequently, can be easily disputed with hard facts as a blatant falsification to conceal what was actually illegal interference by Washington and its European allies in the sovereign affairs of the Ukraine. In short, Western interference was about regime change; with the objective of destabilizing Moscow and projecting NATO force on Russia’s borders.

That is one way of challenging the Western narrative about Ukraine and Crimea. Through weighing up factual events, such as the CIA-backed false-flag sniper shootings of dozens of protesters in Kiev in February 2014. Or the ongoing Western-backed military offensive by Kiev’s Neo-Nazi forces against the breakaway republics of Donbas in Eastern Ukraine.

Another way is to ascertain the integrity of supposed Western legal principle about the general practice of annexation of territory.

From listening to the incessant public consternation expressed by Western governments and media about Russia’s alleged annexation of Crimea, one might think that the putative expropriation of territory is a most grievous violation of international law. Oh how chivalrous, one might think, are Washington and the Europeans in their defense of territorial sovereignty, judging by their seeming righteous repudiation of “annexation”.

However, this week’s grotesque opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem accompanied by the massacre of protesting unarmed Palestinians shows that Western professed concerns about “annexation” are nothing but a diabolical sham. In seven decades of expanding illegal occupation of Palestinian territory by the Israelis, Washington and the Europeans have enacted no opposition.

But when it comes to Crimea, even though their case is not valid, the Western powers never stop hand-wringing about Russia’s “annexation” as if it was the biggest crime in modern history.

Worse than hypocrisy, the US and European Union have been silently complicit in allowing Israel to continue annexing more and more Palestinian territory despite the stark violation of international law. Periodic massacres and whole populations held under brutal military siege in the Gaza Strip and West Bank have never registered any effective opposition from Western powers.

This week, Washington has gone one step further to, in effect, exult in the Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory in the most provocative way by opening its embassy in occupied Jerusalem. Then on top of that violation of international law, we have the obscenity of the Trump White House defending the massacre of unarmed civilians as “an act of self-defense” by the illegally occupying and US-armed Israeli military. A White House license to kill.

The pathetic, muted response from the European Union and the United Nations towards this state terrorism and criminality exposes their cowardly complicity.

US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has for months been hysterically accusing Russia of violations in Ukraine and Syria. Yet, on the mass murder of Palestinians this week, Haley was silent. Her only remarks were to congratulate Israel over the new US embassy in occupied Jerusalem.

So, the next time we hear Washington and its European allies pontificate to Russia about “annexation”, the only fitting response should be one of contempt for their vile hypocrisy towards Palestinian rights and the ongoing genocide of its people under Western-backed occupation.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

What I Saw As an Official Observer to the Russian Elections

By Gilbert Doctorow | Russia – Insider | March 23, 2018

In this piece, I will share impressions from my mission as an international observer to the Russian presidential election. The event was of historic importance given Russia’s rising standing in the world under the leadership of its front-runner candidate in the election, Vladimir Putin, and it has been covered widely in world media.

What will set this account apart from the rest is firstly the focus on one location, the Crimea, which I visited as monitor within a varied delegation of 43. The Crimea, for its part, had unusually high importance to the Russians and to the world at large, because the election there was rightly viewed as a second referendum on the reunification of Crimea with Russia in 2014, and that reunification or annexation, depending on your point of view, underlies much of the acrimonious confrontation today between Russia and the US-led “international community.”

The author interviewed by RT on election day.

A little remarked fact underscores my argument for the key importance of the Crimean vote: the precise date selected to hold the presidential election across the Russian Federation, 18 March. That is the anniversary of the formal unification, the culmination of the Crimean Spring of 2014, which followed by several days the original referendum approving unification. It will be recalled that the validity of that first referendum has been denied by Russia’s Western detractors, who insist the result was forced by the presence of Russian troops in the streets and an atmosphere of intimidation coming from pro- and anti-Russian demonstrations. The vote in 2018 has taken place in a totally calm situation, which removes all possibility of reservations about validity unless violations at polling stations could be identified.  At a minimum, the task of a monitoring group such as mine should have been to watch that issue very closely. How that functioned in practice, what I/we actually saw and did will make up the first part of this essay.

The entire force of international observers who spread out across Russia was quite heterogeneous and I will spend some time in the second half of this essay describing us: who we are, why we and not others were present in Russia for election monitoring work.  In this second half, I will also discuss something highly important that other commentators have avoided entirely: the fact that the elections come within the context of an intense political, economic and information war between Russia and the West that has in the past couple of years reached the level of the worst days of the Cold War. Consequently, once we look past the technical aspects of the vote, where there is, among serious professionals, a consensus that these elections were well administered and transparent, we find ourselves back in the midst of tendentious interpretation by both sides to the issue,  if not outright propaganda.  I will not dodge this question, and I do not expect to receive bouquets from anyone.  The task before us will be very simple: to try as best I can to give details about the circumstances of the balloting so that the reader can arrive at an independent conclusion. Without naming names, I will produce my evidence from personal experience on the ground that is missing from media accounts till now given their broad brush approach.

What we saw

The bare facts are that  voter turn-out in Crimea was similar to turn-out in Russia at large, coming to about 67% while ballots for Putin exceeded by far the Russian average:  about 92% for Putin versus the national average of approximately 77% for Putin.

What I am about to say to flesh out these bare bones comes from our group visits to 10 polling stations over the course of as many hours. The first two were in the city of Yalta. The next two were in small villages situated along the main highway running from Yalta north and west to the provincial capital of Simferopol. And the last six were in the city limits of Simferopol. The distance we covered was 80 kilometers. Given the poor state of repair of even roads of regional importance in Crimea, the time in transit, had we not stopped along the way, would have been nearly two hours.

Our group of about 20 traveling together was split between two mini-buses, one predominantly French speaking and the other predominantly German and English speaking. Each bus had local chaperones who, together with those of us monitors fluent in Russian could assist our linguistically handicapped colleagues.

Except for the very last polling station which was close to where we had lunch and was chosen spontaneously by our group without objection from our chaperones, all the polling places had been selected by our hosts in advance, which obviously is not the random selection you would like ideally to have in such an exercise. In several stations we were met by television film crews who were expecting us.

However, we were let loose in the polling stations and could speak directly not only with the senior administrator but also with voters, with the volunteers manning the registration desks, with the monitors from the local social chambers and representatives of the candidates, if any happened to be where we were, given that they moved around all day. That is to say we had every opportunity to hear complaints, to remark any peculiar goings-on, such as organized groups of voters showing up together. There were none. We heard of no scandals, and we saw no demonstrations or protesters of any kind around the polling stations. Instead what we witnessed was an intermittent flow of voters arriving, being processed efficiently, casting their ballots and departing.

In this connection, I want to stress that our group seemed to take its responsibilities rather seriously.  To be sure, when we started out in the morning we descended on our first polling booths like a group of aliens – everyone attached to their mobile gadgets and texting, arranging travel on line for their next destinations and not paying much attention to where we were. However, that phase passed quickly and my colleagues took an interest in the here and now throughout the rest of our rather long work day. We had the usual group photos outside a number of polling stations taken not only for official record but using our own mobile phones to create personal souvenirs. And we gave interviews to the waiting television crews, though that was only a minor diversion.

The polling stations we visited were for the most part secondary schools. Some were in buildings of the local civil administration. All were serviceable and well prepared to receive the public.  Many of the buildings had several stairs at their entrances. Among them some had permanent ramps, as is becoming very widespread in Russia to accommodate those in wheelchairs, parents pushing baby carriages and the elderly or infirm. Where no permanent ramp existed, temporary wooden ramps were installed, obviously at considerable expense and effort in what are otherwise quite poor districts. The Crimea obviously received no infrastructure investments during the 23 years when it was ruled by post-independence Ukraine, and is simply a poor region, however promising its future development may be.

This effort to facilitate voting also had another dimension, what I will call ambulatory ballot collection. Each station had a small sealed plexiglass ballot box which was taken out by volunteers on visits to voters who were too frail or too ill to come down to the polling station. The numbers of such voters were not big, something like 50 or 60 out of polling districts numbering between 1800 and 2500 registered voters. But the symbolic message was clear: that each citizen, each vote counts.

A special welcome was being offered at all polling stations to young people, specifically to those who had just turned 18 and were voting for the first time. They were each given a paper diploma issued by the city elders. Again, the numbers of such cases were tiny, running from 5 to 10 in the districts we visited, but the welcoming hand was visible.

I have mentioned measures taken by local volunteers to raise voter participation. The biggest effort to ensure eligible voters registered and easily found a voting station convenient to them was done at the federal level via the internet resources of the Central Election Committee using online registration and sms communications. In this regard, the Crimea was no different from any other region of the Russian Federation.

The single biggest impression from visiting polling stations was their sophisticated equipment to guaranty transparency, to empower the broad public to do citizen monitoring over the internet and to efficiently record the votes.

One of the first things we would see on entering the polling stations was the row of voting booths, with simple standardized assemble-disassemble frames and light cloth draw curtains for privacy.  That was the only holdover from the simple past. Each polling station now had two sets of “eyes”: CCTV cameras positioned to oversee the voter registration tables and the ballot boxes. These cameras fed live images to the internet and could be viewed by anyone in Russia online. Still more important for guarantying fair elections were the new electronic ballot boxes that were installed in about half the polling stations we visited, the rest being manual count boxes. The automated ballot boxes are autonomous, meaning they are not connected to the web and so are not subject to hacking. They are topped in effect by self-feeding scanners which automatically record each vote. Unlike purely electronic systems, the new Russian boxes receive and store paper ballots, meaning that if any dispute over the automated count arises, a manual count can always be done later.

A peek into some of the plexiglass ballot boxes on our visits showed up only check marks next to Putin’s name. That was about the only indication, wholly unscientific to be sure, of how sentiment was running.

Otherwise the polling stations were notable for being inviting to the public through their engagement of DJs operating simple loudspeakers blaring pop music at the entrances. One of the tunes that came up in various places was telling: “Crimea and Russia Together Forever!” One polling station had costumed teenage entertainers out in front of the building to amuse and babysit smaller kids while their parents were voting. At another polling station, girls and boys aged 8 – 10 wearing military cadet uniforms greeted each arriving voter and sent off the departing voters with a hearty “goodbye.” In that same station, retro patriotism also came up in another form, which possibly was spontaneous, possibly organized in advance: an eight year old girl reciting quite loudly and with good histrionic training a patriotic poem with the repeated refrain “Russia is Rising!”

Voting day ended in Simferopol on a pronounced patriotic note. There was a free pop concert in the main city square which drew a good-natured crowd of several thousand of all ages and ended in a magnificent fireworks display. During the 10 minutes or so of the fireworks, the orchestra and showmen sang the Russian national anthem, which was lustily supported by the entire audience.

To anyone with a recollection of the Soviet Union, all of this collective jollity and distinctly Russian pop music, which was always rather tame, seems all too familiar. However, it was well-intentioned, and it may be that a substantial part of what was promoted as Soviet models and tradition was always just a variation on Russian national culture.

Our work day ended in a municipal administration building of Simferopol where we held a press conference. Five of us with the best command of Russian, myself included, were assigned places on the dais. There were only a handful of journalists in the room, but questions were pitched to us by a moderator and the proceedings were broadcast live by several television crews. This was in lieu of a group report.

*   *  *   *

International Election Observers: who were we?

Russia’s Central Election Commission reportedly issued accreditation to 1,500 international observers whose nominations were put forward by a variety of sponsors, including Russian NGOs, the State Duma and international organizations. Some monitoring was done by diplomats from foreign embassies who requested accreditation, allowing them to visit polling stations and gather information. These monitors would later report only to their respective governments.

I was invited to Russia by a Moscow-based NGO called the Russian Peace Foundation, which entrusted administration of its allotment to a Warsaw based NGO called the European Council for Democracy and Human Rights. The original intention was to invite and accredit 150 individuals from all over the world.  In the end, only about 80 monitors arrived in Moscow via this channel, myself included. On the ground, in our Moscow hotel, I saw about half this number, and I never learned where the others may have been lodged. Out of that number only a couple of us were sent to Crimea, where we joined accredited monitors from other pools. We never discussed among ourselves who came from which sponsor group.

In the Crimea-bound contingent, I was the only American, and, one of the handful of fluent Russian speakers. This put me under the spotlight but also heightened my ability to engage the local electoral officials and voters.

The monitors with whom I came into contact, both in my own pool from the Peace Foundation with whom I associated in Moscow and coming from other pools with whom I associated in the small contingent sent to Crimea were all of mixed backgrounds.  Some were academics with think tank affiliation, or professional political analysts like myself. Some were elected legislators in their home countries or members of the European Parliament.

The politics of the elected deputies appeared to be mainly from what is called “far Right.” Specifically, I met with a Bundestag deputy from the Alternativ fuer Deutschland, with a French MEP formerly in the Front National and now in a group cooperating with Brexit campaigner and EU skeptic Nigel Farage. There were also a couple of Italian deputies from the Veneto Region said to be members of the Northern League. Though I did not meet with him on the mission, I was aware of the presence in Moscow of one observer coming from the “far Left” party Die Linke. Centrist parties seemed to be absent.  Within the contingent sent to Crimea there were also several who fit none of the descriptions above. I have in mind the representative of the President of Pakistan and the representative of the President of Malaysia.

The politic al convictions of those monitors with whom I spent some time could be characterized as ranging from mildly to extremely pro-Russian. Those who were in the latter category constituted perhaps 10% of the total. From our table talk over lunch, I understood that the several very pro-Russian monitors had a latent conflict of interest :  they each made some of their professional income in Russia, or, as was the case with one of the Italians, they are developing businesses in Crimea with local partners. From among this sub-group, two were particularly fluent in Russian and presented their propagandistic observations to the local journalists with whom we met in the polling stations and at the press conference. This is how one Crimean newspaper received the choice quotation which it duly published: that “today Crimea is the most democratic place in the world.” An over-the-top assessment that is frankly embarrassing to read.

I would call this case a distortion of the observer mission that was preconditioned by the general background of political, informational and economic warfare being waged between the West and Russia for the past several years. To my knowledge, the Russian Duma had extended invitations to all Members of the European Parliament, but the major centrist parties there opposed sending any representatives to observe elections which they knew in advance would be a sham because of their own ideological anti-Putin prejudices. Thus, who actually came and took part in the monitoring was the result of a self-sorting process. The MEPs and parliamentarians from national legislatures who came did so in the face of moral pressure from the majority of their peers, and they received strict prohibitions in particular against going to Crimea. I saw how one of the French MEPs initially in our Crimea contingent backed out at the very last minute and remained in Moscow to avoid scandals back home.

Propaganda and information warfare on all sides

The fierce political winds in the West against Putin, against Russia directed mainstream US and European media reports on the Russian election campaign for weeks in advance of the vote. The media denounced the process as fake because of the near certainty of the outcome, the re-election of Vladimir Putin. This mind-set even exerted a discernable influence on the most authoritative foreign observation body to come to the elections, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The OSCE contingent was the single largest group of international election observers, receiving 580 accreditations. Within that overall number there was a core group of 60 who were deployed in Russia six weeks before the elections. They met with local election boards, candidates’ representatives and others to build an information base on the elections. Then there were 420 additional short-term observers sent by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. And about 100 accreditations for the election-day mission were issued to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, who were nearly all European MPs in their respective countries.

I wish to stress that the OSCE did not send any election observers to the Crimea. In a statement issued by the United States Mission to the OSCE on 22 March, the reasons that evidently also guided the OSCE in its entirety are set out with the crystal clarity of a Cold War blast denouncing Russia’s “invasion and occupation of Crimea,” its staging of “illegitimate elections… [with] frequent and severe abuses, specifically targeting the Crimean Tatar community and others opposed to Russia’s occupation.” Russia is charged with coercing Ukrainian citizens in Crimea to vote in illegitimate elections. The 18 March elections are, per the US Mission, “another attempt by Russia to give its purported annexation of Crimea a semblance of legitimacy.”

Without further ado, I condemn this official US statement as an ignorant, willfully blind rejection of the realities on the ground in Crimea that I and other members of our monitoring team unreservedly established.

As for the OSCE monitoring mission to the rest of the Russian Federation, the various constituent groups mentioned above issued two pages of Press Releases on their findings at a press conference held in downtown Moscow the day after the elections. Given the institution’s credibility, that report has received a good deal of attention in global media.

The general conclusions were summarized at the top of the Releases:

“Russian presidential election well administered, but characterized by restrictions on fundamental freedoms, lack of genuine competition, international observers say.”

On the one hand, the OSCE report gave the Russians, and in particular the Central Election Commission, high marks for the professional administration of the elections as witnessed by their teams in the field on election-day. In particular, the press handout mentions as welcome the accuracy of voter lists and the legal changes that enabled voting in polling stations away from the permanent place of residence, a facility which was used by 5.6 million Russians. Tabulation was also assessed positively.

These bland-sounding compliments have to be put in an historical context to be fully savored.

The background is the 2011 Duma elections which were shown by Russian activists at the time to have been fraudulent due to ballot box stuffing, “carousel voting,” i.e. multiple voting and the shepherding of company employees and civil servants to the polling stations by their superiors. Incidents were reported of voter turnout in some districts exceeding 100% of registered voters. These outrages sparked mass street demonstrations that were fanned by encouragement from Western governments and media at the time. The Kremlin took note and instituted several procedural reforms and widespread implementation of CCTV cameras already the next year for the presidential election, which passed without incident and prepared the way for the extensive measures supporting transparency and fair voting that we saw on 18 March 2018. The government also took measures to protect itself and society from the would-be actors of regime change though mass demonstrations:  the rules on foreign-sponsored pro-democracy NGOs were tightened, as were rules on public assembly.

On the other hand, the OSCE Press Releases go far beyond the voting mechanisms, far beyond the specifics of this electoral campaign to challenge the entire Russian political culture.

“Elections are a critical part of democracy, but democracy is not only about elections. …. [I]mproving the real state of democracy in Russia requires full respect for people’s rights between elections as well,” Marietta Tidei, head of the delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly” is quoted as saying on page one of the handout.

The OSCE spokespersons direct attention in particular to limitations on rights of assembly, on free speech in Russia and to media control by the state, with unequal allocation of air time going to the president that short-changed his challengers

Perhaps the most condemnatory remarks in the OSCE Press Release relate to registration of candidates for the presidential race.

“After intense efforts to promote turnout, citizens voted in significant numbers, yet restrictions on the fundamental freedoms, as well as on candidate registration, have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition…”

This was a thinly veiled reference to the rejection of the candidacy application of the famous blogger and corruption-fighter Alexei Navalny, who from the beginning to end was held up in Western media as the only real opponent to Vladimir Putin. This characterization of who was real opposition and who was a “Kremlin project” was itself a highly politicized issue that outside observers would have done better to side-step entirely.

There are several serious problems with the overarching negative analysis by the OSCE, which slotted very nicely into the predisposition of the Western media to trash the Russian elections. Whether by intent or by ignorance, the OSCE authors of the critique of the electoral campaign circumstances acted as the mouthpieces of the opposition candidates, most particularly the Liberal party candidates among whom Ksenia Sobchak was the most visible and vocal. They did not give any thought to counterarguments, which I will present here.

First, there is the issue of applying double standards and expecting the ideal of fair competition for all candidates to the nation’s highest office, when that standard is very rarely if ever met in the West itself. I would name little, neutral Switzerland as one country with credible  civic freedoms, campaign and voting procedures. I was about to name here Finland, another small and relatively homogeneous country which always gets high marks on democratic institutions, but then I recalled that a couple of years ago there was a great scandal over abuse of the newly introduced remote voting facility via the internet. That noisy scandal ended in one parliamentary deputy, a party leader and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, being stripped of her mandate for violations.  So there can be problems even in Eden.

Then, at the risk of being accused of “what-aboutism,” I am obliged to mention an egregious and relatively recent case of  suppression of mass opposition movements in the United States. I have in mind the case of Occupy Wall Street, which broke out in the midst of the Crash of 2008 and was on the point of achieving political traction when it was brutally crushed by police and court actions that blatantly violated constitutional protection of freedom of assembly and speech. No one has ever paid a price for those  abridgements of civil liberties which are still enshrined in law and regulations at the local level.

Let me now address the question of Vladimir Putin’s dominance in air time coming from his status and activities as president, not as candidate or debater, which he did not use at all. The OSCE observers  ignore that Putin has this dominance 365 days on 365 because he is one of the most widely traveled, most consequential heads of state in the world against whom most any human being in opposition would have a very difficult time. This is precisely why he had the support of 80% of the population in polls held repeatedly in the year leading to the elections.

His popularity after 18 years in power is explained not only by being hyper active but by being hyper-productive for the vast majority of the population. In that time in office national GDP multiplied several times and take home pay of the broad population rose 10 times. Under Putin the poverty rate was cut in half. And in the past 4 years his government restored the nation’s self-confidence over its place as a global leader thanks to the bloodless takeover of the Crimea in March 2014 through perfectly executed psychological warfare in which 20,000 Russian troops from the Sevastopol naval base overcame an equal number of Ukrainian forces on the peninsula with hardly a shot fired and no fatalities. Then came the successful air war against the Islamic State in Syria from 2015 to 2017 that also had negligible cost in Russian military personnel. And finally in the midst of the election, on 1 March President Putin unveiled Russia’s new, state of the art strategic weapons systems which he claimed restored the country’s nuclear parity with the United States. All of these achievements would leave any opposition candidates, however clever, tongue-tied.

Finally, no criticism of restrictions on freedom of assembly or speech can be made in the abstract. They were introduced by the Kremlin in the context of the political war on the country being conducted by the West with especial intensity since the 2014 reunification with/annexation of Crimea. It is indecent to fault the Russians for imperfect democratic institutions when the result of outside pressure has always been to rally the broad public around its leader and to make life very difficult for any opposition.

For anyone with a few gray hairs and recollection of Soviet days going back to the 1960s, the present situation in Russia and the criticism of authoritarianism brings to mind the issues that surrounded the introduction of the détente policy:  hard pressure on the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev was known to result in crackdowns on dissent and the rise in the numbers of political prisoners.

Today’s Russia is a far more humane society than the old Soviet Union, but it is a disservice to opponents of United Russia and Vladimir Putin to impose personal and sectoral sanctions as the US-led West has done since 2012, when it introduced the Magnitsky List or accelerated from 2014 to present under the pretext of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. What is surprising is that the country has virtually no political prisoners (Ksenia Sobchak could list only 16 dubious cases when she and other candidates met with Putin in the Kremlin on 19 March). During the campaign the candidates were able to express the most outrageous attacks  on the government and its policies using false accusations, on live national television without any hint of retribution.

Why was the Russian political landscape devoid of serious challengers? The achievements of the incumbent are only part of the story. Another big factor has been the “vertical of control” that Vladimir Putin implemented at the start of his rule 18 years ago to reestablish state power in the face of disintegration and chaos, in the face of local satrapies run by thieves bearing the title of oligarchs. Without broad reinstatement of self-rule at the regional level through direct election of mayors and governors, there is scant possibility of experienced candidates enjoying popular backing rising to challenge a president. There will be more of the same top-down “parties” and rootless power seekers who ran against Putin in 2018.  This question of preparing for democratic succession is the single biggest challenge facing Vladimir Putin in his fourth and last mandate.

My conclusion is that in the discussion about the Russian elections of 18 March everybody is using everybody else to score propaganda points. Nonetheless, even in this reality the monitoring missions served the worthy purpose of keeping the local Russian officials on their toes and encouraging transparency, in the Crimea and surely everywhere else. That is a very good thing in itself.

And I end this report with one more encouraging sign that I heard at our press conference in Simferopol that capped our election monitoring mission. We on the dais were interrupted for a short announcement by the head of the Simferopol government who gave tabulation of voter turnout as of 18.00 o’clock. He ended his recitation with this statement to the audience: “these elections are by and for us, Russians, not for anyone else.”   Now that  is a tremendous leap forward in Russian self-awareness and national pride. They have stopped looking abroad for validation. They have grown up…

For a brief overview of my findings as election observer in Crimea, see my 19 March interview with RT on Red Square.

Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book, Does the United States Have a Future? was published on 12 October 2017.

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Video | , , | 1 Comment

India stands by Russia as US crosses ‘red line’ in Ukraine

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 21, 2017

In a highly significant diplomatic gesture, India showed solidarity with Russia in the UN General Assembly vote on Tuesday, which condemned the human rights situation in Crimea and Sevastopol. The resolution, which was proposed by Ukraine and backed by the western powers was passed by 70 votes, with 76 countries abstaining and 26 opposing.

Interestingly, India was the only country from South Asia to oppose the resolution – Pakistan and Sri Lanka abstained – and one of just three from Asia-Pacific to do so – the others being China and Myanmar. The line-up of voting had the ominous look of an epic ‘East-West’ battle of a bygone era. There is no issue that can be more important for Russian foreign policy today than Ukraine. And US pressure is building up on Russia lately. From the US perspective, there is no better way to whip up the enemy image of Russia and shepherd dispirited European allies behind its transatlantic leadership than by rekindling the embers in eastern Ukraine. (Read my earlier blog US-EU-Russia tensions spill over the Ukraine.)

This has been, therefore, a brilliant assertion of India’s independent foreign policies. Simply put, the Modi government took a deliberate decision to stand up and be counted as Russia’s friend – although President Trump had just the previous day issued a birth certificate to India as ‘global power’. This would have been a decision taken at a political level – probably even at the highest level — because these are extraordinary times when Nikki Haley keeps a note pad to jot down where individual countries stood on issues of vital interest to the American foreign policy and, presumably, she is under instruction to  report directly to the boss. (BBC)

India has traditionally taken a dim view of the intrusive western attempts to use the pretext of human rights to politicize regional issues. But then, this is not like any other issue. Nothing brings it home [more] than the curious coincidence that even as the UN General Assembly vote on Crimea got under way, the US state department disclosed in Washington that the Trump administration has decided to cross the ‘red line’ in Ukraine. (Canada, which usually does the foreplay for the US, took a similar decision last week.) Moscow has repeatedly warned Washington against precipitating a flare-up in Ukraine by arming the forces of ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis who double as the ‘army’ in Kiev.

But Russia apparently anticipated the US move. In fact, there were far too many tell-tale signs that couldn’t be overlooked. Reports have been appearing of Ukrainian troop movements on the Donbas front. The Russian monitors within the OSCE group were being prevented from physically accessing the frontline. At a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on December 14, the Russian ambassador detailed the violations of the Minsk agreement protocol by the Ukrainian forces. (Transcript) On December 19, Moscow announced that it was withdrawing the Russian officers in the monitoring group, since “further work of the Russian Armed Forces’ mission at the Centre has become impossible.” (MFA)

A concerted attempt seems to have begun to ‘activate’ the front in Eastern Ukraine. Smarting under the humiliating defeat in the project to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, Washington is blackmailing Moscow.

The US National Security Advisor HR McMaster recently hinted at a new doctrine of ‘competitive engagement’ of Russia. Possibly, the generals in the Trump administration see the situation in Ukraine through the Cold War prism with a zero sum mindset. That will be a catastrophic mistake. Putin recently warned of massacres worse than Srebrenica if violence flares up again in Ukraine. But then, if there is another refugee problem, it will be after all Germany’s headache – not Trump’s.

Now, what could be the Russian counter-move? For sure, President Vladimir Putin would have thought through a long time ago already what should be the next step and the step thereafter and the step even thereafter if Trump refuels the conflict in Ukraine.

December 21, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

DONETSK: Alexander Zakharchenko declares new state of Malorossiya

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | July 18, 2017

In 1667, the Treaty of Andrusovo affirmed Russian sovereignty over historic Russian lands that had been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth since the 14th century. These areas were de-facto Russian ever since the Treaty of Pereyaslav, signed in 1654 as an alliance between local Cossacks and the government in Moscow.

The restoration of Russian lands was affirmed in the 1686 Treaty of Perpetual Peace.

These regions became known as Malorossiya (Little Russian) and formed the triumvirate of the Three Russias under a single sovereign (Great Russia, Little Russia and White Russia). The lands of Malorossiya on the left-bank of the river Dnieper were later incorporated into further territorial gains from Poland-Lithuania on the right-bank of the river Dnieper in 1793.

In 1764, former Ottoman regions around the Black Sea including  the cities of Odessa and Donetsk formed Novorossiya or New Russia. The former Ottoman Khanate of Crimea formally linked up with this region in 1783.

The current borders of Ukraine were manufactured haphazardly under Bolshevik rule which effectively slammed together the historic regions of Novorossiya and Malorossiya with western regions bordering former Polish lands that had been subsumed by Austro-Hungarian rule in the late-modern period. Areas that were part of the Second Polish Republic between the world wars, including Galicia and the Czech and Hungarian regions of Carpathian Ruthenia, were incorporated into The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic after 1945.

This odd mix of historic regions with different identities is the primary reasons that a conflict in the modern borders of Ukraine were simply a matter of “when” rather than “if”.

This reality has been acknowledged by Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic who today announced the intent of Donetsk to lead a restoration of Malorossiya as part of a drive to reincorporate historic Russian territories into a close relationship with The Russian Federation.

Zakharchenko stated,

“We propose to establish the state of Malorossiya. Malorossiya is an independent young state. A transition period of up to 3 years.

… The state ‘Ukraine’ showed itself as a failed state and demonstrated the inability to provide its inhabitants with a peaceful and prosperous present and future.

We should be supported by the residents of the regions. This solution is possible provided that the international community supports the idea”.

Donetsk People’s Republic Income and Charges Minister Alexander Timofeev added the following,

“We, the representatives of former Ukraine, declare the establishment of a new state, Malorossiya, which is a successor state to Ukraine. We agree that the new state’s name will be Malorossiya because the very name of Ukraine has discredited itself. The city of Donetsk becomes Malorossiya’s capital”.

He further stated that Malorossiya would develop a constitution based on discussions throughout the regions including in the new/revived area and would ultimately require approval via a democratic referendum.

Timofeev continued,

“Malorossiya is a multinational state with Russian and Malorossiyan being its official languages, and regional languages retaining their rights and statuses…

… The policy aimed at joining the Union State of Russia and Belarus while preserving independence and sovereignty. The keeping of a visa-free regime in agreement with the European Union. De-oligarchisation, un-cluding (sic) on a legal basis”.

When discussing the model of Belarus in respect of its relations with Moscow, Timofeev is alluding to the Union-State between Belarus and Russia which was created in 1996. This has allowed for open borders and common economic and military interests between Minsk and Moscow.

Zakharchenko affirmed that the new state might need to live under emergency conditions for three years due to aggression from remnants of the regime currently ruling in Kiev.

In spite of these difficulties Zakharchenko also struck an optimistic tone, encouraging people to dream big. He stated,

“All of us here are going to talk about the future. We propose a plan for the reintegration of the country through the law and the Constitution. We must build a new country in which the concepts of conscience and honour are not forgotten. We offer the citizens of Ukraine a peaceful way out of the difficult situation, without war. This is our last offer not only to the Ukrainians, but also to all countries that supported the civil war in Donbass. I am convinced that we will do everything possible and impossible”.

Representatives at the meeting where the announcement was made were drawn from historic Malorossiya and Novorossiya regions including Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye, Kherson, Nikolayev, Odessa, Sumy, Poltava, Chernigov, Kirovograd.

The leader of the regime in Kiev, Petro Poroshenko responded to Zakharchenko’s statement saying that Kiev would reconquer both Donbass and the Russian territory of the Crimean peninsula. Both of these statements speak to just how out of touch Poroshenko is with the realities on the ground.

Although the organisational phases of creating Malorossiya will be difficult due to the position of the Kiev regime and almost certainly the European Union also, the idea underlines something The Duran discussed in November of 2016,

“If the (Kiev) regime fell due to a combination of internal incompetence and international isolation, chances are that a more moderate government could be formed. Ideally such a new government would be one that recognises the democratic right to self-determination exercised by the Donbass Republics, one less hell-bent on extreme corruption and hopefully one that would hold regional referenda on autonomy and/or independence.”

Historic regions of different cultural, linguistic and sovereign backgrounds cannot be slammed together into an artificial state for an eternity. History shows that such states are typically dissolved or radically reformed after a certain period of uncomfortable pseudo-coexistence.

The impending collapse of the regime in Kiev and the longer term re-defining of the borders of the state now called Ukraine will have to be addressed sooner or later. The proposals which came out of Donetsk today are as good a beginning on the road to much needed change as any.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine, Crimea and the Push for War

By James ONeill – New Eastern Outlook – 19.02.2017

There are currently three major flash points in the world, where a false step could rapidly lead to escalation and a major war from which human civilization would be the main loser. Those flashpoints are the Middle East, the South China Sea and Ukraine/Crimea. In each of them Australia has made major missteps, invariably at the request of the Americans, and where Australia’s national interest is either non-existent or the opposite of the actions that have been taken.

The recent upsurge in fighting in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, collectively referred to as Donbass, where Ukrainian forces have vastly increased the artillery barrage of civilian areas has sharpened the likelihood of a more serious war breaking out. In these circumstances the responsibility of the media to accurately report what is happening and why is high. Yet, as is so often the case, we are treated to a non-stop barrage of misinformation and outright propaganda.

The reincorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation in March 2014 is invariably portrayed as the result of an “invasion” and “annexation” and that peace can only be restored with Crimea’s return to Ukraine.

This is not only a rewriting of history; it also ignores the crucial historical background of that region of the world and how that is relevant to the present day. A brief history is in order, if only because it is not something that the mainstream media will ever state, as wedded as they are to a narrative whose sole purpose is the demonization of Russia and of President Putin.

Ukraine itself has only had its modern borders since 1945. Prior to that time part had come under the sway of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and another part had been incorporated into Tsarist Russia in 1667. Following the peasant revolt of 1768/69 there was a partitioning between the Austrian empire and the Russian empire. It has therefore to a greater or lesser extent been a part of the Russian empire for more than 300 years. To give that some perspective, it is a longer period than either the United States or Australia has been a nation state.

Following the Ukrainian War of Independence from 1917-1921 it was absorbed into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics where it remained until the break up of the USSR in 1991.

Crimea has had a similarly chequered history. Prior to the Crimean War 1853-56 when Australian troops fought with the British and the Turks against Russia, Crimea had been part of the Russian Empire. Catherine the Great defeated the Ottomans in 1783 and thereafter Crimea was part of Russia. That war was fought on Crimean soil. Prior to the Ottomans, Crimea had for the previous 2000 years been variously parts of the Greek, Roman, Mongol and other empires. Then as now it occupied a strategic position on the Black Sea. The Crimean War had as a primary target the Russian naval base at Sevastopol. Which is further evidence that nothing really changes.

After the Russian Revolution Crimea became an autonomous Republic within the USSR and stayed there until 1954. In that year, following a resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR it was transferred to Ukraine.

There are various theories as to why the transfer was made, one popular version being that it was a symbolic gesture marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming part of the Tsardom of Russia. The actual reasons do not matter so much as two other factors that were operative.

The first was that as an integral part of the USSR it did not make a great deal of political difference as to which State Crimea was nominally attached. The second factor was that neither the Russian people nor the Crimeans were consulted about the decision.

There things remained until February 2014 when a coup was mounted against the lawful government of Ukraine. The Australian media refuse to acknowledge that it was a coup, and that the coup was organized and paid for ($5 billion dollars) by the Americans, as the chief organizer, then Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland freely acknowledged to a congressional committee.

The Crimeans, as indeed also the residents of the Donbass region, were extremely unhappy with the takeover in Kiev of a frankly fascist government. The people of eastern Ukraine, including Crimea, are overwhelmingly ethnic Russian, speak the Russian language as their first language, intermarry with Russians across the border, and culturally identify with Russia.

A referendum was hastily organized and held on 16 March 2014. The result was that there was an 83% turnout, and 96.77% of those who voted were in favour of being readmitted to the Russian Federation. That result was condemned by the US and Australia, among other nations. The main objections stated were that the vote was held after Russian troops had “invaded” Crimea, and that the Crimeans had no right to hold such a referendum.

In one form or another those objections have been repeated by the western media ever since. An added claim is that the “annexation” of Crimea is further evidence of “Russian aggression” in general and that of Mr Putin in particular.

The facts are rather different. First, let us look at the “invasion” claim. There were already 25,000 Russian troops in Crimea. They were there pursuant to a treaty with the Ukrainian government, mainly associated with the very important Russian naval base at Sevastopol. It will be recalled that that naval base was a major target of the British and allied forces in the Crimean War more than 150 years earlier.

There was absolutely no evidence that the presence of Russian troops prevented the free exercise of the vote by Crimeans in the referendum, except indirectly in that their presence certainly deterred Ukraine from military intervention.

Independent polls conducted after the referendum, for example by the German Gfk polling organisation showed that 82% of those polled supported the referendum result and only 4% opposed it. Other, including American, polling organisations, obtained similar results.

The second major claim is that the referendum was “unlawful” and as such not recognised by the western powers. This is a classic example of western hypocrisy. Western governments are perfectly willing to accept independence referenda when it suits their geopolitical purposes to do so. There are a number of recent examples.

In April 1993 Eritrea held a referendum to establish its independence from Ethiopia. Only Eritreans were able to vote. It passed overwhelmingly. There was no objection from the US or Australia.

On 17 February 2008 Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. There was no referendum. Not only did the US not object, they bombed Serbia to encourage the government to accept the result. Australia protested neither the declaration of independence nor the illegal bombing.

The International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion on Kosovo’s declaration of independence on 23 July 2010. The Court noted that previous declarations of independence being declared invalid had to be seen in their specific context. Importantly, the Court noted as a general principle that there was an absence of a general prohibition against unilateral declarations of independence under international law.

The important factual difference in Crimea’s case is the long history of the peninsula as a part of Russia; its ethnic and linguistic ties to Russia; and that there was a referendum with the overwhelming majority of citizens voting to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia.

In September 2014 the people of Scotland voted in a referendum of whether or not they would remain a part of the United Kingdom or become a separate sovereign nation. In that case the referendum was narrowly lost although a mooted second referendum following the Brexit vote in the UK may well have a different result.

Again, neither the US nor Australia claimed that the Scots were not entitled to have a referendum, nor that they would refuse to recognise the result.

The final point to be made in this context is that in 1970 the United Nations General Assembly passed by acclamation (i.e. without dissent from either Australia or the United States) a Declaration on Principles of International Law .

In the section of the Resolution regarding “the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” was the following passage:

By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, all peoples have the right to freely determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and every State has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.

What the Crimeans have done is no more nor less than they are entitled to in accordance with this Declaration. It is Australia, the United States and others that condemn Crimea and the Russians who are in breach of their legal and moral obligations.

A further illustration of western hypocrisy over Crimea and the Donbass is the total silence over the ongoing military assault against the civilian population of Donbass. The Minsk 2 Accords, initiated by France and Germany, and agreed to by Russia and Ukraine, contained a number of provisions designed to recognise the legitimate aspirations of the people of Donbass.

The Minsk 2 Accord provided, inter alia, for a ceasefire; a pullback of Ukrainian troops; for the Ukrainian Rada to pass specific laws relating to the governance of Donbass; and to amend the Ukrainian constitution to incorporate decentralization as a key component.

All of these provisions have been ignored and violated. Instead of condemning the Ukrainian violations and failure to carry out its obligations, the US and its allies have continued to blame Russia. Immediately after the US election, Senators McCain and Graham travelled to Kiev and urged Ukraine to keep fighting, promising American support.

There is no evidence that they did so with the support of then President –elect Trump and their authority to do so is unclear. The immediate result of the US Senator’s visit was an upsurge in the bombardment of villages and towns in the Donbass region.

There is an equally stunning silence from the Australian authorities. They seem incapable of understanding history, incapable of recognizing the efforts made by the Russians to create an economic arrangement that would benefit Ukraine through open association with both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union; and of recognizing the grave potential for war posed by the reckless expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders.

Instead of recognizing the historical and geopolitical realities, including that Ukraine is now a failed state ruled by neo-fascists, they continue to parrot the tired cliché that the Russians are to blame.

Upon such fatal ignorance are wars often started.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law.

February 19, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment