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Escalating East/West Tensions
Escalating East/West Tensions
by Stephen Lendman
Ukraine is ground zero. It's the most important former Soviet republic. It's a geopolitical prize. The struggle for its soul continues.
US-supported fascists usurped power in Kiev. Most eastern Ukrainians reject them. So do many western ones.
Government by coup d'etat has no legitimacy. Armed men seized Crimea's parliament. More on this below.
On Wednesday, coup plotters addressed thousands assembled in Kiev's Independence Square. They announced an unelected interim government. It has no legitimacy.
Washington favorite Arseniy Yatsenyuk is proposed acting prime minister. Around 20 cabinet ministers were named.
Andriy Deshchytsya is new foreign minister. Former economy minister/deputy central bank head Oleksander Shlapak was named new finance minister.
Arsen Avakov is interior minister. Andrey Parubiy was named national security/ defense council head. Other usurpers got ministerial posts.
Coup d'etat parliament members have final say on officials named. Expect likely rubber-stamp approval.
Cheers and jeers greeted announced names. Acting president/parliament speaker Oleksander Turchinov was loudly booed. One Kiev resident perhaps spoke for others, saying:
"We need to change these faces. I wouldn't like to see (Yatsenyuk) even temporarily. No one from current political parties" should be appointed.
Billionaire/mega-thief Yulia Tymoshenko was lawlessly released from prison days earlier. Criminal elements take care of their own.
She addressed Kiev residents in Independence Square. She'll run for president in May elections. She's gotten a lukewarm reception at best. She represents what many Ukrainians deplore.
Turchinov said government officials will have to make unpopular decisions to head off default.
In other words, paying Western investors matters more than serving Ukrainians. Millions are impoverished.
Expect millions more to join them. Expect greater deprivation overall. Expect most Ukrainians to experience harder than ever hard times.
Expect growing numbers discovering they were deceived. How they'll react remains to be seen.
Public anger is visceral in Crimea. It borders the Black Sea. It's home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
It's headquartered in Sevastopol. Its naval facilities are leased from Ukraine through 2042. Joint military control is maintained.
In the 18th century, Crimea became Russian territory. Former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was an ethnic Ukrainian.
In 1954, he transferred authority to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Doing so separated it from Russia.
It's an autonomous Ukrainian parliamentary republic. It's governed by its own constitution. Simferopol is its capital and administrative seat.
Ukrainian population numbers around 46 million. Crimea has about 2.4 million. In 1948, Sevastopol was separated from the surrounding area. Moscow controls it.
In the 1990s, it got "state significance" status in Ukraine. Russian-speaking area residents consider Sevastopol part of Russia.
Most Crimean residents are ethnic Russians. Around 97% consider Russian their mother tongue.
Many Crimeans want the region returned to its 1992 constitution. They want their own president and foreign policy.
Crimea's parliament may declare its official position toward Kiev's coup d'etat government. Doing so could happen any time.
Most ethnic Russians reject reject it. They want referendum authority to decide Crimea's future.
At issue is remaining an autonomous Ukrainian region, declaring independence, or becoming part of Russia again.
How Kiev fascists respond remains to be seen. Earlier they threatened to send so-called "trains of friendship" (aka armed thugs) to crush opposition elements.
Russia conditionally respects Crimean territory as part of Ukraine. Its Federation Council (upper parliamentary house) speaker, Valentina Matvienko, said:
"Russia is not taking any provocative actions, especially on the state level. Today we consider it a fact that Crimea is part of Ukraine."
"But is it is also a fact that currently we are witnessing certain moods that have emerged after no one asked the Crimeans' opinions about the decisions that are being taken in Kiev."
Matvienko met with Vladimir Konstantinov. He chairs Crimea's legislature. He said its people will defend their autonomy.
Millions more in eastern Ukraine feel the same way. They reject Kiev's coup d'etat government. What follows remains to be seen.
Days earlier, Russian MPs introduced legislation granting Russian citizenship within six months to applicants proving their Russian ethnicity. At issue mainly is protecting the rights of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.
On Thursday pre-dawn, dozens of armed men seized control of Crimea's parliament and government buildings.
They wore black and orange ribbons. They symbolize Soviet Russia's victory over Nazi Germany.
They called for "unification with Russia." They barricaded themselves inside. They raised the Russian flag atop the Council of Ministers.
Security forces are on high alert. Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Mogilyov said:
"I will participate in the negotiations. We will swiftly inform Crimeans of the current developments today."
"Everything is under control. The negotiating process is under way."
On Wednesday, pro-Russian crowds assembled in Sevastopol. They denounced Kiev coup plotters. They chanted "Crimea is Russian!" "Russia, save us!"
Two trucks with Russian troops and an armored personnel carrier made a rare public appearance. Doing so demonstrates Moscow concern for its interests.
Since last weekend, other pro-Russian protesters assembled in other Crimean cities. One said "(o)nly Russia will be able to protect the Crimea."
Another shouted "(b)andits have come to power. I'm ready to take up arms to fight the fascists who seized power in Kiev."
One other one hopes for a South Ossetian solution. In August 2008, Russian forces intervened against Georgia's lawless aggression. They did so to protect Russian citizens.
Moscow's Duma (lower house) Committee on International Affairs chairman Leonid Slutsky told Simferopol residents:
"If lives and health of our compatriots are in danger, we won't stay aside."
On February 27, Itar Tass said "(t)he Russian Foreign Ministry will give a tough and uncompromised response to violations of compatriot' rights by foreign states."
Concern was expressed about "massive violations of human rights in Ukraine, the flouting of the right to use the mother tongue, ethnic and national discrimination, (as well as) attacks and vandalism directed at objects of historic and cultural heritage and religious cults."
On February 27, Voice of Russia (VOR) said ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych issued a statement. He reasserted his legitimacy as democratically elected head of state. In part, it said:
"I, Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych, address the people of Ukraine. I still consider myself to be the legitimate leader of the Ukrainian state, elected on the basis of Ukrainian citizen's free will."
"I cannot remain indifferent to tragic events in my home country. I consider the Agreement on the Settlement of Crisis in Ukraine, signed on February 21, 2014, by myself and Ukrainian opposition leaders, not fulfilled."
"There is rampant extremism on the streets of our country. My supporters and I receive threats of inflicting bodily harm."
"I have to ask the Russian authorities to provide personal security from extremists for me. Unfortunately, everything that is going on in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has no legitimate grounds."
"The decisions taken by the parliament in absence of many members of the Party of Regions faction, other factions, are illegitimate."
Opposition party members "fear for their safety, some of them were subjected to physical violence and were forced to leave the territory of Ukraine."
"In such a situation, I officially declare my readiness to fight for fulfilling important compromise agreements on leading Ukraine out of the deep political crisis."
"I call for immediately bringing the situation in our country back to the constitutional field."
VOR said Russian authorities agreed to protect his safety. According to an official government source:
"Considering that President Yanukovych has appealed to the Russian authorities to ensure his personal security, I am informing you that this request has been granted on the territory of the Russian Federation."
On Thursday, Ukrainian coup d'etat prime minister designee Yatsenyuk said a coalition government agreement was signed in parliament. Approving if would happen straightaway.
Fascist Batkivschchyna, Svoboda and UDAR parties intend running things. Opposition elements won't be tolerated.
Police states operate this way. Western Ukraine is neo-Nazi controlled. Expect efforts to solidify power nationwide to follow. What happens remains to be seen.
On February 26, South Assetia's Justice Labor Development (JLD) party issued a statement headlined: "Hitler's Fascism Is Reincarnated in Ukraine."
Its emergence contradicts a "whole set of fundamental articles of the Ukrainian Constitution..."
JLD called it necessary to "recognize fascism as one of the key threats to international security, along with international terrorism."
Russia views ongoing developments with alarm. On February 27, Itar Tass headlined "Western and Central commands start massive redeployment."
About 150,000 Russian troops are participating in large-scale military exercises. Combat readiness is being tested.
Black Sea security is stressed. Hundreds of tanks, up to 90 aircraft, over 120 helicopters, dozens of ships and other defense related equipment are involved.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said maneuvers are intended to "check the troops' readiness for action in crisis situations that threaten the nation's military security."
They'll continue until March 3 in two stages. NATO was notified in advance. Last year, similar military exercises took place in central Russia for the first time in 20 years.
Black Sea maneuvers followed. So did others months later. In July, around 160,000 troops, 1,000 tanks and armored vehicles, 130 aircraft and 70 ships were involved.
As head of state, Putin is Russia's Supreme Commander-in-Chief. He said surprise exercises will continue.
Current ones include maneuvers on Russia's borders. Protecting them is prioritized. So is what's ongoing in Ukraine.
Fascists in charge threaten Russia's security. East/West tensions are high. John Kerry warned Moscow against intervening militarily in Ukraine.
Anonymous Russian sources said if Crimea secedes, Moscow will be "compelled" to provide military support if needed.
Imagine a possible East/West confrontation. Imagine it between two nations possessing well over 90% of the world's nuclear weapons. And sophisticated delivery systems able to strike targets worldwide with precision.
Imagine Ukraine becoming a flashpoint for possible global war. Imagine what hopefully cooler heads won't let happen.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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