Tension high in Ukraine

by our European Affairs correspondent

TENSION remains high in Odessa following the deaths of scores of anti- fascist demonstrators during a neo-Nazi riot and the subsequent storming of the police headquarters to free 67 protesters, while puppet regime forces continue their “anti-terror” offensive against the defiant cities of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.

In the still functioning Kiev parliament the 32-member communist bloc was barred to prevent them from taking part in the debate on a national referendum which would have paved the way for more autonomy for the regions — one of the key demands of the anti-fascist opposition.

The poll was supposed to take place together with the presidential election on 25th May but it garnered only 154 out of the required 226 votes. The bloc of reactionaries and fascists that runs the “interim” government claimed that “security concerns” meant that the vote could not be safely organised. It means that two of Ukraine’s most pressing issues, decentralisation of power and the status of the Russian language will not be put to the vote.

Meanwhile the reactionaries rejoiced at the exclusion of the communists after they condemned the “anti-terrorist” operation in the east as a “mass killing” of civilians.

The presidential candidate and leader of the Radical Party, Oleg Lyashko, called the banishment of the Communist Party a “historic event”.

“At my suggestion, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) voted for the removal of the communist fraction from the session hall... I hope that very soon we’ll totally ban this treacherous party,” Lyashko wrote on his Facebook page.

The imperialists are blaming Russian agents for fermenting the secessionist upsurge in a number of eastern Ukrainian towns and cities, now governed by popular committees which refuse to recognise the authority of the puppet regime in Kiev. This has been denied by the Russians who are demanding that the regime’s troops be recalled and a dialogue be established between the Kiev regime and the people’s administrations in the east of the country.

The Russians continue to show considerable restraint despite the imperialist stonewalling of their attempts to raise the Ukraine crisis at the United Nations last week. Though the Putin government now says that the Geneva agreement to defuse the situation is dead, the Kremlin says it could be revived if the Kiev regime halted its attacks on its own population.

This was a key point in Putin’s latest initiative that followed talks with the head of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Moscow on Wednesday.

The Russians are now calling for an end to Kiev’s military operation in return for the postponement of the referendum in east Ukraine. Direct dialogue between Kiev and anti-government protesters in southeast Ukraine is key to ending the crisis, Putin said.

It is now essential “to create the necessary conditions for this dialogue he added. This would require rescheduling the referendum, which anti-government activists planned for 11th May to determine the fate of southeast Ukraine.

OSCE, the international security body that has Russian support, is now drawing up a “road-map” that calls for a ceasefire, the de-escalation of tensions, dialogue and elections.

At the moment Slavyansk is still surrounded by puppet regime forces and neo-Nazi militiamen who are fighting for control of check-points and key buildings in and around the city in eastern Ukraine. Three puppet regime helicopters have been shot-down by the local self-defence forces and a number of fighters on both sides have been killed in gun battles over the past few days.The Kiev regime’s tactics are designed to disrupt the forthcoming referendums that the local committees are holding in the east to decide on the future status of their provinces, while proceeding with a national presidential election in late May that the Nato stooges believe will give their administration more legitimacy in the international arena.

Meanwhile the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are likely to suspend next weekend’s autonomy vote that could lead to the establishment of an independent “Novorossiya” federation in eastern Ukraine.

Novorossiya or “New Russia” is the old Czarist term for the mainly ethnic Russian provinces of south and eastern Ukraine that cover over a third of the country’s population, most of its industrial base, its entire Black Sea coastline and a major pipeline that pumps Russian gas to the European Union.

The “New Russia” movement was once the exclusive property of Russian and Russian- Ukrainian nationalists like Valery Kaurov and his Union of Orthodox Ukrainians.

This Easter his followers proclaimed him the “president” of the “Novorossiya Republic” in Odessa. Few, apart from his own militiamen, take him seriously. But support for partition in the breakaway regions has become more strident following the Kiev junta’s offensive.

It is also being increasingly heard in Moscow and Putin himself only recently said that only “God knows” why the Soviet Union assigned the territory to Ukraine rather than Russia in the first place.