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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


by our European Affairs correspondent

FIGHTING RAGES across eastern Ukraine as Donbas and Russian forces relentlessly drive to push the Ukrainians out of the Don basin. Several hundred civilians have been evacuated from bunkers in Mariupol in a humanitarian effort facilitated by the United Nations and the International Red Cross, and Vladimir Putin has called on the West to stop Ukrainian “war crimes” by using its influence over Kiev and cease the supply of weapons to the country.

On Sunday hundreds of civilians were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal industrial complex in Mariupol in a UN and Red Cross convoy that left under the protection of allied Donbas and Russian forces. It included 48 buses and several ambulances, as well as escort vehicles. But fighting has resumed around the steel complex after the Ukrainian defenders came out of hiding to take-up new positions under the cover of the cease-fire.

The entire Black Sea port of Mariupol is under Russian and Donbas control apart from the Azovstal plant, where Ukrainian troops have been besieged for over a month. The Soviet-era plant has an extensive network of fortified bunkers and tunnels that were designed to withstand potential NATO strikes during the Cold War.

Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting are now focusing on France, whose newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, spoke to Putin on the phone on Tuesday.

During their phone conversation, which reportedly lasted for more than two hours, Putin congratulated Macron on his recent re-election and updated him on developments in Ukraine, including the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant.

Putin said the European Union had ignored “the war crimes of the Ukrainian security forces” and the “massive shelling of cities and towns of Donbas, resulting in civilian casualties”.

“It was noted that the West could help stop these atrocities by rendering an appropriate influence on the Kiev authorities, as well as by ceasing its supply of weap­ons to Ukraine,” the Russian leader said.

The Zelensky regime may console itself with phantom victories conjured up to convince the NATO powers that they’re getting their money’s worth out of the Ukrainian army. But in reality, Russian war-planes and missiles take out military and strategic targets with impunity across the country on an almost daily basis. The Ukrainian army is being beaten back on the eastern front and the number of Ukrainian prisoners of war is increasing.

According to the Donetsk Ministry of Justice, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) holds nearly 3,000 Ukrainian POWs. “Right now there are approximately 3,000 captive Ukrainian troops in the DPR who voluntarily surrendered; 2,500 of them are held in the facilities under control of our Ministry,” he said.

The remaining captives are at the units of the Military Commandant’s Office, People’s Militia units and the Ministry of State Security. The agencies investigate the extent of their participation in the crimes against civilians in Donbas.

Russia, likewise, is holding around 2,000 Ukrainian servicemen “who have voluntarily laid down their arms”, including five brigade commanders who “were fighting against the Donbas population”.

Meanwhile, in Moscow members of the communist-supported Left Front held pickets last week demanding the nationalisation of the oligarchs’ enterprises and the implementation of a comprehensive left-turn in socio-economic policy in order to establish a climate of justice in Russia and mobilise all the resources of society.

The Left Front says it is only possible to unite the people by carrying out fair socialist reforms. In particular, it is necessary to gradually nationalise the fuel and raw materials sector of the economy, as well as a number of other strategic sectors owned by oligarchs, in order to fill the budget with additional revenues and raise the standard of living of ordinary citizens. The crisis need not destroy Russia. It can become an impetus for Russia’s renewal and modernisation on just socialist principles.