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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Ukraine - Escalation Fears Rise

by our Eastern European Affairs correspondent

As Russian forces battle for control of the streets in central Bakhmut waves of Russian rockets and drones hit Kiev and other key Ukrainian cities last week in what the Kremlin says was a reprisal for a deadly Ukrainian commando attack across the border earlier in the month.

Meanwhile, reports claiming that the Nord Stream pipelines were sabotaged by the Ukrainians have appeared in the American press and security forces say they’ve foiled a plot to kill the pro-Russian leader of Transnistria, a breakaway republic that lies between Moldova and Western Ukraine, that has been under Russian protection since the early 1990s.

Wagner forces, Russia’s ‘foreign legion’, are fighting to root out Ukrainian troops dug-in in the ruins of Bakhmut with orders to delay the Russian advance for as long as possible regardless of the sacrifice. But the Ukrainian command has been blowing up bridges and pulling out their most experienced units from the city, which suggests a total withdrawal is imminent.

Russian troops now hold over half the city that once housed some 70,000 people before the war. Now virtually all have fled as a Russian ring of steel encircles the strategic hub of the Donetsk region in the Donbas.

Last week the New York Times reported, citing US officials and unspecified new intelligence, that a “pro-Ukrainian group” may have been behind the September attack that disabled Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which were built to deliver Russian gas to Europe via Germany. The US paper's anonymous sources stressed that “no American or British nationals were involved” in the sabotage. Several German news outlets later claimed that German investigators had found that a yacht reportedly used in the attack belonged to a Polish-based firm, owned by two Ukrainians.

All this is being ridiculed in Moscow and the Ukrainians say they had nothing to do with blasts that shattered the pipelines. Kremlin press-secretary Dmitry Peskov described the reports in the US and German media as “a co-ordinated media hoax campaign” aimed at diverting attention from the actual “masterminds” of the sabotage.

In February veteran American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said that US Navy divers had covertly planted explosives along the pipelines during a NATO exercise, which were detonated remotely two months later. The White House has denied the report by the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, calling it “utterly false and complete fiction”. But many believe that this sort of sophisticated sabotage was way beyond the capabilities of Ukrainian intelligence services, and this is just a ruse to divert attention from the original Hersh report.

Meanwhile, in Transnistria, officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, security forces foiled a plot to kill the breakaway republic’s pro-Russian leader last week when they discovered a Land Rover packed with explosives set to explode as the motorcade of Transnistrian President Vadim Krasnoselsky passed through the centre of Tiraspol, the breakaway republic’s capital. The local police say a man, believed to be Ukrainian intelligence agent, has been arrested.

The largely Russian-speaking enclave was once part of the Soviet republic of Moldova but broke away after Moldova proclaimed its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Transnistrians drove the Moldovans out in 1992 and set up their own republic under a ceasefire guaranteed by a small Russian garrison and a joint peace-keeping force of locals, Russians and Moldovans as well as 10 military observers from Ukraine