Sunday, July 06, 2014


Ukraine hasn't made much in the news lately. I think it once it became clear that Putin wasn't likely to invade beyond Crimea and the pro-Russian rebels appeared to have consolidated their gains in the east, the press lost interest outside of the odd report. It's back in the news a bit now with the pro-Russians retreating in the face of the Ukrainian military's assault. It's hard to retake a city once you leave it.

It's just tragic for all concerned. Unless Putin has a sudden and insane change of mind in the next few days, the rebels appear to be pretty much on their own, and there are reports that they are fairing poorly in terms of support from Russia. Of course, we obviously don't know what it's like inside the rebel camps now, but they can't be feeling too good about the lack of decisive action by the leader of the country they think they belong to. Maybe Russian support is thinning out, and maybe the Russain commandos assisting them are leaving. In any case, their fates have already been decided in places like Moscow, Brussels, Washington, and Berlin.

Nostalgia mixed with masculine ideals, is a killer. These rebels before they were rebels and the territorial Russians crossing to help them, hanging around unemployed (this a hard but insightful piece) and whinging over beer and cigarettes, the older ones remembering life before the USSR collapsed, and the younger ones in awe thinking they'd all be better off if Russia were in charge... Then Euromaidan happened, and local politics got colourful. The Russian army walked into Crimea and tough Russians with guns showed up in Donetsk and other places and things got exciting. Pro-Russian volunteers came in to help. Nostalgic fantasies at the pub got uniforms and guns and life had a bit more meaning. Must have felt scary but thrilling at first to go off and learn some basic light infantry tactics in the woods somewhere or dust-off an old uniform and memories. A few easy wins against a starved, surprised and restrained Ukrainian army and a big chunk of territory was theirs. Dead civilians and comrades where the Kyiv struck back fueled the sense of righteousness about the cause.

Things must have felt different after the Donetsk Airport loss and casualties, and definitely now this week. The Ukraine government isn't going anywhere and finds itself moving closer to the EU, which is evidently not worried despite all the violence. The Ukrainian army has done some consolidating in the past few months and is now moving against the rebels with force. I don't think it will be long now.

Sadly, the question of what happens to the people in eastern Ukraine still remains, Crimea notwithstanding. There's effectively a civil war in that part of the country and anger and sorrow will be the fallout. Everyone should do their best to remedy things as much as possible as quickly with money and jobs and keep it that way for 20 or 50 years. There is a risk that the radicalised Donetsk denizens will start setting off bombs on buses and markets in western Ukraine, which is what happens in cases like this. Let's hope it doesn't.

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