U.S. hidden war continues in Donbass

By Greg Butterfield, Workers World

On the night of April 17-18, a woman was seriously wounded by an explosion in the village of Zaytsevo, near Gorlovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic. She received multiple shrapnel wounds and fractures as a result of shelling by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

A village official reported that several houses were also damaged, as U.S.-backed forces shelled the area with dozens of 82mm and 120mm rounds, along with tank shells, grenade launchers, large-caliber machine guns and small arms fire. (DONi News, April 18)

The Ukrainian Army and paramilitary battalions also attacked the northern and western outskirts of the capital city of Donetsk, and the towns of Dokuchayevsk and Sakhanka. All of the attacks took place in violation of the ceasefire agreed to under the umbrella of the Minsk accords between Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.

Aftermath of Ukrainian shelling of Zaytsevo village April 17-18.
Photos: DPR Ministry of Defense 
Unfortunately for residents of the independent Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, this is not an unusual occurrence. Attacks happen nightly and casualties are frequent. The Western-backed regime in Kiev, Ukraine, consistently violates the ceasefire, but the incidences have been steadily growing since the beginning of 2016.
Yet the injuries, deaths and destruction of homes, schools and hospitals go unmentioned by U.S. corporate media. Washington officials, both Democrats and Republicans, and their masters on Wall Street are ultimately responsible for the casualties. So the ongoing war is deliberately hidden from view.

To get a sense of the magnitude of the cover-up, consider the figures for a single week in the Donetsk republic, from April 9-15: Ukrainian forces violated the ceasefire 283 times, shelling Donetsk territory a total of 2,197 times, including 1,402 times with heavy weapons explicitly forbidden from the area under the Minsk ceasefire, as reported by the Donetsk Ministry of Defense.

During that week, four civilians were wounded, including a 74-year-old resident of Zaytsevo. Four soldiers of the Donetsk people’s militia were killed. (DAN News, April 15)

Meanwhile, in neighboring Lugansk, four people’s militia were killed and eight wounded in Ukrainian attacks on a single day, April 15. (Lugansk Commentary)

Donetsk Defense Ministry Vice-Commander Eduard Basurin noted, “International observers repeatedly confirm violations by Kiev of its obligations on withdrawal of heavy weapons. In particular, over the past week the OSCE [Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, representing the European Union] documented and published a list of the violations of the Minsk Agreements by the Ukrainian side.

“At the same time, the OSCE mission has turned into an organization simply documenting these violations without taking any measures to influence the Ukrainian authorities. The European Union authorities continue to cover for the Kiev war criminals,” Basurin charged.

“The Ukrainian political and military authorities continue a policy of genocide against their own people for the sake of their Western masters and with the connivance of the international community,” he concluded. (DONi News, April 15)

Washington behind two years of war

Ukraine’s war against residents of Donetsk and Lugansk, in the Donbass coal-mining region, began on April 15, 2014, less than two months after a U.S.-backed coup in Kiev brought to power a coalition of capitalist oligarchs, neoliberal politicians, and outright neo-Nazis.

U.S. officials were front and center in the Euromaidan movement that carried out the coup. State Department official Victoria Nuland, Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and Senator John McCain rushed to offer their solidarity to the pro-Western, anti-Russia demonstrators, who were fueled by Western money and politically dominated by fascist parties and paramilitary gangs.

Not only was Wall Street eager to profit by stanching the flow of Russian fuel to Europe and seizing Ukraine’s rich agricultural land. Most importantly, the U.S. and NATO saw Ukraine as a dagger to be pointed at the heart of their main target – Russia.

The new regime in Kiev immediately sought to ban the Russian language and implement other measures against the mainly Russian-speaking residents of Donbass and other areas of southeastern Ukraine. They called for breaking all political and economic ties with Russia, and even for war. In response, an anti-fascist protest movement took to the streets in many cities, especially in Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk.

In March 2014, the people of Crimea voted in a referendum to reunite with the Russian Federation. This infuriated Washington, which had hoped to have NATO occupy the longstanding Russian military base there. This was the pretext for international sanctions against Russia and an escalation of NATO military activity throughout eastern Europe.

As the anti-fascist movement spread across the Southeast, protesters took control of government buildings in Donetsk and Lugansk. In response, Ukraine’s interim President Oleksandr Turchynov and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov launched the so-called “Anti-Terrorist Operation,” a military offensive supported by the U.S. They claimed the upheaval in the southeast was the result of “Russian military intervention” – a claim repeated ad nauseum by Western media.

People in Donbass armed themselves and formed local militias for self-defense. They were joined by volunteers from Russia and other former Soviet republics, and later by other internationalist volunteers. The people’s militias set back the attacks of the disorganized Ukrainian forces.

On May 11, 2014, Donbass residents voted overwhelmingly for independence from Ukraine, establishing the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Ukraine continued to wage war on Donbass under a new president, oligarch Petro Poroshenko, despite suffering numerous defeats by the better-organized and motivated Donbass militias.

The U.S., meanwhile, continues to fund Kiev as it totters toward bankruptcy, bans the Communist Party of Ukraine, and holds thousands of opponents as political prisoners. Washington supplies military equipment both directly and indirectly through third countries. Today the Pentagon is training fascist paramilitaries at bases in both Western and southeastern Ukraine.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden – who acts as Washington’s “colonial governor” for Ukraine – pledged an additional $335 million in military assistance to Ukraine April 1. (RT.com) Then on April 15, after a new government was formed under Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, Biden phoned Poroshenko to assure him that the next $1 billion loan guarantee was forthcoming, while condemning “pro-Russian militants” for escalating the conflict in Donbass. (Interfax Ukraine)

Humanitarian crisis

On April 16, Alain Aeschlimann, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Ukraine and Donbass, stated, “The ongoing shellings and limited number of checkpoints for entrance and departure for civilians along the contact line [between Ukrainian and Donbass forces] lead to the fact that local citizens and displaced persons having no other place to go are cut off from deliveries of essential products and services.

“In a number of localities, hospitals were either destroyed of occupied by the military, and at schools there aren’t enough teachers,” he said. “Many people living on this territory have no choice and are forced to rely on humanitarian aid” for food and water, Aeschlimann said. (DONi News)

Earlier, the UN World Food Program reported that the war had left 1.5 million people hungry, including 300,000 in need for immediate help. (New York Times, April 4)

“For two years, many international human rights organizations have been playing ‘one-sided,’ trying to ignore the crimes of official Kiev and the Ukrainian troops,” charged Donetsk Ombudsman Daria Morozova, at a news conference marking the anniversary of the war. “They overlook the fact that children, women and the elderly are being killed” along the contact line.

Morozova said her office has submitted over 700 cases to the European Court of Human Rights documenting violations by the Ukrainian forces.

This ongoing war and humanitarian crisis in Donbass, the plight of anti-fascists inside Ukraine, and the Western media censorship will be some of the topics taken up at the 4th International Anti-fascist Conference, to be held in Krasnodon, Lugansk People’s Republic, on May 7.

Activists from the Donbass republics, the former Soviet Union, and around the world will map out a plan of action to intensify anti-war solidarity and break the media blockade. The U.S.-based International Action Center is one of the convening organizations.

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