Ukraine Chief of Intelligence drops the mask on forcible reoccupation of Crimea and partition of Russia

The 26th May is the ninth anniversary of the beginning of the shelling of Donetsk by Ukrainian forces in 2014. For the Donbass Ukrainians that opposed the new Maidan regime this event marked the point of no return. It followed the burning alive of the anti-maidan protestors in Odessa on May 2nd 2014 and Ukrainian forces trying to storm Mariupol that same week. The shelling has continued daily ever since, including today, killing several people. Yet, listen to the news here and there is silence about that. The casualties caused by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro were reported however, and President Zelensky’s comment that this showed the Russians to be “fighters against everything humane and honest” was not put in the context of what his own forces are doing. An enemy of the United States would be accused of “shelling his own people”.

Nevertheless, most people who support the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, or call for a Russian military withdrawal and restoration of the pre 2014 borders, sincerely assume that this would be a liberation for the people who live in the Donbass and Crimea; and that this is where the war would stop.

This interview with Kyrylo Budanov – the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence (the GRU) – by a journalist who has been making a film supporting the Ukrainian war effort released last week, shows that the Ukrainian high command (and journalists) have no such delusions.

Budanov says a number of interesting things in this interview, some of them revealing, some quite far fetched. He is, after all, an intelligence officer, so he has access to a lot of information; but, as an intelligence officer, a large part of his job is to spin false but instrumentally useful narratives. He is also a firm believer in the notion that if you will something hard enough, it will come to pass and that Ukraine will “win”, despite their succession of grinding defeats since the new year and the terrible cost in lives that is the price of carrying on.

At the same time, he is secure enough in the presumed support of his audience to describe what the sort of victory he wants would look like. In the same way that the Guardian is now so sure of the allegiance of its readers to Ukrainian nationalism that they can reveal that, when collaborating with the Nazis in WW2, they killed around 100,000 Poles, a massacre described as “genocide” by the Polish government as recently as 2016.

In the interview’s final section, about what would happen in Crimea if Ukraine’s war aims were achieved (starting 36:57 minutes in) he is quite blunt that “victory” in the sense of military reoccupation would only be the start of a “difficult” “multi year process” of “reintegrating” territories with a population that is actually hostile and does not want to be reoccupied. Three million people with, as he puts it “a completely different view of the world”*. The interviewer uses the euphemism “three million not very devoted people” and Budanov states that those people with an “altered psyche” who can be “re educated” should be – without specifying what should be done with those that can’t, though “physical elimination” is a phrase he uses elsewhere. This will have to be done with a carrot and a stick, as the two only work together; and with a “firm hand”. This will be “hard work” he says.

Many words can be used to describe this scenario. “Liberation” for those 3 million people is not one of them. If you believe in self determination, you can’t support this.

His comments at the end section about “a new security architecture in the world” are put in context by a section “About the Future of Russia” a little before this (at 32.45 minutes in). In this, the interviewer pulls across a map of the Russian Federation – “your famous map” with the partition borders – that Dick Cheney and Zbigniew Brzezinski originally proposed back in 1991 as a way to manage the “Post Soviet space” most amenably for the US – drawn in in thick blue felt tip lines; remarking that “its been shown a lot”. Not in the media here it hasn’t. It might make people wonder a bit.

This isn’t Budanov’s map, but is similar. If you google US aim to partition Russia and click on images, you get a number of variations.

Budanov uses a number of euphemisms about “unanimous transformation” of Russia and the prospective partition being “conceptual”, and speculates that the more defeats the RF suffers the more it will break up, starting with the Caucasus. His confirmation, when discussing the prospect that “new states” will be imposed on the wreck of the RF that, “Russians are well aware of this” gives a tacit recognition that the Russian security concerns raised in the run up to February 24th were real and existential.

His statement “we don’t need Russia in the form that it exists now”, underlines this and, given where the partition plan originated, cannot be defined as defensive.

*If you want an insight into why the people in Donbass might have a “completely different view of the world” – which Budanov suggests is a result of “propaganda” – consider these personal accounts from the day the Ukrainian army started shelling Donetsk city on May 26th 2014. These are from the Donetsk Anti Fascist site.

Marina Kharkova: “May 25 was the last day of peace in Donetsk, as the family celebrated the birthday of my father, a miner. The mood was anxious, restless and tense because of the general situation, but nothing yet seemed to portend tragedy. On the morning of 26, on my way to work, I heard the sounds of flying planes and distant explosions. Everyone had gathered in the largest office and was listening to an employee who lived near the railway station. She cried and told how Ukrainian planes and helicopters had bombed from the air, how their nine-storey building on Privokzalnoye had been shaking, how women killed by shells were lying directly on the pavement bleeding, how the minibus she was travelling in had hurtled away from the danger zone. She sat in silence, clutching her heads, trying to comprehend. Tanya was given water and sedatives – she was so sick. Then, by inertia, they tried to get on with their business. The rumble outside the window increased, though the office was far away from the airport. Ambulances and cars with militia were whizzing down the street. After three in the afternoon everyone decided to stop their pointless attempts to pretend to be busy and drove home. The understanding of what was happening came at once, although the consciousness was still trying to cling to yesterday’s peaceful day. The 26th of May was the point at which “it will never be the same again”.

EIena Hovhannisyan, a biology teacher: “At that time we kept up with the news from Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. We already knew how people had been martyred in Odessa, Mariupol and Krasnoarmeisk. I had forebodings of near disaster. It was already hovering over us, but we did not think how tragic, long, brutal, hopeless the events would be. Sometimes it seemed that it was just a bad dream, that I would wake up and everything would be like before. But no. It is an illusion that the war will not touch you. It will touch everyone, sooner or later. We were simply the first to be in the epicentre. And May 26th I will always remember. The warm, sunny weather and the roar of planes in the sky. From the balcony on the side of the airport black smoke could be seen, you could hear explosions constantly. The first shelling, deaths, destruction, grief and pain. Since that day, there would be no peace in Donetsk for another nine years. But we didn’t know it then. And that day was endless, filled with horror and pain. The phones were literally ringing off the hook – everyone was trying to find out what happened to their loved ones, whether they were alive or not. In the evening my son arrived from work; his office was a couple of blocks from the station. He told about the horror in the city, about the dead woman vendor from the station market, about the very young guy who worked as a valet. He was killed by shrapnel from a missile fired by a Ukrainian helicopter. People were falling, screaming, crying, calling for help. Passers-by tried to save the wounded, car alarms howled. The railway station area in any city is the most crowded place. In Donetsk on Privokzalnoye there are markets, shops, banks, the area was teeming with life. They say helicopters flew so low that you could see the pilots in the cockpit. And these pilots also saw that they hit peaceful people. This was not done by some Hitlerites, but by Ukrainians, with whom we lived in the same country. May 26 was the day that turned everything upside down. There is no and will not be our forgiveness for Ukraine. And there will be no return.

From the diary of a Donetsk woman who wanted to remain anonymous: 26 May 2014, from the balcony, I saw planes firing missiles. My husband, coming home from work, told me about the dead in the station square. At the same time as the airport was being bombed, the fighting moved into the city, on Kievsky Avenue linking the city and the airport. People who had lost their jobs or shelter, relatives or loved ones, went to volunteer for the militia. And every day there were more and more of them, including my acquaintances, as the war gradually touched everyone.

It is difficult to describe the sensations of trying to sleep to the sound of shelling outside your windows. The deafening and resounding explosions are somewhere close by. Your heart sinks each time, because no one knows where the next shell will land. But when you see the dawn, you realize that another night is behind you, all your loved ones are alive today.

In addition to the fighting at the airport and the aerial bombardment with unguided shells, Ukrainian snipers shelled the Putilovsky Bridge. This road was then called the “road of death”: civilian cars with people were burnt and shot, and in the Putilovsky Grove there lay the bodies of both civilians unluckily caught up in the active fighting and the militiamen trying to save people. For several days, the bodies were decomposing in the terrible heat: there was no opportunity to pick them up and bury them.

An ambulance was also shot up on the road to Donetsk airport. Its crew, Artem Kovalevsky, the ambulance driver, paramedic Sergei Kozhukharov and doctor Vladimir Vasilievich, miraculously survived and managed to get out of hell.

They told reporters from the local branch of Komsomolka in Donetsk how they managed to survive when Ukrainian snipers shot even those who had managed to run into the wooded area.

Victoria Sergeyevna, neurologist: I was on duty that day, the hospital was far away from the airport, but we all knew what was going on. In the evening, many people of different ages with strokes or suspected strokes were brought to our department. People’s chronic illnesses were exacerbated by the stress. The statistics of deaths from heart attacks and strokes during the war has increased dramatically compared to the peacetime. And these are also our victims of the war, just as innocent as the victims who died under shelling”.

Writing on the Wall in Ukraine.

An info graphic tucked away on the back page of Tuesday’s Financial Times shows why articles have started appearing across the press in recent weeks, rowing back on previous optimism, to project that the forthcoming Ukrainian military offensive is a last throw of the dice.

Confirming the analyses of commentators like Brian Berletic, who has argued from the beginning that this is a war of attrition, the info graphic compared the munitions so far supplied to Ukraine by the US and its allies, with the annual production of those munitions that they can manage if working their factories at full stretch (“surge” production) and the number of years it would take to replenish stocks already expended.

When read in conjunction with comments from Ukrainian military figures that Ukraine is fast running out of the Soviet era S300 air defence missiles that it has hitherto relied on to contest the air space above its cities and the battlefront, this makes a harsh reality check for anyone arguing that the NATO military input into Ukraine should be increased; because, even if you think that’s the right thing to do, its not actually possible.

For 155mm shells, over a million have already been supplied. They can be produced – when really pushing it – at 240,000 a year. It would take 7 years to replenish stocks to previous levels at that rate* and, its quite evident that even if every shell produced went to Ukraine, that would supply around a quarter of the supply for the first year from here on.

155mm precision shells would take 4 years to replenish, Javelin missiles 6 years, Stinger missiles 7 years and Himars systems 3 years.

To significantly increase military production capacity would require

  • significant investment, that would have to come from elsewhere in the economies, at a time when all the Western countries are undergoing a sharp squeeze on living standards and increasing political turbulence.
  • time, to make the machine tools, build the factories, put in the infrastructure, train the workers; a matter of years not months.
  • a rethink about how the Western military industrial complex functions; as it has hitherto been set up to produce very expensive and sophisticated kit that requires a lot of training to use and, because it is so sophisticated, very lucrative for the manufacturers. This is a viable approach when the wars the West was fighting were either relatively short, or low key against opponents with limited capacity who could be technologically overawed, though is not so effective in protracted attempts to occupy hostile countries, hence the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does not hack it at all when what’s needed is the sustained mass production of simple munitions like shells for a prolonged war of attrition; which the Russians are set up to do very effectively, even though they spend a lot less on their military than NATO countries do on average, and far less in total ($1 to every $19 spent by NATO in fact).**

That is a material constraint on the US and NATO because they want sufficient of a stockpile to be able to credibly threaten or fight wars elsewhere. So the longer they have to supply more munitions than they can produce to Ukraine, the weaker their global position becomes.

Hence the increasingly open anger of right wingers in the US who think that engaging in this war is a strategic error; because they want to keep as much powder dry (and missiles in stock) as possible for the war with China they see as the priority to fight before the end of the decade.

This is causing a reframing of the narrative for the forthcoming Ukrainian offensive.

Into the Valley of Death?

Whatever view you take on the rights and wrongs of this conflict, it is hard to contemplate this forthcoming, and much advertised, offensive without a sense of horror for the appalling loss of life that it will require. Like knowing that the battle of the Somme is about to start.

Posed initially as a big push with new Western weapons – primarily Leopard tanks – that would break through Russian lines and lead to a political crisis in Russia leading to a victory and reconquest of all territory up to the 2014 borders, the expectations for this offensive are now being downgraded.

Commentators from Admiral Chris Parry to Daily Telegraph columnists to arch hawk Simon Tisdall in the Observer, are now arguing that, in the words of Admiral Parry, the Russians are “too well dug in” to be shifted much. The logic of this is to try to ward off too much disappointment and war fatigue, such that pressure for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement grows significantly. Reports, from Russian sources, so take them with a pinch of salt if you like – of an increasing tendency for Ukrainian soldiers to surrender and, in some cases, offer to turn change sides, indicates what could happen on a wider scale as the prospect for “victory” is no longer posed as just over the horizon, but as an uncertain and remote possibility in an and unending slog with horrific and remorseless casualties.

So, in some quarters there is now an explicit argument that the aim of the offensive is to gain ground to put Ukraine into a more advantageous position when these negotiations come. The overt call, coming from the Ukrainian military and these same writers, is that the supply of munitions from NATO is insufficient and should be, or should have been, even greater than it has been. The problem with this position is that, in reality, as outlined above, there is insufficient capacity in the Western military industrial complex to provide the level that is demanded. So, it is a demand that cannot be fulfilled. In the event of a debacle these commentators can nevertheless cry betrayal, as reality rarely stands in the way of a politically useful myth.

The scale of the shift in investment required to make it so would require a shift in resources on a scale that could not help but hit domestic living standards very hard indeed; and the militarisation of society that would follow would require dissent to be repressed as treason. The legal case already being taken out in the US against four members of the anti war African People’s Socialist Party for “conspiring to covertly sow discord in U.S. society, spread Russian propaganda and interfere illegally in U.S. elections” is the beginning of what threatens to be a much wider and deeper process across the NATO countries.

Its possible that this offensive will make no ground at all. That the 50,000 or so troops assembled for it will make little or no headway against heavily fortified Russian positions and be hammered by superior Russian artillery and air power and, ultimately, a concentration of reservists that will outnumber them. It is, however, also possible that a heavy enough concentration of forces could break through and reoccupy territory. The Russians have been evacuating civilians in preparation of such a possibility. This is posed by our press as “abductions”, though, what they’d have them do to keep these civilians safe I don’t know. Given the way the Ukrainian army has tried to use the continued presence of civilians as human shields, the chutzpah here is quite extraordinary.

Whatever the impact, the question of what happens when it runs out of steam – as casualties mount, munitions are used up, soldiers succumb to exhaustion – is rarely addressed. There seems to be a presumption that the Russians will be equally exhausted, will not have military reserves in place, or the political will, to push back; which seems unlikely.

Any assessment of what happens then is necessarily speculative. A successful Russian push back with limited territorial aims but aiming for regime change in Kyiv – as spelled out in tub thumping terms by Dmitri Medvedev – would involve a loss of face for NATO that it would find unbearable. So, a partial occupation of Western Ukraine by some NATO forces as a face saving territory holding operation is being rumoured; with the Polish Army being set up to do this. If this is clearly understood and expected by both sides through back channel diplomacy it could lead to a ceasefire and frozen conflict on pre determined territorial lines and avert the very real risk of direct engagement leading potentially to nuclear catastrophe. If not, we could all be in very serious trouble indeed.

In that situation, the cries of betrayal from the right – and some sections of the NATO supporting left – would be very loud; and there would be every prospect of a lower intensity continuing conflict with Azov type forces trying to conduct raids across whatever DMZ might be set up. Alongside this there would be continuing campaigns to increase military spending in the NATO countries and attempts to line everyone up behind it; and demonise and criminalise those that don’t.

At the same time, the price for the aid to Ukraine, which is in the form of loans, will be called in by the NATO powers and Ukraine’s mineral and agricultural resources will be asset stripped on a grand and ruthless scale from the part of the country it occupies. So much for sovereignty and the rights of nations to self determination. The war time legislation stripping workers of what rights they still had will be reaffirmed in the name of national survival and the oligarchy in Kyiv will make a comfortable living on brokering the deals.

Chinese solutions

There have also been articles arguing that China could put pressure on Russia in order to pull NATOs nuts out of the fire; which is more wishful thinking. Why China should do this when the US is actively trying to mobilise the reluctant population of Taiwan to play the same role viz a viz China as it has managed to get the Ukrainian oligarchy to do viz a viz Russia, is unclear. China’s capacity to broker a peace should not be underestimated. They have managed to get Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic relations, which has led to a real prospect for peace in Yemen. The recent call between President Zelensky and President Xi opens the door to an end to the conflict that is not primarily framed by NATOs interests; which will therefore be resisted by it. The comment of a US major about the Vietnamese village of Ben Tre in 1968 “in order to save the village, it was necessary to destroy it” could end up as the preferred US position on Ukraine, if the alternative involves a Chinese brokered peace.

*These are the FTs figures. Although 1,074,000 divided by 240,000 gets you just under four and a half years, presumably they are taking other factors into account lime depreciation, use on live fire exercises etc.

**A World War 2 analogy might be in comparing the T34/85 and the PZKWV (Panther) tanks. Panthers were designed as an answer to the T34. They were heavier, better armoured, faster, more sophisticated and overall more effective tank to tank, but they were far more prone to breakdown (with only 35% of vehicles considered “combat ready” in 1944) and were more expensive and time consuming to build; so that from 1943 to 45 the Nazis built around 6,500 of them, while in the same period the USSR built 29,400 T34/85s.

Maths Questions for Ministers

As Rishi Sunak has now decided that extra Maths teaching up to 18 is the “silver bullet” to solve all the UK’s problems of low productivity, in search of a more positive attitude towards numeracy, here are a few questions for him

Rishi Sunak.

  1. If the 11% decrease in the number of teacher training applications in 2023 continues at the same rate, estimate how many years it will be before there are no applications at all; and what year will that be? Answer: Roughly 10 and we will be at zero applications by 2033.
  2. If teachers had a 13% real-terms drop in pay between 2010 and 2022, while average earnings across the economy have gone up 2% in real terms over the same period, and your pay offers for teachers remain well below the rate of inflation in 2023; how is this going to reverse the trend in question 1? Answer. it isn’t.
  3. If 12% of Maths classes in Secondary Schools are being taught by a teacher without a Maths degree, and almost half of Secondary schools are using non specialist teachers for Maths classes, and 13% of new Maths teachers quit within 5 years, but you want all students to take additional Maths classes through to age 18; how does all this add up? Answer. it doesn’t.

Kemi Badenoch

If the Trans Pacific partnership benefits the UK economy by 0.8% but the negative impact of Brexit is 4%

  1. What is the effect of doing both? Show your working. Answer. -4 + 0.08 = -3.92%.
  2. Express your answer showing how many trade deals on the scale of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be needed to make up for the impact of Brexit. Answer: 4/0.08 = 50.

Ben Wallace

If the UK spends $1020 per head on its armed forces, while Germany spends $674, Russia spends $455 and China spends $204 per head

  1. How much greater is the burden of military spending for a UK citizen over a German citizen? Show your working. Answer 1020/674 = 1.5 times.
  2. How much greater is the burden of military spending for a UK citizen over a Russian citizen? Answer 1020/455 = 2.24 times
  3. How much greater is the burden of military spending for a UK citizen over a Chinese citizen? Answer 1020/204 = 5 times

Grant Shapps

If the IPCC states that the number of new fossil fuel projects that can be explored or licenced if we are to prevent climate tipping points is 0,

  1. What is the number of new fossil fuel projects the UK government should be allowed to licence for exploration Answer: 0
  2. Applied Maths: explain the discrepancy between the 0 and the number that you are licencing and quantify what you think the impact of that will be. Answer: It won’t be good…

Peace in Ukraine?

In a recent interview, President Zelensky said that unless Ukraine can hold Bakhmut, he will come under immense pressure, at home and abroad, to negotiate a peace with Russia. It is possible to interpret this in four ways.

1 Zelensky is trying to stiffen the resolve of the troops in Bakhmut, whose morale is low, after conceding inch after inch of ground and terrible losses, fully aware that they are virtually surrounded and after hearing for weeks and weeks about a relief counter offensive that never arrives.

2 He is putting pressure on NATO to up its military supplies, warning them that there is a limit beyond which the Ukrainian armed forces and people will no longer fight on their behalf.

3 He is giving himself an opening to go for such negotiations if Bakhmut does fall, to cut his country’s losses in all respects – as arguing for such negotiations in public hitherto has be tantamount to treason and people have been assassinated for doing so. It is of some significance in this context that, while the USA dismissed the Chinese Peace Plan outright, Zelensky didn’t.

4 He is doing all three at once.

A negotiated peace then is no longer unthinkable. Even his more recent statement that Ukraine would be willing to discuss the status of Crimea if the offensive that has been flagged up for the end of this month and start of May manages to get through to the Black Sea, underlines that negotiation over territory is not off the table. Obviously he does not talk about what will happen if the offensive is a debacle, but this would be a much bigger deal than simply losing control of Bakhmut, which is slowly happening.

Its evident that NATO has no end game beyond crossing its fingers and hoping for the best. Its military industrial complex isn’t designed around wars of attrition with an “almost peer” military.

  • It is designed to produce immensely expensive and complex weaponry requiring months of training to use and squads of maintenance crew to keep going. These are very profitable for its manufacturers and very effective in short wars in which any resistance is qualitatively outgunned. Not so much in this war, in which the capacity to mass produce shells is more decisive. So, all they can do is shovel in enough aid to keep the war going, but not enough to turn the tide.
  • With the sanctions only adopted by direct allies and having blown back hard on Europe primarily, their presumption that the economic war would do the job has failed.
  • The alternative, of decisive direct intervention would be World War 3 and we’d all die.

So, in the meantime, hundreds of men, mostly Ukrainians, are dying every day with no prospect of “winning”. While a reader of the Guardian here might well believe that the Russians have lost 200,000 troops, because they paper they (still) trust says so, the BBC Russian Service calculated just 10,002 killed by December last year, the Russians themselves say they have lost 14,000 and the Israeli Security Agency Mossad calculated 18,840 last month. With the US reckoning on at least 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed that’s a loss ratio of at least 5 to 1 that’s completely unsustainable. Something has to give. And in the interests of not throwing away more and more lives in a hopeless fight, the sooner the better.

The outlines of a possible peace are quite clear and very like the initial Russian call before last February. Demilitarisation of Ukraine – demobilisation of the army and redeployment in reconstruction – no membership of NATO, recognition that the areas that have seceded from Ukraine don’t want to be part of it and have as much right to join the Russian Federation as the West of Ukraine does to stay out of it and mutual security guarantees between Russia and NATO, to allow both sides to de-escalate and put scheduled expansions of military budgets to more constructive use. This will open a period of intense struggle in Ukraine and NATO countries, because the war will be seen to have been futile, the far right will cry betrayal and “stab in the back” resentments at NATO might well lead to all sorts of unpredictable blowbacks, and the reconstruction deal that Zelensky has agreed with Blackrock looks like creating a neo liberal dystopia. One motivation for trying to prolong the war on their part.

Those, in USC and elsewhere, who argue for the NATO/Kyiv war aim of restoring sovereignty over all of Ukraine’s pre 2014 borders and for “Russian troops out” are ignoring a political reality within pre 2014 Ukraine, which is that there has been a civil war there since the population of the Donbass rebelled against the overthrow of a government that they had voted for. There is no doubt that the Maidan movement in Kyiv had popular support in that part of Ukraine. It was also taken advantage of by the US and EU. And hegemonised by the far right. USC people tend to emphasise the first point and turn their eyes away from the latter two, but all three are true and have to be taken into account.

The rebellion against that in Donbass has been described like this in New Left Review. After the Maidan events “opposition to the new government was broad. In late February, some 3,500 elected officials gathered at an anti-Maidan conference in Kharkiv. The following day, the Kiev parliament repealed protections for Russian as a regional language. The anti-Maidan uprisings in Eastern Ukraine copied the Kiev model of occupying central squares and taking over government buildings. The security forces were also divided; in some areas the local police made no effort to stop the anti-Maidan protestors. In cities like Kharkiv or Odessa, Kiev’s authority prevailed. In hardscrabble towns like Donetsk and Luhansk, popular militias made up of miners, truck drivers, security guards and the local unemployed stormed the regional-administration offices and declared peoples republics…” In effect a parallel movement. Arguing for Ukraine’s right to self determination while denying it to the people of the Donbass is wilfully inconsistent.

The initial, rather cautious, Russian intervention that summer was to prevent this uprising being completely crushed by the Ukrainian army. The ensuing civil war killed over 14,000 people, mostly in the Donbass Republics, over 3,000 of them civilians.

They have a memorial garden in Donetsk City to all the children that have been killed by Ukrainian shelling. And these kids are just as dead as any killed in Western Ukraine. They won’t get the full Fergal Keane treatment on the BBC, but they are just as dead. While Donetsk holds these graves…

The Donbass militia, which is locally recruited and has done a lot of the front line fighting even after last February, is 44,000 strong. They see themselves as Russian, and, since the referendums last autumn (far from perfect though they were) see their land as part of Russia. Calling for them to “withdraw” is calling for them to leave their homes, dismiss their own right to self-determination and become refugees, alongside the 3 million or so others who have fled to Russia during the conflict – about a third of the total (and the largest single destination country). This would also apply to a large number of non-combatants. Given that the Ukrainian armed forces “cleanse” captured areas of “saboteurs and collaborators” and one senior politician has called for the local “Sovoks” to be put in concentration camps after “liberation”, a very large proportion of the local population would have to abandon their homes to keep safe. USC is actually calling for ethnic cleansing.

If you doubt that, here are some statements by leading spokespeople in Kyiv in an ongoing discussion about how Ukraine should reintegrate the territories lost after the Maidan. There are various perspectives on this, from the genocidal to the more precisely targeted. The solutions range from wholesale killing, driving out the local population in whole or in part, to filtration measures for the population to identify ‘agents’ and ‘proponents of the ‘Russki Mir’ ie pro Russians, more selective punishment for anyone associated with military resistance overarched by ‘cultural’ measures, re-education, re-naming everything, forbidding use of Russian and so on.

  • July 2014 – MIkhail Koval (Ukrainian Minister of Defence) states that special filtration measures are needed to ‘identify those linked to separatism’
  • August 2014 – Bogdan Butkevich (journalist) speaking on live TV states that Ukraine should free itself from ‘excess people’ in the Donbass and that ‘some people need to simply be killed’
  • In 2018 the Ministry of Interior under Avakov proposed a law on deoccupation and reintegration and a law on collaborators. These were passed in February that year. The laws effectively suspended citizenship to suspected ‘collaborators’ and denied them political rights, and provided almost unlimited powers to the military in the ‘liberated territories’
  • In 2019 Oleg Radik (journalist) wrote that ‘when we go in there, there’ll be 40 years of purges and anti-terror, a ban on the use of Russian by state officials. Close all the higher education institutions, let them study in Lvov.’
  • November 2020 the Prime Minister Denis Shmigal proposes Bill No.4 327 which allows the SBU to identify people to be {forcibly} interned by the military.
  • In March 2021 Alexei Reznikov (vice Prime Minister for the Temporarily Occupied Territories) discusses the removal (Otseleniya) of Russians in Crimea (some 500k people).
  • In August 2021 President Zelenskii told Donbass residents who think they’re Russian ‘to go to Russia’.

Daily life in wartime Ukraine – Ukraine Dissident Digest 3.

Every Month Ukrainian dissident blogger Dmitriy Kovalevich writes a summary of developments for the New Cold War website. The extracts here deal with everyday life and media and present a very different view from the one you will see on the BBC or read in the papers here.

The full version, entitled One year of the tragic proxy war being waged by NATO in Ukraine, which also covers the ‘Official’ deaths of the peace agreements of 2014 and 2015, Russian military strategy, a ‘Ukraine offensive’? and the Tense situation brewing over Moldova can be read here at

The situation in agriculture and utilities

As the sowing season looms in Ukraine’s countryside, agricultural enterprises in all regions are complaining about the shortage of tractor drivers and other machine operators because so many workers have been taken for military service. Due to shortages of workers, fuel and fertilizers, Ukrainian experts predict a 40 per cent drop in wheat and corn yields this year, even if fighting were to suddenly stop.

Similar shortages of skilled workers are being experienced by the country’s utility companies. Hundreds of electricians, mechanics, cleaners and other vital workers have been taken into military service and there is no one to replace them.

The utilities are experiencing an acute shortage of skilled workers because their employees are being conscripted into in the AFU, they are hiding in their homes to evade military service, or they have succeeded in fleeing the country. Current law in Ukraine prohibits any male of the age of military service from leaving the country, and this is strictly enforced along the country’s borders.

Most Ukrainian towns outside of the front lines in the southeast of the country have not been hit particularly hard so far by military hostilities. On the other hand, there is a gradual degradation of infrastructure throughout the country and there is an ever-present danger of its collapse. 

“All business in Ukraine is close to being paralyzed,” writes the Ukrainian telegram channel ‘The Skeptic’. “Entrepreneurs are suffering huge losses. Several factors contribute to this, one of which is the shortage of male employees. Men are being taken from the streets by military conscription units and immediately shipped off to the front lines.”

The channel emphasizes that no economic recovery is taking place in real life. The prospect of recovery is only ‘announced’ by Ukrainian authorities from time to time when they decide it is a good moment to again plea to the West for more money. 

Daily life in wartime Ukraine

Thanks to a relatively warm winter, the energy situation for ordinary Ukrainians has improved in February. In most regions, shutting off of electricity has diminished and hot water supply has reappeared.   

Another issue is that despite relatively low gas and electricity prices (frozen during the current period of martial law), Ukrainians have nonetheless accumulated significant debts owed to utilities. Russia has cancelled such debts in regions that have come under its control and is promising more of the same to other regions that may come under its control in the future. 

The price of gas and electricity has been raised for businesses and industrial enterprises, which has led to the closure of many enterprises and, consequently, mass layoffs of workers. 

Beginning in February of this year, businesses are required to submit lists of their employees to the military enlistment offices. Male employees then receive notification to appear for military service. To get around the loss of key workers, many companies do not list them as employed.

Significant part of workers in Ukraine since the years of privatizations during the 1990s work unofficially – working part-time or off-site—and are paid in cash. Officially, they are unemployed. This allows a business owner to avoid paying salary-delated taxes and allows workers to avoid paying income taxes. But it also means that workers do not have such rights as joining a trade union, paid vacations or paying into a company’s pension plan. Ukraine’s government has for many years tried to reduce such ‘shadow employment’, but it has returned with a vengeance due to the fear of military conscription. 

However, with this form of ’employment’ causes big problems for workers in receiving salaries. An employee can be listed as employed and is therefore subject to army recruitment, or he works without a formal contract and risks not receiving a paycheque or a fair paycheque.

For businesses and industrial enterprises, the prices of gas and electricity have risen, leading to the closure of many enterprises and, consequently, to the dismissal of employees. 

Similar problems are experienced by the utility companies. They are experiencing acute shortages of workers due to military conscription or because workers are hiding in their homes to avoid conscription or have fled the country. The hundreds of electricians, mechanics, cleaners and loaders needed to replace them are simply not available.

Most Ukrainian towns, outside the front lines in the southeast of the country, have so far not been hit particularly hard by the military conflict. On the other hand, there is a gradual degradation of infrastructure.

Continued media censorship

One year later, all media in Ukraine with a different point of view from the official line remain closed. All television channels are required to broadcast the ‘United News’, telemarathon-style broadcasts where only the official position of the office of the Ukrainian president is aired. For the past year, not a single attempt to reflect upon or explain the conflict has been broadcast in the permitted media.

Official Ukrainian propaganda involves almost exclusively the airing of hysterical emotions by Ukrainian citizens. The country’s opponents are termed “psychopaths” and the causes of the conflict are reduced exclusively to the desires of a single “tyrant”, namely, the president of Russia. The study and practice of political economy in once-renowned schools of political economy in Ukraine has been replaced in such institutions by straight-up, pro-government propaganda. 

Ukrainian propaganda for domestic consumption is focused exclusively on the emotional whipping up of its audience. This has led to a sharp fall in viewers and in trust for the television channels because their ‘reporting’ is, frankly, bringing much of the civilian population into states of nervous breakdown. This media promotes hatred of all things Russian. But most Ukrainians speak Russian fluently and many have Russian relatives. Thanks to strict censorship in the media following adoption last year of the Zelensky regime’s ‘Law On the Media’, the share of Ukrainians using television as their main source of news has fallen by 12 per cent. The images and messages on television differ too much from real life.

Nordstream 2 – “the silence shouts in your ear” (Graham Greene)

I wrote this yesterday evening after listening to PM. Whatever your views on the Ukraine war, the way the blowing up of Nordstream 2 is being reported is so transparently manipulative that they must know they are doing it. The almost complete silence on Seymour Hersch’s story in particular is almost deafening.

The Ministry of Truth? User:Canley, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

During the discussion with Frank Gardner about the blowing up of the Nordstream pipeline and the current information from Germany that they are investigating a “pro Ukrainian group” for carrying it out, Gardner complained that the Russians were calling for an international investigation that they should be part of. Given that it was their pipeline, that doesn’t seem so odd.

He went on to say that the Russians were considered the main suspects for some time, without clarifying that they were considered to be this by the West, and that this would be -as “false flag” operations go – a spectacular example of cutting off their nose to spite their face given

1) that cutting Germany off from cheap Russian gas has been a strategic objective of the US for some time (and stated as such)

2) that blowing it up helps undermine peace movements in Germany seeking and end to the bloodshed and a deal that could get their cheap gas back (blow up the pipeline, no prospect of gas)

3) thereby removing a significant piece of Russian diplomatic leverage. this is about as plausible as the stories that the Russians were shelling their own troops at the Zaporizhzhiya power station which were repeated – or at best muddied – by your programme too.

Even more striking was that at no point did Gardner, or Evan Davies, refer to the Seymour Hersch story based on leaks from US Special Services that they carried out the attack. Hersch has a long record of getting embarrassing stories for the US bang to rights – from the My Lai massacre to Abu Ghraib. I appreciate that you guys are under heavy manners to keep to the agreed script, but it makes me wonder if Vietnam was happening now, you’d close down the My Lai story too.


This is the key sentence in what the BBC write when you complain to them about a News item, so it doesn’t hurt to do it.

We’ll normally include your complaint in our overnight report to producers and management. This will circulate your and all complaints with other reaction we receive today (but with any personal details removed) so it will then be available for the right team to read tomorrow morning.

14 Questions for John McDonnell (and others) on Ukraine.

John McDonnell’s article for Labour Hub The Ukrainian Question for Socialists has so many missing dimensions its hard to know where to start. It is a story with a middle, but no explanation of the beginning, nor any projection of where the course of action he supports might end.

John’s judgement on the war is oddly flat, missing whole dimensions of the conflict and lacking any sense of causation beyond a kind of moralism, the 21st century equivalent of WW1 “German War Guilt”. The assessment of the conflict as Five Wars in One in the most recent New Left Review Editorial gives a fuller picture, every aspect of which has to be grasped to understand the dynamics of it.

  1. There is a civil conflict within Ukraine itself.
  2. The Russian intervention after February 2014, which NLR defines as having “a double character”, interventionist against Ukraine, and defensive against NATO at the same time, leading to
  3. A Ukrainian war of national self defence combined with
  4. What former CIA chief Leon Panetta describes as a “proxy war” against Russia carried out by the US using Ukrainian soldiers on the ground, but also imposing global sanctions that have had a terrible blowback on food prices in the Global South and energy prices in Europe. NLR describes this as “unambiguously imperialist” in that “it aims at regime change… (in Russia) …and the assertion of American hegemony over the Eurasian continent”.
  5. “The prospect of a Sino-American conflict, the real focus of the last three administrations in Washington, is the final lock determining the Ukraine war’s dynamic”.

John only looks at 3 and half of 2. Does he recognise that he’s missing the determining forces driving this process?

In the context of a “civil war in Ukraine itself”, John’s article acknowledges fighting since 2014, but does not acknowledge that there is any popular legitimacy in the pro Russian side of the civil war. This disorients him from the off, as important facts have to be denied to maintain his posture.

The Guardian last week quoted a Ukrainian junior officer fighting around Vuhledar on the southern Donetsk front complaining that troops recruited locally didn’t want to fight. Most Ukrainian troops are conscripted. Some are unwilling. Aleksey Arestovich, an adviser to the office of the Ukrainian president, said in January that many Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Soledar simply fled and there were “a substantial number” of refuseniks who declared they “cannot fight any longer in this terrible war”. Arestovich said, “We have people who refused to dig trenches, and when they were led into ready-made trenches, they just stood still. Many said the enemy (Russian soldiers) were too close and it was better to move several miles back from the front lines.” This has meant that that month President Zelenskyy in January signed into force a punitive law introducing harsher punishment for deserters and wayward soldiers, even stripping them of their right to appeal.

At the same time Ukrainian dissident Dmitriy Kovalevich reports that refugees and residents in the south of Ukraine …are attending protest rallies organized by the wives and mothers of servicemen.

Perhaps more significantly, the soldier in Donetsk went on to note that “about half” of the local population was “pro Russian” anyway. Does John acknowledge this?

NLR describes the uprisings that led to the formation of the Donbass People’s Republics in 2014 like this.

  • After the Maidan events “opposition to the new government was broad. In late February, some 3,500 elected officials gathered at an anti-Maidan conference in Kharkiv. The following day, the Kiev parliament repealed protections for Russian as a regional language. The anti-Maidan uprisings in Eastern Ukraine copied the Kiev model of occupying central squares and taking over government buildings. The security forces were also divided; in some areas the local police made no effort to stop the anti-Maidan protestors. In cities like Kharkiv or Odessa, Kiev’s authority prevailed. In hardscrabble towns like Donetsk and Luhansk, popular militias made up of miners, truck drivers, security guards and the local unemployed stormed the regional-administration offices and declared peoples republics…”

In Odessa, Kiev’s authority “prevailed” through far right thugs trained in from the capital for a football match burning down the local trade union HQ with anti-Maidan protestors inside it, killing nearly 50 people. Is John unaware of this?

This division in the country is widely recognised inside it. NLR notes a student in Kiev remarking of workers rebelling in the Donbass, “They can’t help it. They’re all Sovoks over there”. Sovoks being a term applied to people nostalgic for the Soviet Union. “All Sovoks over there“. Does John think that these people should be occupied against their will?

In the context of this civil war since 2014, has John not noticed the steady stream of fighters from the European and North American far right who have signed up to fight in the Donbass, and get tooled up for future fights at home once they’ve gained the combat experience? While John mentions people in Ukraine that he knows and identifies with who are not like this, there are a lot of people fighting on the Ukraine side who are; some of them local, some from all over in a kind of fascist foreign legion.

John also does not note what happens when the Ukrainian army reoccupies an area and carries out “cleansing” operations against “saboteurs and collaborators”. Some of the dead bodies are posted on Instagram. Is that ok?

The same applies to Crimea. I don’t think there’s anyone even amongst the most gung ho Ukraine Solidarity Campaign supporters who argue that the population of Crimea is clamouring to be reconquered by Ukraine.

And there is a recognition now being freely expressed by the United States that, given the concentration of Russian armed forces, including nuclear weapons, on the peninsular, pushing to retake it could trip over the threshold into nuclear war, so best not try. Would John agree with that assessment, that surrendering territory will be necessary to avoid of tripping nuclear thresholds?

If so, would he be prepared to concede that this is a principle that may have to be applied more broadly; and that there is no level of escalation that is capable of reconquering the Donbass without pushing through nuclear red lines; so that has to be ruled out too?

In the first month of the war, President Zelensky called for a NATO enforced No Fly Zone. Arguing for Ukraine to be able to “defend” itself with all possible means would imply support for that. As this is an obvious invitation to Armageddon, it hasn’t been taken up, so far. Am I wrong to presume that John would be against that?

I hope so, but he doesn’t mention it, so its hard to say. The problem is that that’s where we are heading. The latest USC statement – signed by John – lists lots of additional sets of equipment that could be supplied by the British Army, including fighter jets. Where does this end?

Its important to be clear on this, because starting from the need to pull back from escalation to World War 3 requires the Labour movement to push for peace and a negotiated settlement, rather than going along with the step by step escalation in munitions. And pressure for that has to start with the Left.

There is a domestic dimension to this too. The UK government and Labour front bench support an increase in military expenditure at a time of collapsing public services and impoverishment of the working population. That means “hard choices” to build up the military at the expense of the population in a country that already spends more on it than any other country in the world apart from the USA, China and India. In fact the per capita burden on the UK population is already double what it is for Russian citizens and five times that on the Chinese. Does John support that?

To have an idea of how this could end short of escalation to mutually assured destruction, you need to go back to why it started in the first place and how it could have been avoided. John does not examine this at all. He just gives the invasion a pair of labels – “illegal” and “imperialist” – and leaves it at that. Any closer examination can’t help but look at NATO, and whether the Russians have any legitimate security concerns about it. I wonder if John thinks they do? He doesn’t say.

Just taking the months in the run up to 24th Feb,

  • the Russians were asking for NATO to rule out Ukrainian membership and for mutual security guarantees that could defuse the crisis – and implementation of the Minsk accords that would have gone some way to restoring a peaceful modus operandi; with autonomy within Ukraine for the Donbass Republics.
  • It also would have allowed Europe to sustain its supply of relatively cheap Russian natural gas, instead of being forced to buy expensive LNG from the USA and Qatar.
  • Just to spell out the obvious, NATO outspends Russia on its military by a factor of 19 to 1 – and that’s before the current proposed increases.
  • NATO is the core alliance of global imperialism centred on the USA.
  • “The West” is the same place as “The Global North”. It has armed forces to maintain its system of global dominance and exploitation.
  • Russia has never been included in this core because doing so would set up the potential for a Russo German bloc that would edge the USA out of its dominance in Europe.
  • So, Russia is not at the table (despite asking to be let in on numerous occasions). And, as they say, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.
  • What this might look like is Dick Cheney’s 1991 plan to balkanise Russia into three more easily manageable countries, the European part, Siberia and the Far East.
  • A less drastic bottom line might be the replacement of Putin with a more compliant oligarch who knew his place in the US world order. more like Yeltsin.
  • The Russians are acutely aware of this. Which is why they feel under threat. And why the Ukrainian oligarchy being so eager to sign itself up as a US henchman in NATO feels like an existential threat.
  • The refusal of NATO to even discuss their proposals, couldn’t help but confirm the impression in Moscow that NATO was preparing for war.

Does John think that these concerns on the part of the Russians should have been negotiated about then and, more to the point, should addressing them be an essential aspect of any attempt to secure peace?

We should be clear here that framing the war as simply one of national defence in which NATO is just helping out, implies that the tail is wagging the dog. The power in this situation is in Washington not Kyiv. The Americans are now beginning to argue about the risks, costs and advantages of a long war versus a short one with a diplomatic off ramp. This is all within the framework of US national interests of course – which the UK political establishment will go along with; whatever it is.

The phrase “proxy war” was coined by Leon Panetta long before anyone in Stop the War started using it. But whatever its origin, it is a very accurate description of what’s happening. All the finance for the war and to sustain the Ukrainian state is coming from NATO powers. All the training for the army, targeting for missiles and artillery systems, is coming from NATO too. The USA will be perfectly happy to destroy Ukraine in order to save it. Does John not realise that that is what his position is supporting?

John’s call for a new Marshall Plan to rebuild Ukraine is the opposite of what’s on the cards. Since 2014 Ukraine has become increasingly neo liberal, with “Sovok” holdovers in state property sold off to multi national capital, including Monsanto in agriculture and negotiations around EU convergence noting that Ukraine is moving away from EU standards on regulations and labour standards. Were it to be fast tracked into EU membership it would act as a Trojan Horse to undermine them in the rest of the continent. The plan for reconstruction agreed at Geneva last Autumn sets Ukraine up to be asset stripped, with Blackrock presiding over the dismemberment. Fighting for a “victory” for the Kyiv government, is fighting for that.

The views of the Social Movement will count for nothing in that context. Does John really think that because there are small groups of left wingers who wanted to be part of the Maidan -but were marginalised and driven off by the right sector – and have opposed the neo liberal dystopia that Ukraine has become – but failed to make any headway – and are hoping that, in the event of a military victory by the world’s most powerful imperialisms, they will be in a position to move the country towards “socialism” that this is remotely realistic?

Here be Monsters?

Anyone who thinks that “respect” and “tolerance” are “Fundamental British Values” hasn’t spent a lot of time online. The review of Prevent by William Shawcross published on February 7th reflects the government’s alarm that referrals for right wing and racist views were beginning to outnumber referrals for Islamism by 2021. As well they might. Jihadist attacks have dropped off sharply. There have been none in the UK since 2019 and the ISIS Caliphate no longer casts any kind of bogus attraction to a community that has overwhelmingly grasped how malign it was, whereas there was a far right/Incel mass shooting of five people in Plymouth in 2021. Nevertheless, the Review has ruled out the growing concerns about the increasingly aggressive misogyny in Secondary schools, directed by boys influenced by the Incel movement against girls students and women teachers alike; even though it has increasingly gone beyond verbal abuse to violent attacks, killing 53 people across the world and injuring many more. By this definition, racism and misogyny are not worthy or referral, even though they are currently leading to the largest number of violent incidents and Prevent is supposed to be about stopping people being “radicalised” so that they commit such acts.

What’s quite overt about this is that racist views – by definition contrary to “tolerance” and “respect” – are considered by Shawcross and the government to be “mainstream right wing views” that are acceptable. Given that racist paranoia about “small boats” is one of the main knee jerk reactions the government is trying to hammer on to divert attention from its deplorable record in sustaining our living standards, not least by cutting the immigration of necessary workers, unless racism is taken out of the list of Prevent concerns, the government itself would have to be referred for grooming it.

Its hardly surprising that they should want to define themselves out of a situation in which, if Suella Braverman were in a classroom, she might find herself referred for the incendiary language that fuelled the people who firebombed refugee hostels in Knowsley and Dover. Braverman herself, who always comes across as someone living on the edge of nervous anger from having to control so many explosive contradictions in her own head with a rigid framework of far right paranoia, doesn’t seem to have twigged that the next step on from “Stop them coming” is “Send them back”. And, however much she tries to save herself by channeling pure gammon, the people she is winding up to violence won’t exempt her from the flights to Rwanda she says she dreams about.

The paradox of the government’s move is that it exposes Prevent as a divisive and “partisan” tool employed for limited political purposes, with some views demonised and others given official sanction, whether they contradict the FBVs or not. They are dropping the curtain and stand revealed. Here be monsters indeed.

Its a right of passage towards old age when someone young offers you a seat on the tube or a bus, which started happening a few years ago. When someone visibly middle aged does the same thing, as happened yesterday, you know you’re getting past it in a big way. What must I look like? And today, someone stopped their car to allow me across the road. OK, I was pulling a shopping trolley and wearing a mask, but I must be exuding a new level of decrepitude to bring forth such gratuitous courtesy.

This is the bust of late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts that’s been on display in Kingsbury Library for the last couple of months. Watts, who definitely got old before he died in 2021, grew up locally in a now demolished row of houses off Fryent Way and went to Tyler’s Croft, the Secondary Modern School off Roe Green Park that became part of Kingsbury High School when Comprehensivisation went through well after he’d left; and my kids went to well after that. He is one of two famous alumni. The other being James Hanratty; the last man in England ever to be hanged. I see that the new Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson, would like to hang more people in the future on the invincible grounds that “nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed”. As an extra bonus, that includes all those innocent of the crime they were executed for.

The 183 bus route, run between Pinner and Golders Green in a striking display of cross border state ownership by the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) has now been electrified. It feels like riding inside the future. The buses arrive swiftly, swoosh to a halt, then accelerate off again smoothly; without picking up any of the bad vibrations, rumbling, juddering, boggler, boggling you get with a diesel engine. Smells better too. At present it will take TFL, which is very good by UK standards and at least publicly owned, about another ten years to electrify all 8,000 of its buses. Shenzen, in Southern China, did all 16,000 of theirs in 2016.

Which makes the current wave of Sinophobia doubly sad and dangerous. We have things to learn from each other but, instead, we get stories designed to make us fear. A feature of the recent past is how quickly stories that first show up on really whacked out far right sites – the sort of places that combine racism and imperial nostalgia with adverts for hemorrhoid cream, and feature Nigel Farage as an embodiment of all of them – find themselves on the front pages of our mainstream press within a week or two. This one, complete with weird capitalisation, “China finds SHOCKING WAY to spy on you – and they’re already in your KITCHEN!” was replicated in the slew of headlines this week implying that use, in anything, of technology made by Chinese companies would allow surveillance by the CPC. This is weird. If Xi Jinping wants to know what’s in my fridge – and this is terribly important information for the 15th Five Year Plan – he will have to nudge Eric Schmidt, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos out of the way, because they already know (and are using it to try to sell me stuff that I don’t realise I “need”). US based tech companies are also, of course, completely tied in the the National Security Agency, so, if Joe Biden wanted to know what’s in my fridge he could probably find out without too much trouble. If you want to be really paranoid about tech surveillance, read Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff. This is a bit repetitious, but reveals some quite alarming stuff, like the way interactive toys are sending messages about what a child says, and how they say it, back to the manufacturer and that devices like Alexa don’t just tabulate requests, but tones of voice…

Although I retired from teaching three and a half years ago, I still get classroom anxiety dreams. This morning’s was a classic. I was being driven in to school by a friend and everything was really relaxed until I got there – even though it was during morning break, so seriously late – and realised I was due into class in a minute and not only had no plan, but no idea what we were supposed to be teaching that week. Feeling far less panicked than I would have been if that had actually been the case I wandered into the classroom, getting a reproachful look from a younger version of BB, my old head teacher, who’d been covering, and asked what we were supposed to be doing. “Stories”. That’s ok. Everything is a story. Best to start with a question. As the kids drifted in chatting and sitting on the mat, I asked them “Where do you find a monster?” while thinking that wherever we find them, they are already in our heads…

Then I woke up and it was all a dream. THE END.

Ukraine Dissident Digest 2: Casualties of a “Kamikazi State”.

Dmitriy Kovalevich’s monthly updates provide a strikingly different insight into the war in Ukraine from the received opinion/agreed narrative that the Western press sticks to. The italicised set of very revealing excerpts below might come as a shock to anyone just used to listening to the BBC or reading The Guardian. Reading it is like opening a closed book. The whole report can (and should) be read on the New Cold War site here.

Kirril Mochanov’s notion of Ukraine as a “Kamikazi state” reminds me of a comment in John Keegan’s History of the First World War; noting that the scale of the defeats suffered by the Austro Hungarian Empire by 1915 were so severe that past imperial practice would have led to swift peace negotiations and an attempt to salvage a truncated country with territorial concessions. Instead, locked into an alliance with the more powerful German Empire, the Austro Hungarians kept fighting until the end, by which time there was nothing left to salvage. This puts the relationship between the Ukrainian Oligarchy and the West the right way round, with those who are paying the piper calling the tune; and the Ukrainian people forced to do a dance of death on their behalf.

The first month of 2023 in Ukraine was marked by the defeat of Ukrainian troops near Soledar, …Ukraine suffered heavy losses in fighting around the city in January. It is continuing with the capture and forced conscription of young men on the streets of its towns and cities to compensate for its large military losses in Bakhmut.

Aleksey Arestovich, an adviser to the office of the Ukrainian president, said in January that many Ukrainian soldiers could not withstand the Russian onslaught against Soledar and fled. According to him, during the entire defense of the city there were “a substantial number” of refuseniks who declared they “cannot fight any longer in this terrible war”. Arestovich said, “We have people who refused to dig trenches, and when they were led into ready-made trenches, they just stood still. Many said the enemy (Russian soldiers) were too close and it was better to move several miles back from the front lines.”

The battle for Soledar also showed the eroding motivation of military personnel in Ukraine. Many of those being forcibly mobilized are showing no desire to fight. In mid-January, the Ukrainian media published a video in which Sgt. Igor Bondarenko, deputy platoon commander of the 60th brigade, berates his subordinate Ukrainian soldiers who had taken refuge in a residential building and were unwilling to fight. The video was filmed for the purpose of reporting to a higher command, which demands that military recruits be driven into battle by all necessary means.

The German magazine Der Spiegel, referring to German intelligence information, reported at the end of January that in and around Bakhmut alone, Ukraine was seeing hundreds of its soldiers killed every day. The Ukrainian Telegram channel ‘XUA-photo of the war’ has broadcast terrible film footage demonstrating the extent of deaths among the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the area. It comments, “Of course, the full scale of this tragedy needs to be documented in the future. On the front lines of Bakhmut-Soledar, the Ukrainian military command has displayed complete failure. There are huge numbers of deaths among the manpower of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin told a meeting of NATO-country war ministers at the U.S. Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany at the end of January that a crucial moment in the fighting in Ukraine had arrived and Russia was gathering strength.

Russian military experts are once again noticing that Western media and politicians are constantly talking about “crucial moments” and “imminent turning points” in Ukraine...and…They see the West actively pressuring Kyiv to send more military recruits to the slaughter in order to achieve a ‘tipping point’ as quickly as possible. In contrast, Russian tactics involved orderly entries or exits from selected territories designed to wear down the Ukrainian army and economy while maintaining main forces in reserve in case of a major conflict with NATO in the future.

Against the backdrop of its serious losses, military conscription has intensified throughout Ukraine. Sometimes, it resembles the straightforward kidnapping of men of military age. Military commissars are increasingly trying to hand out summonses in the most unlikely and inappropriate places (albeit fully permitted legally), such as entrances to shops, in parking lots or at gas stations. Sometimes they resort to roadblocks.

Other subscribers from Odessa comment that men are brought to the military enlistment offices by ambulances and ‘Nova Poshta’ (delivery service) vehicles. Military commissars often go about their work in civilian clothes. Not everyone surrenders without a fight. “Near Kulikovo field (a neighborhood in central Odessa) in the courtyard of a nine-story building, two unknown people put up serious physical resistance to two “messengers of death” (as military conscription officers are called), as a result of which the young civilian men prevailed and the losing ‘military’ side lost their package of documents and money,” writes ‘Typical Odessa’.

The director of the Institute for the Study of the Consequences of Military Actions in Ukraine, Russian political scientist Kirill Molchanov, calls Ukraine a “kamikaze state”. He emphasizes that there exists another Ukraine, which is represented by refugees and residents in the south of Ukraine who are attending protest rallies organized by the wives and mothers of servicemen. According to him, these are the people who voted for Zelensky in 2019 because of his promise to end the nationalist dictatorship and the war in Donbass of his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko. (Poroshenko was elected in May 2014 as the suppression of opposition to the coup of February 2014 was already well advanced.) Molchanov argues that, “In order to get away from the Western-imposed role of Ukraine as a kamikaze state, a platform is needed to find consensus and develop a common vision for Ukrainians who disagree with Kyiv’s current course.”

The former commander of Polish Land Forces, reserve Colonel-General Waldemar Skrzypczak, …argued… for the mobilization of those Ukrainians residing in Western countries who managed to escape military service in Ukraine. When asked by a journalist that Ukrainians in the West probably do not want to fight, the general replied that their opinions do not matter. “Ah, so now we are going to ask them if they want to be soldiers or not? It is necessary to mobilize, draft into the army – and that’s all,” said the Polish general …and… the head of the IMF told the assembled faithful in Davos in January that the conflict in Ukraine is global, not regional. For the sake of this, hundreds of Ukrainians are dying every day in and around Bakhmut, and such losses are being replaced by forceful kidnappings on the streets of Ukraine.

The Balloon Goes Up!

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Amid all the fuss about the Chinese balloon floating over Montana – we should not forget that the US has 339 military surveillance satellites operating around the world; watching everyone and everything all the time.

They launched four of them in 2020 and, as Space Magazine reported at the time “It’s unclear exactly what the spacecraft will be doing up there.” Though I think we can work it out.

If every other country reacted to that like the US has to this balloon, no future summit would ever be able to take place.

Paranoia about Chinese technology is becoming another theme being pushed hard in the Western Press and on right wing sites. Here’s a headline from one of them. China finds SHOCKING WAY to spy on you – and they’re already in your KITCHEN! (their caps) Of course, if there’s someone from Chinese intelligence who wants to sit in your fridge to note the contents, he or she would have to nudge Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt out of the way first. “Alexa! note down everything I’m saying”.

The US has also been developing balloon surveillance capacity of its own. Last May Politico reported that

Over the past two years, the Pentagon has spent about $3.8 million on balloon projects, and plans to spend $27.1 million in fiscal year 2023 to continue work on multiple efforts, according to budget documents.

And that

For years, DoD has conducted tests using high-altitude balloons and solar-powered drones to collect data, provide ground forces with communication and mitigate satellite problems. The Pentagon is quietly transitioning the balloon projects to the military services to collect data and transmit information to aircraft, POLITICO discovered in DoD budget justification documents.

Projecting just a little perhaps?