Socialist Worker

Imperial shifts over Ukraine

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2394

Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Barack Obama

Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Barack Obama (Pic: US government)

The war of words from world leaders continued this week as Russia tightened its grip on Crimea.

The Kremlin is leading it towards secession from Ukraine through a combination of military and political manoeuvres.

British prime minister David Cameron claimed Russia had to accept US proposals for a contact group of nations—including the new Ukrainian government. 

He said, “If they don’t, asset freezes and travel bans will follow and yes, that should follow in a matter of days, not weeks.”

Those banned could include leading politicians, business allies and advisers of the Russian president.

However, Britain is less keen on the measures than it may appear. The City of London is awash with Russian money. 

Anyone with more than £1 million pounds to spare can purchase an “Investor visa”. 

London lawyers in the Commercial Court now get 60 percent of their work from Russian and Eastern European clients. More than 50 Russia-based companies trade at London’s Stock Exchange. 

Russia is the EU’s most important trading partner after the US and China.

Russia asserted that it cannot accept the done deal of the new Western-backed government in Ukraine and that Western proposals used a “situation created by the coup as a starting point”.

Nato announced plans to fly reconnaissance aircraft from Britain and Germany over Poland and Romania to monitor the Ukraine crisis.

In eastern Ukraine pro- Moscow protesters marched on regional government headquarters and requested help from the Kremlin to merge, like their “brothers” in Crimea last weekend. 

In Donetsk, a predominantly Russian-speaking city, demonstrators confronted riot police outside the government building demanding the release of Pavel Gubarev, a self-appointed “people’s governor” who was arrested on Thursday of last week. 

The 2,000 protesters called on Vladimir Putin to come to their aid in breaking away from Ukraine.

The division is over whether the former Soviet “bread basket” country belongs in Russia’s backyard or in the embrace of the EU. 

Unrest in Ukraine erupted in November after former president Viktor Yanukovych’s last-minute rejection of a EU deal in favour of a bailout from Russia.

The situation remains unstable. 

For instance, warning shots were fired when a military observer from the EU Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe was turned back while trying to cross into Crimea last weekend.

The revolt has gone from being tied to the interests of oligarchs to now being a pawn in the interests of the big powers.

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