A blast ripped through a demonstration in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv last Sunday, killing two and injuring ten people.
It was one of many rallies commemorating the fall of president Viktor Yanukovich last year following protests in the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square.
Up to 10,000 people packed Kiev’s Independence Square and its surrounding streets on Friday of last week. They had come to remember the “Heavenly 100”, who armed police and snipers murdered on the night of 20 February 2014.
This was Ukrainian oligarch president Petro Poroshenko’s show of unity, and confirmed that the party of war dominates in Kiev. It was a grotesque nationalist spectacle as cries of “Glory to Ukraine” filled the square before the crowd sang the national anthem.
People mainly waved the Ukrainian flag, but some also held the red and black flag of the fascist Right Sector. Poroshenko drummed up nationalist support for the war and denounced “fifth columns”.
There were small signs of discontent. Parts of the crowd began chanting, “War, war, war”, but others shouted them down as “provocateurs” and “idiots” putting unity at risk.
The Ukrainian government has been fighting Russian separatists since last April. But Poroshenko’s Anti Terrorist Operation (ATO) is failing as the army stumbles through crises.
Men in military fatigues with collection boxes hung round their necks stand on Kiev’s street corners beside shopping trolleys. They’re raising money to buy equipment and supplies for the ATO.
Neither side is strong enough to deliver the killer blow.
European and Ukrainian leaders signed a ceasefire deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin to withdraw heavy weapons from the frontline.
But both sides fought about where that frontline would be. The Ukrainian army suffered a humiliating withdrawal in Debaltseve.
They finally agreed to withdraw heavy weapons last Sunday. But the nationalist division will remain entrenched whether there’s an official ceasefire or not.
Ukraine’s ruling class has always attempted a balancing act between the West and Russia.In the east, the oligarchs were tied to Russian markets while in the west they favour more integration with the European Union (EU).
The Maidan protests were officially about a deal with the EU. But anger against the oligarchs and police brutality fuelled them.
Yet illusions in the EU and the market, and Ukrainian nationalism, allowed the western oligarchs to benefit. Russia couldn’t tolerate Ukraine going into the West’s orbit, so aimed to keep it destabilised.
This rivalry will not benefit ordinary Ukrainians—and the sense of social crisis is palpable in Kiev. People have set up makeshift street stalls made from old boxes selling all manner of homemade foods. Some hold out fag packets selling individual cigarettes.
This crisis was never about democracy or Ukraine’s independence, but who will profit from the divisions.
This rivalry between the two imperialist blocs is tearing Ukraine between East and West.
We have to stand against our rulers’ sanctions and attempts to send arms.
But it will take independent revolt from below that challenges both nationalisms and imperialisms to shift this situation.
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