By Sarah Bates
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Don’t let the foul Russian crimes in Bucha widen Ukraine war

Russian imperialism has perpetrated horrific war crimes, Nato escalation isn't the answer
Issue 2799
Bombed residential buildings and burnt cars

Bombed residential buildings and burnt cars plague the streets of Ukraine. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/UNDP Ukraine)

Waves of disgust have rippled across the globe at evidence of Russia’s war crimes. Dozens of corpses, some found with their hands tied, were scattered across the streets of Ukrainian towns near the capital Kiev.

Ukrainian government officials and human rights groups detailed the horror of decomposing corpses, alongside burnt-out vehicles and shelled buildings, as Russian troops retreated. Russian troops appear to be ­withdrawing from the north of the country to advance more strongly into eastern and southern Ukraine, around the critical Donbas region.

The mayor of Bucha, a town 15 miles from Kiev, said there were 280 people in mass graves. Resident Halyna Tovkach tried to leave her home on 5 March, when invading forces murdered her husband, Oleg. She told the Observer newspaper a Russian armoured car shot at their vehicle as they tried to evacuate. “I felt something hit my right shoulder, a bullet. I pushed my husband to get out of the car. But he wasn’t moving. I realised he was dead. I just opened my door and ran.”

Machine gun fire slaughtered a young mother and her two small children who were travelling in the same convoy. It is one story of many similar horrors across Ukraine. Yet it’s being used as an opportunity to drum up support for military escalation in Ukraine—a guaranteed path to more death and destruction.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is pushing for more arms to be rushed in by Western allies. And Andrzej Duda, Polish president said, “Pictures from Bucha disprove the belief that we have to seek a compromise at any cost. In fact, the defenders of Ukraine need three things above all—weapons, weapons, weapons.”

Such horrors are not unique to the Russian military, but an inevitable consequence of imperialist conflict. They are what Britain did in a string of colonial wars and in Iraq and Afghanistan, what the US did in Vietnam and many other countries, and France did in Algeria. It is the way imperialist forces seek to break and intimidate those they want to oppress. But hypocrites such as Boris Johnson will throw their hands up in mock horror at the reality of war.

It is rank hypocrisy for Johnson to throw his support behind a vicious Saudi Arabian regime yet decry similar tactics used by Vladimir Putin’s government. Yemen is a particularly brutal example. Saudi Arabian military backed by Britain and the US has ­carried out horrifying airstrikes against civilians. An estimated 150,000 Yemenis have died as a direct result of armed conflict. Johnson and his ilk show their protestations are not based on respect for human life, but on where their imperialist interests lie. 

Bucha is the future promised to the whole of Ukraine if Russia’s invasion goes on and Nato continues to beat the drum for war.

  • Stop the War Coalition national day of action, Ukraine—Peace Now! This Saturday, 9 April—protests, vigils, demonstrations, stalls or petitioning. For details go to stopwar.org.uk. International rally with Noam Chomsky and others Sat 9 April, 5pm on Zoom. Details and register here

US boasts of new nuclear sub

President Biden last Saturday joined a commissioning ceremony for the USS Delaware, a nuclear-powered attack submarine.

The submarine is 115 metres long and is configured to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can obliterate targets a thousand miles away. It cost £2.65 billion.

“This is one hell of a fighting machine. To our adversaries, let me just say this—don’t mess with the USS Delaware,” said Democrat senator Tom Carper at the ceremony.

“First Lady” Jill Biden was decreed to be the submarine’s sponsor, a ceremonial role “meant to bring a vessel luck”. She exclaimed, “Officers and crew of the USS Delaware, man our ship and bring her to life.”

Michelle Obama sponsored the USS Illinois and Laura Bush sponsored the USS Texas submarines. 


Sanctions boost Putin support

Sanctions may be helping Vladimir Putin rather than undermining him, according to recent Russian polls. Figures released last weekend showed support for Putin had risen from 71 percent in February to 83 percent in mid-March. Approval of the government had gone up from 55 percent to 70 percent.

Any poll during a war when there is a crackdown on those who dissent has to be regarded with some scepticism. But the pollsters, the Levada Centre, are not mouthpieces for the regime. In 2016, the Russian Ministry of Justice placed the centre on the register of NGOs “performing the functions of foreign agents”.

As hardship bites, it’s possible people are angry at Western economic warfare and therefore are rallying around the “war leader”.

Yet Western governments are ready to maintain sanctions against Russia even if there is a peace deal. The move underlines that Nato powers are using the war to further extend their control. Western officials said that only full Russian troop withdrawal and the return of all captured territory would be enough to trigger discussions over lifting sanctions.

So if Russia and its allies were, for example, left with control over parts of Donbas in eastern Ukraine, then the sanctions would not be lifted. “I think we need to give them a reality check,” a senior EU official told the Financial Times newspaper.

Boris Johnson is pushing in the same direction. He told MPs last week it was “certainly inconceivable that any sanctions could be taken off simply because there is a ceasefire”. His government is making sure there is “no backsliding on sanctions by any of our friends and partners around the world”, he added.

Charlie Kimber

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