Ticking Timebomb: Moscow Moves to Destabilize Eastern Ukraine

…Will Conflict Split Ukraine?

Indeed, the conflict could ultimately split Ukraine — with the east turning to Moscow and the west to the European Union. If that were to happen, it’s possible the new government in Kiev would lose the part of the country that is most important economically because the coal mines and the steelmaking plants of the east comprise Ukraine’s economic heart. The large firms are highly dependent on Russian orders. Ninety percent of Russian nuclear power plants, for example, are equipped with turbines from the Kharkiv-based high-tech firm Turboatom.

When it comes to the geo-political power-play for Ukraine, the ace up Putin’s sleeve is the east, not Crimea. It would be easy for him to light the fuse there, even without a military operation.

His intelligence service agents could simply continue to prod protesters there. In order to eliminate any doubts that Kiev, Brussels and Washington might have had about Moscow’s determination, Putin conducted a major maneuver at the end of February that involved 150,000 soldiers, 880 tanks and 90 fighter jets.

Konstantin Zatulin, director of the Institute of CIS Countries, claims that the Russians wouldn’t even have to invade for eastern Ukraine to disintegrate. He believes that the people of eastern Ukraine will refuse to accept the political results of the revolution in Kiev, that they will create their own power structures and sabotage the national presidential election planned for May 25. “I don’t think that Kiev will succeed in maintaining control over the east for long,” Zatulin says.

Hawks in Moscow are hoping that rage will continue to grow among coal and steelworkers. If their good salaries and social benefits are placed at risk, they could quickly form a front against the government in Kiev.

‘God Have Mercy on the New Government’

Toppled ex-President Viktor Yanukovych had barely fled to Russia, but he was already threatening, “if the workers in Donetsk rise, then God have mercy on the new government in Kiev.”

In addition, Moscow is openly betting on destabilization. Part of its effort to aid this process includes the financing by the Kremlin of so-called patriot clubs and pro-Russian associations in Ukraine. During the protests in Kharkiv and also some in Donetsk, voices of firebrands shouting “Russia, Russia,” could be heard — people who had been bussed in from neighboring regions in Russia. The watches they wore showed the time in Moscow, not that in Kiev.

Among the groups involved is the Eurasian Youth Movement, headed by Aleksandr Dugin of Russia. Dugin, the son of a general, has enjoyed a remarkable rise under Putin’s regime. Back in 2000, he had to receive people coming to meet with him in a narrow back room. In the past, Dugin served as the chief ideologist for the since banned ethno-nationalist National Bolshevik Party, a right-wing political grouping.

Today his treatises are published in Kremlin-aligned tabloid newspapers that have circulations in the millions. “Putin is on his way to becoming the leader of the real free world,” Dugin writes. “It is only Putin who decisively confronts American hegemony. The Russian president is a bulwark against Washington’s policy of installing puppet governments around the world through bloody coups.”

As the head of the Center for Conservative Studies, he has even advanced to become a professor at the respected Moscow State University. His youth movement has been collecting money for a “true popular revolution in Ukraine” for weeks now. He has called on the Russian-speaking population in his neighboring country to blockade the buildings of Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service and to “arm themselves and organized self-defense forces.” Under the slogan, “Send tanks to Kiev,” the youth movement has also been propagating a military intervention in eastern Ukraine.

The case of Kharkiv demonstrates the simplicity with which Moscow’s auxiliaries can trigger a region’s descent into chaos. Opponents of the West-oriented Kiev government already organized a pro-Russian conference in Ukraine’s second-largest city in February. Mikhail Dobkin, the former governor the region around Kharkiv served as their leader.

On the same day, his opponents, supporters of the Kiev Maidan movement, with the aid of right-wing radical hooligans from the local football club, occupied two stories of the governor’s headquarters, the region’s administrative seat. They included pro-European students wearing metal-rimmed glasses, but also many men with clubs, helmets, bullet-proof vests and even a few with firearms. They said they wanted to “topple the governor.”


Spiegel.de has the full article

You may also like...