Monday, 1 September 2014


A couple of days ago, Putin sent an open letter to the mercenaries fighting in eastern Ukraine, calling on them to create a humanitarian corridor, so that trapped Ukrainian soldiers could leave the area of fighting and return to their homes and families. Sounds pretty good. Quite humane. Even thoughtful. But something else in that letter is deeply worrying, and I've seen very little comment about it - the letter was addressed directly to "the militias of Novorossiya". Novorossiya (New Russia) doesn't exist, neither as a geographical nor a political entity. It was the name of a region of Tsarist Russia, but that was 100 years ago. It is a fiction (re-)created by the Kremlin. But the use of this name completely reveals, I think, what Putin's current aims in relation to Ukraine actually are. And it's not good news. He is trying to bring "Novorossiya" into being.

If you don't know, the name "Novorossiya", as the Kremlin is using it now, basically refers to the whole south of Ukraine, along with Crimea, stretching from Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol in the east to the breakaway republic of Transdnistria in the West (between Ukraine and Moldova). In other words, geographically it's the territory bordering the entire northern coast of the Black Sea, from Russia to Romania. Politically, any such self-designated territory would of course declare its allegiance to Russia, and then quite possibly, as in Crimea, seek to join the "mother country" ...

In addition to this, it appears that at least some of the troops that have invaded the far south-east of Ukraine in the last few days are going under the flag of this non-existent place, "Novorossiya". They are Russians, of course, but this subterfuge allows the Kremlin to deny the presence of Russian military in Ukraine and, at the same time, to claim that they are "freedom fighters", seeking liberation for Novorossiya (which, remember, doesn't actually exist) from the "fascist junta" in Kyiv. Whether this last claim has in fact been made yet or not I don't know - but it will be, before long. I suspect that, also before long, the so-called "People's Republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk will declare themselves part of "Novorossiya".

As I said, this is really not good news. But maybe it helps us to understand an important part of what the Kremlin is actually trying to do in Ukraine. Will that help find a way to put a stop to Russia's aggression? I don't know, but I really hope so.Link to article in "Pravda" (in English) about this, again openly using the name "Novorossiya":

P.S. Since I first wrote this, the name "Novorossiya" has been used many more times in writings which emanate from Russia. The propaganda machine is swinging into action.

P.P.S. According to Ukrainian sources, the "humanitarian corridor" was a ruse, and hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who tried to use it (after surrendering their weapons) were gunned down ... No words ...

Sunday, 9 March 2014


UPDATE: 10/03/2014
I'm very pleased to read this morning that the reports of Russian soldiers active in Kherson province, to which I was responding below, were exaggerated. Nevertheless, it remains true that Putin wants to take control of Kherson, along with the other southern and eastern provinces of Ukraine. The fundamental point of my post remains - until someone actually stops this Russian land-grab, it will continue.

This is the third or fourth report I've read that, in the last couple of days, Russian soldiers crossed from the Crimean peninsula into the province of Kherson:

So, it seems they are now on the mainland. How many more violations of agreements, treaties and international law are required before the international community really weighs in with some effective action? Will the USA, EU and NATO let the Russians take control of all of south and east Ukraine, as they already have of Crimea? Do they just not understand that, until the Russian military is actually physically brought to a halt, they will continue to take control of more and more territory? And, once they're effectively in control, it will be very difficult to make them leave, without using force. This is what happened in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and they're still in control in these places ...

"The West" is making a fundamental mistake at the moment, IMO. All their efforts are basically aimed at keeping channels of communication open with the Russian government, in the belief that the latter are actually interested in talking, and arriving at solutions that way. The problem is - I don't think they are. Their participation in any such talks, I fear, is not really aimed at reaching solutions, it's just intended to use up time, while they make more and more military preparations, and do more to encourage and foment dissent and revolts in those places they want to take control of (at this moment, parts of Ukraine).

First of all Crimea, then the other southern and eastern provinces of Ukraine ... And where will Putin's New Russian Empire seek to expand after that? There have been several (unconfirmed) reports of Russian military build-up in Transdnistria. Moldova, maybe? And then? Formal annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia? Georgia? The Baltic States, even?

I've said it before, but it needs repeating, frequently. It's my belief that, until someone stops him, Putin will just keep going. Unfortunately ...

Monday, 24 February 2014


"Leninopad" is the name of the latest craze to hit Ukraine. Following the two-word name style of the very successful "Angry Birds", or "Flappy Birds", this one can perhaps best be rendered in English as "Falling Lenins". But there the resemblance to computer games ends, because "Falling Lenins" doesn't happen in virtual reality, it doesn't happen on your smartphone, it happens in real cities, all over Ukraine - as you can see from this map, where each of the Lenin symbols represents a city where civic statues of Vladimir Ilyich have fallen (read: "been pulled") down in the last few months:

More information:

It's not hard to understand why Lenins have started to fall so frequently. They represent the Communist and Soviet past and, while there are still many people here who regret its passing, the majority - and especially the younger generations, the ones who didn't really know Soviet days - feel no strong connection with this period of the country's history. So why bother to have statues everywhere celebrating one of its most important figures? But, perhaps more interestingly, youthful indifference is no explanation for the growing tendency for Lenins to fall (down, rather than just into disrepair) - this can only be attributed to a positive antipathy to what they represent.

You'll have noticed on the map that Lenin is more of a survivor in the south and east, and more likely to fall in the north and mid-west (in the far west he fell long ago). The southern and eastern areas of the country are Russian-speaking, and generally more pro-Russian than the others - although, in truth, I rather think the media make too much of this, in the interests of creating drama. I'm writing from Odessa, which is Russian-speaking and in the south, but I get the impression that most people here actually want to live in Ukraine, not Russia. In fact, I heard some discussion about creating another falling Lenin in Odessa earlier today. In the end it didn't happen, although other Lenins all over the Odessa administrative region have been falling recently:

Ukraine is at a major turning point in its short history as a nation-state. Right now, on the streets, in parliament, in government offices, across cafe tables, in family homes, the decision whether Ukraine continues to move away from its Soviet past, or re-establishes strong ties with Russia, is being made. For some people, the desired outcome would even be to join Russia, and forget about the historical anomaly that is the independent state of Ukraine. For others, the only acceptable outcome is a sovereign, independent Ukraine, having close ties with Europe, and even eventually being a member of the EU.

It's not clear which way the country as a whole will go. Nor if the country "as a whole" will continue to exist. Partition is a distinct possibility. I know which decision I want the Ukrainian people to make, but the choice is theirs, not mine. The falling Lenins could just be a symbol of the path they've chosen.

Friday, 31 January 2014


Is Yanukovych on his way out? I think he is, actually. He has lost so much support recently, that his power base is now really rather small. He still has supporters of course, but his response to the protests has been so heavy-handed that he has alienated many, many people in the country. One of the things that almost everyone here, even those who supported him politically, hates is the everyday reality of low-level corruption and brutality on the part of the authorities; by responding to the protests with even more of those, but at an altogether more extreme level, he has turned many people against him. Only the most hardened supporters can accept as necessary the beatings and shootings of peaceful protesters, the use of hired thugs, or "titushki", who are protected by the police, the torching of cars, the targeting of journalists, the kidnapping, torture and in some cases murder of protesters, not to mention the almost-farcical way in which a raft of extremely repressive laws were unconstitutionally pushed through parliament, only to be largely repealed two weeks later.

There are other signs that the tide is turning against Yanukovych:

His Party of the Regions has lost control of regional administrations in about half the country, and most of the others are facing unrest and disturbances. Again, the violence with which the authorities have responded to some of this unrest - notably in Dnepropetrovsk and Cherkasy - is proving difficult for people to stomach. In one region, his party voted to disband itself (!) and in two more the Communist Party, which has always supported it in parliament, has been banned.

The protests have gained a rather surprising ally in the form of groups of "ultras" - football fans from cities all over the country (including from Donetsk, Yanukovych's heartland) - who have sworn to protect peaceful protesters from the attacks of "titushki". Today I saw a video from a group of martial arts practitioners in Kharkiv, again traditional Yanukovych territory, declaring their willingness to defend their city and its citizens against illegal attacks.

People have blockaded barracks of the Berkut riot police to stop them being sent to Kyiv. Mothers of Berkut officers have appealed en masse to them not to go. The mayor of a town has refused them entry, because the town is peaceful. They now usually have their faces covered, or avoid looking at cameras, so as not to be recognizable.

A reserve army lieutenant-general published details of how soldiers could legally decline to be assigned to support the police. And there are rumours that one of the reasons the protests have not already been "cleaned" from the streets by the army is that military personnel are resisting orders to attack their fellow countrymen.

In the last couple of weeks, two of the wealthiest oligarchs in the country, Rinat Akhmetov and Dmitriy Firtash - until now strong supporters of Yanukovych and the Party of the Regions - have as good as abandoned him, unable to stomach the violence which he is inflicting on his people (and also maybe realising, as successful businessmen, that the economic and foreign policy choices he's been making are not to their best future advantage).

It's perhaps surprising that only a couple of the Regions' MPs have resigned from the party, but nevertheless a couple have. And, of course, this week saw the departure of the Prime Minister, Nikolai Azarov, which leaves a substantial group of Party of the Regions MPs without a leader, and thus with less reason to follow the President. Azarov has already left the country - ironically enough, for the EU! (Vienna)

A couple of days ago, parliament was to vote on the question of an amnesty for people arrested during the recent disturbances. It was clear there would an amnesty - the question was, would it be unconditional, or would preconditions be imposed? Sufficient members of the President's party (Akhmetov's group? Firtash's? Azarov's?) were willing to accept an unconditional amnesty that it seemed likely this would get through parliament. Hearing of this, Yanukovych himself made one of his increasingly rare ventures out of one of his heavily-protected homes to address his party. It appears that, basically, he went ballistic, shouting and raging at them, and threatening to introduce a state of emergency if they voted for an unconditional amnesty. The result was that parliament voted for an amnesty which required the protesters to vacate occupied premises, abandon their camps and dismantle all barricades before people who had been arrested would be released. Yanukovych may have succeeded in bullying his party into line, but the result is an "amnesty" that will yield no useful results, because the protesters simply will not comply with the preconditions. Indeed, as one commentator pointed out, to require that legal protests be abandoned in order for illegal arrests to be annulled is absurd and should be ignored. It surely will be.

The following day, it was announced that the President was ill with a "severe respiratory infection" and would be taking a rest from his duties, for an unspecified time ... He found the strength, however, a day later, to sign the repeal of most of the repressive laws he strong-armed through parliament on January 16th.

I think his time is up. Whether he realizes it yet or not is another matter ... 


Time to revive my blog ... So much going on here, and so much to say. Faceless is good for finding and sharing information, but not for anything reflective or analytical. So, back to "The Other Way" ...

Sunday, 22 April 2012


Saturday April 21st
Walking along the streets, in bright, warm sunshine, it's like the whole city is waking up from winter sleep ...

The trees are coming into leaf, pale green and fresh, or blossoming white. The cathedral spire shines brilliantly white and gold against a deep blue sky, its bells ringing out a sweet arpeggio.

People are out and about, many, many people, strolling in leisurely fashion along the broad, tree-lined roads, and the main pedestrian street, Deribasovskaya. And everyone is wearing light clothes - the scarves, gloves, thick coats and fur hats of the very cold winter now seemingly a distant memory - and looking relaxed and happy with the change.

In the parks and gardens people are lounging on benches, chatting, couples have their arms wrapped round each other, and children are running in every direction, freed from the layer upon layer of clothes they are swathed in during the winter.

The fountain in Gorodski Sad (City Garden) sends freshening sprays of water into the air for the first time this year, and a small orchestra tunes up on the bandstand - the tuba's august tone, as it seems to me, sounding a fanfare for the arrival of spring.

The planet reaches that stage of its annual journey through space, where its axial tilt of 23 degrees takes the northern hemisphere that little bit closer to the sun, and the increase in solar warmth works its quickening magic on every cell. Or, as the ancients would have said, the unconquerable sun returns to warm the earth.

"It's time for spring", "When is summer coming?", "I want the winter to end", have been standard refrains in conversation for several weeks now. We have our wish ...

Saturday, 31 March 2012


Today this blog reached 1000 pageviews. I'm really chuffed about that. Thanks to everyone who's contributed even just one of those, and especially to those who've told me they enjoy reading it. It's a nice feeling to know that. :)) More to come!