As Solidarity goes to press on 29 April, the conflict in Ukraine is deadlocked. The Ukrainian government has said it will re-take city halls in east Ukraine seized by pro-Russian groups, but has made few moves so far.
Evidently the Ukrainian government is worried that any armed clash will give the Russian army an excuse to invade and claim it is only keeping the peace.
The US and the EU have announced new sanctions aimed at making Russia back down and use its influence to unwind the city hall coups in east Ukraine. But they have been unable to reach agreement. The US and the EU are targeting different lists of individuals, and both, so far, have limited themselves to targeting individuals. The Western big powers are worried that larger sanctions would hurt them — through loss of gas supplies from Russia, and of lucrative financial dealings with Russia — more than they would hurt Russia’s government.
Their diffidence was highlighted on 28 April, when former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder celebrated his 70th birthday in St Petersburg with Russian president Vladimir Putin as a favoured guest. The German government dissociated itself from Schroder, but the celebration highlights the large Western capitalist interests linked to Russia for whom Ukraine is an embarrassment rather than an issue of principle.
The Ukrainian cabinet (24 April) has formulated a law for local autonomy for districts within Ukraine, and promised it will keep Yanukovych’s law allowing for Russian to be used as a second official language. These concessions have had no visible effect in east Ukraine.
The Russian government has said that it has no intention of invading east Ukraine, and that it is withdrawing the 40,000 troops massed on the border. But the Russian government had already denied that it had troops massed on the border. NATO chiefs say that they see no evidence of large troops withdrawals.
The mayor of Kharkhiv, the largest city in east Ukraine, was shot and seriously injured on 28 April. He had previously been pro-Yanukovych, but is anti-separatist: we have no news of why he was shot, and by whom.
We have no fresh news of the Ukrainian left, either. In Moscow, Russian leftist academic Madina Tlostanova has condemned “an alarming revival of old-fashioned geopolitics with its familiar notions of lebensraum and heart-land and rim-land, and once again, an attempt to transcend the downtrodden contemporary reality of Russia as a paradoxical poor North through some sacred imperial mission”.
• Support for Ukraine’s right to national self-determination, and self-defence if necessary’
• Demand the Western governments cancel Ukraine’s foreign debt
• Support the Ukrainian left in its efforts to build a “third force” against both Russian imperialism and the oligarch-dominated Kiev government.