July 5, 2016 –
By Eduard Popov for Fort Russ
Translated by J. Arnoldski
During the night of July 4th-5th in the city of Toretsk (formerly Dzerzhinsk) in the Donetsk region of Ukraine currently controlled by the UAF, a group of people barricaded the highway in an attempt to block the re-deployment of UAF military vehicles. Some sources report that the number of protesters was no more than 100 people, while others claim that their number was several times higher.
This event was reported by all Russian, Ukrainian, and many international media outlets, so I will not retell the generally known details. Instead, I will discuss the causes and possible consequences of this rebellion. The sources of my conclusions are media reports, information collected from Ukrainian social networks, and information obtained from my friends in the cities of Ukrainian-controlled Donbass.
The first and main conclusion to be drawn is that the population of Donbass hates the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian occupational troops. On May 11th, 2014, a referendum was held in the cities of Donbass in which the majority of residents voted for seceding from Ukraine and forming the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. The results of this referendum were violated by the Ukrainian authorities. In addition, many of these cities were subjected to shelling by Ukrainian “liberation” troops while the inhabitants of these cities, including the people of Toretsk, await the arrival of the liberation army of the DPR. This is a reality…
The second conclusion is that active members of the Russian uprising in Donbass are either in the DPR or LPR or have been arrested by the SBU (the Ukrainian analogue of the Gestapo). The least passionate supporters of the Russian World, or simply apolitical people are the ones who have stayed behind in Ukrainian Donbass. Thus, any rebellion in Donbass will be spontaneous. Its reason will not be political goals, but some kind of social impulse. This is what happened last spring in Konstantinovka when a spontaneous rebellion erupted against Ukrainian troops who shot dead a young mother and her child in a stroller. It is likely that the events in Toretsk have been caused by a similar event.
Third conclusion: the Ukrainian government has drawn some lessons from the uprising in Konstantinovka and is trying to avoid repeating mistakes such as the systematic violation of traffic rules by Ukrainian soldiers and wild races with their armored personnel carriers through city streets. Such events are not so audible anymore (at least my sources have not reported any such incidents). But has the Ukrainian government done anything to make the “Ukrainian” (for now) population of Donbass its own?
Conclusion four: No! Ukrainian politicians demonstrate a complete lack of strategic thinking. They pushed the residents of the DPR and LPR out of the legal, economic, and social space of “united Ukraine.” For example, the residents of the Donbas republics do not receive their pensions, for which they have to travel to one of Ukraine’s cities in Donbass and stand in massive quests and go through humiliating procedures. Ukraine refuses to pay for delivering gas to the Donbass republics, while Russia does. Ukraine blocked bank cards from receiving salaries and deprived Donbass residents of their savings. Ukraine has also imposed an economic blockade against the Donbass republics (which is often violated thanks to the total corruption of Ukrainian military men).
Is Ukraine doing anything “strategic” in turn? It is carrying out total repression of dissent and using the state propaganda machine for everything. It does this, as a rule, very clumsily. For example, on Independence Day all children and primary school students were dressed up in Ukrainian embroidered shirts (vyshivanki) and forced to sing Ukrainian songs and read the poetry of Taras Shevchenko (an entirely mediocre poet canonized only by Ukrainian nationalist mythology). What do such policies lead to? Total hatred for all things Ukrainian.
The author of these lines knows many people who until recently considered themselves Ukrainians, but now as a matter of principle call themselves Russians. A persistent rejection of everything Ukrainian is an important part of their Russian self-consciousness. The Ukrainian idea was created as an antithesis to the Russian one, and now those people in Ukraine who deliberately defy “Ukrainianness” and experience hatred for it are those becoming Russians.
Conclusion five: without the help of the DPR and LPR, the local population of Ukrainian Donbass is incapable of overthrowing the Ukrainian occupational regime. The balance of forces is a bit uneven as the cities of Ukrainian Donbass have become hubs for the concentration of a huge number of personnel and military equipment. The SBU inactively and harshly punishes any manifestations of discontent. Despite this, there are many in the occupied cities of Donbass who are willing to join the ranks of the DPR and LPR armies, many of whose serving fighters are from the occupied part of Donbass.
I believe that the most sober minded Ukrainians understand all of this and, most likely, they know better than me the numerous details and factors that escape the sidelined observer. According to some reports, some Ukrainian army representatives are ready to abandon several cities of Donbass where “separatist” moods are especially strong. But this will hardly happen, for Ukrainian thinking is not so strategic. On the contrary, as the reactions to the events in Toretsk show, tried and tested violent methods of suppressing protests will be used. Ukrainian media and social networks have already dubbed the rebellion a riot of “alcoholics and ex-convicts.” Here, for example, is what “Liliya Ukrainskaya” writes about the former mayor of Toretsk (Dzerzhinsk) and supporter of the Russian World, Vladimir Sleptsov: “I would not be surprised if it turns out that yesterday’s orgy was organized by this man.” Another account engaged in analyzing how insufficiently patriotic Konstantinovka’s press was, to the point that it listed facts “sufficient” to warrant repression against “separatist” journalists and editors.
Thus, instead of searching for the deep reasons (or even scratching the surface) for mass and total hatred for the Kiev regime on the part of the local population of Donbass, the few supporters of the Kiev regime call for resorting to mass repression. They prefer to seek the root of the problem in the machinations of “separatists” or even Russia. This is a manifestation of the infantile traits of Ukrainian consciousness which must always and for everything seek the causes of failures not in itself but in others. This immaturity of Ukrainian consciousness is coupled with cruelty. Today, this cruelty is experienced by Ukraine’s Russians, and during the Second World War (and during the Khmelnitsky and Haidamaka uprisings), it was felt by Poles and Jews. What will happen tomorrow? The slogan “Knives for Magyars (Hungarians)” can already be heard in Transcarpathian Uzhgorod. And it seems that not only Hungarians, but also the Bulgarians and Romanians of Ukraine have heard and begun to take into account these threats.
For me there is no doubt that Ukraine has forever lost Donbass – not only the current territories of the DPR and LPR, but all of Donbass. The events in Toretsk do not mean the preparation of a Russian uprising in Donbass, but they do speak to something even worse for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian idea: the fact that the absolute disparity of forces and the inevitability of brutal repression by the SBU has not stopped the city’s residents from protesting. Ukraine has two choices: either destroy all “separatists” (the entire population of Donbass) or forever leave Donbass. We can see a combination of both options in the future. But in the end, Ukraine will be simply kicked out of Donbass no matter what.