Separatists vs. leftists (& an oligarch)

Developments in eastern Ukraine have been taking some interesting turns.

Among the themes I’ve been seeing in the coverage are more detailed profiles of the pro-Russian separatists, who are looking ever more like a motley bunch. As noted on this blog before, many have links to far-right groups in Russia. (Some of those groups — like Russkaia Pravda, with its bizarre conspiracy tales of how the Jewish-Masonic “Kiev junta” is planning to massively resettle Hasidic Jews from Manhattan into eastern Ukraine — are pretty outlandish.)

University of Manitoba historian Myroslav Shkandrij‘s account of the Russian mercenearies in Donbas details the criminal and/or neo-Nazi backgrounds of about a dozen of the most prominent pro-Russian separatist figures, including Strelkov/Girkin, “Babai”/Mozhaev, “Dingo”/Ponomarev, and several others. Collectively, their prospects seem to be declining.

Another theme is that left-wing eastern Ukrainians — from coal miners and steel workers to national-communists and anarcho-syndicalists — have either begun to clearly distance themselves from the separatists, or have been doing that all along (if less noticeably).

An example is this interview with Mykola Tsikhno, co-ordinator of the National Communist Front, which models itself on the national communists who were prominent in Ukraine in the 1920s (before getting squashed by Stalinism). Another is this interview with Mykola Volynko, head of the Trade Union of Donbas Miners.

See also Oleh Yasinsky’s statement here, and Marko Bojcun’s Observer Ukraine blog, which has been covering this re-emergence of left-wing voices in eastern Ukraine.

The coal and steel workers who rose up to retake control of Mariupol a few days ago were an indication less of a left-wing uprising (against the pro-Russians) than of a clear move by coal magnate and billionnaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov to distance himself from the pro-Russians. See Yaroslav Koshiw’s analysis of Akhmetov’s “policy shift,” as well as this Kyiv Post piece.

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