Violence Escalates in Ukraine’s Eastern Regions after Presidential Election
Political economist Aleksandr Buzgalin says negotiations are needed to end the civil war in the east of Ukraine
Political economist Aleksandr Buzgalin says negotiations are needed to end the civil war in the east of Ukraine
ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And here to give us an update on the military operations launched by the Kiev government, as well as the presidential elections in Ukraine, is Aleksandr Buzgalin.
Aleksandr Buzgalin is a professor of political economy at Moscow State University. He is also editor of the independent democratic left magazine Alternatives, a coordinator of the Russian social movement Alternatives, and author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles.
Thanks for joining us, Aleksandr.
ALEKSANDR BUZGALIN, PROF. POLITICAL ECONOMY, MOSCOW STATE UNIVERSITY: Thank you for opportunity to talk with you.
WORONCZUK: So, Aleksandr, give us an update on these military operations launched by the Kiev government in Donetsk, as well as Sloviansk.
BUZGALIN: As you know, future president of Ukraine said that he wants to make more intensive and speed military operation against east part of Ukraine–and now this is new independent republic, new Russian republic. This is game of the words in English. It looks like Russia, but really this is another name, Novorossiya. And he said that it will be new attacks, and we are waiting. And we are very afraid that tomorrow it will be real war between two parts of Ukraine in the past and now between Ukraine and this Novorossiya.
The problem is that today it was again artillery shooting and new victims among just normal people, citizens, women, children, elder people. We had just a few minutes ago report about these victims, killed people, wounded people. And this is, unfortunately, the landscape of these military operations during many days. It was before attack on their truck with wounded people, and there are a lot of such examples of permanent, real civil war.
And this is real tragedy for all countries in our space, because Ukraine is very important for us. This is part of our motherland. This is very close people, country, culture. I hope [it] the same, as far as Russia is concerned, for Ukrainians, and now this is real very big conflict and military conflict. So this is important landscape for these presidential elections in the west and central part of Ukraine.
WORONCZUK: So what do you think that Kiev could do or should be doing to help settle down the civil war that’s taking place in the eastern regions?
BUZGALIN: Well, first of all a few words about presidential elections. It is from one side 50 percent of people who came to vote said yes to Poroshenko, and it looks like a good result and approximately 40 percent of electorate came to vote, according to official information.
But in reality this is big problem, because at least 30 percent of Ukrainians or former citizens of Ukraine now are living in another country–they proclaimed themselves in the referendum as a new territory, new state, and new people. And this is important. And they didn’t participate in the elections. Plus there are a lot of evidence of falsifications and so on. So this is important basis for a big question mark about results of these elections.
But, in any case, we have now future president of Ukraine, and he is oligarch. Again it’s one of the paradoxes. Maidan started as anti-oligarch and anti-bureaucratic movement of masses from below who wanted to stop corruption, who wanted to change unity of bureaucrats and oligarchs and make more democratic, more social economic and political system in Ukraine. As a result, we have now much more militarized system with a lot of centralization of the power and with a president–oligarch as president of the country. So this is very contradictory result, result opposite to the goals of Maidan few months ago.
WORONCZUK: Well, you could also say it’s contradictory in the sense too, perhaps, that–I mean, Poroshenko reportedly did support the Maidan protests.
BUZGALIN: It’s a slogan. Again, it’s like in Russia in early ’90s. When Yeltsin came on the wave of the protests of people against bureaucracies, state and party bureaucracy of Soviet Union, but he was part of this bureaucracy, and after a few months he became new bureaucrat with huge privileges and with unity with future oligarchs and new–Russia’s new bourgeoisie. And then it was shock therapy.
For Ukraine it will be very similar model. Poroshenko came from the same tradition as all former presidents and leaders of Ukraine. He is part of the system which led to the crisis of 2013, crisis which inspirated or created basis for Maidan events. And now he is just playing a role of the opposer who became leader of Maidan movement. Really, he was in some aspects forcer of Maidan movement, and he decided to use this movement for the benefit of his, I don’t know, clan.
This is typical for Russian economy, for Ukrainian economy, clans with oligarch as small king of this clan. Now Poroshenko is not small king of the oligarch bourgeois clan, but he’s now president of at least big part of Ukraine. And this is very profitable for his business and for his circle.
So this is not anti-oligarch and anti-bureaucratic result of Maidan struggle, in any case. And I think that the struggle for democracy, this is future for Ukraine, and I am afraid that it will be third Maidan, as it was [incompr.] first Maidan, and now with second.
But let’s go back to the problem of military conflict. I think the only real opportunity to stop the war is to say, yes, there are a lot of problems with legitimacy of both leaders of Novorossiya and leaders of Kiev system, but we must have negotiations. We must sit together and we must decide what to do in the future. This is big question mark. Of course, there are a lot of big contradictions. But this is the only opportunity to stop the war, negotiations on the basis of the really existing powers.
I don’t like Poroshenko. Some people doesn’t like and don’t like leaders of Donetsk and so on, but there is not another alternative. Either negotiations of these leaders or bloody war, a real civil war which can start even tomorrow, 28 or 29 May, and it will be beginning of a future war in the center of Europe, in the center of the world, and it will be war between people who were friends, who were natives, who were members of one families. It’s like a tragedy when brother is killing brothers, when son is shooting to the father, and so on and so far. This is a really terrible problem.
And I think there is also big and, I can say, even future responsibility of Western leaders, Russian leaders, who must also find a compromise and support, or maybe put even ultimatum for both Kiev and Donetsk leaders and say, either you have negotiations, peaceful negotiations, or we will use all possible and impossible measures to stop the war.
WORONCZUK: Do you think that these military operations will make it more likely that the Russian military will directly intervene?
BUZGALIN: I don’t think that Russian troops will come to Ukrainian–former Ukrainian territory now, territory of Donetsk Republic. But it can be very contradictory situation. And I cannot exclude that leaders of Donetsk, leaders of this new republic will ask Russian troops to defend them.
And when–you must understand, I don’t support Russian troops in the Ukrainian territory. And I think leaders of Russia also don’t want to intervene in the war. But the problem is, when you see tanks, artillery, airplanes, military airplanes killing your friends, your natives, your mother, your daughter, what will you do? You, you ask anybody to defend you, or you will say, okay, we will wait when the hundreds and thousands of people will be killed. This is big challenge and this is big problem.
And I am really very afraid that military operations, which can start Kiev authorities, will lead to the intensification of the conflict. Even if they have a victory–or quasi victory, if I can say so, quasi victory in this struggle against new Russian republic, Novorossiya (new Russian republic is a bad English translation; I’m sorry), it will be partisan war, because these people lost their friends, lost their families sometimes, and they will not stop even if Kiev will have victory and will occupy this territory.
Now the question is that now Kiev will occupy territory of the east of Ukraine, not vice versa. So from my point of view, again, I will use all possible opportunities–your Real News information agency, Russian mass media–I am talking with other journalists, and all my friends do the same. This is a requirement to have possible and impossible pressure of forces in all over the world, in the streets, in the cabinets of the government to stop this military conflict.
WORONCZUK: Is it really fair, though, to characterize the military operations from Kiev in the East as an occupation? One, because, I mean, I’ve heard from a Ukrainian analyst who’s been both critical of Kiev and Moscow that although there is majority support for the political rebellion among the civil society in the East, it’s not a large majority. If I’m not mistaken, one of the polls that–he said it was about 56 percent, and there doesn’t really seem to be much international recognition of the Donetsk Republic as an independent nation.
BUZGALIN: There are three questions in one, your question, so let’s start from the very beginning.
When you make opinion polls in this situation, very similar with civil war and very intensive political struggle, the results of such opinion polls are not very–how to say?–true, and they are very dependent from their questions and so on.
But I think that a big part of population of the center and west of Ukraine really doesn’t like Donetsk rebellion and the creation of new state in this region.
From opposite side, majority of population of east and south of Ukraine, new a new state, they support the creation of new state in these territories.
WORONCZUK: Well, where are you getting that information from, though? What are your sources for that?
BUZGALIN: First of all, it was a real referendum and it was not big falsification. And a lot of my colleagues participated /bjuːʊr/ in this region, and even those who are very critical about Donetsk rebellion and fashion of new state, like /liˌjapənəmariˈjok/–who voted against, by the way, joining of Crimea to Russia and all this stuff. He is in real opposition to all Putin initiatives. But when he came to this region during referendum, he said maybe not 90 percent but more than 50 percent definitely said yes to independence of this region. And this is opinion of many of my friends and colleagues. And I think this is a reality. So we have real division.
Situation is similar with, by the way, destruction of the Soviet Union. In the referendum just before collapse of the Soviet Union, 70 percent of population of Soviet Union said yes for the future unity of all republics of former U.S.S.R. But some republics, big part of population of Baltic republics and some other republics said no, we do not want to be part of the Soviet Union. So what we will say: Latvians must be part of the Soviet Union, and Gorbachev must send tanks, artillery, military airplanes. And if Latvians or Latvians or Estonians don’t want to be part of the Soviet Union, we will kill them or we will use our army against them. The same now. It’s absolutely the same situation. If we did not support attack of Soviet army against Baltic republics in ’91, why we now can support the take of Kiev against the east of Ukraine, who wants to be independent? I cannot understand this.
A second aspect, very important: recognition of this state. I think West and a big part of pro-Western governments will never–not never–will not recognize these states in the nearest future. But we have examples of Pridnestrovie, part of Moldova, which is really independent state, who has very close economic relations with Moldova, permanent conflicts but not military struggle. And this is really independent state, and this is the reality now. The same with Abkhazia. The same with South Ossetia. So there are a lot of other international examples. I just used examples of my big country, former motherland. And this is reality of modern world.
So I think even such situation will be not bad at the beginning. In any case, this is much better than war.
WORONCZUK: Okay. Aleksandr Buzgalin, thank you very much for that report.
BUZGALIN: Thank you for opportunity to express my opinion and to have discussion on this important question.
WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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