Asian Century Journal

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Putin Escalates Conflict As Four Ukrainian Oblasts Conduct Self-Determination Referenda

By Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan

 

As early as October 2021, when Russia began a massive buildup of troops and military equipment along its border with Ukraine, I forecast that if Russia goes into a full-blown military support for the separatists of the Donbas Region comprising the Luhansk and Donetsk, the conflict on the ground would necessarily spillover to other oblasts.

Broadcasting over GNN-TV, I said if Vladimir Putin wanted to be resolute in providing a complete buffer zone between Russia and the rest of Ukraine, it would completely seal off the latter from the Sea of Asov that now has Ukraine west of it and Russia on the east.

 That means conflict will metastasize to the rest of the eastern Ukrainian oblasts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherzon, south of Donetsk in the north and north of Crimea.

Most of this region from Luhansk at the north to Kherson to the south have been industrialized and urbanized by Russia when Ukraine was still part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

This was why Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station was positioned there becoming the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and among the 10 largest in the world. The plant has six VVER-1000 pressurized light water nuclear reactors (PWR), that has a for a total power output of 5,700 MWe. The oblast also has a thermal (non-nuclear) power station with an installed capacity of 2,850 MWe.

But perhaps the most urgent taken into consideration is the clear and present threat to the independence of the Donbas Region, is the southern Donetsk city of Mariupol almost bordering Zaporizhzhia, that was recaptured by Asov, when it was still a battalion, a development that earned for it official integration into the National Guard of Ukraine on November 2014 and exacting high praise from then-President Petro Poroshenko.

According to Al Jazeera, Azov is a far-right all-volunteer infantry military unit whose members – estimated at 900 – are ultra-nationalists and accused of harboring neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology.

The unit was initially formed as a volunteer group in May 2014 out of the ultra-nationalist Patriot of Ukraine gang, and the neo-Nazi Social National Assembly (SNA) group. Both groups engaged in xenophobic and neo-Nazi ideals and physically assaulted migrants, the Roma community and people opposing their views.

Kyiv Post reported that on 24 January 2015, Mariupol came under an indiscriminate rocket bombing by separatists, 11 km east of Mariupol, stoking fears of a third offensive against Mariupol. A month after, the Azov Regiment responded by a surprise offensive against separatists in Shyrokyne.

Asov as reinforced by the Ukrainian Army and Air Assault Forces as well as Donbas Battalion of the National Guard, and the independent volunteer battalions Ukrainian Volunteer Corps and the Chechen Muslim Sheikh Mansur Battalion, crossed through the Donetsk People’s Republic lines, enabling the Azov Regiment to quickly capture the towns of Shyrokyne, Pavlopol and Kominternove beginning to advance to create a buffer zone to prevent more bombings of Mariupol and push the separatists forces back into Novoazovsk.

The Ukrainian forces, however, were stopped halfway as they moved east by heavy artillery and armored vehicles and by February 12 the separatists launched an all-out counter-offensive which resulted in heavy losses for Azov. Azov and the rest of the Ukrainian forces retreated from Sakhanka into Shyrokyne.

So when Russia decided to occupy positions on February 2022, primarily to protect the southern side of the Donbas Region, one of the first targets had to be Mariupol.

Writing for The Nation, Ukrainian affairs writer Lev Golinkin wrote in The Nation that “Post-Maidan Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces.”

The official position of the Ukrainian government, however, is that since 2017 the unit has depoliticized itself. Following its integration into the National Guard a number of experts and commentators have claimed that the radical right-wing ideology associated with the battalion has become more marginal, or that it does not make sense to describe it as a “neo-Nazi” regiment.

The United States military actually started training the Asov Regiment for four months but stopped on 12 June 2015, as its House of Representatives passed an amendment blocking any aid (including arms and training) due to its neo-Nazi background and connections.

The Russian Supreme Court declared on August 2022 that the regiment as a terrorist organization.

Beginnings

The Ukrainian-Russian war did not start when Russia started moving into the Ukrainian territory early this year.

 It was the Maidan or Orange Revolution taking place in Ukraine in February 2014 that provided the root cause of this conflict, culminating in the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, and his replacement with a pro-West regime.

 That regime change was built up by American non-governmental organizations fronted by the Omidyar Network (the organization that funds Rappler in the Philippines). Footprints of the International Crisis Group based were also evident. This transnational non-profit thinktank based in Belgium and founded in 1995, is touted to use by policymakers and academics, performing research and analysis on global crises to prevent wars and shape policies that will build a more peaceful world.

But look who are the personalities behind ICG – George Soros, Mark Malloch Brown, Morton Abramowitz and Stephen Solarz, known regime change architects, two of whom – Brown and Solarz – were directly involved in the first colored revolution – the People Power Revolution in the Philippines, coded as “yellow”.

Abramowitz is on the board of organizations affecting US policy, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) aka overt CIA, involving himself with both the Afghan mujahidin and Kosovo Albanian rebels. And wasn’t it George Soros that Malaysian prime minister Mohammad Mahathir called a “moron” and accused him of causing the Asian financial crisis of 1997 reversing decades of economic development that propelled tens of millions into the middle class.

Nevertheless, the ICG itself reported that since 2014 the armed conflict affecting the Donbas Region has killed over 14,000 people.

This is unfortunate because between September 2014 and February 2015, Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany signed so-called Minsk agreements, which were meant to stop the forward movement of troops and reduced fighting significantly.

 But ICG admitted Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 were never implemented, and the fighting transformed into a trench war, with roughly 75,000 troops facing off along a 420-km-long front line cutting through densely populated areas.

 The war ruined the area’s economy and heavy industries, forced millions to relocate and turned the conflict zone into one of the world’s most mine-contaminated areas.

Losing territory

 The case of the Donbas Region (Luhansk and Donestk), Zaporizhzhia and Kherson becoming states is not a case of Russia acquiring new territories by force of war, but first of Ukraine losing territories through revolt.

Russia formally recognized the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk on February 21, 2022 before it launched its offensive into Ukraine, but the matter of the new states joining the Russian Federation, as Crimea did, is totally different issue that occurs after they have acquired their independence.

Paradoxically, it was US President Woodrow Wilson, as president of the United States, who conceived of self-determination as a basis for offering the peoples of the Austro-Hungarian empire more rights and for rebuilding order on new, more democratic principles after World War I.

So, the crucial process of birthing self-determination has begun through the referenda in Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson starting last September 23.

Organizers said 89 percent of those who cast ballots Sunday in the Donetsk region and about 96 percent of those who turned out in Luhansk voted for sovereignty for the sprawling areas that lie along Russia’s border and form Ukraine’s industrial heartland. Photo by Maxim Shipenkov | EPA
 

Ballots in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia ask the question: “Are you in favor of secession from Ukraine, formation of an independent state by the region and its joining the Russian Federation as a subject of the Russian Federation?”

That is a three-step transition.

Expectedly, the referenda have dramatically raised the stakes of Moscow’s seven-month invasion.

As polling got underway, Ukrainian forces said they were clawing back territory from the Moscow-backed separatists, contesting territory the Kremlin seeks to control.

Expectedly, the referenda in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, as well as in the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions have been dismissed as a “sham” by Kyiv’s Western allies.

 “We cannot — we will not — allow (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to get away with it,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the UN Security Council.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the referenda as a “farce”.

 The referenda are reminiscent of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, as western capitals also alleged that a similar vote then was fraudulent, subsequently hitting Moscow with sanctions.

However, as we have said earlier, this is not a case of Russia acquiring new territories by force of war, but first of Ukraine losing territories through revolt.

Just as speeches by western leaders were being delivered in the UN General Assembly, Vladimir Putin announced Moscow would use “all means” to protect its territory — which former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev said on social media could include the use of “strategic nuclear weapons”.

On September 21, 2022, Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia’s first mobilization since World War Two and backed a plan to annex swathes of Ukraine.

In the biggest escalation of the Ukraine war since Moscow’s February 24 offensive into Ukraine, the Russian president explicitly raised the spectre of a nuclear conflict, approved a plan to annex a chunk of Ukraine the size of Hungary, and called up 300,000 reservists.

Citing NATO expansion towards Russia’s borders, Putin reasoned out that the West has been plotting to destroy his country, engaging in “nuclear blackmail” by allegedly discussing the potential use of nuclear weapons against Moscow, and accused the United States, the European Union and Britain of encouraging Ukraine to push military operations into Russia itself.

In a televised address to the nation, he asserted, “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people.”

“This is not a bluff,” Putin quipped.

Entire territory to be part of the Russian Federation shown in pink, with zone      at Luhansk and Donetsk controlled by separatists before the February 2022 Russian offensive (above) and Crimea that joined the Russian Federation in 2014 (below).
 

 
<strong>Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan</strong>
Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan

is the anchor of Ang Maestro – the Unfinished Revolution at Radyo Pilipinas1, co-host of Opinyon Ngayon at Golden Nation Network Television, a political analyst, and author of books.

His third book, The Poverty of Power will soon be off-the-press. It is a historiography of controversial issues of spanning 36 years leading to the Demise of the Edsa Revolution and the Rise of the Philippine Phoenix.
Paglinawan’s past best sellers have been A Problem for Every Solution (2015), a characterization of factors affecting Philippine-China relations, and No Vaccine for a Virus called Racism (2020) a survey of international news attempting to tracing its origins.

These important achievements earned for him to be named one of the 2021 international laureates for the Awards for the Promotion of Philippine-China Understanding.

Ado, as he called for short, was a former press attaché and spokesman of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and the Philippines’ Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.

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