So Tuesday's "Anti-terrorist" operation in Eastern Ukraine didn't exactly go so well, and as a result, the Russian predictions of civil war and a breakup of the country seem pretty damn prescient, rather than propaganda.
Ukraine’s “anti-terrorist operation” against anti-government rebels has proved a spectacular debacle. Soldiers refused to move in on rebel-held positions. The rebels captured six APCs, drove the soldiers into Slovyansk flying the Russian flag, and sent them back on dingy buses, dejected, disarmed, and defeated. Self-appointed “self-defense” commanders who couldn’t even agree on which one of them was in charge disarmed and defeated Ukraine’s army.
On the eve of talks in Geneva between Ukraine, Russia, the U.S., and the European Union on the country’s crisis, Kiev seems to have proven many of the points the Kremlin and its propaganda machine have rammed home for weeks. Eastern Ukraine is in chaos, and Kiev’s central government has no power over large parts of it. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov acts deaf to protesters’ demands, and frightens them with force. Moscow’s calls for a federalized Ukraine with special status for the Russian-speaking southeast, which Kiev and its Western backers decried as tantamount to breakup only weeks ago, now seem inevitable.
Kiev's government has no power outside Kiev itself, and that was proven this week.
Asked what they wanted, nearly all the protesters made identical demands mirroring those voiced on Russian television for weeks about a federalized Ukraine. That, many commentators say, suggests Moscow’s goal may be to destabilize Kiev’s government, which it says is illegitimate, and disrupt presidential elections set for May 25 to help bring a more favorable candidate to power. In any event, the protesters appeared to have succeeded in bypassing Kiev’s ban on Russian state television, which it shut off last month. Many of them would not talk to BuzzFeed without assurances this reporter was not secretly working for oligarch and presidential favorite Petro Poroshenko’s Channel 5, which is seen as having supported protests in Kiev against Yanukovych last winter.
Even some of the soldiers seemed affronted by Kiev’s mixed messages and failure to address the concerns of eastern provinces. “Some people say one thing, others another – it just leads to clashing heads with locals. I don’t know whom to believe anymore,” Dima, 27, a reservist, said. “The only thing we are scared of is armed conflict with the locals. We are not scared of the Russian army,” he added.
So given a choice between Russia and Kiev, a lot of folks in eastern Ukraine are choosing Russia. There's next to nothing that the West can do, so we'll see how all this shakes out. But the practical upshot is Ukraine will not be the same country anymore.
Tuesday I was worried about a shooting war. Now it seems that the government of Kiev is so incompetent and hated that nobody wants to take a bullet for them.