A Donetsk Travelogue (II)

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By:Srdja Trifkovic | November 11, 2014

The elections in the two self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine on November 2 resulted in the victory of Aleksandr Zakharchenko in Donetsk and Igor Plotnitsky in Lugansk. The outcome was never in doubt, since the two leaders faced less prominent candidates whose programs were also based on the demand for complete independence from Kiev. In reality it was a plebiscite.

I was invited to Donbas by the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) authorities a month ago to monitor the election as part of a team of 38 observers from 21 countries, and readily accepted the invitation. In my view it was highly desirable to have some elected authorities in place which could be Kiev’s negotiating partners, if and when the Ukrainian government realizes that a political problem demands a political rather than military solution.

Traveling through “Novorossiya” entails passing through numerous checkpoints, but life away from the ceasefire lines has the appearance of normalcy. Steel works have not ceased operating, and the theater in Donetsk advertises numerous winter season performances. The overall impression after visiting six polling stations is that the people were eager to vote. They were prepared to stand in long lines in order to do so, notably so in Novoazovsk, 80 miles south of Donetsk. The atmosphere was relaxed, even though the shaky ceasefire lines were only ten miles to the west. There were Cossack veterans; there was music, ranging from old Soviet estrada to a women’s choir in traditional dress performing Russian folk songs, to the delight of little girls and their grandmothers. In Telmanovo, 40 miles south of Donetsk, hundreds of people turned out to greet our team of foreign observers.

You cannot force people to act in this manner: the claim that this was a vote “under the barrel of the gun” is simply untrue, although there were armed guards at most precincts. These simple folks, mostly miners and farmers, are adamant that they have no future under the current Kiev authorities. They say that nobody here thought of secession until the “putchist” regime came to power last February – not even under the nationalist “Orange” government which came to power a decade ago. Months of indiscriminate shelling of the civilian areas by Ukraine’s armed forces, which is continuing on a daily basis, has hardened the sentiment beyond the point of no return.

The voting rolls were based on the Verkhovna Rada elections two years ago, we were told by exit pollsters, and they were supplemented in recent weeks with the names of new voters who have of age in the meantime. The refugees from the region who are now in Russia, estimated at over half a million, were able to cast absentee ballots at three locations there. Overall, the process appeared to be as democratically valid as could be expected under the extraordinary security circumstances: democratic process as commonly understood in the West is impossible in a war zone. It was essentially legitimate, however – quite apart from the uncertain legality of the exercise, which the Western powers and the Kiev regime strongly dispute. Considering the fact that the government in Kiev itself came to power in a coup d’etat last February 22, in reality both sides in this conflict have revolutionary rather than constitutional credentials. 

While Washington, the European Union and Ukraine deny the validity of the election, it has nevertheless created a new reality on the ground. Russia accepts its outcome and it is to be expected that the Kremlin will now gradually withdraw from the negotiating process and urge the Kiev authorities to talk to the newly elected leaders in Donetsk and Lugansk. That would be a bitter pill to swallow for President Poroshenko and his team. In view of the long, cold winter on the horizon and Ukraine’s ongoing financial and economic collapse, however, they may heed the dictate of expediency. After all, as some observers note, the government of Ukraine has already attached its signature to the Minsk ceasefire agreement in September, which was also signed by Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky.

The alternative to a political settlement, based on Kiev’s acceptance of some form of loose federal arrangement, is not Ukraine’s renewed military offensive: it would probably collapse like the one in August, and Russia is said to have supplied the “Novorussian Armed Forces” with all the hardware they need (manpower is not a problem). It is the creation of yet another post-Soviet frozen conflict, which would not be in the interest of either side. As it happens, it is also the most likely medium-term outcome.



Miles Pilkington
Las Vegas
11/11/2014 05:20 PM

  It is far from proven that there is "indiscriminate shelling of the civilian areas by Ukraine‚Äôs armed forces." To my mind the evidence is the other way. It is also wrong to call what's happening in Donetsk equal to what happened in Kiev. The Maidanists were not calling for separation from Ukraine. And what's happening in Donetsk is really a covert invasion by a foreign country. The terrorists/criminals are led by Russian military and supplied with T-72 tanks. Finally, the government in Kiev knows very well that Putin wants/needs a land connection to Crimea. Political solutions will only be more than provisional once Russia has had its fill of Cargo 200 shipments.

Srdja Trifkovic
11/12/2014 02:21 AM

  It is proven, as it happens. I've been there and seen the results, you have not. "Your mind" relies on MSM "evidence," which is tantamount to utter abdication of critical judgment.

Jim D
Toronto ,Ontario, Canada
11/12/2014 06:07 AM

  Mr. Miles Pilkinton it appears that the las Vegas heat has gone to your head, because you don't make an ounce of sense. There was a UN report not too long ago, that condemned the Ukrainian government for its heavy shelling of largley populated civilian areas. The maidanists who you love so much instigated a violent insurrection that was bought and paid for by the US Neo-cons and their EU stooges. Who want to expand the globalist EU empire and to have NATO incircle Russia. The maidan movement did not represent whole of the Ukrainian people,it was for the most made up of anti-russian zealots and those who drank the EUs kool aide. The people of eastern ukraine rightly feel angry ,that not only does the maidan mob not represent them and their interest but they got into power in the most undemocratic way. On a final note if Russia really did invade, rebel tanks would be in Kiev in a matter of weeks if not days. But that isn't the case contrary to popular propaganda. You Sir need to start living in the real world because you fail to see the big picture. The people responsible for setting the middle east ablaze and the mass slaughter we is daily , are the insane neo-cons and there fellow bandits in NATO. Not Mr Putin and the Russian, a Crimean Russian poses zero threat to the western world. While legions of jihadi barbarians are threat to everyone! Open your eyes and deal with reality or check yourself into a psych ward.

11/12/2014 06:08 AM

  Wow, what a biased article .. No matter how u paint it, it is an election ran by armed thugs observed by jobless monitors. ..Any observer who took part in such an election without Kiev's approval has no dignity....Something to do with money huh? All countries are formed by different ethnics coming together as one. All minority or majority ethnics have a right to vote or stage a mass protest. Its a sovereign Ukrainian territory and there is border for a reason. Nobody told Yanukovych to run away, In fact many Oligarchs asked him to resign but he did not... All of this could have been addressed with new elections in the East but they were afraid that they wont win a Presidential election for a while... Minorities have the right to choose their representative in the parliament..Minorities have a voice but they cannot expect to always rule. These minorities want to rule by any means necessary as long as their god King keeps the ammunition rolling from Russia. I am from Eastern Ukraine and this stupid election does not represent my wish. There are thousands of Russian speakers like me who also opposed the action of these Terrorists. Most have fled while some have been abused, kidnapped or murdered by these armed invaders. So how can you decide that the election has not been forced on people if you saw nothing about the uprising that led to the election?

Jim D
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
11/12/2014 06:10 AM

  Keep up the good work Dr Trifkovic


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