The recent rebellion against Brown revolutionary rule in the eastern, Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine erupted in bloodshed today, with four pro-autonomy activists killed in the small city of Kramatorsk. After Russian-speaking activists, with the approval of local authorities, took over administrative and law enforcement buildings in the Donetsk region, the Banderovites began an "anti-terror" operation designed to "liberate" the region from pro-Russian activists.
How ironic it is that the ideological heirs of bloodthirsty terrorists like Bandera and Shukhevych are claiming they are fighting terrorism. Even more ironic is that they are claiming to "liberate" a region, which was seized from Russia by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War and joined to Soviet Ukraine. The region is overwhelmingly (75%) Russian-speaking and ethnic Russians make up almost 40% of its population. What the activists are really demanding, behind all the "Donetsk Republic" rhetoric is not reunion with Russia, but widespread, reasonable autonomy for Russian-speaking regions, where their linguistic, cultural, and economic rights will be protected. The Yanukovych government was taking steps in that direction before it ignobly collapsed.
The unfolding violence in Eastern Ukraine is reminiscent of the turbulent days of the Trans-Dniester conflict in Moldova about a quarter century ago. Then, pro-Russian activists reasonably demanded protection of their linguistic and cultural rights along with a degree of autonomy. Instead, the rabid pro-Rumanian irredentists of the Popular Front who took over Moldova responded with tanks, troops, and mortars, massacring hundreds of people in the towns and villages of Trans-Dniester. With help from the Russian army and sympathetic volunteers, the Moldovan forces were beaten back and since 1992, Trans-Dniester is an independent enclave wedged between Moldova and Ukraine under the protection of Russian peacekeepers.
The currently unfolding crisis could result in three possible outcomes. A modified Trans-Dniester scenario is most likely. Yatsenyuk's forces will be most likely beaten back, with or without Russian help. In any case, the Russian assistance will be unofficial like in Trans-Dniester, and will consist of several hundred special forces soldiers along with some loaned tanks and APCs. After receiving a well-deserved beating, the Brown revolutionary forces will withdraw from Donetsk and Yatsenyuk will have no choice, but to agree to wide-ranging autonomy for Donetsk, hopefully along with Kharkiv, Lugansk, and the Black Sea littoral (Odessa, Nikolaev, etc.). The State Department/EU hydra will of course make the usual howling protests, but will soon realize that it has no choice but to shut up and put up.
A less-likely scenario is the collapse of the pro-autonomy activists and the reassertion of Kiev's control over the Donetsk region. Short-term, yet brutal repressions will follow, orchestrated by the Right Sector and Svoboda neo-nazis. No steps to grant autonomy will be taken and after a few years, a new rebellion by the Russian speakers will erupt.
The third, least-likely scenario could be characterized as the "South Ossetia Option". If the Kiev forces are reckless and rabid enough to bombard the towns and cities of the region and commence mass executions, then Russia would have no choice, but to interfere and drive them out with fire and sword. The Donetsk region would then either declare independence and exist as a Ukrainian South Ossetia or be absorbed into Russia. Needless to say, this scenario is one that both Russia and the West least desire.
Eugene Girin is a New York-based attorney and commentator.