What can only be described as “show elections” in Ukraine have been promptly followed by combined arms operations in the eastern region of the country. Warplanes, helicopter gunships, heavy armor and troops poured into eastern Ukraine in a blitzkrieg offensive aimed at overrunning the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Both provinces had carried out successful referendums declaring autonomy from what is perceived as many to be an illegitimate regime occupying Kiev.
The day after elections, over 100 people were reportedly killed, including a large number of civilians. Local media broadcast grisly images of dead self-defense forces as well as civilians clearly the victims of artillery and aerial ordnance. In Kiev, Petro Poroshenko, “president-elect,” compared eastern Ukrainians to “Somali pirates,” claiming they were terrorists and that “no civilized country negotiates with terrorists.” Claiming that his Ukraine was most certainly “civilized,” he swore not to negotiate with eastern Ukraine indicating that the brutality seen in Donetsk following elections may just be the beginning of a more widespread armed campaign against what seems to be regarded by Kiev as a separate, enemy state.
Indeed, the military operations being conducted by Kiev appear to be more comparable to an invasion or cross-border punitive operations regularly carried out by NATO members such as Turkey against Kurds in Iraq.
Deeply Flawed Election Quickly Rubber Stamped By NATO-EU
Despite polling not even taking place across much of eastern Ukraine, and no polling at all taking place in what Kiev, the US, EU and others still claim is Ukrainian Crimea, the elections were quickly declared “free and fair.” Citing an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) preliminary report admittedly drafted by the EU and NATO themselves, the US State Department and editorials across the West declared the elections a resounding success.
US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed of the incomplete polling carried out under armed duress that it sent a, “clear message that the country’s people want to live in a united, democratic and peaceful Ukraine anchored in European institutions.” It is still unclear how only one region of the country voting for an oligarch billionaire translates into Ukraine as a whole desiring integration with and subjugation by European institutions.
Despite claims of electoral success and the rubber stamping of legitimacy on the recent elections, the OSCE report itself notes, “intimidation and attacks on political party and campaign offices across the country.” While it only states specifically events that occurred in Donetsk and Luhansk to portray electoral difficulties as being solely confined to the restive east, footnotes in the report reveal that many parties campaigning in the west were also intimidated, attacked, and even prevented by security reasons from campaigning. For example, the report claims “Communist Party offices in Kyiv, as well as in Rivne, Zakarpattya, Vinnytsia, Dnipropetrovsk and Ternopil” were attacked. A BBC video report would even feature armed Neo-Nazis of the Euromaidan occupying the Communist Party’s office in Kiev.
That NATO and the EU openly backed the Euromaidan protests and the subsequent unelected regime that resulted raises suspicions about the veracity and objectivity of their collective OSCE report and the conclusion by Western politicians based on the report that the elections were “free and fair.” What appears to have happened instead, was a rush to lend legitimacy to a political order in Kiev that otherwise had none. After violently seizing power, and with a political order openly led by Neo-Nazis and ultra-right nationalists pursuing what they called “anti-terror” operations in the east that had been going poorly, a lack of legitimacy was hindering attempts by NATO and the EU to lend direct military aid and more direct political backing in efforts by Kiev to consolidate power.
The Disenfranchised East
In the wake of the elections, the blitzkrieg into the east by Poroshenko may be an attempt at “shock and awe,” a deliberate and brutal attempt to terrorize Donetsk and Luhansk back into line and extinguish aspirations of autonomy. Should these eastern regions hold their defenses, Ukraine’s bluster will be exposed, and embolden not only Donetsk and Luhansk to continue moving away from Kiev, but prompt other eastern regions to seek greater autonomy as well.
Additionally, despite attempts by the US and EU to claim the elections are a sweeping mandate for Kiev, the fact that elections were admittedly not held in the east means that those living there are currently unrepresented. This makes current military operations against a disenfranchised region all the more troubling. Kiev’s actions appear to be punitive operations carried out against political dissidents rather than security operations as portrayed by Poroshenko and his US-EU supporters. As the death toll climbs and violence spirals out of control, the noticeable absence of Western human rights organizations and the United Nations calls into question the entire US-EU international order that has rubber stamped the recent elections.
It appears that the “European institutions” Secretary Kerry claimed would anchor a “democratic and peaceful Ukraine” will instead serve as a smokescreen for Kiev to consolidate power behind in a campaign of extreme violence against its own people. It is unlikely that even the people who did manage to vote, voted for that.
Ulson Gunnar is a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”