Reporting from Slavyansk demonstrates that a man who has been claimed by the unelected government of Kiev to be Russian special forces is in fact not a member of Russian special forces.
This is a follow-on to my previous diary which linked a Robert Parry article that reviewed NY Times reporting by Michael aluminum tubes Gordon to show how it amounted to a retraction of a claim that Russian soldiers are leading the unrest in Eastern Ukraine.
Simon Shuster, Time Magazine now adds to our reasons to be skeptical about the claim that Russians are leading the unrest with the following:
Over the past week, authorities in Kiev have released photographs that purport to prove that Mozhaev is an agent of the Russian military intelligence service known as GRU, and they have shared that information with senior Western diplomats and some reporters. This claim has been at the center of their narrative that Russian special forces, controlled by the Kremlin, have taken over towns in the Donbass, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine.and, more generally,
Mozhaev and his comrades took control of Slavyansk about a week ago. But over the past few days there has been no evident sign that they are receiving material support from Russia.
The ranks of the so-called “green men” who are running Slavyansk, in contrast to those troops [in Crimea], appear to be made up mostly of war veterans, itinerant pro-Russian nationalists and ethnic Cossacks from across the former Soviet Union.In Crimea, there never was any doubt that Russian soldiers who were legally-based in Crimea, had left their bases and (illegally) seized control of Crimea; we may note that they did so in the context of the illegal removal from power of Ukraine's president, who was a very bad--though legally elected--man. There's a lot of moral ambiguity there.
But Eastern Ukraine is a different kettle of fish. There were no Russian soldiers based there. So, if Russian soldiers were leading the unrest, that would represent a dramatic escalation, and one that could not be defended by the claim that Eastern Ukraine is a vital Russian interest. It isn't; Crimea always has been.
Now, are there Russian soldiers in Eastern Ukraine? Maybe. But the case that they are leading the unrest is increasingly shaky. As is the case that the unelected government is one that we should support and as is the case that atrocities reported in Eastern Ukraine should be regarded as anything more significant than the usual man's inhumanity to man. It looks more and more as if paramilitary forces in Eastern Ukraine are more comparable to the Michigan Militia than the Michigan National Guard.
We should not be rushed into belligerency. In the coming weeks, American soldiers and sailors will be, metaphorically, eyeball to eyeball with Russian soldiers and sailors. While their numbers are small enough that no one imagines they're there to conquer Russia, imagine how we would feel about Russian soldiers and sailors operating from Canada.
In fact, we don't need to imagine. We can just remember what happened during the Cuban missile crisis, and how close we came to incinerating the world. It only takes one miscalculation, and one commander less concerned about innocent humanity than Vasily Archipov reportedly was then to lead to open conflict.
I don't think that's where we're heading. But I am convinced that the US is using Ukraine as a proxy to harass Russia and that the game could easily get out of hand. I think a fair review of the evidence will lead any except the ideologically-committed to see that this is a time for caution, not belligerency.
Update. Timely words from Nat Parry, Bob's brother:
Ukraine has Europe’s third-largest shale gas reserves at 42 trillion cubic feet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.If the West controls those reserves, then Russia loses all leverage over Europe. That's not necessarily a good thing, since in foreign policy, good relationships are between equals. But since Russia has used energy as a club over Ukraine, it could also help to equalize that relationship.
Whatever the result is, it shouldn't be accomplished in order to benefit the western oil and gas companies that are so deeply invested in Ukraine.
Update: Eternal Hope diaried on the Ukraine, and has more links exposing how many of the "green men" in Ukraine are not Russian Army. And, also, an allegation that Horlivka City Councilman Volodymyr Rybak was abducted and murdered on Russian orders.