Today (April 7th) marks the second time in about a month that Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk oblast, which is dominated by Russian-speakers, has declared independence. (The first time, in early March, shortly before Russia’s annexation of Crimea, was reported at the time in this blog.) That time (as also reported in this blog), the ringleader, Pavel Gubarev of the Donbas People’s Militia (Donbas being the name for this border region), was arrested by Ukrainian authorities shortly after he invited Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, to send in the military to “protect” the fledgling republic. This time, it might not end so quickly.
For one thing, today’s pro-Kremlin street-politics offensive is multi-pronged. On the same day, oblast government buildings were taken over in two other capitals of eponymous Russian-speaking oblasts, Kharkiv and Luhansk, as part of a cat-and-mouse game between pro-Russian mobs (many of them clearly agents provocateurs bused in by Moscow) and pro-unity ethnic Ukrainians. (Some Russian-speakers and ethnic Russians side against the separatists, too, but figures are hard to come by.) The city of Kharkiv is a particularly symbolic prize because it was the capital of a pro-Bolshevik republic during the Russian Civil War, shortly after the Russian Revolution of 1917, while Ukrainian nationalists based in Lviv and Kyiv defended doomed Menshevik redoubts in what is now Ukraine’s west. The Kharkiv republic eventually became the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic within the U.S.S.R. The latest word, however, from Ukraine’s interior ministry, is that pro-Ukrainian forces have retaken the Kharkiv government buildings.
|The scene today under the Lenin statue (in Donetsk or Kharkiv?).|
|The Council of Donbas. That is the Donetsk coat-of-arms at top.|
|This Council of Donbas member seems to be wearing a “Free Pavel Gubarev” t-shirt.|
(Russian media report that Ukrainian authorities have tortured him in prison.)
|This weirdly ornate, czarist-looking (?) flag was brandished by a|
Russian ultranationalist today in Donetsk after the declaration of independence.
The Ukrainian government is in crisis mode. Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s minister of the interior, has recently arrived in Kharkiv, while Vitaly Yarema, the first deputy prime minister, was en route to Donetsk, as was Yulia Tymoshenko, the anti-Kremlin opposition leader who was jailed during the tenure of Ukraine’s recently impeached pro-Kremlin president, Viktor Yanukovych. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Andriy Deshchytsya, told Russian media today that if Russia sent the military into eastern Ukraine then the two countries would enter a state of war.
|They haven’t yet made flags that add “People’s.”|
|The scene today in Luhansk. (Flag on left is unidentified.)|
|Pro-Kremlin activists take over the state security service building in Luhansk.|
[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas. The book is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014. I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news. Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]