FOREIGN AFFAIRS: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Russia ups the ante, but faces backlash in Ukraine
, May 10, 2014
As this issue of News Weekly goes to press, the international human rights organisation, Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), has expressed deep concern that Moscow is using its own special forces and pro-Russian organisations in eastern Ukraine to justify military intervention.
HRWF is urging all the involved parties to solve the crisis through dialogue.
Mustafa Dzhemilev, leader
of the Crimean Tatars.
Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and the United States agreed, during recent talks in Geneva, that illegal military groups in Ukraine must be dissolved, and that those occupying government premises must be disarmed and leave.
But the separatists’ spokesman in the city of Donetsk said that the Kyiv government was “illegal”, and vowed they would not go until it stepped down.
In this difficult situation, Vitaly Naida, one of the counter-intelligence chiefs of the Secret Service of Ukraine (the SBU), said that Russian servicemen had been given the task of killing a few hundred people in eastern Ukraine, in order to legitimise a Russian decision to send regular troops into Ukraine.
He released audio tapes of conversations between Russian special forces and their headquarters in Moscow.
He said: “The main goal of the Russian special forces on the territory of Ukraine is to destabilise the situation to a maximum level.
“Moreover, the intercepted talks give us information, and it is sad to say it that the country which declared itself as ‘fraternal’ has given the task to its special forces to shed blood on the streets of our cities.
“The recorded talks clarified that they should kill 100-200 people, and a half of an hour later Russian troops and armoured personnel carriers would be put into the territory of Ukraine.”
Naida repeated earlier claims that the units involved were the 45th Separate Intelligence Brigade of Guards, which is headquartered in the town of Kubinka, Moscow Oblast.
“These are the Russian special forces that seized the buildings of Verkhovna Rada and the Cabinet of Ministers of Crimea,” he said.
Naida added that these special forces get their commands from Ihor Strelkov (call-sign Stryelok), a senior officer in Russia’s military intelligence service (the GRU), who has been in charge of the seizures of Ukrainian state buildings in Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Kherson and Odessa.
According to Naida, the 45th Separate Intelligence Brigade of Guards also participated in Russia’s campaign in Chechnya and its occupation of part of Georgia.
In another move which shows how Russia has strengthened its hold over Crimea, the leader of the Crimean Tatars — the ethnic Turks whom Stalin forcibly deported from Crimea to Siberia in the 1940s, and who have drifted back to their ancestral homes over the past 60 years — has been banned from returning to Crimea for the next five years.
When Mustafa Dzhemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatars, was at the border between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine, on his way to Kyiv, he was given a letter which stated that the authorities had signed an order “to ban a foreigner, Mustafa Dzhemilev, born on November 13, 1943, citizen of Ukraine, entering the territory of the Russian Federation ... for the term of five years, until April 19, 2019”.
The ban came just days after Mustafa was awarded Turkey’s highest award, the Order of the Republic, from that country’s president in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
Russia’s action will no doubt lead Turkey to consider refusing to permit the transit of Russian warships out of the Black Sea into the Mediterranean. All shipping from the Black Sea must pass through the Turkish Straits to enter the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, Russia’s state media reported that five people had been killed in a gun attack on a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian activists near the town of Sloviansk, a city in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s interim authorities have appealed for national unity and promised to meet some of the demands of pro-Russian protesters. These include the decentralisation of power and guarantees for the status of the Russian language.
Orthodox Easter messages from patriarchs in Kyiv and Moscow have highlighted the deep division in Ukraine.
The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Filaret, accused Russia of “aggression” against Ukraine.
In his Easter message, he said: “Against our peace-loving nation, which voluntarily gave up nuclear weapons, there has been aggression; there has been injustice.
“A country which guaranteed the integrity and inviolability of our territory has committed aggression. God cannot be on the side of evil, so the enemy of the Ukrainian people is condemned to defeat.
“Lord, help us resurrect Ukraine.”
In Moscow, Patriarch Kirill appealed for peace, saying it “should reign in the hearts and minds of our brothers and sisters by blood and by faith”.
But he also asserted that Ukraine was “spiritually and historically” at one with Russia, and he prayed for it to have authorities that were “legitimately elected”, a criticism of the protest movement which ultimately forced the resignation in February of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President, Viktor Yanukovich.