Chocolate King’s «Peace Plan» With a Hard Centre

Chocolate King’s «Peace Plan» With a Hard Centre

Petro Poroshenko, the billionaire oligarch who won the Ukrainian presidential election with a dubious majority last month, seems to be relying heavily now on his skills as a confectionery magnate. The man known as the Chocolate King, owing to his past industrial dealings, presented a unilateral ceasefire plan this week in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Poroshenko said that state forces under this command would call a halt to military operations «shortly». He said his peace plan would involve an amnesty for armed separatists in Southeastern Ukraine, constitutional reforms and national dialogue. But, like many confectionery products, Poroshenko’s peace offering comes with lots of pretty wrapping and marketing, but with little in the way of substantial quality.

More than two days after the Chocolate King unveiled his peace plan, civilian centers in Eastern cities and towns of Lugansk, Donetz, Slavyansk and Kramatorsk are still coming under fire from tanks and fighter aircraft. Added to this indiscriminate violence ordered by Poroshenko’s regime in Kiev, civilians in the East and South of the country are suffering severe privations of no water and electricity, as well as from food and medical shortages. Even hospitals have not been spared in the withering so-called «anti-terror» onslaught against the ethnic Russian population, which continues unabated. That onslaught is now more than eight weeks old, with a death toll approaching 400; and more than 70 per cent of those casualties are civilian, according to UN figures reported this week.

During Poroshenko’s inauguration speech on June 8, he vowed to «bring peace» to the country «within one week». He won a presidential election held on May 25 with only 55 per cent of votes. But the national turnout for that election was less than 45 per cent. More than half of Ukraine’s eligible voters did not even bother casting their vote. In large parts of the country’s East and South, the turnout was less than 10 per cent. The election was held under the auspices of a regime that seized power illegally earlier in February from the then lawfully elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, who has since fled to Russia under threat of death from the fascist coup organizers.

US President Obama hailed the election of Poroshenko as «a wise choice made by the Ukrainian people». Obama went on to endorse the oligarch figure as a peacemaker and reformist.

Since Poroshenko’s election and much-vaunted inauguration speech, the violence meted out by pro-Kiev military forces and their assorted neo-Nazi paramilitaries belonging to the Right Secktor has escalated. A Russian Investigative Committee this week said it had probed hundreds of serious violations committed by Kiev forces, including the bombing of civilian homes, schools and kindergartens. The Russian committee said it was opening criminal proceedings against the acting Interior Minister in Kiev, Arsen Avakov, and the appointed governor of Dnepropetrovsk, Igor Kolomoysky. Both are charged with the deliberate targeting of civilians and the running of death squads.

Meanwhile, Poroshenko has ordered military forces to seal off the border with Russia, with the claim that the move is aimed at stopping the alleged flow of weapons and mercenaries from Russia into the restive eastern region of Ukraine. Moscow has consistently denied any involvement in Ukraine’s conflict.

Suspicions are deep among ethnic Russian populations in the South and East that Poroshenko is not preparing a peace initiative, but rather an intensification of the two-month-old offensive.  

Denis Pushilin, a leader of the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetz, slammed Poroshenko’s peace plan as «idiotic». He said that he had received no details of how the plan would be implemented and that he had only learned of the proposal through media reports. Pushilin added that Kiev’s agenda amounted to: «Lay down your arms, so that we can capture you unarmed.»

A self-defence militia commander in Donetz, Mikhail Verin, was reported as saying that his men would not be surrendering their weapons. He told media that Poroshenko was «deceiving Russia and the European Union» while playing for time to consolidate forces for further attacks.

Another member of the defence militia dismissed the amnesty proposed by Poroshenko. The man, dressed in military fatigues and carrying a rifle, shrugged with resignation, saying: «Where will we go? They [the Kiev regime] have already said they will put us all in concentration camps.»

Indeed, the premise of the Kiev peace proposal marketed by Poroshenko this week is based on an insidious false premise. Poroshenko said the ceasefire would be short-lived and the purpose was «to allow Russian mercenaries to leave our territory». This premise promotes the propaganda myth put out by Kiev and amplified by Washington and its NATO allies that the conflict in the East and South of Ukraine is all down to Russian subversion and annexation of territory by stealth.

This false narrative lets the real perpetrators of the unrest in Ukraine off the hook – the Western-backed coup plotters who seized power and who have gone on to violently repress any population that resists their illegal rule.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated this misinformation this week when he said: «We call on Russia to stop arming pro-Russian armed gangs and to stop destabilizing the situation in Eastern Ukraine».

So, what happens when the armed defence militia of the newly formed People’s Republics of Donetz and Lugansk refuse to lay down arms at the gunpoint of Kiev forces? What happens when these men and women, who were born and reared on those lands, refuse to pack up their «mercenary gear» and «go back to Russia» as they are portrayed to come from?

That’s when the Chocolate King’s «peace plan» will appear much less a box of niceties of reform, dialogue, amnesty and ceasefire – and more of what it really is – a deadly criminal offensive with a very hard centre.