In an ominous sign that the war in Ukraine is set to further escalate, US state department official Victoria Nuland arrived in Kiev where she met with senior members of the Western-backed regime.
In recent days the ceasefire brokered on September 5 has come under intense pressure as Kiev military forces have stepped up their barrage of the eastern city of Donetsk, with several civilian casualties reported almost on a daily basis.
As civilian homes burn in Donetsk, the Kiev regime has also begun openly talking about resuming its war footing by «raising combat readiness» and mobilising new army units toward the eastern Donbass regions, where it is trying to suppress a pro-independence movement in the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
For the past month, the Kiev regime has been talking out of both sides of its mouth. At times it has been declaring commitment to a ceasefire brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At other times, hardliners in the regime have been warning that there was no such truce in practice, and that it was on the verge of an all-out war with Russia.
All the while, the putative ceasefire has been in tatters largely because Kiev’s forces have refused to withdraw from the conflict lines and continued to shell civilians centres.
Now the Kiev President Petro Poroshenko has flipped to a strident war rhetoric. In a televised appearance this week, the former industry tycoon had swapped his tie and suit for military uniform, and was warning that forces under his command were ready to use «modern fighting techniques».
Poroshenko said that «Ukraine has transferred its economy to a military footing and will provide everything possible for the Ukrainian army to be stronger». This while his bankrupt country owes Russia $5.3 billion in unpaid gas bills.
Last week his hardline Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk declared that Kiev’s military had been replenished with new equipment and winter gear.
The timing of this renewed militarism across the board in Kiev’s political leadership – together with increasing violations of the ceasefire in the east – seems more than coincidental with the arrival of eminence grise Victoria Nuland.
Nuland, who is Assistant Secretary of State to John Kerry, hasn’t been in Kiev since March. For the past seven months, she has taken a noticeably low profile with regard to Ukraine. Her absence was no doubt aimed at deflecting from her earlier controversial involvement in overseeing the CIA-backed coup on February 22, when the elected government of then President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed by the fascist cabal headed up by Yatsenyuk.
Two weeks before that coup, Nuland had been caught in a private phone call with the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, plotting on the shape of the new regime, with Yatsenyuk nominated as the point man. Nuland was also caught disparaging the European Union with expletives, in a clear signal that Washington was taking the driving seat to install the new regime, headed up by their man «Yats».
Yatsenyuk’s Fatherland Party and the neo-Nazi Svoboda party, with its Right Sector stormtroopers, have dominated the regime’s anti-Russia policies ever since. Following a secret visit to Kiev in April by CIA director John Brennan, the regime embarked on a massive military offensive to suppress dissident ethnic Russian populations in the east of the country who were refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the US-backed coup.
That offensive – dubbed an anti-terror operation – has been largely under-reported by Western news media, even though it has resulted in more than 3,600 deaths and up to one million refugees. Most of the casualties have been civilian, with a Russian Investigative Committee reporting last week that at least 2,500 people have been killed from indiscriminate shelling of civilian centres in Donetsk and Luhansk by Kiev forces. The latter comprise regular army units, as well as neo-Nazi paramilitaries belonging to the so-called National Guard and various private militia (death squads) run by pro-Kiev oligarch figures, such as Igor Kolomoisky.
Both Washington and Brussels have obfuscated this terror campaign by affecting to give it legality by referring to the Kiev regime as the «government of Ukraine». Washington and Brussels have also amplified Kiev’s diversionary propaganda accusing Russia of covert aggression and destabilising the Donbass regions. Moscow has consistently denied any involvement; and Western governments, the Kiev regime and NATO have not produced a shred of verifiable proof to support their tendentious claims against Russia.
Russia’s President Putin and the OSCE chairman, Didier Burkalter, who is also the Swiss president, this week reiterated that all sides in the Ukrainian conflict must abide by the terms of the ceasefire signed in Minsk on September 5.
But it seems that Kiev is now moving to dispel any pretence of recognising that ceasefire.
Since the truce was called – and apparently signed up to by Kiev’s President Poroshenko – the pro-independence Russian-speaking militia in Donbass have claimed that Kiev’s forces were only using the lull in violence as an opportunity to regroup.
Speaking on September 8, Donetsk People’s Republic deputy premier Andrei Purgin said: «They are doing what was impossible without truce conditions. All the movements of convoys would have been impossible. During the truce, convoys of combat vehicles are reaching destinations and preparing for attacks.»
Poroshenko’s public role in all this seems to have been to give an outward impression of adhering to a cessation and paving the way for political dialogue with the dissident regions.
However, that impression has to be set against continual breaches of the ceasefire and mounting civilian casualties by his forces, relentless anti-Russian rhetoric from the hardliners like Yatsenyuk, and the supply of military aid to the Kiev regime from Washington – the last tranche worth $53 million was announced while Poroshenko was being feted in the White House three weeks ago.
This week on the day that Nuland landed in Kiev, the regime announced what many suspected all along – that it was merely using the month-old ceasefire as a tactical launchpad to redouble its military operations.
Andrey Lysenko, Kiev’s National Defence and Security Council spokesman, said on Monday: «We have managed to upgrade the equipment currently in service, to get new armaments, and to reorganise and retool the defence industries that manufacture armaments and repair hardware.» He added: «We have also managed to regroup our forces, to carry out deep reconnaissance and to gather more information about the enemy. We have completed the third wave of mobilisation. We have replaced the units that needed that, we gave them a chance to have some rest after heavy fighting and to get back to normal».
By «normal», Lysenko means «terrorising civilians in eastern Ukraine».
This underscores what Poroshenko has in recent days said about «the economy moving to a war footing».
The sinister sign is that the Kiev regime, including the «Candy King» Poroshenko, is now realigning to an all-out belligerent policy toward the people of eastern Ukraine, and by extension, toward Russia itself.
The long overdue visit to Kiev this week by Victoria Nuland – Washington’s Ukraine hawk – carries the foreboding imprimatur of US-backed war escalation.