Aug 29, 2014

‘We don’t know what to do’: Ukraine’s desperate cry for help

Russia has invaded Ukrainian sovereignty, and without help it is unlikely Ukraine can hold off the Russian bear. Freelance journalist Charles McPhedran reports from Kiev.

The Russian invasion of the Ukrainian mainland -- which people in Kiev have expected since Moscow's infiltration and then annexation of Crimea in March -- has now begun. While Russia denies it has again marched in to seize a part of Ukrainian territory, fewer and fewer people believe it. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's government is officially telling people not to panic. “Ukraine has the means to defend itself,” Poroshenko told the National Security Council. “In these days, we are in a true fight for Ukraine's independence.” Oppositional newspapers and some pro-government outlets in Moscow have been reporting that the country's paratroopers have already been fighting and dying in southeastern Ukraine, citing their families. NATO, meanwhile, says that well over a thousand Russian troops have already crossed into Ukraine. Ukrainian officials say that number is much higher -- quoting figures of up to 15,000 men. And as the sun set over Kiev on Thursday night, there were more and more reports of Russian tanks heading for Ukraine. They are entering a country that is exhausted and in despair after months of revolution and war. In Kiev, as elsewhere in the country, hundreds marched in support of Ukraine's sovereignty yesterday afternoon. On the steps of Poroshenko's office, people stood quietly, draped in flags. Eurovision winner Ruslana Lyzhychko led the crowd in a rendition of the national anthem. But there were few cheers afterwards. Even Ruslana -- now a folk idol in Ukraine due to her support of the country's pro-European protests over the winter -- looked crestfallen and worn out. “We don't know what to do,” said journalism student Solomya Dekartch as she watched the speeches outside the presidential administration. “We don't know how to stop Russia. And [Europe's] sanctions haven't made it stop either.” The atmosphere in Kiev has shifted sharply since the start of what the country calls its “anti-terrorist operation” in the country's industrial south-east.
"It is unclear if Ukraine could repel a sustained Russian invasion, even with aid from abroad."
In the early summer, Ukraine's army and pro-government militias (often recruited on Facebook) seemed to be making gains against pro-Russian separatists. At the time, most of the pro-Russian militias in the Donbass Valley were inexperienced locals under the charge of Russian officers, sources in pro-Kiev battalions say. Back then, residents of the country's capital expected an swift victory over the insurgents. But now, pro-government battalions are collecting donations of clothes for the winter ahead. Military strategists expect that this war will continue for at least a year. And discontent is mounting at the Ukrainian military command's management of the war. “Our troops have spent the past week surrounded by the Russians in Ilovaisk,” said Vitaly, a volunteer with the Donbass Battalion who declined to give his last name, referring to a town an hour west of where MH17 went down. “We have asked the government chiefs for help. But until now, we have received nothing.” There is also frustration in Kiev at perceived hitherto ineffective aid from Ukraine's allies in Western Europe. Just a week ago, German leaders, both from the government and the opposition, expressed hope that the economic sanctions they had imposed after the downing of MH17 would be enough to force a Russian exit from Ukraine's war. But facts from the battlefront have again proved them wrong. “We need support from America and the West,” said Misha Bogachov, a student also present at the rally outside Poroshenko's office. “Ukraine cannot win a war against Russia's army, even if we could win against the [separatists].” Maybe Ukraine will get that support. Eastern European countries such as Poland appear poised to deliver arms to their neighbour. The United States could join them. That notwithstanding, it is unclear if Ukraine could repel a sustained Russian invasion, even with aid from abroad. And nothing so far -- not diplomatic negotiations, terse UN sessions, or restrictions on Russian capital -- has made Russian President Vladimir Putin back down in his bid to regain Ukraine for the Kremlin. “Its hard to be at home right now. I am so afraid,” said technician Vlad Holovko amid the crowd outside Poroshenko's office.

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14 thoughts on “‘We don’t know what to do’: Ukraine’s desperate cry for help

  1. Luke Hellboy

    If only Ukraine had expoitable natural resources… then the west would give a crap. Germany and hence western Europe are willing to be held to ransom over oil deliveries from Russia and the US has no stomach for fight it if has to fight someone who has anywhere near a decent military and are white Christians. The only hope the Ukraine has is support from former Soviet bloc countries who know only too well that Putin’s new Russia looks a lot like old Soviet Russia and that they will be next on Putin’s hit list.

  2. mikeb

    Does anyone really think that the US would go to war over the Ukraine even if the whole country floated on oil? They couldn’t win in Iraq against an army of amateurs.

  3. Paddlefoot

    Thank God Tony and Julie have stared down the beast and have him right where they want him. Time for another trip and some more UN work deep within the Security Council. It’s had to believe we used to think that the UN was a massive leftie conspiracy – possible to drain us of our essential bodily fluids.

  4. Moi

    The satellite imagery showing Russians in Ukraine is of dubious value.

    The pics are from over a week ago and reportedly show a 1,000-strong contingent on territory held by the Ukrainian government. That is, this force must have been tooling around government held lands for over a week without being photographed by a single reporter, or reported to a single reporter, by people who are supposed to be pro-Kiev.

    Pull the other one.

  5. Lyn Gain

    I’m with Moi. This sounds more like an msm article than a Crikey article.

  6. Grumpy Old Sod

    If anyone thinks a 1000 strong force constitutes an ‘invasion’ then they need their head read. If Russia were to invade what with their standing army of just over 1 million troops and a tank force of about 6,000 more modern machines than the Ukrainians can muster (600 at the start of this conflict) then they would be in Kiev in a day. However Putin has always stressed diplomacy over force so this report once again is an almighty beat up.

    What I find is remarkable is how such satellite imagery is readily available for this non event but when MH17 was shot down not a corresponding aerial shot can be found. And this is with a US spy satellite being directly overhead when this outrage occurred. Therefore we can’t see the Ukrainian Air Force Su24 5 miles behind MH17 as reported by the Russians nor can see the actual SAM battery ‘responsible’ for this. All we get on this and everything else associated with Russia are completely unsubstantiated allegations.

    As Goebbels said “Tell a lie often enough and people will believe it”. And that’s what’s happening here.

    Finally, notice that the reporter is nowhere near the actual ‘invasion’ so he is getting his intel from the Ukrainian ‘government’, a group that is not only being getting caned on the battle field but is also under increasing pressure from its own people in Western Ukraine. One has to wonder just what his relationship with the State Department, NATO and the CIA is as I truly doubt he is independent.

    If you want to watch a truly fascinating interview with the commander of the Donetsk region military force just to see what their point of view is and the means they have of being armed and organised then you can’t go past this (it’s about 30 minutes in duration and subtitled so patience is required).

  7. Iskandar

    Honestly Crikey I am tired of beginning comments on the subject of Ukraine with “honestly Crikey” but honestly Crikey does your international affairs editor or whoever chooses these pieces work for Rupert Murdoch? There is more than enough informed commentary available that is infinitely more credible than this dip into the sludge bucket of Main Scream Media.

    Your Kiev correspondent seems as confused as the whole country has been since it declared itself independent in 1991 and then discovered that flag-waving nationalism doesn’t bring home the bacon. Historically Ukraine has never been a country but a confection of culturally and linguistically separate regions variously ruled by this or that bordering empire; Ottoman, Polish-Lithuanian, and from 1654 by Russia. The modern borders were established by the Red Army by driving out the Nazi Germans and their collaborators, which included virulent Ukrainian nationalists in the west of the country. It is the grandsons of these who comprise the ranks of the Pravy Sector/Svoboda storm troops who violently high-jacked the Maidan protests to overthrow an unpopular but legal government, installing the Yatseniuk/Poroshenko regime. The latter are of course puppets of Washington and London, and wittingly or unwittingly joined in the long-term Anglo-American geopolitical great game of “containing” Russia.

    The eastern regions, including Crimea, wanting no truck with the neofascist-backed regime in Kiev, unilaterally declared their independence, and sought Russia’s protection. The Great Game came in when the Anglo-Americans, finding their ambitions thwarted of extending NATO to the borders of Russia, probably even of seizing control of the naval base at Sevastopol, seemingly encouraged Poroshenko to make war on the east. This Poroshenko proceeded to do in a fit of militant nationalism, declaring the easterners vermin, sub-humans and terrorists, his language alone indicating that he didn’t have a clue. By invading the east he of course attacked people who rose up in defence of their homes and families, and thus had the tenacity of the those who defend their homeland from an invader. Poroshenko hoped for a quick victory, but he and his western backers, including main scream media, were thwarted, and thus their explosion of anti-Russian hysteria, as the truth is too embarrassing, including the likelihood that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian jet fighter.

    I have been to Kiev and was surprised by the prevalence of a naïve belief that life in the west was all sweetness and light, and if Ukraine joined the EU that manna would flow from heaven. They are now having a good dose of reality, courtesy of Washington and London. Leave the Russians out of this; they had no choice but to react.

  8. Andrew Jantke

    Crikey have been hassling me for about a year to subscribe and I thought that I could possibly contemplate it if it was prepared to report the truth in Ukraine but it really failed with this article!

  9. Tom Mullin

    This is such total nonsense that flies in the face of every objective fact. The Kiev Govt (with initially over 150,000 troops, aircraft, tanks, artillery, etc and has done 3 mobilisations of its up to 1 million reserves) started an ill considered attempt to militarily pacify an area that was rebelling against an illegal couple in Kiev and governorships being handed out to various oligarchs

    This has included systematic attacks on civilians and infrastructure (hospitals, schools, power, water, etc). All while rejecting many attempts for a ceasefire and negotiations.

    Unfortunately for them a heavily outnumbered militia (initially a max of about 3,000 poorly armed people quickly thrown together) fought back. Now up to (at max) 10,000 (more likely 7,000) with heaps of captured equipment plus looted stocks from arms dumps…with no aircraft, have slaughtered the poorly led, poorly trained, often unpaid Ukrainian Govt forces.

    This is an astonishing military victory by any standards…so how do we explain such a win given the huge disparity of forces…we make up “Russia is invading”. A real truth free zone.

    Nonsense, look at what happened in Georgia after it attacked. Russia sent in thousands of troops and hundred of tanks and hammered the Georgians within days. If Russia actually invaded it would be over in about 3 days…

    In fact what has happened is that an inferior, but better motivated (they are fighting for their homes) and more skilled force has decisively defeated a far larger force.

    Since the west has taken an ‘all the way with ‘Kiev’ stance and has been extremely ‘economical with the truth’, to the point of putting out propaganda bordering on fantasy at times, we are all now caught out when reality hits. How could ‘our side’ get hammered so bad?

    As if we shouldn’t be used to it by now…’our sides’ have always been useless and always get hammered.

  10. Helen Razer

    what do they expect? ukraine asked for the hand of chaos when they invited the fascists to take over their country, let them eat it

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