The Chasm between America and Donbas
The picture above is a 2019 procession in Kyiv. It is the annual celebration of Prince Vladimir's Baptism of the Rus people in the 10th Century. Both Russia and Ukraine commemorate that event as their country's Christian birthday. The pilgrims above are Ukrainian Orthodox Church members of the Moscow Patriarchate, the UOC-MP. Although the Moscow Patriarchate is the largest Eastern Orthodox church inside Ukraine, President Zelensky is antagonistic towards it and its processions. This is ironic since the Moscow Patriarchate openly backed Zelensky during his 2019 presidential campaign. The pro-Russian rebels of Donbas are UOC-MP and AT THE TIME Zelensky was saying he wanted peace-in-Donbas . Zelensky's 2019 opponent, the incumbent Poroshenko, had become known for being a hardliner and wanting to reconquer Donbas. In an unguarded moment, Poroshenko was caught on camera saying that he would win the war by making Donbas children "grow up in basements instead of schools". Zelensky trounced him with 73% of the vote.
A second piece of irony: In the previous election, in 2014, it was Poroshenko who had been the PEACE candidate . In the aftermath of the 2014 Maidan uprising which ousted a pro-Russian President and with the Donbas war already raging, it was Poroshenko who ran as the talk-to-Russia candidate. He ran against a handful of aggressive candidates and beat them all in a landslide. He received 55% of the vote. His closest opponent Tymoshenko once advocated surrounding Donbas in barbed wire and pouring concrete over it. She received 13%. The people of Ukraine elected the candidate who promised a speedy, peaceful resolution to the war. To Americans, who are assured that Ukrainians want to fight Russia until everyone is dead, it is a strange and irrefutable fact that no Ukrainian presidential candidate, neither in peacetime, nor in war, has ever been elected by being bellicose and anti-Russian.
Shortly after Poroshenko's election he was visited by US VP Joe Biden. Poroshenko's conciliatory position reversed and it was thereafter that he began talking about making Donbas children grow up in basements.
Just prior to Poroshenko's 2019 election drubbing, he successfully lobbied the Orthodox Patriarch in Constantinople to create a new, independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, OCU, which would separate from the Moscow Patriarchate. Poroshenko's new OCU also held a (smaller) Rus Baptism procession a day earlier than the Moscow Patriarchate's. The new church's procession is pictured below:
The Jesus and Mary banners are gone. In their place - a sea of yellow and blue flags.
Everyone would bend before him, even our brothers in Christ,
Everything would bend, but not my country!
There was a huge harvest that year and Death became drunk on blood,
The smoke-filled skies seemed even to sag down
Everything would bend, but not my country!
The skies are half flames, half smoke
Donbas stands behind us, and God beside us!"
As can be seen above, Ukraine is country neatly divided along both geographical AND linguistic boundaries. The Ukrainians in the north and west speak a mixture of Ukrainian and Russian and have been historically ruled by Lithuania, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Poland. Some western regions belonged to Poland as recently as 1939. They historically distrust Russia and now want to be part of Europe, adopting European values. In contrast, few people in southern and eastern Ukraine speak Ukrainian. The population is a mixture of Ukrainians, Russians and other ethnicities who speak perfect Russian because for centuries they have been part of the Russian world.
When the 1920's Bolsheviks redrew USSR boundaries to make the 'blue' areas part of Ukraine, the switch was a bureaucratic footnote. It changed no facts on the ground. Ditto for three decades later when Khrushchev gifted the Crimean peninsula to his native Ukraine in 1954. Again, no one cared. Moscow was still in charge. To put it in American terms: From the time America was under George II until the time of George Bush II, Ukraine's east and south were part of the Russian world.
When Ukraine voted for independence in 1992, the east and the south went along and did not object that they were officially no longer part of Russia. This was because Ukraine and Russia were close allies for their first decade and a half of independence. Then, towards the the mid 2000s, things began to sour when Ukrainian nationalists in the country's west started calling for the country's 'Ukrainization'. They erected gigantic statues of Stepan Bandera. It is important at this point to briefly review what Stepan Bandera's Ukrainian nationalist movement was about: Ethnic cleansing.
During the heyday of racially driven political movements and pogroms, Bandera's Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the OUN, were superstars. In 1941 the OUN murdered 3,000 Jews in Lviv. Later, in 1943, the OUN systematically surrounded dozens of Polish hamlets in the Volyn district and slaughtered every inhabitant, women and children included. They killed >50,000 Poles using this system. Now, 21st Century Ukrainian nationalists were demanding to have statues of Bandera erected and streets named for him. They would eventually go on to put their 'hero' Bandera in school books for ALL the country's children to emulate....
....For Ukrainians in the east and south, the West's demand that the whole country uniformly: (i) start speaking a language they didn't speak (Ukrainian) AND (ii) venerate war criminals, was too much. In a nutshell, it was a call for them to stop being... them.
During Ukraine's first decade and a half, the central government was tentative about Ukrainization. The politicians had the pro-Russian east and south to worry about. That balance tipped in 2004 with the US backed Orange Revolution. The pro-Russian candidate Victor Yanukovich, (who would later again be ousted in 2014), had come out 3 points ahead. His opponent, backed by US NGOs, then mounted an election protest campaign with massive demonstrations in Kyiv demanding a do-over election. A new election law was rushed thru and a do-over election was held which Yanukovich lost.
Yanukovich's opponent Victor Yushchenko slowly morphed from a moderate into a Ukrainian nationalist and years later go on to have Stepan Bandera declared an official 'hero of Ukraine'. Under Yushchenko the once dreamed-of Ukrainization was finally starting to get implemented.
These efforts were not widely popular. Yushchenko's 2010 reelection bid was a disaster. Even with US help, he could only muster 5% of the vote. The pro-Russian Yanukovich was back in town and won handily.
Then, in 2014, another US-backed 2nd-coup-in-a-row against Yanukovich happened and this only deepened the above pink-blue division. The blue, pro-Russian, areas saw the coup as America and Europe helping Ukraine's west to once more remove a president that the people of the east and south had elected. They had turned the other cheek in 2004. Now they were out of cheeks.
Within weeks Yanukovich's ouster was followed by a strong counter- reaction. There were anti-Maidan demonstrations in all twelve of the largest cities in southern and eastern Ukraine. Kyiv sent in paramilitary groups who killed dozens of the pro-Russian demonstrators, most infamously in Odessa, where 40 were burned to death.
Western news outlets blamed the pro-Russian victims for being unruly. But it helps to put unruliness in context. By this time their opponents, the pro-western demonstrators had already been throwing Molotov cocktails for months. Before Kyiv fell, pro-western demonstrators had occupied government offices in ten regional capitals and forced the respective governors to resign. In their turn, the pro-Russian Ukrainians reacted largely the same way as their opponents had. The main visible difference being that pro-western demonstrators had been mostly young people.
The pro-Russian demonstrators were middle aged industrial workers and old people.
It might be easier for Americans to understand the eastern Ukrainian, pro-Russian reactions if the shoe were to be put on an American foot. If we were to imagine how people in a solid blue states like California might feel if the January 6 protestors, had actually succeeded in toppling President Biden - using a mix of foreign-backing, Molotov cocktails and snipers. Then, to top it off, the same scenario were to repeat itself in the very next election cycle. At that point it might not be so hard to imagine many Californians thinking it was time to take to the streets and demand to be heard, maybe even call for a secession referendum. This is what happened in Donbas.(Scenes from this video were bought and paid for by US taxpayers)
Since its beginning in April 2014, Kyiv's 'Anti-Terrorist-Operation' against the Donbas has killed thousands of pro-Russian civilians. It formed Putin's excuse for his February 2022 invasion. Now pro-Russian civilians are being killed directly by freshly supplied US HIMARS and 155 mm howitzers. Our decision to stoke this conflict has brought us into direct confrontation with Russia and threatens us all with nuclear annihilation.