Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fearing the May 9 Victory Day Celebrations in Ukraine: Opportunity for War in 2014?

May 9, 2010, in Lenin Park, Starobelsk.  Memorial to WWII vets, bottom center photo.
May 9, Victory Day, is a major holiday in Ukraine, celebrating the end of World War II. Since the days of Stalin, Russia and its former Soviet republics have taken great pride in the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany, and great credit, as well it should.  It was a costly victory. The Russian army hung on mostly alone in the fierce European theater of war for several years.   More than 27 million people were killed, many millions in Ukraine.  The Soviet Order of Victory remains one of the highest honors of all time.  

The memorial in Starobelsk is typical of those in most every city in that part of the world. It has the medal of victory enshrined in a bronze metal mount, busts of soldiers, wreaths of glory, flowers from survivors and for people who did not survive.   When I celebrated May 9 with friends, I felt part of a great tragedy and a great triumph.  It was mostly a festive occasion, full of camaraderie, rides for kids, vendors selling shashlick (barbeque), picnics, balloons floating in the air.   The park never looked so pretty, the Kaston  (oak trees) in full bloom, the lilacs and tulips in colorful splendor. 
Images of the Starobelsk Calender, with the month of May (below center)
featuring scenes of  May Day 2010, including a veteran  who was
at the park (how I wished then that my language skills were better).
This year, 2014, I am worried that May 9 in eastern Ukraine might bring drama and conflict, maybe more tragedy.  I fear for the people in Donetsk, Lugansk, and Khargiv oblasts, for people in the southeast and the south around Odessa.  I fear that the pro-Russian paramilitary forces, those special ops, saboteurs and provocateurs, armed to the teeth with assault weapons, missile launchers, and other weapons of war, will scare the indigenous populations, through propaganda and words, or through ominous actions that provoke reactions.  Scare them into staying home; scare them if they come out to celebrate; scare them into a fake referendum on May 11, or scare them from voting in the national election scheduled for May 25.

A few days ago, I got the word I've been dreading. My friends in Starobelsk said “strange men dressed in dark green have come into our town.”   “They are walking around, going in and out of shops.” "Yesterday they tore down our flag....the authorities and police do nothing." ( Вчера в Старобельске сорвали государственный флаг. К власти рвутся бандиты. Милиция и прокуратура бездействуют и только наблюдают).  “They are telling us to vote on May 11.” Vote to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.  I’m not at all sure how such a vote, which is illegal, would be carried out.   Putin talked about "postponing" a vote, but a Russian "advisor" was overheard ordering a special op, I think in Donetsk, to hold an election on the 11th whether they were ready or not; just "make up the results (99%)."   

The fake elections, if they happen, would occur just two days after May 9.  This is why I am fearful  about the May 9 celebrations.  Given the revved up propaganda coming from Putin and blaring from Russian-controlled media, now almost complete in Russia and most of eastern Ukraine, May 9 will be a day for Putin to celebrate the ongoing struggle against the Nazis. 

According to Putin's ultra super propaganda machine, the Nazis and fascists are still with us, reincarnated in the form of the unstable national government in Kiev, “infesting” every town and village in the east and southeast.  The Ukrainians are waiting for a courageous hegemonic Russia, begging Russia, to save it from the dreaded terror.  
Since Putin has been in office, the last 14 years, he has greatly embellished the May 9 celebrations, expanding parades for example to include heavy intercontinental missiles and TU-95 bombers (which could reach America) and all the latest weapons in Russia’s arsenal of war.  

Putin, a voice from the past out of touch with the present realities of an inter-dependent world, has increased the rhetoric to fever pitch, revving up nationalism the way Hitler did in Germany before World War II.  There’s really no better analogy.  

So I fear this archaeic Soviet-style propaganda will work to sabotage the May 9 celebrations in Ukraine, and to stir up further unrest.  It will be another opportunity for Russia to heighten the nationalist hysteria, play with it, make it work to destabiize Ukraine and undermine the May 25 national elections. Putin's 12-step program for taking over another country in full combat mode.  I hope I am wrong.
 
People gathering in front of the Administration building,
along the main street in downtown Starobelsk, for a May 9 parade.
According to a friend, the Ukrainian flag has now been taken down and a Russian flag put up. 

Mural in Lenin Park








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