After months of warnings about the apparently increasing degree of Russian intervention in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey declared on September 2, “A great war has arrived at our doorstep — the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War Two.... Unfortunately, the losses in such a war will be measured not in the hundreds but thousands and tens of thousands.” Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin allegedly declared, “if I want I'll take Kiev in two weeks” — a threat which led former Polish president Lech Walesa to publicly speculate that Putin’s escalation of the conflict “could lead to a nuclear war.”
Putin’s purported comments supposedly came during a conversation with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. According to Russia’s ITAR-TASS news agency, presidential aide Yury Ushakov “said Putin’s words about ‘taking Kiev in two weeks’ were taken out of context and had a different meaning. Ushakov said disclosure of phone conversation details by the European Commission head is ‘incorrect and goes beyond the bounds of the diplomatic practice’” — an admission that Putin did, in fact, use the expression, while leaving the precise intention behind the words in doubt. However, given the tensions which have built up during the sustained crisis in Ukraine, the ‘leak’ of the Putin/Barroso conversation has served to further inflame anti-Russian sentiment in Europe.
The level of Russian involvement in Ukraine is apparently now so extensive that Reuters is reporting that over 100 Russian soldiers have been killed in a single battle within Ukraine. According to Ella Polyakova (identified by Reuters as a member of “the Russian presidential human rights council”), the Russian soldiers were operating under contract; in Polyakova’s words, “"When I talk to the guys who accompanied these coffins of these contract soldiers, they tell me that the order was given orally, there were no forms of documents.” "The soldiers serving on contract are given an order, and the columns go across Russia and they stop at a camp, as though part of a training exercise, on the border with Ukraine," said Polyakova. "They take off all the (identification) numbers or blotch them out, and then cross the border," she said. An article for the Moscow Times quotes Polyakova as noting that Russian contract soldiers are paid “250,000 rubles ($7,000) each to participate in military operations in eastern Ukraine”. Russian news agency RIA Navosti quotes an unnamed Russian defense ministry source dismissing such information as “hooey” and “Ukrainian propaganda” even though the information came from Russian sources.
Last week, NATO released what it claims to be satellite evidence of Russian soldiers and heavy artillery being moved into position in Ukraine, and also arranged into firing positions within Russia aimed at targets within Ukraine. Astonishingly, the only reply offered by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov concerning the evidence was to shrug it off as “images from video games.” Lavrov failed even to state which video games were the alleged source of the images. Ukraine released video of Russian soldiers captured in Ukraine, contradicting Russian claims that any soldiers who had become involved in the conflict had somehow either become ‘lost’ and had wandered into the country or were simply there ‘on vacation.’ However, each piece of purported evidence becomes another point of contention. Russia has thus far denied the legitimacy of each round of supposed evidence of invasion: satellite photos, other alleged photographic evidence, and video-recorded interviews are dismissed as pro-Ukrainian/anti-Russian propaganda. At the same time, entire websites have been dedicated to debunking alleged Russian propaganda. The result is often a web of confusion which can leave readers and viewers unable to figure out who to believe.
Promises of safe conduct which were given to Ukrainian soldiers seeking to retreat from pro-Russian separatist forces have not been honored, if recent reports prove factual. The Telegraph is reporting that “hundreds” of members of Ukrainian volunteer battalions were massacred when they used supposed “green corridors” which Putin had promised the “separatists” would establish for their withdrawal. According to the Telegraph:
But Ukrainian troops who escaped the encirclement yesterday said that pro-Russian forces had reneged on the agreement, firing on them as they tried to escape.
"We came from Ilovaisk bearing white flags," said one soldier told AP. "They shot us from all sides. We were not engaged in military actions. We were just on the move."
The exact extent of Ukrainian losses is still unclear, but the pro-Kiev Crimea battalion, one of the groups fighting in the area, said "hundreds of bodies" littered the corridor and "dozens of prisoners" had been taken.
As noted previously for The New American, German chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed concern not for the people of Ukraine who are now confronting the reality of a Russian invasion; rather, Merkel’s concern is, “I want to find a way, as many others do, which does not damage Russia.” At the same time, Merkel expressed the sentiment that she was fully prepared for Ukraine to be taken into Putin’s new Eurasian Union: “if Ukraine says we are going to the Eurasian Union now, the European Union would never make a big conflict out of it, but would insist on a voluntary decision.”
While Russia continues to insist that Western Europeans should believe Moscow more than their own governments — and the testimony of their own eyes — Moscow’s ideologists are preparing for the next round of expansion beyond the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reports that Aleksandr Dugin (shown above) recently declared at a meeting in Yalta: “As we develop our offensive, an interesting point will emerge, namely: what are the borders of the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic] and LPR [Luhansk People’s republic], that is, the Federal State of Novorossiya? Kyiv will not recognize us, but then we won’t recognize Kyiv. What makes you think that we would stop on the borders of the former Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts?” Putin aid Sergei Glazyev told the same conference, “Ukraine is a country of the Russian world”.
Aleksandr Dugin — infamously known as “Putin’s Brain” because his Eurasianist ideology has exerted a profound influence on Putin’s policies — heightened the controversy surrounding himself and flared new concerns with regard to the Russian invasion when he allegedly called for a “genocide” to be carried out against the inhabitants of Ukraine. Dugin declared on August 23: “Ukraine should be cleared of the idiots. Genocide of the cretins is suggested. The evil cretins are closed to the Voice of the Logos, and deadly with all their incredible stupidity. I do not believe that these are Ukrainians. Ukrainians are beautiful Slavic people. This kind of appeared out of manholes as a bastard race.”
The violence of Dugin’s comments is hardly a recent development. Dugin declared in 1998 that “aggression - is the founding law of existence” and that the coming conflict between the West and “Eurasia” is a conflict between “Two positions which could not be brought together, two all-encompassing super worldviews, two mutually exclusive projects of the future of mankind. Between them is only enmity, hatred, brutal struggle according to rules and without rules, for extermination, to the last drop of blood. Between them are heaps of corpses, millions of lives, endless centuries of suffering and heroic deeds.”
Photo of Aleksandr Dugin: AP Images