The Ukraine crisis: Why and how it has come to this
Photo by Mstyslav Chernov
Background of the Ukraine-NATO issue
To understand why and how the situation in Ukraine has come to what it is, it’s necessary to go back to the period just before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Fortunately, there is good documentation on this. It was reviewed recently by several writers, perhaps most notably by Ray McGovern, a man who had been a CIA analyst under seven US Presidents, going back some 30 years.
The point at issue is that 25 years ago at a meeting in Malta in early December 1989, the USA and the USSR essentially ended the cold war. This was a meeting between President H.W Bush and President Michael Gorbachev. The meeting led to the re-unification of East and West Germany, the withdrawal of all Soviet forces from the countries of eastern Europe and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, but not NATO. What led to this is the US Secretary of State, James Baker, saying to Gorbachev, “Assuming there is no expansion of NATO jurisdiction to the East, not one inch, what would you prefer, a Germany embedded in NATO, or one that can go independently in any direction it chooses.” The implication was that Germany might just opt to acquire nuclear weapons, were it not anchored in NATO. Gorbachev took Baker’s argument seriously, and after due consideration, the USSR agreed to the proposal.
This meeting changed the course of history in Europe. All these changes came about as a result of the solemn pledge by the USA that if the USSR proceeded with this plan, NATO would never move, not one inch, into any of the eastern European countries if the Soviet forces were removed. On the basis of this agreement, the USSR withdrew from eastern Europe.
Then because of a series of circumstances the USSR itself dissolved on December 26, 1991. Following this, under the inept leadership of Boris Yeltsin, with American free-market advisors, the economy of the Russian Federation was devastated and the people were impoverished, and most of the country’s wealth was manipulated into the corrupt hands of a few oligarchs. Vladimir Putin took over as President in 2000 and under his leadership, in a couple of capacities, Russia’s economy and society has been essentially rebuilt, and progress continues to be made.
If we go back to 1996, with Russia in its devastated condition and with no military threat to anyone, President Clinton, to bolster his October election campaign, announced that NATO would be enlarged by incorporating all the east European countries. This was done solely for domestic electioneering purposes. And so Clinton reneged on the crucial pact made in 1989 between the USA and the USSR which ended the cold war. This was an incredibly stupid cavalier decision that was immediately denounced by Russian specialist Ambassador George Kennan who stated that “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.”
However, to no avail, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were made members of NATO in 1999 and by 2009 nine more east European countries were added. In April of 2008 at a NATO summit in Bucharest it was declared that “Georgia and Ukraine will be in NATO.” This decision was made despite the warnings against such a move by seasoned American experts on Russia, including the astute US ambassador to Moscow, William Burns, who stressed that Russia would view further eastward expansion as an unacceptable potential military threat. And he also included this prophetic comment: “In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”
That was written in early 2008, not mid-February of last year! So it’s not that the US wasn’t warned about the consequences of further NATO expansion. However, despite this warning, even Barack Obama in his 2008 election campaign supported the idea of getting Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. So what goes on here?
History shows us that the USA, basically from its very beginnings, has always considered itself to be an “exceptional” and “indispensible” state … with a desire, as more recently put, to have “full spectrum dominance” throughout the world. Since World War II the USA has established about 1,000 military bases in about 130 countries, it has attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments and has interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries, has dropped bombs on more than 30 countries, and has killed millions of people especially in its wars on Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and now its support to Saudi Arabia in its onslaught on Yemen. Aside from outright US-launched wars, by instigating coups and interfering in other countries’ affairs, the USA has been responsible for millions of additional deaths – counting the casualties in countries such as Greece, Italy, France, Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Argentina, Chile, Honduras, Libya, its on-going campaign to overthrow the government in Syria, and most recently its venture in Ukraine. In addition, by 2011, the US Air Force and the CIA had ringed the Eurasian landmass with 60 bases for its armada of drones.
When it comes to Russia, the only time the cold war eased a bit was during the degenerate Yeltsin period, but as soon as Vladimir Putin came on the scene and showed that he wanted to establish an independent policy for Russia, this could not be tolerated. On the advice of the warmonger Zbigniew Brzezinski, it became the objective of the USA to pry away both Ukraine and Georgia and to include them in NATO, despite a resulting certain confrontation with Russia.
Through its array of almost countless “freedom loving NGOs”, led by NED, the National Endowment for Democracy (a private arm of the CIA), as well as the CIA itself, the USA set out to undermine Ukraine and Georgia by means of “colour revolutions” – the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine – with success in both in 2004.
In the case of Georgia, the National Endowment for Democracy orchestrated “spontaneous” demonstrations which forced President Shevardnadze to resign so as to avoid bloodshed. Shevardnadze, a longtime diplomat in the USSR and a colleague of Gorbachev, was someone who the US could not manipulate so their “Rose Revolution” brought them a puppet, Mikheil Saakashvili, with academic training in the USA. The US then helped to train his armed forces and in August of 2008, in his bid for NATO membership, he had the Georgian army attack the disputed area of South Ossetia and killed some Russian peacekeepers. In response, in a matter of four days the Russian army routed the Georgian forces and took over part of Georgia. Their quick response prevented the US or NATO from intervening, which is what Saakashvili thought would happen. Russia then recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, and Russian forces withdrew from Georgia. As such, Georgia’s bid for NATO membership was put on hold.
Following the fiasco of Saakashvili’s war, a series of demonstrations took place but it wasn’t until October of 2012 that he was defeated in an election, following which he went to live in the USA. The new government launched an investigation into his years in power and in the summer of 2014 multiple criminal charges were filed against him for embezzlement and abuse of power while in office. The US refused to extradite him and in February 2015 he moved to Ukraine and was appointed as an advisor to President Poroshenko and was made the head of Ukraine’s Advisory Council on Reforms. Ukraine has ignored Georgia’s demands for his extradition. On the contrary, Saakashville became a Ukrainian citizen, and in a seemingly bizarre move, on May 29 Poroshenko appointed him as governor of the Odessa region – to add to the bizarreness, the US government will pay his salary!
The first serious attempt to get Ukraine on the road to NATO occurred with the Orange Revolution in 2004, a process that was masterminded and financed by US-sponsored NGOs, especially the USA’s National Endowment for Democracy. It was easy to get people riled up because of the ongoing corruption ever since Ukraine got its independence in 1991. But NED’s undeclared objective was to get their man Viktor Yushchenko elected as president. Yushchenko had longtime connections with the US and his wife was an American who had been a high ranking US State Department official.
Once they got him into office it wasn’t long before it was “business as usual” with regard to corruption, and life did not improve in any way for the people. He advocated getting Ukraine into NATO, he opposed Russian being a second state language in Ukraine, and he wanted to terminate the agreement with Russia to have a naval base in Crimea. Also he praised the actions of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that occasionally fought the Germans, but whose main enemy was always Soviet forces, and which also savagely killed tens of thousands of Poles and Jews. He tried to give the survivors of these Nazi collaborators the status of war veterans and provide them with pensions. His last action as president was to rehabilitate the infamous Nazi collaborator, Stepan Bandera, and awarded him the title of Hero of Ukraine. This was condemned by the European Parliament, but there wasn’t a word about this from the USA. The award was annulled in 2011 by the next government.
In 2010, despite American efforts to get Yushchenko reelected, the Ukrainian electorate had enough of the Orange Revolution and in the first round of elections Yushchenko was eliminated, getting only 5.45 percent of the vote. With the approval of international observers, Viktor Yanukovych was elected with 48 percent of the vote while Yulia Tymoshenko received 44 percent. The election showed a major split in the country; Tymoshenko had high support in western Ukraine while Yanukovych got almost 90 percent support in eastern Ukraine.
Walid Harfouch, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Pier Luigi Malesani (Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Euronews) and Michael Peters (CEO of Euronews) • Photo by Marya Dubovnickaya
Attempt to get Ukraine to sign a trade agreement with the EU
At the outset, Yanukovych stated that “Ukraine’s integration with the EU remains our strategic aim”, with a “balanced policy, which will protect our national interests both on our eastern border with Russia and on the west with the European Union.” As such his policy was that Ukraine must be a “neutral state,” and this reflected public opinion where there was solid opposition to joining NATO or any military bloc. In the years that followed, there were no major controversies during his administration. Some attempts were made to deal with corruption and excessive bureaucracy but with little success.
Negotiations between Ukraine and the European Union had been proceeding for a number of years, but there were many issues to be resolved. Yanukovych continued these negotiations and in the fall of 2013 there were prospects of signing an Association Agreement. However, on receiving some disturbing economic data, Yanukovych wanted to renegotiate several major issues, and until there was a satisfactory resolution he would not sign the document. Yanukovych had some extended discussions with President Putin, and afterwards he asked the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of trade loss with Russia if Ukraine accepted the EU’s proposal. The Academy’s report revealed that the economic and trade agreement with the EU, as spelled out in the document, would restrict trade with Russia so dramatically that it would cost Ukraine $160 billion, instead of $3 billion as the EU estimated. Until this study was completed it was simply not known how deeply the Russian and Ukrainian economies were interconnected. Moreover, part of a deal with the EU was the stipulation from the International Monetary Fund that for Ukraine to get a $4 billion loan it would have to enact big budget cuts and impose a 40 percent increase in gas bills for its citizens.
In light of this information Yanukovych wanted substantial financial aid from the EU to compensate for these losses, and he also proposed three-way talks between Russia, Ukraine and the EU. The EU rejected any trilateral talks and demanded that Yanukovych sign the Association Agreement as it was worded. Yanukovych refused to do this but left the door open for further discussions in the future. Also in this mix was the fact that if Ukraine did not sign the EU deal, Russia would give Ukraine a $15 billion loan with no strings attached and it would significantly reduce the price of natural gas imports from Russia. Hence these are the reasons why Yanukovych did not sign the EU trade agreement.
On November 26, 2013 the Ukrainian government publicly announced that it would delay signing the EU association agreement because it “wanted better terms for the EU deal”. In a televised interview Yanukovych stated that if better terms could be negotiated his government would be prepared to sign the EU trade agreement.
What is astounding is that in making this announcement Yunukovych did not explain that if the EU’s offer were to be accepted, the cost to Ukraine would be $160 billion. In fact this information was never publicized anywhere, although it had been buried in a long article on November 24, 2013 in Germany’s Der Spiegel. It has only come to light recently when an investigative reporter, Eric Zuesse, found this information and revealed it in an article on March 27, 2015.
As a follow up on the EU-Ukraine negotiations, after Yanukovych was deposed in February 2014, a month later, on March 21, Arseniy Yatseniuk, the Prime Minister of the coup government, signed the political provisions of the EU agreement and on June 27 the newly elected Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, signed the economic part of the agreement – with no revisions of any kind. Following this, President Putin pointed out that the Ukraine-EU agreement, as it was constituted, would have detrimental effects on the Russian economy and as a result Russia would have to impose “protectionist measures” against Ukraine once the agreement was implemented. Also Putin pointed out that the agreement would force Ukraine to choose between Russia and the EU and this would split Ukraine in two. It was only after this that the EU realized that Russia would have to be involved in these negotiations, and then asked Russia for its input. In response, Russia put forward a list of 2,370 change requests concerning the consequences for Russian-Ukrainian trade. Following this, in trilateral talks in early September 2014, the European Commission, Ukraine and Russia agreed to defer the provisional implementation of the agreement until the end of 2015. So that’s where it now stands.
The crucial matter is that if Yanukovych had revealed the fact that a EU-Ukraine trade agreement which he was asked to sign would have cost Ukraine $160 billion, while Russia offered them a better deal, it would have destroyed the rationale and the basis for the ensuing demonstrations that led to Euromaidan disaster. This is just the first in a series of blunders that led to his downfall.
Background for the coup d’état
The breakdown of negotiations with the EU resulted in immediate public demonstrations denouncing the decision. Several thousand people gathered at Independence Square (“Maidan”) in Kiev and on November 30 they were attacked by a large force of riot police who used tear gas and truncheons to disperse the crowd. Many people were hurt. The police reaction was clearly excessive, and the next day President Yanukovych denounced these actions and stated he was outraged at what had taken place. He demanded a full investigation and appropriate punishment for those who authorized the police attack.
Afterwards, the Kiev chief of police admitted he had ordered the attack and resigned, but it’s not certain what else happened as a result of the investigation. Following this, on December 4, the Minister of Internal Affairs ordered law enforcement authorities to refrain from using force on participants of peaceful rallies and warned rally organizers on the responsibility for the safety of participants. The continuing observance of this order led to weeks of demonstrations, violent attacks on police with Molotov cocktails, the takeover of government buildings and an overall state of anarchy in Kiev.
Just imagine if such massive demonstrations started in Washington, Ottawa or London, and government buildings were taken over and police were assaulted, how long would take before riot police would descend on them?
Recall what occurred in New York City in the fall of 2011 when the totally peaceful Occupy Wall Street movement took over Zuccotti Park. It was tolerated for a few weeks and then police in riot gear destroyed all their belongings, arrested several hundred of them, and cleared the park. End of story.
But it’s necessary to examine these demonstrations a bit further. The breakdown of negotiations with the EU provided American interests in Ukraine an ideal platform from which to re-enact another Orange Revolution but on a grander scale. During the negotiations, US-financed NGOs, especially NED, flooded Ukraine with propaganda on how joining the EU would eliminate corruption and bring prosperity to everyone. To do this, in a NED report it’s revealed that they funded 65 projects in Ukraine and sponsored scores of anti-government activists and media operations. Within the USA, in the Washington Post NED President Carl Gershman openly stated that Ukraine was “the biggest prize,” which in the end would be a stepping stone toward ousting Russian President Vladimir Putin as well.
When the EU talks ended, all these US-sponsored entities went into high gear and encouraged mass demonstrations to protest Yanukovych’s termination of talks. Undoubtedly it was these professional efforts that ignited the demonstrations. As such, these demonstrations were not innocent spontaneous happenings.
The extent of US involvement in Ukraine was revealed by Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary, in Washington’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. On December 13, 2013, after returning from her third trip to Kiev that fall, in an address to a US-Ukrainian conference, she stated:
Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance, all of which are preconditions for Ukraine to achieve its European aspirations. We’ve invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine.
So there it is: $5 billion or 5,000 million dollars. That’s a lot of money. How often does the US spend such a huge amount of money on a country somewhere just to help it “promote civic participation and good governance” – and all for innocent selfless purposes. Let’s not kid ourselves, this $5 billion was pumped into Ukraine primarily for the purpose of creating regime change, and for prying Ukraine away from Russia – and getting it into NATO.
Pro-EU-Demonstration in Kiev • Photo by Evgeny Feldman
The coup d’état
The so-called Maiden demonstrations dragged on for almost three months. The participants took over a number of government offices and several highrise buildings. The police were unbelievably restrained and were constantly pelted with rocks and now and then with Molotov cocktails, injuring many of the officers. The central core of the demonstrators were members of the Right Sector, a fascist and neo-Nazi organization, who were a well armed and trained paramilitary force. Media reports showed them in action on a daily basis.
To try to somehow resolve this uprising, Germany, France and Poland sent a group of emissaries to Kiev to try to work out some type of agreement between the Yanukovych government and the protestors. On February 21, 2014 an agreement was signed by President Yanukovych and the three opposition party leaders Arseny Yatsenyuk, Vitalty Klitchko, and Oleh Tyahnybok. The agreement called for early parliamentary and presidential elections, the return of the 2004 constitution and the formation of a temporary government of national unity. If an early election were held it was certain that the Yanukovych government would have been defeated.
In the meantime, as these talks had been proceeding, another course of events prevailed which undermined any diplomatic resolution. For weeks prior to this time, although the demonstrators had always been portrayed as being peaceful, this was far from being the case, but it was only the RT channel that showed how they confronted the police on a daily basis with assaults, clubs and kerosene bombs. What was remarkable is that the police throughout this period, although suffering many casualties, remained restrained and peaceful. However, serious violence broke out on February 18 and 19, started by gunfire from the Maidan demonstrators to which, in self defence, the riot police responded. In the course of this, ten policemen had been killed and about 25 to 30 protestors. But worse was to follow – an actual massacre occurred on February 20. Early that morning shots were fired at the ranks of the police and a number of police officers were shot and killed. In response the police immediately began to withdraw but in self defence they fired shots in return. In the ensuing melee snipers from the surrounding tall buildings fired on both the demonstrators and the police. By the end of the day, 18 police officers were killed and dozens demonstrators, with the result that the Maidan participants were highly enraged.
The sniper killings changed the entire tone of the protest movement. If the protests had been violent before, after the sniper killings the violence escalated. It was at this point (February 21) that the parliamentary leaders announced to the enraged mob that they had reached an agreement with the government to have an early election and that the protest should end. These leaders were booed and Dmytro Yarosh, the head of the Right Sector, vowed to carry on until the government was defeated. The next day, because Yanukovych had naively requested the police to leave the area, the armed mob took over all government buildings and the parliament. And the rest we know – a legally elected government (no matter that it was corrupt) was deposed by means of a coup d’état. But the word “coup d’état” is verboten in all of our media, with the sole exception of RT, which is prepared to call a spade a spade, as well as commentators on the Internet.
Strangely, following this bizarre course of events, there were no protests from the governments of Germany, France and Poland on behalf of their emissaries who had arranged for a peaceful transition of power in Ukraine. Instead, the obvious coup d’état was never acknowledged and the coup government was immediately accepted as legal, with the USA recognizing it first. The inclusion of fascist elements in a European government for the first time since Hitler left the scene was seemingly no cause for alarm. So much for the warnings from the European Parliament “not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party (Svoboda).” And it seems that even the Right Sector, suddenly became all right.
The role of the sniper killings
The issue of the sniper killings in Maiden Square on February 20 was downplayed by the media, and with the exception The Guardian and the RT television channel there was initially no mention of the intercepted phone conversation between the Estonian foreign minister and the EU foreign affairs chief. The Estonian foreign minister related that he had been told that the snipers responsible for killing police and civilians in Kiev were protest movement provocateurs rather than supporters of then-president Viktor Yanukovych. This was vitally important information but somehow this was ignored by the entire American media. It was only after Russia made appeals to the European Union to investigate who was responsible for the killings (which included police and protestors) that the coup-installed Ukrainian government made a move to start an investigation.
Initially there was reluctance to initiate any investigation and the government simply tried to dismiss the matter by saying that it should be obvious that it was Yanukovych who had instructed his police to do this. Also a high ranking government official, Andriy Parubiy, stated “I’m certain that the shootings of the 20th were carried out by snipers who arrived from Russia and who were controlled by Russia.” Parubiy had been one of the founders of the Svoboda party and he was the Commandant of the Right Sector forces and the person in charge of all the occupied tall buildings surrounding the Maidan Square and who after the coup became the deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and head of National Security and Law Enforcement.
This matter raises the question cui bono? The major killings occurred on February 20, the very day that the European emissaries were trying to work out a peaceful resolution to the three-month protest movement. Why would Yanukovych or Russia want to scuttle the possibility of a peaceful resolution? On the other hand, the last thing the heavily armed hardcore fascist Right Sector paramilitary mob wanted was a peaceful solution – they kept demanding the overthrow of the government. Moreover, these were the people who brandished assault rifles and they occupied and controlled most of the tall buildings surrounding the square – buildings from which the shots were fired. How could it be possible for Yanukovych’s police or Russian agents, armed with assault rifles, to pass unnoticed through the crowds of protestors and enter buildings occupied by the protestors?
Eventually the Prosecutor General, Oleg Makhnitsky from the far-right Svoboda party, did conduct an investigation and in April of 2014 the report concluded that Yanukovych and his top officials organized the massacre – but provided no evidence to support such a conclusion. In a brazen and illogical manner the report’s conclusion contradicts the views of Gennady Moskal, head of the Ukrainian parliamentary commission investigating the shootings, who stated that the bullets found did not match firearms issued to the special anti-riot police unit Berkut, which, unlike most police units, was allowed to carry lethal weapons. Mr Moskal also said there was no forensic evidence linking the mass killings in Kiev on February 20 to the Berkut. Moreover, the report was devoted solely to the killings of the protestors, and no investigation was made about who was responsible for the killing of the police, as well as the 189 police officers who suffered gunshot wounds.
To counter balance this flawed investigation, a Canadian professor at the University of Ottawa, Ivan Katchanovski, has recently completed a study of the sniper killings. He had been to Kiev numerous times and had compiled an enormous amount of documentation. He presented the essence of his research in a report that he presented at a learned society conference. The report has almost 200 footnotes, largely videos showing the snipers in action from tall buildings. His conclusion: this was the work of the Right Sector or professional killers brought in by the Right Sector. On April 21, 2015 a high ranking Polish official reported that the snipers had actually been trained in Poland, at the request of the Right Sector.
In his concluding section Professor Katchanovski states as follows: “The massacre of the protesters and the police was a key part of the violent overthrow of the government in Ukraine and a major human rights crime… The new government that came to power largely as a result of the massacre falsified its investigation, while the Ukrainian media helped to misrepresent this mass killing of the protesters and the police… . The failure by the government to locate and identify the shooters of the protesters and investigate the shooting of the police indicates that the shooters were from the Maidan side… . Such a false flag massacre by its nature could have been organized and successfully carried out only by a small number of Maidan leaders and protesters.”
Professor Katchanovski, a Canadian citizen, had a house and property in Kiev and for the past 20 years had done research on Ukrainian affairs, but his latest research on the Maidan snipers antagonized the Ukrainian government and they retaliated by confiscating his home and property. In an article on June 2, 2015, the professor says as follows:
The latest ruling by the top Ukrainian court is another indication that my house, land, and personal items have been seized with help of courts as a result of political interference from the top in retaliation for my research on the mass murders by the OUN and the UPA in Volhynia [WW2 era], and the Maidan and Odesa massacres in 2014.
Who has ever heard of a government taking such an action against the citizen of another country, simply because this person had the audacity to publish a critical report on this government? This is a vivid example of the fascist leanings of the current regime in Ukraine.
Going back to how this new government was formed, it is invariably made to appear that there had been a legitimate transfer of power at the end of February. It is usually pointed out that Victor Yanukovych was impeached by a unanimous vote of 328-0, or by 73 per cent of the deputies of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada. What is seldom revealed is that Ukraine’s constitution stipulates that it requires a 75 percent vote of the members of the Rada to legitimately impeach a president. Given this, although Yanukovych was removed from office, it was done in violation of Ukraine’s constitution, and as such this was not a legal impeachment – it was plainly and simply a coup d’état. Furthermore, what preceded this vote was a semi-riot in the Rada brought on by an invasion of armed Right Sector protestors. It is because of this that more than a quarter of the members of the Rada fled, in fear of their lives – hence the insufficient number for the impeachment vote.
Before proceeding further, it’s important to point out that right from the very beginning of the Ukraine upheaval, western mainstream media have systematically neglected or misrepresented what was happening. Along with a number of other writers, I wrote a lengthy article on the issue of disinformation on Ukraine, which was later translated into German, French, and Spanish.
Patriot of Ukraine members standing guard at a Right Sector event, Euromaidan, Kiev, 13 April 2014 • Photo by Аимаина хикари
Svoboda and the Right Sector
Let’s take a look at the current regime in Kiev. The western media have taken great efforts to downplay the significance the two political entities there – the Svoboda party and the Right Sector. Rather than simply plead ignorance about the depth of fascist-racist beliefs in the Svoboda membership, the least the mainstream media could have done was to mention that the European Parliament took the unusual step in December of 2012 to pass a resolution of concern about the unsavory nature of Svoboda. The Parliament’s resolution #8 states as follows:
[The European Parliament] is concerned about the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine, expressed in support for the Svoboda Party, which, as a result, is one of the two new parties to enter the Verkhovna Rada; recalls that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU’s fundamental values and principles and therefore appeals to pro-democratic parties in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party.
Svoboda was founded in 1991 as the Social National Party of Ukraine – its name unmistakably being an intentional reference to Adolph Hitler’s National Socialist party and it used the Nazi Wolfsangel logo which closely resembles a swastika. In 2004, with the arrival of Oleh Tyahnybok as leader, the party changed its name to Svoboda to somewhat moderate its image while nevertheless retaining its neo-Nazi core. Also to soften its image it changed its Nazi logo to a stylized three-finger salute. It’s reported that this was done because of friendly advice offered to them by the US National Endowment for Democracy.
From its very beginnings the Social National Party, and then as Svoboda, idolized Stepan Bandera, a Nazi collaborator who formed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and organized the Ukrainian Waffen SS Galician Division – from 82,000 initial Ukrainian volunteers, the Nazis trained only 13,000 for battle. The division was then sent to fight the Russian and Ukrainian Soviet army, but this unit was decimated at the 1944 Battle of Brody, leaving only 3,000 who then joined the ranks of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
Aside from fighting the Soviet army, Bandera’s forces assisted the Nazis by willingly killing off tens of thousands of Poles and Jews, and took part in various ways in the Holocaust. In addition to Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its offspring the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), officially formed on October 14, 1942, there was also the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police of about 35,000. It was the Ukrainian police who took an active part in the Babi Yar massacre, with some reports indicating that they killed more Jews than the Nazi troops. Although Bandera had some disagreements with the Nazis and was imprisoned for a while, he and his followers never disagreed with the Nazi Jewish policy in Ukraine, which eventually killed more than a million Ukrainian Jews. Perhaps little known is the fact that there is ample documentation that Bandera had worked with MI6 and the CIA and that this continued into the 1950s. In keeping with his life in general, reports reveal that he was vicious, abusive and mean to his wife and three children.
Bandera had the delusional idea that if Ukrainians helped the Nazis to fight the Soviet forces and that if the Nazis won the war and conquered the USSR, Bandera would somehow manage to establish a “free Ukraine,” independent from the Nazi regime. This was an utter delusion which disregarded Hitler’s Lebensraum objective and the fact that the Nazis considered all Slavs to be sub-humans (Untermenschen).
Despite all this, Svoboda’s current leader Oleh Tyahnybok remains totally unrepentant. In 2004, in a speech at the grave-site of a commander of the UPA, he urged Ukrainians to fight against the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia” and lauded the World War II Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists for having fought “Muscovites, Germans, Jews and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state.” Tyahnybok’s deputy, Yuri Mikhalchishin, a Svoboda ideologist, founded a think tank called the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Centre. He has also translated and published articles of Hitler regime “classics” and has referred to the Holocaust as a “bright period” in European history. He is now the Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Security Service responsible for analysis and ideological work.
It is worthy of note that what separates Germany from the Bandera Nationalists in Ukraine is that Germany has taken responsibility for the atrocities the Nazis had committed. Contrast this to Lviv, Ukraine, where surviving members of the WW2 Galician SS, willing participants in genocide, still parade on holidays, proudly displaying medals given them by the German Third Reich. In July of 2013 the Svoboda party organized a rally to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the 14th Waffen SS Division. And on January 1, 2014, to commemorate Bandera’s 105th birthday, about 15,000 Svoboda supporters marched through Kyiv, some wearing Nazi SS Waffen army uniforms. And the same occurred this past January, but with a smaller number of supporters.
It is because of these incontestable facts that the European Parliament took the unusual step to pass a resolution of concern about the alarming nature of Svoboda. Recently, an American mainstream publication, Foreign Policy, stated:
The uncomfortable truth is that a sizeable portion of Kiev’s current government – and the protesters who brought it to power – are, indeed, fascists… Party leader Oleh Tyahnybok is on record complaining that his country is controlled by a ‘Muscovite-Jewish mafia,’ while his deputy derided the Ukrainian-born film star Mila Kunis as a ‘dirty Jewess.’ In Svoboda’s eyes, gays are perverts and black people unfit to represent the nation at Eurovision, lest viewers come away thinking Ukraine is somewhere besides Uganda.” Yuri Syrotyuk, speaking on behalf of Svoboda, made a further racist comment: “Millions of people who will be watching will see that Ukraine is represented by a person who does not belong to our race.
Not only does the mainstream media fail to deal with the underlying fascist beliefs of Svoboda, most extend the cover-up by glibly pointing out that right-wing parties exist in several European countries, so this is no big deal. In saying this, they studiously avoid disclosing that in all these countries the right-wing parties are totally excluded from any role in government, but this is not the case now in Ukraine. For the first time since the Nazi era, a basically fascist movement entered a European government and has held key positions of power. Interestingly, so far there hasn’t been a peep about this from the European Parliament who very recently (as cited above) urged the Ukrainian Rada “not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party.”
Although many in the media dismiss the Right Sector (Pravy Sektor) as insignificant, this body was formed in 2013 as an umbrella organization that included several long-existing paramilitary groups, including the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self Defense (UNA-UNSO) whose members dress in uniforms modelled on Hitler’s Waffen SS and have been fighting Russia for years, including in Chechnya.
As of March 22, 2014, all these individual groups coalesced into the Right Sector and declared themselves to be an official political party, with Dmytro Yarosh as their presidential candidate in the May 2014 election. In the meantime, Russia has put Yarosh on an international wanted list and charged him with inciting terrorism after he urged Chechen terrorist leader Doku Umarov to launch attacks on Russia over the Ukrainian conflict. Yarosh had also threatened to destroy Russian pipelines on Ukrainian territory. He was elected to the Ukrainian parliament during the October 26, 2014 election. On April 5, 2015, Yarosh was appointed as Advisor to the Chief of General Staff of the Ukrainian Army.
The fact that such an individual has been appointed as an Advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Army is a further demonstration of the close links between the current Ukrainian regime and the far-right neo-Nazi and fascist elements and organisations. There is in fact very little that separates the parties in government in Kyiv and these fascist organisations. In the October 2014 election fascist MPs were elected to the Rada in the lists of all the ruling parties, and by purposefully not contesting two Right Sector candidates, both got elected to the Rada. In both the original coup government and the recently elected one, the fascist paramilitary groups are part of the state apparatus and are allowed to act with impunity.
In trying to downplay the significance and role of Svoboda and the Right Sector, the media usually point out that resulting from the 2012 election Svoboda had only 8 percent of the seats in the Rada and that the Right Sector didn’t have any elected members, thus making it appear that these parties are of little consequence. The startling fact not revealed is that within the original coup government Svoboda had six members within the first government’s 18-member cabinet, so they composed one-third of the cabinet – all in the most key and powerful positions. Moreover, the Right Sector had a role in the first government as well.
As such, these two neo-Nazi parties have been entrusted with key positions which granted them de facto control over Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Police and National Security. Certainly this information is of the utmost importance – but it is practically never mentioned in the media. Why is this? Obviously, if this became known it would undermine the West’s portrayal of Ukraine as a fresh new democracy fighting off Russian aggression.
Because the issue of the role of Svoboda in Ukraine’s initial coup government is so fundamentally important, it warrants an examination of the cabinet membership.
- Oleksandr Sych – Deputy Prime Minister, a Svoboda parliamentarian, the party’s chief ideologist, and a virulent anti-abortion activist
- Ihor Tenyukh – Minister of Defence, member of Svoboda’s political council.
- Oleh Makhnitsky – Prosecutor-general, Svoboda member of parliament. With this appointment Svoboda controlled the judicial process.
- Ihor Shvaika – Minister of Agriculture, an agro-oligarch and a member of Svoboda. As one of the richest men in the country, his massive investments in agriculture would seem to indicate a slight conflict of interest.
- Andriy Moknyk – Minister of Ecology, Deputy Chairman of the Svoboda party and a member of their Political Council, and has been Svoboda’s envoy to other European fascist parties.
- Serhiy Kvit – Minister of Education, a leading member of Svoboda, noted for his efforts to glorify those who inspired the Bandera fascists in World War II. While head of an academy in Kiev he banned the use of Russian on its premises.
Although currently not a member of Svoboda, Andri Parubiy had been a co-founder of the Social-National Party of Ukraine which became Svoboda. In the cabinet he was the Secretary of the National Security and National Defense Committee (RNBOU. This is a key position which oversees the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces, Law Enforcement, National Security and Intelligence. The RNBOU is central decision-making body. While it is formally headed by the president, it is run by the Secretariat with a staff of 180 people including defense, intelligence and national security experts. Parubiy was the Commandant of the Maidan Right Sector forces and directed the masked armed men who battled the police. He recently visited Canada and was royally received, and even Peggy Nash of the NDP shared a stage with him.
Although not a cabinet member, Dmytro Yarosh was the deputy head of the National Security Council and was placed in charge of the police. Yarosh is the founder-leader of the paramilitary “Right Sector,” and together with Parubiy they directed the demonstrations at Maidan. Years back, Yorash fought alongside Chechen Islamists, and proudly claims that he personally killed a large number of Russian soldiers. Because of this he has been placed by Interpol on its international wanted list at the request of Russian authorities.
Actually it is Dmytro Yarosh who is basically responsible for the success of the coup d’état that occurred on February 22, 2014. It was his armed paramilitary Right Sector that appears to be responsible for the sniper attacks. Immediately afterwards they forcefully took over government and parliament buildings, thereby carrying out the coup. Without Yarosh and the Right Sector the coup would have never happened.
Afterwards it was Yarosh’s Right Sector forces that formed the core of the essentially Nazi Azov, Aidar, Donbas and Dnipro battalions, replete with swastikas on their helmets and other Nazi insignias. These were the “storm troopers” who first attacked the Donetsk and Lugansk areas that had refused to accept the legitimacy of the coup government. All of these forces have been accused by international human rights associations of war crimes, including murder, horrific torture, rape, robbery, abductions. For example, in the past six months at least 2,267 unsolved crimes have been committed by Ukrainian military personnel in the city of Mariupol. The Azov commander, Andrey Biletskey, recently stated: “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”
Despite all this, in September 2014 the Azov Battalion and all other such private battalions were enrolled into the National Guard of Ukraine and officially became part of Ukraine’s regular armed forces. Moreover, Biletskey, Azov’s racist neo-Nazi commander, in the October 2014 election got elected as a member of parliament, largely because the other major parties purposefully didn’t run candidates against him, ensuring that he would win a seat in the Rada.
Finally, they pushed this issue too far. This spring when Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Arsen Avakov, listed the Azov battalion to be one of the first to receive training by the US military, some members of the US government objected, despite the mainstream media’s silence on this. On June 12, in a bipartisan action, the US House of Representatives voted unanimously to prohibit the US from providing arms, training, or any assistance to the Azov Battalion “due to its neo-Nazi background.” Shamed by the US actions on this matter, Canada’s Harper government called off its intentions to train the Azov unit.
So at the time of the coup, although Svoboda had only 8 percent of the members in the Ukrainian parliament, they, along with the Right Sector, composed a third of the government’s cabinet, including some of the key positions. Hence they had a totally disproportionate share of power, and to compound the problem, Svoboda had no elected members from eastern and southern Ukraine, including the Donetsk and Lugank regions. As such, almost half the country’s population had little or no representation in the interim government’s cabinet, so on this basis alone it lacked legitimacy. Hence, is it any surprise that Donetsk and Lugansk objected to this?
Flag of the Azov Battalion
Ukraine’s October 2014 election
Several new parties were formed to contest the October 2014 election, but essentially the same type of people wound up in the government. A change occurred with regard to Svoboda because other equally fascist-leaning parties took a significant part of Svoboda’s support. For example, far-right demagogue Oleh Lyashko and his Radical Party got 7.4 percent of the vote and got 22 seats in the Rada, compared to Svoboda’s 4.7 percent and only 6 seats. Lyashko is no different from the Right Sector since he is an avid supporter of the Azov battalion and other such Right Sector militias.
Ukraine’s February 2014 coup government included neo-Nazi and fascist members in powerful positions, but although the October 2015 election gave the new government legitimacy, its political structure has remained essentially the same, if not even worse than before. Although some people changed parties, they are still on the scene. For example, in the February 2014 coup or junta government, Andriy Paruby (who was the co-founder of the neo-Nazi Social-Nationalist Party of Ukraine, later to become Svoboda) was the Secretary of the National Defence and Security Council, but now in a different party, the Popular Front, he is the Deputy Speaker of the Rada.
As concrete proof that the current Ukrainian government is every bit as reactionary and fascist-minded as the previous coup government is the fact that on April 9, 2015, seventy years after the end of World War II, Ukraine’s parliament extended official recognition to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that collaborated with the Nazis and made it eligible for official government commemoration and pensions for its survivors. Also on that day, a second bill equated Communist and Nazi beliefs and banned all Soviet and Nazi symbols. It outlawed Communist names, symbols, monuments, plaques and even songs. Penalties for violating this law or questioning the role Ukrainian Insurgent Army range from five to 10 years in prison.
The director of the Wiesenthal Center stated: “The passage of a ban on Nazism and Communism equates the most genocidal regime in human history with the regime which liberated Auschwitz and helped end the reign of terror of the Third Reich.”
Also in response to this action an open letter was sent to President Poroshenko by 70 academics from a number of countries urging him not to sign into law these draft laws from the Rada because these provisions would be an assault on the right to freedom of speech. Poroshenko ignored the appeal and this highly questionable legislation became law.
But even before these measures, for the past year there has been an unrelenting campaign to demolish statues relating to the Soviet past. This has included the destruction of monuments commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany. The latest is the attempt to demolish a statue of General Vatutin in a park in Kiev. This is a Russian general who routed the Nazi forces from Kiev in such a manner that caused little damage to the city. As thanks for this the Ukrainian Insurgent Army immediately afterwards ambushed the vehicle he was in and killed him. He is still considered a hero by many people in Kiev and hundreds of people have tried to stop his statue from being destroyed.
Ukraine government’s procedures and actions
As an indication of how the February 2014 fascist-inspired government functioned, the day after it came into power its very first action was to pass a bill to revoke Ukraine’s very tolerant multicultural language law. In effect the bill banned the use of Russian, Hungarian, Moldovan and Romanian in any official capacity. The bill also included a provision to ban all Russian language media in Ukraine, still in effect today. Immediately following these actions the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on Ukraine’s new regime to respect the rights (and languages) of its minority population. Following this outcry and condemnation, Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov vetoed bill and asked that it be rewritten to be more acceptable. The bill has never been withdrawn, nor has it been revised. It’s just waiting to be redrafted and reinstituted.
But the damage was done and this mean-spirited action alerted all minority groups to what the future would hold, especially since some Svoboda members had threatened to ban the Russian language completely and even strip the Ukrainian citizenship of the nation’s Russian speakers. Moreover, a further bill was enacted which overturned a law that forbids “denying or excusing the crimes of fascism”. All this was surely a sign of possible future discrimination against minority groups.
To put this issue in perspective for Canadians, just imagine if a newly installed government in Ottawa would suddenly ban the use of French as an official language in Canada. How long would it take for Quebec to call for a referendum and then proceed to secede from Canada?
In actuality, this is exactly what happened in Crimea, where the bulk of the people speak Russian. They called for a referendum and on March 16, with a turnout of over 80 percent, there was a 97 percent vote to secede from Ukraine. Since ethnic Russians form only 58 percent of the population, it means that the bulk of Ukrainians and Tatars in Crimea also voted to secede from Ukraine. There were over a hundred international observers and there wasn’t a single report from them of any irregularities. This fact was never reported in the mainstream media. Since then several public opinion polls have been conducted in Crimea and all of them found that about 90% of the population approved of the referendum and are pleased to be in the Russian Federation. Considering the situation, the Russian government accepted Crimea’s request to be part of their country. The Crimean people acted on the basis of a UN Charter provision and Russia recognized the legality of this. Hence there was nothing illegal about any aspect of this course of action. But denying the reality of this matter, Russia was immediately accused of forcefully and militarily annexing a part of Ukraine – a totally false accusation. However, based on this outright fabrication, sanctions were imposed on Russia and they remain in force.
The Kiev regime’s assault on the people of eastern Ukraine
Right after the coup that deposed the legally elected President Yanukovych in February of 2014, this regime realized they would be unpopular in eastern Ukraine where almost 90% of the people had voted for Yanukovych. But instead of trying to reach some accommodation with this region, they stupidly decided to impose their will without any discussions with these people’s representatives. Instead they immediately started firing all the local government officials, and began replacing them with officials from Kiev or western Ukraine. In fact they began arresting some of locally elected officials and took them to prisons in Kiev.
That’s when the people of Donetsk and Luhansk took matters into their own hands. In some cities they kicked out the Kiev appointed people and replaced them with their own people. At the same time they pleaded with the Kiev officials to meet with them so they could discuss the problems and hopefully set up some type of loose confederation to deal with the reality of the situation. The Kiev regime flatly refused to have any discussions with them.
To ensure that there would not be any discussions, the Kiev regime started to call the people of Donetsk and Luhansk “terrorists” – and so no discussion could be held with terrorists.
On April 15, 2014 the Kiev government started a military assault on the Donetsk and Luhansk areas, but for a long time it resulted in a stalemate especially since many in Ukraine’s army refused to shoot at their fellow citizens. In the meantime the leaders of these two areas declared they would hold a referendum. The Ukraine regime stated they would refuse to recognize the results of any referendum. The referendum was on the question ”Do you support Self-rule of the Donetsk People’s Republic” (and the same for Luhansk). There was a 75% turn out, with a “Yes” result of 89% for Donetsk and 96% for Luhansk. Nobody other than the people in these areas recognized the validity of these referenda.
Following this, Ukraine launched a massive military assault on these areas, but surprisingly these attacks were largely repulsed by the local militia. In light of this, there were immediate denunciations of Russian involvement, but there were never any photos showing Russian troops or military equipment crossing the border. And yet US satellites can produce photos of licence plates – so how is it that the US has never been able to show a single photo as proof of major Russian involvement?
Withdrawal of Ukrainian heavy weaponry, March 2015 • Photo by OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
What has been ignored is that on January 29, 2015 the Chief of Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, General Viktor Muzhenko has stated emphatically that the “Ukrainian army is not fighting with the regular units of the Russian army.” He explained that that the only Russian citizens who are fighting in the contested region, are residents in that region, or of Ukraine, and also some Russian citizens. Despite this, the western media constantly refers to “the Russian invasion of Ukraine”, but there has never been any proof of this.
The Ukrainian military has bombed and shelled various cities killing thousands of people and destroyed homes, apartment blocks, schools, hospitals, factories, water and power facilities – which constitutes war crimes. The governments of Donetsk and Luhansk have asked the UN to investigate the Ukraine assaults as being war crimes. Over a million people have fled to Russia. The first Minsk ceasefire was violated by Ukraine and probably the current second one will be violated as well. In violation of Minsk II, the US and Canada have sent in troops to train the Ukrainian army for a continuation of the war.
Minsk II requires Ukraine and these break-away republics to hold discussions on establishing some type of federated political entity. Although Poroshenko signed the document he has stated that he has no intention of forming any type of federation. Again this is a violation of what he had signed.
The term “separatist” or “pro-Russia separatist” is a false and pejorative description of the pro-autonomy movement in eastern Ukraine. The bulk of the people in the Donetsk and Luhansk area are ethnic Russians and they have lived in this area for about a thousand years. It was in the early 1920s that their region was attached to Ukraine, with the intention of providing an industrial sector to Ukraine’s agricultural base. Hence they have always been considerably different from the rest of Ukraine. In essence, these are simply people who want a degree of autonomy within Ukraine, but if this can’t be accomplished they are prepared to establish small independent republics of their own.
To show the degree of hatred the Kiev regime has for this region, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yatsenyuk is quoted on a website at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington (June 15) saying that Ukrainian soldiers near Luhansk were killed by “subhumans” and he promised to “commemorate the heroes by wiping out those who killed them and then by cleaning our land from the evil.” The word “subhuman” in German is “Untermensch” which was used by the Nazis to describe “inferior people” that could be eliminated. And here our media tells us there are no neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
At the basis of the continuing political turmoil in the country is the fact that Ukraine consists of two fundamentally different regions – its eastern part and its western part. A possible solution would be the creation of a loose confederation with two autonomous regions. One autonomous region would be free to become more economically connected with the European Union while the other with Russia. In addition to other proponents for such a sensible solution, ironically, this proposal had been put forth by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who on March 20, 2014 said:
…a constitutional reform should be held, so that interests of all Ukrainian citizens and regions are respected. This is the only basis for forming legitimate authorities, legislative and executive, central and regional… we are convinced that the situation in the country can be stabilized only through making Ukraine a federal state.
As for the future
Prospects for the future? It doesn’t look good. Unfortunately, “whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad” seems more than applicable to present day Ukraine. Instead of trying to meet the concerns of people in eastern Ukraine through diplomacy, the Kiev regime, with a fascist mind-set, immediately resorted to war, death and destruction. Whereas initially the people in eastern Ukraine would have been fully prepared to accept a federated country in which they would have a degree of autonomy, with the war that was unleashed on them, most people there now want independence and are totally alienated from Ukraine. This was Ukraine’s self-inflicted wound, but stupidly and self-righteously Ukraine’s leaders and their Western supporters have blamed “Russian aggression” for all these problems – an absurd accusation with no proof for it whatsoever. To have willfully created such a disaster was utter madness on the part of Ukraine.
But the madness is not totally in Ukraine, the USA has an equally mad policy in trying to weaken and undermine the Russian economy and thereby somehow create “regime change” in Moscow. To this end the Americans are simply using Ukraine as a convenient excuse and have intimidated their vassal states in Europe to go along with this, although this is not in Europe’s interests. The sanctions that the US initiated will eventually hurt the countries of the European Union far more than they’ll hurt Russia. Some of these countries are now beginning to realize this so there might still be a return to sanity.
In the meantime, by terminating most of its trade with Russia and directing its meagre finances to warfare instead of civilian needs, Ukraine has become essentially bankrupt. Ukraine’s overall economy is in dire straits in all sectors, including its previous robust aviation industry. The country’s standard of living has dropped dramatically and there is widespread discontent in the population. This has been met with repression and virtual terror directed at any unrest. This past winter witnessed a “suicide” epidemic that afflicted opponents of the government – nine opposition politicians and two journalists have mysteriously died since the beginning of the year.
With a projected 9 percent decline in Ukraine’s GDP in 2015, with inflation at nearly 50 percent and debt levels amounting to 100 percent of GDP, Ukraine has announced that it wants to sell off 345 state-run firms to the highest foreign bidder. Analysts have warned that because of these conditions this would be the worst possible time for Kiev to sell off its large, state-owned firms, and that it’s highly unlikely to collect significant sums for such valuable strategic assets. In the face of such lunacy, Ukraine’s Economic Development minister has put these assets up for sale at the Ukrainian-American investment conference in Washington D.C on July 13. So with such progress on the economic front, what hope is there for the country?
As for Ukraine’s campaign to continue the war against the Donetsk and Luhansk region, in defiance of the Minsk II agreement, Poroshenko has launched a new mobilization effort but this has encountered young men’s mass refusal to serve. Evasion, including emigration to Russia where there are now 1.2 million Ukrainians of military age, is now a widespread phenomenon. Recently, in light of “the anarchy which is unfolding in the army”, an entire tank brigade has refused to follow their commanders’ orders and announced their decision to demobilize in a video address to President Poroshenko. Despite all this, it seems that the Kiev regime, supported by its friends in Washington and Ottawa, is determined to pursue a military solution in eastern Ukraine.
Indeed, whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.
John Ryan, Ph.D. is a retired Professor of Geography and Senior Scholar at the University of Winnipeg. In studying for his Ph.D. at McGill, Dr. Ryan specialized in the economic and political geography of the USSR. He then taught courses on the USSR for more than 30 years at the University of Winnipeg. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.