War correspondent Vauro Senesi on the situation in E. Ukraine; “The Americanist front is cracking”

From Fort Russ

Published February 10, 2015 in Vita Magazine
February 20, 2015
Translated from Italian by Tom Winter
 
The satirist is one of the few people from the west to have been on the ground in the Donbass, the part of Ukraine called Novorossiya that is fighting against Kiev. “The situation is extremely dramatic. Instead of Russian regular army, there are guerillas that fight against a nazist government.”
The situation is at a crossroads. At present there are negotiations between the USA, the EU, and Russia. If Merkel, Hollande and Kerry can find a deal with Putin the situation could cool down. The problem is that in the opposite case, the scenario is at risk becoming quite dramatic. The notices that come from the war zone are few, and almost always from Ukrainian and American sources. One of the very few Italians and westerners to have been on the other side, amidst the pro-russian combatants, is the famous satirical cartoonist Vauro Senesi. Therefore Vita has contacted him and asked him to recount what he saw.
Vita: You’ve recently been in the east of Ukraine. What did you see?
VS: A humanitarian disaster. Many cities and villages are partially depopulated. Mainly the refugees head for Russia, and this goes a long way about saying who the liberators are. The ones to remain are those who can’t get out. These are the elderly, the disabled, or persons in extreme poverty. It’s winter, with temperatures of 20 below. They don’t have water; they don’t have electricity. I’ve seen them transport drinking water in old oil drums in the back of pickups in the bombarded and half-destroyed neighborhoods. One moving scene: the driver of the pickup was an old World War Two vet, still in his Red Army uniform.
It’s impossible, going there, not to see the fact that there is a clear strategy on the part of Kiev: ethnic cleansing. When you strike the nerve center of the life of a community with such arrogance, that can only be the motive: Raze to the ground the schools, hospitals, factories, electric power plants…
Vita: What’s the response of the pro-russians?
VS: The reply of the armed Cossacks is participatory, and heroic. In addition to defending the territory militarily, they have also taken on the burden to the extent possible, of sustaining the population. They distribute food and water, and organize co-ops and aid groups to rebuild the social fabric.
The population in recent years has had the experience of a liberalism without rules, a society run only in the private interest of the tycoons. In Ukraine the system denies fundamental rights like access to health care: right in Kiev, the hospital, for example, even before the conflict, was still living in the Chernobyl emergency era, without available cures or treatments. The only access was the black market.
A situation like that, with a state system so unfair, then coupled with the Maidan coup, and the memory of the massacre at Odessa, has cut a deep chasm between  the the russo-ukrainian population and the Kiev regime. I say the regime, because within the same society of Ukraine there are strong currents of dissent, stifled by the militarization in place in Kiev.
Vita: His reading of the facts is a bit pro-soviet, Or at least, that is the accusation of his critics. But we should remind these gentlemen that the Soviet Union ended in 1991.
Actually, the accusation is a matter of being nostalgic…
VS: I’m not Russian, so the nostalgia would be about something else. But certainly there is a vein of nostalgia in the population of Donbass. The people there say that while there was a Soviet Union, the welfare was free and better than today. Sanitation and school worked for everybody. In the midst of it all, strange to relate, were mingled Byzantine icons, Madonnas, portraits of Lenin, Russian flags and Red flags. I have to say that this nostalgia is for a system that, with all its horrors, guaranteed basic rights: health, education, and work.
Vita: How did Anti-fascism get into the pro-russian revolt in Ukraine?
VS: It’s outright: the salute the Cossacks give among themselves is a clenched fist accompanied by the phrase “¡No pasarán!” This because on the opposing side there are army divisions  that have adopted the symbols of the German SS. The battalions of the Ukrainian National Guard are openly nazist. At Kiev they have erected a monuments to nazi criminals like Stepan Bandera.
Vita: In the western media they refer to the rebels of the Donbass as regular army supported by Russia. True?
VS: I haven’t walked through every corner of the Donbass. What I saw was an army equipped with light to medium weapons. I didn’t see an army set up like the Russian army. There certainly are Russians among them, but they are volunteers. Guerillas. A guerrilla army. They are composed, from a tactical standpoint, on Guevarism. So said the general I was able to talk to — the idea is that of a guerrilla war of liberation and of reconstruction of an ethical society. 
The thing I don’t understand is that here we are in 2015: Why don’t we have satellite photos or news of prisoners from the Russian Army that are supposed to have invaded Donbass? It seems that these soldiers of Putin have the gift of invisibility.
Vita: In these hours we have negotiations between the US, the EU, and Russia. There are those who say it’s an attempt to manage the conflict at least, if peace itself is not attainable. What do you think?
VS: From my personal experience as a war correspondent, the idea of regulating the intensity of a conflict is folly. When you unchain the breakout of the violence it’s not able to be regulated or circumscribed. A war on this scale in the heart of Europe could be the fore-runner of a world conflict.
Europe is getting pushed onto pro-American positions, but I hope diplomacy can get to a positive opening. The alternative would be an immense tragedy. On the positive side there is this: Europe, though Mogherini has categorically squelched the idea of arming Kiev. And Tsipras is dealing with Putin and has said no to new sanctions. So the Americanist front is cracking. I hope they take it hard. 

To read Vauro’s own account of his tour of Donbass, click here, and here

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Italian reporter: “It is impossible not to see a planned program of ethnic cleansing”

Posted on Fort Russ,  January 1, 2015
Vauro Senesi for Fatto Quotidiano
Translated from Italian by Tom Winter
http://www.lantidiplomatico.it/dettnews.php?idx=82&pg=9944

Pervomaisk

Tr.: I get so fed up with talking heads who know nothing but what our State Department feeds them. Read this. Share it. An Italian journalist reports on his tour of Lugansk. I translated it through tears.

“They have the Swastika on their uniform, how is it possible that Europe supports them?”

The Daily has published reports of Vauro Senesi from the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, a place where the local population is being, on a daily basis, killed by battalions of the extreme right in the service of the puppet state of Kiev. All this in the most absolute silence of the Italian media. A silence to cover up a foreign policy — that of Renzi and Mogherini — unjustifiable and compromised — to follow the United State in this mad rush to the abyss against Russia …

This article of Vauro Senesi in Fatto Quotidiano is an important exception.
———————————————————–
On the edge of the street, areas of dirty snow compete for space with craters blackened from the explosions. “Pervomaisk,” the First of May, is written on a sign, but it, too, is riddled with shrapnel from howitzers at the entrance of this town a few kilometers from Lugansk, the capital of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Lugansk, in the russian-speaking region of Donbass. We stopped in a piazza circled by seven or eight story, square, Soviet style, apartment buildings. Their monotonous geometry is shattered, disrupted by outpourings of masonry like lava flows. One of the breaches is so big you see the other side of the building, a wall burned by fire, now the color of an overcast sky. “A mother lived there with her three kids…” Four middle-aged women come up, wrapped up against the cold. “There’s nothing left of her or her children. The explosion blew everything to bits,” one of them, Irina, says, pointing to the gaping hole. She relates this without her expression revealing any emotion. Grief, pain, fear — maybe all her emotions have been burned, reduced into rubble like the city she continues to live in.


Pervomaisk

Before the war, there were 25,000 inhabitants; now there are less than 8,000. Most have fled into Russia. There is no electricity, no running water. The power plants, the water treatment plants, all destroyed by the bombardment. “But why don’t you go, why don’t you flee?” Irina shakes her head, resigned, obstinate. “This is our land.” “But how can you survive here?” “The Cossacks bring us food when they have any.When they don’t have enough, they scant their own, for us. All this area is defended by the Cossack National Guard of the Don. “Only they think of us. Europe arms the Ukrainian Army that is bombing us. Why? We, too, were Ukrainians.”

The rattle and rumble of an engine interrupts Irina’s outburst. An old and battered pickup truck comes into the courtyard making its way slalomwise around burned-out cars, piles of trash, and piles of rubble. As if drawn by a lure, other groups of women come out from the half-ruined buildings holding baskets of bottles and canteens. The pickup stops. On the door, hand painted, is a red star and a peace sign. The driver is an aged man. Gaunt, with the face framed by a long white beard, on his hat, there is a medal of the Red Army from the Second World War. He greets the women and helps them fill bottles and canteens with drinkable water from the plastic cistern mounted on the bed of the pickup. The first line of the front is just on the other side of these buildings. A woman pushing a baby stroller with a baby in it crosses the cratered street about 50 meters from a trench protected by tree trunks, sandbags, and a position reinforced with wooden beams. There is a machine gun sticking out of it. It is the most advanced outpost of Pervomaisk, and it is manned by an armed Cossack.

Sheltered by a bombed house, there is a gazebo of plastic, below it, a bit of wood burns in a rusty barrel. It’s Roman’s turn to warm himself up. He extends his hands, numb from the cold, to the chance brazier, enjoying a bit of warmth and silence. “It’s been quiet for three days,” he says, and the hint of a smile shows through his thin blond beard that covers his cheeks. “After 32 days of being under constant artillery fire.” Roman is 28, but looks younger, despite the dark circles of weariness about the eyes, and the camouflage he wears, the Kalashnikov slung over the shoulder. He doesn’t know how long the quiet will last, he doesn’t know how much longer the war will last. “We want peace, but on our bit of land. Becoming part of Ukraine again is no longer a possibility. The Army of Ukraine has fired on their own people. There’s nothing for us but to resist to the end.” It is the Resistance Roman is talking about. “Against the Nazis over there…” He points with his arm to the line of the front. “Over there, it’s the Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard. They’ve got swastikas on their uniform. How is it possible that Europe supports them?”

Azov, Aidar, Donbass-Dnepr, Dnepr One, Dnepr Two — battalions composed of extreme right volunteers integrated into the regulars of Ukraine, and financed, like the neo-nazi group Pravij Sektor [Right Sector] by the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, the extremely rich and powerful governor of the Dnepropetrovsk region, who, in addition to his Ukrainian passport, has Cypriot and Israeli passports. Roman smiles again saluting us with a raised fist. “No Pasaran!” – the salute of the Republicans of Spain, which, among the Cossacks, has gained a new life, and a new context and has become common.

“No Pasaran,” – Roman repeats, as if to reassure us, too. ЛЮДЫ [lyudi] written in big letters in white paint, a word, which in Russian means “People,” is written repeatedly on homes and schools, a sign that civilians, non-combatants, are there — in an attempt at protection from fire and bombardment. We see it again on the wall of a burned out house as we leave Pervomaisk to continue our voyage through the destruction towards Novosvietlavka, on the way that leads to the old airport. ЛЮДЫ, people. And it is against people, civilians, that this war seems to get carried on non-stop. We left Lugansk, went through Stakanov, Pervomaisk, and everywhere we saw schools, hospitals, factories, power plants, water pumping stations, all destroyed. Not to see a planned program of ethnic cleansing is impossible. The intent to force the People that live and survive in the region to abandon it and take refuge in Russia, leaving behind them scorched earth.

SCORCHED EARTH is what’s left of Novosvietlavka. Burned, like all the huts that composed it. The aqueduct, the House of Culture, the church, the school. On the ruins of the school, near the carcass of a yellow school bus riddled with bullets, stood the remains of a large sign, with pictures of happy boys and girls under the legend “These years of school are the most beautiful years.” Words that sound dramatically ironic in this setting. Also the hospital has been reduced to a pile of rubble. Vladimir Nikolai Svarievski, deputy mayor, tries to compose himself, apparently ashamed, though it wasn’t he that was responsible for the devastation. But he gives up the attempt and his eyes fill with tears, his mouth fills with the words of an account of the horror that seems to have no thought of coming to an end. “The militia of the Aidar battalion came through here. Lootings, shootings, mass graves, corpses desecrated.”

Few inhabitants are left in Novosvetlovka. There is an old man. “I took refuge in a basement. Four days I hid in the dark without food and water.” There, a small group of kids by a burned-out tank wait for a bus that will take them to a school ten kilometers away. “Our school was the biggest, most beautiful,” says one of them. And there are packs of dogs. “Watch out. They are dangerous.” The old man puts us on our guard. Hunger. The shock of the explosions has made them feral; they’ve become like beasts. They attack people. Beasts.

http://fortruss.blogspot.com/2015/01/italian-reporter-it-is-impossible-not.html

Originally from
http://www.lantidiplomatico.it/dettnews.php?idx=82&pg=9944