ON TARGET: Ukrainian situation slipping under radar in West

By: Scott Taylor

With all the media madness surrounding Donald Trump’s run for the U.S. presidency, other major world events are being given ever-shorter shrift in our nightly newscasts.

Sure, there was a momentary focus on North Korea last week when President Kim Jong-un petulantly fired some missiles harmlessly into the ocean and put his non-existent nuclear arsenal on full alert. However, that was soon eclipsed by Trump discussing the size of his hands vis-à-vis his other appendages.

Any mention of the U.S.-Russia brokered ceasefire in Syria or of the still ballooning migrant crisis in Europe is difficult to find amid the torrent of personal insults hurled between Trump and his political rivals. In the Republican Party debate last Thursday, only one candidate, no-hoper John Kasich, even mentioned the situation in Ukraine, and that was only a brief assertion that America should pour in weapons to counter Russian aggression.

Just a few short months ago Ukraine was the lead story on a daily basis. Prime minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet cronies were among the most bellicose of world leaders in clamouring for an armed showdown with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia occupied Crimea in February 2014 and following a referendum, declared the formal annexation of this former Ukrainian territory on March 16, 2014.

In the dumbed-down rhetoric espoused by Harper and his foreign affairs Minister John Baird, all things Russian or pro-Russian were evil, ergo anything opposed to them must be pure goodness. The problem with Canada adopting such a strong stance from the get-go meant that we had to be wilfully blind to the reality that was transpiring. The hardcore element driving the Maidan revolution two years ago was composed of right-wing extremists funded by corrupt oligarchs. Since the Maidan coup ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich, the new regime in Kiev has failed to establish any legitimacy.

The corrupt Ukrainian military and lack of resolve among the young conscripts meant that when revolt broke out in the eastern oblasts, volunteer militia proved to be most effective counter to the pro-Russian rebels. Many of those volunteers were neo-Nazis who hated not only Russians but Jews and other minorities. Although downplayed by Ukrainian authorities as being Russian propaganda, the neo-Nazi element was impossible to ignore.

The Harper government made assurances that Canadian soldiers deployed to train the Ukrainian military would not help neo-Nazis. However, once the Ukraine government formally accredited these volunteer militias into the national guard, those lines have been blurred.

In February 2015, a ceasefire agreement was reached between Russia and Ukraine in the Donbass region. No one in the West expected it to hold, but no major clashes have occurred.

However, the lull in fighting has only served to illustrate the deep divisions that exist in the coup-installed Kiev regime. President Petro Poroshenko recently demanded that Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resign. The bitter rift between the two prompted fisticuffs and crotch-grabbing in the Ukrainian parliament, but Yatsenyuk survived a non-confidence vote.

With the fighting subsided, the neo-Nazi Azov battalion said it wanted to redeploy to Syria in order to continue fighting Russian troops propping up the Assad regime. This would make for the strange bedfellow scenario of neo-Nazis fighting alongside Daesh Islamic extremists.

Then you have the bizarre story of a Ukrainian volunteer battalion that mutinied following the arrest of their commander on charges of torture and rape.

Ruslan Onishchenko was a convicted criminal when he took command of the 170-strong Tornado battalion, which includes a large number of former convicts. Kiev authorities allege that Tornado soldiers illegally detained, tortured and raped male prisoners.

After Onishchenko’s arrest his men have alleged that their leader is being scapegoated by Kiev officials who profit from black market contraband. Rather than accept disbandment, the men of the Tornado battalion barricaded themselves in their barracks, armed to the teeth with heavy weapons.

To think that just a few short months ago Harper was pledging Canada’s unconditional support for these guys for the simple reason that they were anti-Russian. Although John Kasich will never be president of the U.S., his solution of pouring in more weapons to defuse the situation in Ukraine is as bonkers as Trump building a wall along the Mexican border … and making the Mexicans pay for it.