by Dmitri Kovalevich
More Ukrainian Soldiers Continue to Defect as Eastern Ukrainians See Better Future with Russian Federation
For more than five months, full-scale hostilities have taken place on the territory of Ukraine. The number of victims is growing every day on both sides of the front line.
From the signing of the “Minsk 2” peace agreement in February 2015 until February 2022—seven long years—hostilities in the Donbas region raged with regular shelling and small arms attacks by the Ukrainian military and paramilitaries against the towns and cities of the region. Ukrainians throughout the country have become accustomed to this routinized, “low intensity” warfare.
However, the entry of the Russian Federation into the conflict on the side of the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics more than five months ago has upset the routine, causing much confusion and bewilderment among Ukrainians. They are asking themselves, how can it be that Kyiv could also be shelled in response to the shellings of Donetsk? “Isn’t the strongest military power in the world on our side? Why can’t it stop this war that has broken out?”
Western propaganda (and since 2014, Ukrainian propaganda, too), deeply corrupts a person’s understanding. It encourages the idea that a country like Ukraine, subordinated to the West, can do whatever it wishes so long as it supports the goals of the large Western countries. In this context, liberal-minded views in favor of peace do not count. Non-Western countries are, by default, considered inferior and local opponents of Western imperialism are suspect, be they governments or simple political movements.
Internal Dissent in Ukraine
To combat internal dissent, the Ukrainian state encourages its citizens to speak up against those it labels as “traitors” and “collaborators.” People who behave “suspiciously” by criticizing the actions of the authorities or even daring to declare responsibility of the Ukrainian authorities for the military intervention by the Russian Federation are considered traitors by default.
Of late, the news reporting of “criminal conduct” in Ukraine is telling the stories of the woman convicted by a court for the crime of reading Russian Telegram channels while using public transport; the man who was found in possession of the flag of the Soviet Ukrainian Republic; and the teenager who photographed an airport building.
A Ministry of Digital Transformation was established in Ukraine in 2019 with the help of the European Union and the U.S. It is part of implementing a strategy of silencing dissent. The ministry goes so far as to offer guidelines on how to correctly fill out a “collaborator report” to finger suspect acquaintances of “the enemy.” The ministry cites a typical letter sent to the chatbot єВорог: “His sister is the wife of a separatist who is fighting for Russia. They keep in touch and exchange information about the location of our army in the city.”
Often such denunciations become simply a method of settling old personal scores. These raise uncomfortable memories of the pogroms against Jews which marked Ukraine during the years of Nazi German occupation. For example, one of the examples of denunciations sent to the Ministry of Digital Transformation has been highlighted by Maksim Buzhansky, deputy leader of President Zelensky’s political party. He writes of a woman being targeted for the crime of collaboration: “She is pregnant by a Russian and considers herself to be something of a first lady of the village.” This is how simple envy or personal dislike can become a pretext for a witch-hunt under the guise of a political agenda.
One of the most egregious recent cases was the expulsion of Elvira Khomenko, a student from a university in the city of Bila Tserkva, 80 km south of Kyiv. Elvira was a student in the veterinary department. She wrote that enemies should be treated with kindness, that she does not eat meat, does not support the Ukrainian army, and does not support the killing of people. She is described as something of a hippie and peacenik who strongly maintains her beliefs and opinions.
At the end of July, she was expelled from the university and denounced to the SBU, Ukraine’s political police service. Elvira has since disappeared without a trace. Police are refusing to accept her mother’s statement in defense of her daughter, treating the mother with contempt. [As of August 1, 2022, the whereabouts of Elvira Khomenko are known only to Ukrainian authorities.]
In order to carry out its widespread, anti-Russia brainwashing in Ukraine, the Zelensky-led government has banned all opposition political parties and closed critical media. Over the past two years, half of the television channels in Ukraine have gone off the air, accused of pro-Russia sympathies. Since February 2022, all remaining media are obliged to relay only the point of view of the Office of the President, under threat of being accused of treason.
During this period, the opposition parties Platform for Life (social democratic), the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the “Socialists,” the Union of Left Forces, the Sharij Party, the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine and the Labor Party of Ukraine have been banned and their property seized. Earlier, only party activity was suspended; the seizure of party properties is a new escalation. As the list of banned parties makes clear, they are left-wing for the most part. Their “fault” is their disapproval of the eight-year-old conflict waged against Donbas (which became the reason for the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine).
In July 2022, the wealthiest Ukrainian, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov (number one on Forbes-Ukraine’s list of wealthiest people in the country) gave up control of his media holdings, although he and his media have been quite loyal to Zelensky’s office. Hundreds of employees lost their jobs. The “logic” of this business decision by Ahkmetov is that a Ukrainian billionaire has no need to own costly media if it cannot be used to advance his or her personal interests and “merely” serves to relay the point of view of the authorities.
Worker and trade union rights under attack
Under the pretext of the war in Ukraine, authorities have begun to actively attack worker and trade union rights. They are promoting regressive “reform” of existing labor legislation. This had failed earlier due to pressure by international trade unions. In early July, the parliament sent to Zelensky for his signature Bill No. 7251, which regulates the “optimization of labor relations” under martial law.
This legislative innovation significantly curtails the rights of Ukrainian employees and nullifies the main historical gains of the working class, rolling them back to the situation of the 19th century. Among the provisions of the new law is that Ukrainian employers are no longer required to limit the working day to eight hours and the working week can stretch up to 60 hours. That could mean a ten-hour working day with one day off per week, a twelve-hour working day with two days off, or seven days of eight and a half hours each with no day off! Thus will Ukrainian employers be able to save on overtime pay.
Back in 1810, the British educator and social philosopher Robert Owen advocated for a reduced work day; by 1817, he had formulated the slogan: “Eight hours’ labor, eight hours’ recreation, eight hours’ rest.” Oh, how the world of the 21st century is evolving—backwards!
In addition, from now on, Ukrainian workers can be fired on vague pretexts of no available work. Employers themselves will determine how this applies, depending on their interests.
A second regressive labor law
In July the Ukraine legislature (Verkhovna Rada) also adopted Bill No. 5371, on simplified termination of employment contracts during martial law. It regulates labor contracts for businesses of fewer than 250 employees, essentially canceling the provisions of the Labor Code for them. This amounts to some 80% of all companies in Ukraine.
Working conditions, working hours, holidays and wages will now be regulated not by law but by the terms of contracts drawn up by the employer. “Anything can be written in the contract, especially in conditions of unemployment. In fact, this means that Ukrainians will have to work on the conditions that employers will impose on them,” says Ukrainian lawyer Rostyslav Kravets.
The governing regime in Kyiv pushed through the bill, citing a familiar theme: “Russian aggression.” But the bill was originally registered in April 2021, nearly one year prior to Russia’s military intervention.
Formally, the bill was submitted on behalf of the head of the parliamentary committee on social policy, Galina Tretyakova, and a number of other deputies from the ruling Servant of the People party. Ukrainian trade unions had demanded Tretyakova’s resignation following a sickening speech in which she said that poor people should be sterilized to reduce the country’s welfare bill.
Bill 5371 was developed by the Ukrainian public organization “Office of Simple Solutions,” which was originally created by the former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili (2008-13), together with the associations of Ukrainian employers and the USAID program.
In other words, the deprivation of Ukrainian labor rights has been financed by a U.S. government agency. (As for Saakashvili, he is awaiting trial in Georgia under charges of violence against his political opponents as well as harsh restrictions against media outlets before and during his presidency. He is also charged with entering the country illegally, in October 2021, when he was first arrested and detained.)
George Sandul, a lawyer at the Kyiv public organization “Labor Initiatives,” commenting on Bill 5371, noted that the employee always has less power than the employer, and at the international level, numerous conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO) are devoted to this issue. “De facto, this regime assumes that literally anything can be entered into an employee’s employment contract, without reference to Ukrainian labor laws. For example, additional grounds for dismissal, liability, or even a 100-hour week,” explains Sandul.
In June, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) appealed to Ukrainian authorities to remove the scandalous bill No. 5371 from consideration, as it contradicts the ILO conventions ratified by Ukraine’s “association agreement” with the EU (entered into force in September 2017) and European legislation.
Ukraine has in recent years served as a testing ground for anti-social reforms and cuts, which are then carried out in other European countries. These are all the more misplaced considering that Ukraine is one of the poorest countries in Europe and over the past eight years, there has been a massive outflow of Ukrainian workers westward in Europe or eastward to Russia.
Resisting military service in wartime
Since the beginning of Russia’s military operation, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian men have been drafted into the army and thousands have illegally fled across the border to dodge military service. Millions of women, too, have left the country, leaving many manufacturing facilities at a standstill. Even regular public utilities are understaffed, while many restaurants in the capital city Kyiv have closed as their chefs and other staff have left.
In July, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine reported on the elimination of 45 escape routes used by men of military age. Those caught were traveling by foot, car or boat. One enterprising draft dodger tried to leave the country by swimming across a river in a diving suit. Fees charged by those guiding the escapees range from the equivalent of US$1,000 to US$20,000.
The only media in the world with less credible Putin’s vile propaganda machine is CNN, the NYT, WaPo.
You left out the most important reason the UNIPARTY supports this gangster. He has been, and still is, Hunter’s partner in many deals dating back, in some cases, 13 years! The UNIPARTY loves joe so they protect his son.
Dmitri Kovalevich, the article’s author, is a member of Borotba, the Stalinist Ukrainian-communist party that was banned for actively supporting Putin-backed rebel forces in Donbas.
You’re reading Putin propaganda cranked out by a communist. If you doubt that, look up the author and Borotba yourself.
greggie dear, have you ever worked with any official Ukrainian in an international capacity? I didn’t think so. You are being fed the same garbage by both sides. The crime here is you only believe what you want. There must be a lesson on lying to the west starting in the preschool and continuing for life.
You cant point to any lies but attack the author. Old well known action of attack the messenger for the message.
Those that chose to flee to Russian occupied areas were said to be “kidnapped” too. Those that did not were told by the Nazis the escape routes were unsafe so forced to stay as human shields.
Zelensky and the WEF blood sacrifice for laundering billions of our tax dollars.
It was reported long ago Golden boy shut down the media except his own.
What will you do when your media lets some of this leak? There is much much worse about your hero and his murderous raping drug fueled Nazi bands.
I’m pointing at the entire article. It’s ALL a lie. It turns reality on it’s head.
Putin is a vicious pig of a tyrant who has invaded a neighboring nation with the intention of subjugating and stealing it. Accomplishing that, he will dominate all of Europe, extinguishing Western democracy. He oppresses his own people, who are fed a steady diet of propaganda and and lies and imprisoned if they contradict it. He murders his political enemies and the innocent alike without restraint.
Zelensky and those who support him stand between Putin and his objectives. If you choose the other side, you’re choosing everything that Putin represents. You might as well have turned a blind eye to Hitler and advocated keeping out of it, because it didn’t concern us. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work out well in the world we live in. It’s a foolish denial of the reality of human evil. Whenever it’s done evil prevails, because evil is willful, strong, and aggressive. Evil is predatory.
That’s your play: turn reality on its head.
I sometimes wonder if you really are some stupid old coot that has overstayed his welcome on this earth, that you really believe this shit that you spout.
You simply invert everything that Trump and conservatives know to be true, accusing us of doing what you and your side are doing openly and publicly.
If you really are stupid enough to believe that I got good news for you:
Only one of us is right.
Anyone with glimmer of intelligence knows what Vladimir Putin is and what Zelensky and the Ukrainian people are resisting. Some are too stupid to figure it out for themselves, despite all evidence; they live in an alternate right-wing propaganda world and lack the critical thinking skills required to differentiate between truth and lies. Others know full well, but actually support what Putin represents.