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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Mariupol Market Massacre, part 4: Whose Terrorism?

<< Mariupol Market Massacre: The Terrorist Rocket Attack of January 24, 2015

Part 4: Whose Terrorism?
March 7, 2015
last edits March 10

The Key to Motive: Who is Getting Shelled?
As of now, there is still no forensic proof of who fired these rockets, and no clear admission of guilt. Until there's genuine proof one way or another, we should consider either side capable, and motive will be key to getting a best guess in the meantime.

And the key to understanding motive is knowing just what happened - the accurate when and where and especially who of it all. Never mind the military checkpoint, which rebels might have logical reasons to attack. We can see (part 3) the morning shelling was a deliberate attack on the civilians of that eastern fringe of Mariupol, and rebel motive for that is not at all obvious.

We can guess there's some connection with the proximity of Novorossia forces, their open aim to replace Kiev's forces securing the people of Mariupol, and claims of an offensive this could be seen as part of. But what is the link? Who had the least use for the people of this district at the time of the attack? One of these two explanations will better fit the facts:
- Russian-supported rebel-terrorists might opt to drive away some chunk of the populace ahead of the conquest, fearing they'd be unable to manage the resentful Euro-centric locals.

- The current European-oriented occupiers might find the citizens and the city, infrastructure, etc. more-than-expendable once their control was threatened. And even more urgently, they might seek to demonize the very nearness of rebel victory by painting the enemy as terrorists - using expendable people as the raw material, and starting to wreck the enemy's prize before they even get it.

There will be no single answer as to the beliefs of the populace, and beware of any source that claims they have one. Consider George Eliason, in a widely-read article Mariupol Attack is a War Crime: The Evidence points to Kiev - worth a read, although incorrect about a lack of firing from south/Vynogradne. Eliasson lives in Ukraine and has some genuine knowledge, and writes that "the militia near Mariupol is comprised of local city residents," and the city is "where there family and friends live," giving them an anti-motive to let any of their rockets fall there. More to the point, he adds "the impact locations are squarely in ethnic Russian areas that support the local militia." That might be a punishment from the other side, then. He also cites a video relating "The Only Important Voices of the War In Donbass" - locals speaking out against Kiev and in favor of Russian-oriented rebels of Novorossiya ("new Russia," a historical term for the area). But that's obviously not the single voice of Mariupol, however sizeable or important it is. And he probably wouldn't claim it is.

Everyone claims the people there are the most important part of all this, but others hear from different residents who present a different picture. A photo collection asks "is there any evidence of pro-Russian sentiment in Maiupol East kraine that is being attacked by the eparatists? From photos of moderate-sized pro-Kiev rally, the answer is a flag-draped "No!" A government-sponsored video - "Residents of Mariupol Appeal to the World " - likewise shows locals (ten) speaking for everyone as they claim their opponents are Russian foreigners, mercenaries, and terrorists, and clearly responsible for everything bad. They speak mainly addressing Russia's president Putin, who seems to be the only one who can stop the terrorists from, as they say, "killing us."

We can imagine the ten locals sampled here is less than 1% of the voices like them (the soaring music suggests "millionfold, and angels all, rising to glory!!") So there must be thousands, at least, maybe even into the tens of thousands. In a city of around 4-500,000 this could mean little. Especially as it is, again, under the forced control of the Western-backed interim government of Ukraine. Many collaborate whether it's in everyone's interest or not, and will parrot all kinds of baseless claims. Many more will just fall silent and "not very political." But those folks won't make such rousing videos.

So clearly, there's some controversy amongst Maiupol's people on the issue of the likely re-integrating with the Donetsk People's Republic. This unfortunate, as it blocks any perfect solution. Someone will wind up unhappy here.

Last Time Rebels Were in Charge
Of course, before the current security arrangement that has it used as a regional capitol, Mariupol was briefly a rebel city like Donetsk and the rest. Everyone knows this, but opinions differ as to how that reflects on the local populace, as opposed to Russian agents who must have taken control.

"Free Mariupol" was still evolving in early May when Ukrainian forces entered with heavy weapons on the 9th and attacked the occupied police station, trying to seize the city center. It was their forces who blew up the now-former police station, which the girl above is posed in front of as she speaks of rebel attacks on the city. They were met with large crowds of angry locals, including police, and clearly some armed resistance. Photos from the time show activist-fighters atop a seized tank, flying the Novorossia flag, cheered by crowds of locals. (re-posted below, AP Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko). They also disabled at least one other tank and left it charred.
As a pro-Kievc source asks: is there any evidence of pro-Russian sentiment
in Maiupol, that is being attacked by the separatists?

I'm not aware of any soldiers reported killed in this, but they had to retreat in a major rout, claiming to eliminate 20 "terrorists," but only confirmed to kill a policeman, one unarmed civilian and maybe a few others along the way. I'm hazy, and it's disputed. There were early claims that over 100 locals were shot dead in a "massacre," and there's a January 2015 report by Eliot Higgins' Bellingcat group, that absolves the soldiers of any serious wrongdoing ... as they fled from an armed town that hated them (I haven't looked at that yet, but the Kyiv Post enthuses over it. Note: Bellingcat will never do a video study of what happened at the Trade Union Hall in Odessa a week earlier)

If there was anything remotely like a pro-Kiev majority here, could there ever have been an occpuation of the whole city's central police HQ, with general approval of the police, and a defeat of military forces sent it like we saw that day? Mariupol, by nature and on balance, was and is a city of Novorossia.

The vote for independence was held just after the above episode, on May 10. That was earlier than most areas, to take advantage of the lack of attacks that day; consider the vote's cancellation in Krasnoarmisk on Kiev's order on the 11th - soldiers simply shot into the crowd, killing at least one man.  In Mariupol it went peacefully, with between 4 and 8 polling stations for the city of half a million. The Guardian, reported "huge queues of people" there, "almost all of whom said they were voting yes to separatism."

Among those who voted, it was reported 89% in Donetsk region said yes. Kiev says only a minority even voted, and that was all bogus, besides illegal. Repeat voting was allowed, they claimed, and their soldiers kept intercepting batches of falsified ballots. Just at their checkpoints on the edges of Mariupol this happened at least twice. Suspects were not handed to local police, but to the SBU. Alleged ballots were sometimes burned on the spot.

Since: "Deeply Divided"
Government forces later took the city after a small battle in mid-June, a period I'm even less versed on yet. They surely called on the help of some sympathetic locals, and managed to establish control of the vital city with minimal direct fighting, and made it the new temporary capitol for the occupied parts of Donetsk Oblast (province).

Still, no one with real knowledge could deny a high degree of pro-Russia/pro-rebel sentiment in Mariupol. One pro-Kiev citizen, speaking to Kyiv Post (same link above), later tried to put his spin on it; “Ninety percent of my friends are for Ukraine, but they are young. There are many older people with small minds who only believe what they see on Russian television.” Because of them, and whoever else, he estimated “The city is split 50/50 for Novorossiya and Ukraine." Voice of America (VoA) reporter Patrick Wells on March 4 noted that "city authorities here acknowledge the population remains deeply divided," also giving an even-split of 30% for Kiev and 30% against, with some 40% "undecided, longing only for a return to normality." No 40% of people are that fuzzy; they just don't reveal their true feelings while they're under occupation like this. As a Kiev-approved body, these authorities will downplay opposing views to some degree. Still it seems Mariupol, taken together, is at least some majority pro-Russian and anti-Kiev - as the blance of citizen activism in May suggests.

There are reports, which I haven't studied or collected, alleging abuses in occupied Mariupol by the so-called "punisher brigades," especially the local-based Azov battalion, staffed with mercenaries, ultra-nationalists, and violent criminals released from prison, some say. These allegations paint a picture of widespread abuses including robbery, assault, kidnapping, rape and humiliation ("almost weekly" - example report). True or not, such stories are circulated and believed, both reflecting and directing attitudes against the occupation.

And it got worse, not better after the rocket massacre. On March 5, 2015 Ukrainian opposition hacker collective CyberBerkut claimed to have a batch of communications from the Ministry of Information Policy in Mariupol. These show worries that, as Sputnik News summarized, pro-Russian and anti-Kiev sentiments ran high in many sectors of the city, and Mariupol needed "a pro-Ukrainian social-psychological propaganda campaign," along with a "pilot project of military-civilian administration." Eventually, all citizens should be like the flag-draped zombies in the photos and videos cited above.

The documents also speak of an ongoing "sweep" of the city, in line with reports from the ground. Cyberberkut explain more than 100 people had been arrested just over the past few days, and Sputnik added that prior reports have "residents being taken away for questioning, some by armed men offering no official identification papers." The VoA report also mentioned "a spate of arrests in recent weeks as Ukrainian authorities try to root out suspected spies," highlighting the case of a man whose family says he was badly beaten and of course innocent, and is now missing.

Wells' report noted that "perhaps nowhere is Mariupol’s atmosphere of mistrust more evident than in the suburb of Vastochniy," using a different spelling. Despite Human Rights Watch blaming the rebels for the rocket attack there, he wrote "many continue to believe that the government was responsible, though they are too afraid to say so openly." One man with pseudonym Pasha said "75 percent of the people here are sure that this was a provocation by the Ukrainian government.”

Whether behind it or not, it seems authorities used the attack to their advantage to start a crackdown, besides re-inforcing the city's military defenses. And the crackdown should probably be the sharpest in Vostichniy district; at the eastern edge of the city, it would likely be the first district rebels took, and be used as a base for further advances. If, as Eliasson says, this is one of the "ethnic Russian areas that support the local militia and where their families are located," wrecking the town and wounding everyone with rockets - deliberately - is one of the few ways they could manage to screw things up with the locals in an otherwise sweet situation.

Assessing What The Worms Got
The Azov Battalion's reconnaissance unit commander, Serhiy Korotkov, is the kind of guy one would send ahead into enemy territory to assess how an artillery strike worked. He and his armed men were sent into Vostichny on January 24 and made a short videotaped tour. A short edit of this was posted by anti-Kiev activist as Korotkov “explaining why Mariupol was shelled.” While the fires burn behind him, he explains (translated) "anybody can check for oneself that this is not an accidental hit. There is no Ukrainian military here, and never have been. In this area, as graffiti on some walls shows, some fans of the Russian World live. Those who want the Russian World - see, here you got it." Earlier in the video he reported from Kievskaya street; "what's noteworthy is that over here we have "Left Sector" (opponents of Kiev-allied fascist group Right Sector). The Communiaki (derogatory term for Communists) received what they wanted." As he explains this, he alternates between smiling with amusement, and trying somewhat not to.

Korotkov clearly considers himself and his Ukraine winners in the day's attack. Others who would be happy - or maybe conflicted - on seeing this destruction would include any foreign mercenaries working with his Azov battalion. What probably is not the only one of these was innocently asked a question in Ukrainian by a female reporter as he passed by. In a perfect American English, west coast street, he cut her off with "outta my face, outta my face, bitch" and moved on (video). Whoever this pro-democracy activist is, he's clearly worried about his face, covering it with his hand so the bitch's stupid cameraman couldn't record it. If they use mercenaries or foreign "volunteers," would they also use pardoned violent prisoners to enforce Europe's will on the people of Novorissia as some claim? They might.

On the losing side obviously are those effected and especially the 29 killed by the rocket attack. And from what we know, we should expect these to be largely anti-Kiev, if randomly-selected (as far as we know - some grenade assassinations could blend right in here). At least one such victim at least was found and published with muted glee by pro-Kiev sources like Euromaidan Press, and she makes a fine example. Olga Abdurashitova, at age 27, is not a Soviet-sentimental senior citizen. But she was a rebel-booster and some reports note she got what she "asked for," if not deserved; in this terrorist attack, at least one death to almost cheer.

Euromaidan Press' report "Girl cheers for Russian invasion, is killed by Russian artillery" cites some of her comments in favor of Russia and the rebels and against Kiev, striking a militant pose in at least one photo with a Kalashnikov rifle. They say "a Ukrainian blogger named Fedor Kulikov was the first one to notice Olga’s name in the list of those killed," with her body found "near Kyivsky market, where she was probably buying vegetables and meat for her family." She seemed like a good person otherwise, the report notes, and family-oriented. But by supporting the "Russian World" and inviting it to Mariupol, she clearly "want(ed) death and destruction on her own city" and became "a cheerer for her executioners."

DPR rebels do in fact draw near, almost near enough to link up hand-in-hand with their de-humanized local supporters - whatever percentage that really is - and finally liberate the city as they all see it. Aka "Russian invasion." Call it irony or state-sponsored terrorism, but no matter how soon that happens, Olga for one won't be there.

How these idiot Russian terrorists so often kill their own supporters - or how their victims keep failing to predict that and stop the support earlier ... it seemed a real mystery to Euromaidan Press. After some mental struggle, they suggest examples can be found in nature, citing "some forms of hair worms" that can be self-destructive like that. This kind of de-humanization has long been central to Kiev's war drive which is, by many measures, a literally genocidal operation.

Poroshenko, People (his and theirs), Promises, a Preview?
Consider that two days before this clear terrorist attack, the president of Ukraine's current government, Mr. Petro Porshenko spoke at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, brandishing a piece of the "Volnovakha bus." That was carrying DPR residents who were wounded and killed at one of his checkpoints on July 13 - by either a Grad rocket or a landmine - as they tried to return home, after chasing their pensions in government-held areas as his laws required. He lamented the ongoing "terrorism" with "Russian missiles" against what he called, incorrectly there, "my people."

In Vostichniy, edge of Mariupol, the victims were technically "his" people, but in imminent danger of sliding into the category of "their" people. Consider what the same Poroshenko declared about those folks, including the ones on the "Volnovakha bus," outlining his war strategy in a public speech from October 23, 2014:

"We will have our jobs. They will not. We will have our pensions. They will not. We will have care for children, for people, and retirees. They will not. Our children will go to schools and kindergartens. Theirs will hole up in basements [from shelling or bombing]. Because they are not able to do anything. This is exactly how we will win this war!"

This genocidal war strategy explains a lot of the horrible things on and near rebel-held areas before and since that bold admission. The bit of Hell on Earth his volunteers visited on Vostichniy, Mariupol that Saturday morning probably had as one of its signals a brutal message to the locals that might be verbalized like so: "do you really want to be "liberated" like Donetsk, Lugansk, Gorlovka especially? Do you want to suffer daily random shelling ... by your own terrorist friends, as we always say? This is what it's like. Get used to it if you break off with us and become "them" again."

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