The Russian Winter offensive / by Gordon M. Hahn

Originally published in Russian and Eurasian Politics on November 22, 2022

The only way Ukrainians will see anything approximating a holiday season is if a ceasefire can be arranged by New Year’s Day, and it just might happen, regardless of President Volodomyr Zelenskiy’s repeated assertions that there will be no negotiations with Russia until it withdraws all its troops from all occupied territories, including Crimea. There are several reasons for the possible ceasefire.

First, the Russian hammer is about to fall on Ukraine. The gloves are coming off; electric energy stations, bridges, and even ‘decision centers’ such as central Kiev’s government buildings are being targeted. Russia is one or two more massive bombing attacks on Ukraine’s energy and transport infrastructure from permanently disabling Ukraine’s electricity, water, and railroad systems. With ‘only’ 50 percent of Ukrainian electricity infrastructure knocked out by the first three widespread bombings of electricity grid components, demonstrations are already breaking out in Odessa and other places over the deteriorating humanitarian situation, with Zelenskiy sending the Ukrainian KGB, the SBU, in to break up the protests and banning coverage in media. The Office of the President was reportedly recently informed by technicians that the electricity system has entered the stage of ‘arbitrary and uncontrolled imbalance,” and one official has urged Ukrainians to be prepared to leave the country in winter. What will the sociopolitical situation be like when these critical infrastructures are in complete collapse and temperatures are 20 degrees colder? Russia will be moving closer to the strategy of ‘shock and awe’, fully destroying all infrastructure—military or otherwise—as the U.S. did in Serbia and Iraq and will likely take less care now to avoid civilian casualties.

After the infrastructures are completely destroyed or incapacitated, Russia’s reinforcements of 380,000 regular and newly mobilized troops will have been fully added into Russia’s forces across southeastern Ukraine. Even without these reinforcements, Russian forces continue to make small gains in Donbass around Ugledar, Bakhmut (Artemevsk), as withdrawals from and stabilization of the fronts in Kharkiv and Kherson have led to a redeployment and thus concentration of forces in Zaporozhe, Donetsk, and Luhansk. A winter offensive by some half a million troops will make substantial gains on those three fronts and multiply Ukrainian losses in personnel and materiel`, which are already high. This could lead easily to a collapse of Ukrainian forces on one or more front. On the backs of such a success Russian President Putin might also make another attempt to threaten Kiev by moving a much larger force in from Belarus than the small 30-40,000 force that advanced and then withdrew from Kiev’s surrounding districts in the first months of the war.

Second, the West is suffering from Ukraine fatigue. NATO countries’ arms supplies have been depleted beyond what is tolerable, and social cohesion is collapsing in the face of double-digit inflation and economic recession. All this makes Russia the winner on the strategic level and is forcing Washington and Brussels to seek at least a breathing spell by way of a ceasefire. This is evidenced by the plethora of Western leaders calling on Zelenskiy to resume talks with Putin and the emergence of the ‘Sullivan plan’. Most recently, rumors have it that new British PM Rishi Sunak used a package of military and financial aide he announced during his recent trip to Kiev to cover up his message to Zelenskiy that London could no longer bear the burden of leading the European support for Kiev and that Kiev should reengage wirh Moscow. There has been a several day delay in the fourth round of rocket sorties against Ukrainian infrastructure, suggesting Putin is waiting to to see if Zelenskiy will cave and offer talks before unleashing the major assaults on Ukrainian infrastructure and the Russian winter offensive.

Third, Ukraine’s greatest political asset—Zelenskiy himself—just got devalued, putting at even greater risk Ukraine’s political stability. The Ukrainian air defense strike on Poland (accidental or intentional) and the Ukrainian president’s insistence that it was a Russian air strike, despite the evidence and nearly unanimous opposing opinion among his Western backers, has hit Zelenskiy’s credulity hard. Zelenskiy’s insistence on the Russian origins of the missile and technical aspects of Ukrainian air defense suggests that the event may have been an intentional Ukrainian false flag strike on Polish/NATO territory designed to provoke NATO or Poland into entering the war. Some in the West are beginning to wake up to the dangers of Ukrainian ultranationalism and neofascism, not to mention the growing megalomania of Zelenskiy, who has appeared on ore than one occasion to be willing to risk the advent of a global nuclear winter in order to avoid sitting at the negotiating table across from Putin. Some may now come to understand that claims that Putin wants to seize all Ukraine and restore the USSR if not conquer Europe are yarns spun by Kiev to attract military and financial assistance and ultimately draw NATO forces into the war. There remains a danger that Kiev’s dream of a NATO intervention might come to fruition is the following temptation. NATO has declared that a defeat of Ukraine in the war is a defeat for NATO, and NATO cannot be allowed to lose a war to a Russia because that would accelerate the coming of the end to U.S. hegemony. It cannot be excluded and may even be likely that should Kiev appear to be losing the war that Polish forces, NATO or some ‘coalition of the willing’ will move military forces into western Ukraine up to the Dnepr but do so without attacking Russian forces. This would force Russia to cease much of its military activity or risk attacking NATO forces and a larger European-wide war. This or something like it is probably already being considered in Washington.

For now, in order to keep the West on board, Zelenskiy is rumored to be pushing Ukrainian armed forces commander Viktor Zalyuzhniy to start a last pre-winter offensive in northern Donetsk (Svatovo and Severodonetsk) or Zaporozhe in order to put a stop to the West’s ceasefire murmurs and reboost support. At the same time there is talk of continuing Zelenskiy-Zalyuzhniy tensions over the latter’s good press and star status in the West. Tensions first emerged over disagreements of previous offensives and Zalyuzhniy’s earlier entry on the Western media stage. On the background of the deteriorating battlefield and international strategic situation, such civil-military tensions are fraught with the potential for a coup. Much of Zelenskiy’s strategy and tactics is driven more by political than by military considerations. Not least among the former is Zelenskiy’s political survival, which any ceasefire or peace talks requiring Kiev to acquiesce in the loss of more territory certainly will doom. Neofascist, military, and much of public opinion will not brook the sacrifices made in blood and treasure bringing only additional ones in Ukrainian territory. Others will ask why was not all of this averted by way of agreeing to Ukrainian neutrality and fulfilling Minsk 2 could have avoided it all.

We may be reaching the watershed moment in the Ukrainian war. No electricity, no army, no society. But here, as with any Russian occupation of central or western Ukrainian lands (not planned but perhaps a necessity at some point down the road for Putin), a quagmire awaits the Kremlin. Russia can not allow complete societal breakdown and chaos to reign in Ukraine anymore than it could tolerate a NATO-member Ukraine with a large neofascist component next door. All of the above and the approaching presidential elections scheduled in Moscow, Kiev and Washington the year after next make this winter pivotal for all the war’s main parties.

Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California,; an expert analyst at Corr Analytics,; and an analyst at Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation (Chicago),

MRonline, November 28, 2022,

Zelenskymania and Switzerland’s ruined image / by by Guy Mettan

While negotiations seem to be progressing and the first contours of a possible solution in Ukraine are emerging (neutrality and partial demilitarisation of the country, handover of the Donbass and Crimea), the background to the conflict is beginning to be better understood. However, a quick ceasefire is not to be expected: the Americans and the Ukrainians have not yet lost enough and the Russians have not yet won enough to cease hostilities.

Before I continue with my reflections, however, I would like to ask those who do not share my realistic view of international relations to put this text aside. They will not like what is about to come, and it will save them heartburn and the time they would waste denigrating me.

I am of the opinion that morality is a very poor advisor in geopolitics, but in human affairs it is appropriate: the most uncompromising realism does not prevent us from investing time and money, as I am doing, to alleviate the fate of the population affected by the fighting.

The analyses of the most qualified experts (I am thinking especially of the Americans John Mearsheimer and Noam Chomsky), the investigations of investigative journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Max Blumenthal, and the documents seized by the Russians–for example, the intercepted communications traffic of the Ukrainian army from 22 January and the attack plans seized on a computer left behind by a British officer–show that this war was both inevitable and highly improvised.

An inevitable and improvised war

Inevitable because since Zelensky’s declaration of his intention to retake Crimea by force in April 2021, Ukrainians and Americans had decided to trigger the war no later than early this year.

The concentration of Ukrainian troops in the Donbass since last summer, the massive arms deliveries by NATO in recent months, the accelerated combat training of Azov regiments and the army, the intensive shelling of Donetsk and Lugansk by the Ukrainians from 16 February onwards (all this was ignored by the Western media, of course), prove that Kiev had planned a large-scale military operation for the end of this winter.

The aim was to repeat the “Operation Storm” launched by Croatia against the Serbian Krajina in August 1995 and to take the Donbass in a lightning offensive, without giving the Russians time to react, in order to gain control over the entire Ukrainian territory and enable the country to join NATO and the EU quickly. Incidentally, this also explains why the USA has repeatedly announced a Russian attack since the autumn: they knew that, one way or another, it would come to war.Improvised because the Russian response was made under time pressure. When the Russians realised that NATO’s diplomatic moves–no U.S. response to their proposals, Blinken-Lavrov meetings in Geneva in January, Zelensky’s call for calm and Macron-Scholz mediation in February–did not clarify the situation and amounted to a classic stalling tactic, the Russians reacted in a masterful and at the same time very risky way. Within ten days (recognition of the republics, cooperation agreement and start of the military operation), they decided to attack first in order to pre-empt the Ukrainians.

And instead of attacking the well-equipped and heavily fortified Ukrainian army forces head-on, it was decided to bypass them with a large-scale encirclement/diversion manoeuvre. The invasion opened three fronts simultaneously–north, centre and south–in order to destroy the Ukrainian air force and as much equipment as possible in the first few hours and disorganise the Ukrainian counter-attack.

Had they let Ukraine attack first, their situation would have become critical and they would have either been defeated or condemned to an endless war of attrition in the Donbass. It should be remembered that Russian troop strength is ridiculously low: 150,000 men against 300,000 Ukrainians, including the National Guard.

Considering the circumstances and despite the initial mishaps and losses, the Russian operation was a success and will go down in military history, though of course not as a human example.

With this first phase completed, the Russians can now concentrate on their main objective, which is to liquidate the “pockets” of Kharkiv and Mariupol held by the neo-Nazi Azov regiments and to reduce the Kramatorsk cauldron where the bulk of the Ukrainian army is entrenched.

So much for the military component.

Winners and losers

Let us now look at the political situation. Who are the real winners and losers of this war? I see one main winner, smaller winners and many losers.

The biggest winner is undoubtedly the USA. One has to recognise that the Biden team has manoeuvred masterfully despite the senility of its president. By withdrawing from Afghanistan last August, it has cleared itself in the eyes of the public and avoided being blamed for the disastrous invasion and occupation of that poor country.

By drafting a script in which the born actor Zelensky can shine, they appear to the Western public as brave white knights, although they are the big masterminds in the background. The USA has closed ranks in NATO and turned the Europeans into useful idiots who willingly defend “the democracies threatened by the despicable butcher-dictator Putin”. In the process, they are forced by the USA to buy its shale gas, while the German left and the Greens rush to mobilise 100 billion euros in military loans to buy American F-35 fighter-bombers. Bingo! The only fly in the ointment is that the plan did not go according to plan. The Russians did not fall into the trap. Ukraine will be carved up, neutralised and will not be able to join NATO as hoped.

Other winners are China, India and the countries of the South, which are watching with glee as the West, especially the Europeans, tear each other apart and weaken themselves for a long time. In an unexpected way, they find themselves in the comfortable position of neutrality or non-alignment. The Chinese would have preferred an amicable settlement, but they had no choice: they know that if they drop Russia, they will be next on the list, as shown by the torrent of Sinophobia that the West is pouring out under the pretext of defending the rights of the Uighurs (while the West is completely indifferent to the rights of the Yemenis, who have been bombed mercilessly for six years).

The big loser will of course be Ukraine, which is being needlessly maimed, dismembered, devastated and massacred, as it now loses much more than what it would have lost if the Minsk agreement had been implemented. President Zelensky will have to bear the heavy responsibility for this in history, as he preferred the ruin of his country to a timely compromise.

The other big losers are the Europeans. In the immediate future, it is true, they can brag about their rediscovered unity, their accelerated rearmament, their strong will to defend democracy and freedom to the last Ukrainian, their generosity towards refugees, their future independence from Russia in the field of energy, and so on.

All this is indeed correct and true. But in the future the price they will pay for it will be extremely high. Their behaviour shows that they have absolutely no say vis-à-vis the Americans–they are mere vassals. Ursula von der Leyen’s decision last week to hand over the personal data of EU citizens to the Americans shows the extent of European subjugation.

The same applies to the economy: what sense does it make to free oneself from Russian energy dependence to fall into that of the Americans with gas prices four or five times higher? What will the German industry say when it has to foot the bill? Especially since there are neither LNG tankers, nor ports, gas de-liquefaction plants or pipelines in sufficient numbers in Europe. How is American shale gas to be delivered to the Slovaks, Romanians and Hungarians? On the backs of donkeys?

What will the German Greens say if they have to accept the construction of new nuclear power plants to meet the demand for electricity? What will the youth and the European environmentalists say when they realise that they have been ripped off and the fight against global warming has been sacrificed in the name of dirty geopolitical interests? Or the French when they see their country being declassified not only globally but also at the European level after having witnessed the rearmament of Germany and the massive purchase of American weapons by Poles, Balts, Scandinavians, Italians and Germans? How about the European public opinion when it has to entertain millions of Ukrainian refugees after offering them free train subscriptions?

And what will Europe gain if it finds itself split in two by deep hatred and a new Iron Curtain that has shifted just a little further east than that of the Cold War? And what will it do when it finds that it has not isolated Russia but is itself cut off from the rest of the world? If one looks closely at the vote on the UN resolutions, one finds that the 40 or so countries that abstained or did not participate in the vote, represent a majority of the world’s population and 40% of the world’s economy.

Far from melting, support for Russia has actually improved between the 2 March vote and the 25 March vote. As for the countries that refused to impose sanctions on Russia, it should be noted that an overwhelming majority abstained and only the Western countries accepted them…

Switzerland’s ruined image

Another big loser is Switzerland. Official Switzerland boasts that it has followed the sanctions demanded by the USA and the European Union with historic speed. Those in a hurry are already calling for swift accession to the EU and NATO. Well done.

But after the Federal Council gave in in the cases of Jewish funds and bank client confidentiality, this is the third time in twenty years that our government has submitted to American dictates: what is left of our law and sovereignty?

Worse still, we have capitulated by surrendering our neutrality in the open field because no one asked us to do so. After standing firm for two centuries, we are now submitting without a fight in less than five days!

This renunciation is serious not only for the country’s identity but also for its credibility. The fact that federal councillors bow to Zelensky on the Bundesplatz and wear scarves in the Ukrainian colours still gets a pass. That is political folklore. But the sacrifice of neutrality is seriously damaging the country, because by aligning ourselves with the West we have gambled away our credit with the rest of the world.

What are we to think of the reliability of our banks when they block accounts on mere American orders? What will become of international Geneva and our foreign policy, which is now boycotted by Russia and probably many other countries, if we are no longer able to articulate it ourselves without appealing to Brussels and Washington? How can Geneva claim to remain the capital of multilateralism when CERN and the ILO [International Labour Organisation] suspend Russia’s participation and Switzerland boycotts Lavrov’s speeches at the Human Rights Council in the slipstream of EU countries?

This departure signals the shipwreck of the inclusive multilateralism that Switzerland and Geneva claimed to defend, and is proving serious for our humanitarian policy and the Geneva Conventions, as evidenced by the alarming ICRC communication of Tuesday 29 March.

By unconditionally backing Ukraine and Europe, we are putting the ICRC’s neutrality and impartiality at risk. The two are inseparable in the eyes of the world. And that is why the ICRC had to respond forcefully to Ukrainian attempts to sabotage its work when it was accused of doing business with the Russians, even though neutrality is at the heart of its mission.

How can one trust an institution whose host country has betrayed the spirit and even the letter of neutrality, which is after all enshrined in its constitution, in order to please Western political leaders and a public opinion inflamed by anti-Russian propaganda?

The silence of the Geneva authorities and political parties will cost dearly, especially since Switzerland is making a fool of itself by leaving the Good Offices initiative to countries like Israel, Turkey or Belarus!

Finally, there is Russia. Winner or loser? Both, actually. On the one hand, Russia will probably win militarily and strategically. At the end of the fighting, Russia could achieve the neutralisation of Ukraine, its partial demilitarisation (no foreign military bases and nuclear weapons) and a possible partition of the country.

Russia will leave the fanatics of American hegemony haunting the offices in Washington and Brussels utterly shocked. It will have shown that there will be no compromise on its security and that of its allies. And Russia will have shown the world that it does what it says and says what it does, having made its red lines clear three months before the conflict. And it will have done so without rocking its economy and currency, as the West had hoped.

Contrary to the opinions of Western countries, economic sanctions, however harsh, will only strengthen Putin, as recent polls by the neutral Levada Institute show, confirming the support of a large majority of the population for the “special operation”. Never before has a sanction succeeded in toppling a government, neither in Cuba, nor in Iran, nor in North Korea.

But Moscow will have to bear the stigma of the warmonger, the aggressor, even if legally its concerns are no less bad than the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the NATO aggression against Serbia in 1999 with the subsequent secession of Kosovo a few years later. The human, cultural, economic and political price to be paid will be high. The tensions created by the conflict will not magically disappear and the Russians will have to deal with the consequences of this war for a long time to come.

Cyber war and Stratcom

We conclude this overview with a word about the incredible success of the Ukrainian propaganda campaign in the West. This war offers the opportunity to witness live the first full cyberwar operation.

If press freedom is suffering in Russia, it is not much better here: we have banned Russian media and forbid dissenting viewpoints, even though we pretend to defend press freedom! Within a few days, there was a zelenscisation of minds, with everyone competing in subservience to listen to the Great Hero and fulfil his wishes. President Macron even wore a three-day beard and an olive-coloured T-shirt to underline his support for the cause, while the media renounced all journalistic ethics in order to give full support to Ukraine. Such a breakdown of sanity in such a short time is unheard of.

Outrageous, but not inexplicable. Dan Cohen, correspondent for “Behind the News”, has closely analysed the sophisticated mechanisms of Ukrainian propaganda and the reasons for its colossal success in our countries.

A NATO commander described the campaign in the Washington Post as “a massive stratcom (strategic communications) operation mobilising media, info ops and psy ops”. In essence, it was about mobilising the media and hypnotising the public with a constant stream of real news, fake news, images and narratives that were likely to stun people in order to keep emotional levels high and shut down the public’s ability to judge.

This resulted in a flood of spectacular images and often false information: the alleged death of the soldiers on Snake Island, the ghost of Kiev who is said to have shot down six Russian planes alone, the threats against the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the fake bombing of the Zaporozhye power plant, or the cases of the maternity ward and the theatre in Mariupol whose victims were never seen, apart from two women, at least one of whom was recognised as alive.

Add to this the accelerated whitewashing of the Azov battalions, who were transformed into patriotic soldiers after their neo-Nazi patches were removed, and the denial of the existence of American bacteriological laboratories in Ukraine, although their existence was explicitly admitted by Victoria Nuland at a Senate hearing on 8 March. It is true that “wording” was immediately disseminated to deny their existence. The very next day, people started talking about “biological research structures” and warning the public about alleged Russian chemical attacks in order to stifle the issue of secret bacteriological laboratories (Cf. BFM TV).

It turns out that Ukrainian communications, under the aegis of the PR Network Group, uses no less than 150 PR firms, thousands of experts, dozens of news agencies, renowned media, Telegram channels and Russian opposition media to spread its messages and format Western public opinion.

People make fun of the Russians, who have banned the use of the word war in favour of the word “special operation”. But the Western media do no better, constantly feeding them key messages and language elements, banning, for example, the use of phrases like “Crimean referendum” or “civil war in the Donbass”. For more details, see Dan Cohen, Ukraine’s Propaganda War: international PR firms, DC lobbyists and CIA cutouts,

However, this brilliant success in Western countries masks an obvious failure in Latin America, Africa and Asia, the remaining 75 per cent of the inhabited world. The countries of the South are no longer falling for our lies and interests, and Zelensky’s star is beginning to fade.

His pathetic performance in the Knesset, where he made the mistake of comparing the Russian offensive to the “Final Solution”, even though it was the Russians who liberated Auschwitz and pushed back Hitler, and it was the ancestors of his allies from the Ukrainian nationalist far right who participated in the Holocaust with firearms, will have been the last straw.

At the risk of repeating myself, I will close this long article by saying: one can, indeed one must, condemn this war. But please let us stop blinding ourselves. Let us regain our critical spirit and our sense of reality. Only in this way can we rebuild a lasting peace on the shambles that Ukraine has become.

(Translation “Swiss Standpoint”)

Originally published: Verein Schweizer Standpunkt on April 10, 2022

Guy Mettan is a political scientist and journalist. He started his journalistic career with Tribune de Genève in 1980 and was its director and editor-in chief in 1992–1998. From 1997 to 2020, he was director of “Club Suisse de la Presse” in Geneva. Nowadays he is a freelance journalist and author.

MR Online, April 26, 2022,

“One less traitor”: Zelensky oversees campaign of assassination, kidnapping and torture of political opposition / by Max Blumenthal

Above: The torture of left-wing activist Alexander Matjuschenko on March 3 in Dnipro, recorded by Azov members. Below: President Volodymyr Zelensky poses during a media engagement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has framed his country’s war against Russia as a battle for democracy itself. In a carefully choreographed address to U.S. Congress on March 16, Zelensky stated,

Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided. The destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy.

U.S. corporate media has responded by showering Zelensky with fawning press, driving a campaign for his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and inspiring a flamboyant musical tribute to himself and the Ukrainian military during the 2022 Grammy awards ceremony on April 3.

Western media has looked the other way, however, as Zelensky and top officials in his administration have sanctioned a campaign of kidnapping, torture, and assassination of local Ukrainian lawmakers accused of collaborating with Russia. Several mayors and other Ukrainian officials have been killed since the outbreak of war, many reportedly by Ukrainian state agents after engaging in de-escalation talks with Russia.

“There is one less traitor in Ukraine,” Internal Affairs Ministry advisor Anton Geraschenko stated in endorsement of the murder of a Ukrainian mayor accused of collaborating with Russia.

Zelensky has further exploited the atmosphere of war to outlaw an array of opposition parties and order the arrest of his leading rivals. His authoritarian decrees have triggered the disappearance, torture and even murder of an array of human rights activists, communist and leftist organizers, journalists and government officials accused of “pro-Russian” sympathies.

The Ukrainian SBU security services has served as the enforcement arm of the officially authorized campaign of repression. With training from the CIA and close coordination with Ukraine’s state-backed neo-Nazi paramilitaries, the SBU has spent the past weeks filling its vast archipelago of torture dungeons with political dissidents.

On the battlefield, meanwhile, the Ukrainian military has engaged in a series of atrocities against captured Russian troops and proudly exhibited its sadistic acts on social media. Here too, the perpetrators of human rights abuses appear to have received approval from the upper echelons of Ukrainian leadership.

While Zelensky spouts bromides about the defense of democracy before worshipful Western audiences, he is using the war as a theater for enacting a blood-drenched purge of political rivals, dissidents and critics.

“The war is being used to kidnap, imprison and even kill opposition members who express themselves critical of the government,” a left-wing activist beaten and persecuted by Ukraine’s security services commented this April.

We must all fear for our freedom and our lives.

Torture and enforced disappearances “common practices” of Ukraine’s SBU

When a U.S.-backed government seized power in Kiev following the Euromaidan regime change operation of 2013-14, Ukraine’s government embarked on a nationwide purge of political elements deemed pro-Russian or insufficiently nationalistic. The passage of “decommunization” laws by the Ukrainian parliament further eased the persecution of leftist elements and the prosecution of activists for political speech.

The post-Maidan regime has focused its wrath on Ukrainians who have advocated a peace settlement with pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east, those who have documented human rights abuses by the Ukrainian military, and members of communist organizations. Dissident elements have faced the constant threat of ultra-nationalist violence, imprisonment, and even murder.

The Ukrainian security service known as the SBU has served as the main enforcer of the post-Maidan government’s campaign of domestic political repression. Pro-Western monitors including the United Nations Office of the High Commission (UN OHCR) and Human Rights Watch have accused the SBU of systematically torturing political opponents and Ukrainian dissidents with near-total impunity.

The UN OHCR found in 2016 that “arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment of such conflict-related detainees were common practice of SBU… A former Kharkiv SBU officer explained, ‘For the SBU, the law virtually does not exist as everything that is illegal can be either classified or explained by referring to state necessity.”

Yevhen Karas, the founder of the infamous neo-Nazi C14 unit, has detailed the close relationship his gang and other extreme right factions have enjoyed with the SBU. The SBU “informs not only us, but also Azov, the Right Sector, and so on,” Karas boasted in a 2017 interview.

Kiev officially endorses assassinating Ukrainian mayors for negotiating with Russia

Since Russia launched its military operation inside Ukraine, the SBU has hunted down local officials that decided to accept humanitarian supplies from Russia or negotiated with Russian forces to arrange corridors for civilian evacuations.

On March 1, for example, Volodymyr Strok, the mayor of the eastern city of Kreminna in the Ukrainian-controlled side of Lugansk, was kidnapped by men in military uniform, according to his wife, and shot in the heart.

On March 3, pictures of Strok’s visibly tortured body appeared. A day before his murder, Struk had reportedly urged his Ukrainian colleagues to negotiate with pro-Russian officials.

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, celebrated the mayor’s murder, declaring on his Telegram page (see below):

There is one less traitor in Ukraine. The mayor of Kreminna in Luhansk region, former deputy of Luhansk parliament was found killed.

According to Geraschenko, Strok had been judged by the “court of the people’s tribunal.”

The Ukrainian official therefore delivered a chilling message to anyone choosing to seek cooperation with Russia: do so and lose your life.

On March 7, the mayor of Gostomel, Yuri Prylipko, was found murdered. Prylipko had reportedly entered into negotiations with the Russian military to organize a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of his city’s residents–a red line for Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who had long been in conflict with the mayor’s office.

Next, on March 24, Gennady Matsegora, the mayor of Kupyansk in northeastern Ukraine, released a video (below) appealing to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his administration for the release of his daughter, who had been held hostage by agents of the Ukrainian SBU intelligence agency.

Then there was the murder of Denis Kireev, a top member of the Ukrainian negotiating team, who was killed in broad daylight in Kiev after the first round of talks with Russia. Kireev was subsequently accused in local Ukrainian media of “treason.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s statement that “there would be consequences for collaborators” indicates that these atrocities have been sanctioned by the highest levels of government.

As of today, eleven mayors from various towns in Ukraine are missing. Western media outlets have been following the Kiev line without exception, claiming that all mayors been arrested by the Russian military. The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied the charge, however, and little evidence exists to corroborate Kiev’s line about the missing mayors.

Zelensky outlaws political opposition, authorizes arrest of rivals and war propaganda blitz

When war erupted with Russia this February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a series of decrees formalizing Kiev’s campaign against political opposition and dissident speech.

In a March 19 executive order, Zelensky invoked martial law to ban 11 opposition parties. The outlawed parties consisted of the entire left-wing, socialist or anti-NATO spectrum in Ukraine. They included the For Life Party, the Left Opposition, the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, the Socialist Party of Ukraine, Union of Left Forces, Socialists, the Party of Shariy, Ours, State, Opposition Bloc and the Volodymyr Saldo Bloc.

Openly fascist and pro-Nazi parties like the Azov National Corps were left untouched by the presidential decree, however.

“The activities of those politicians aimed at division or collusion will not succeed, but will receive a harsh response,” President Zelensky stated.

As he wiped out his opposition, Zelensky ordered an unprecedented domestic propaganda initiative to nationalize all television news broadcasting and combine all channels into a single 24 hour channel called “United News” to “tell the truth about war.”

Next, on April 12, Zelensky announced the arrest of his principal political rival, Viktor Medvedchuk, by Ukraine’s SBU security services.

The founder of the second largest party in Ukraine, the now-illegal Patriots for Life, Medvedchuk is the de facto representative of the country’s ethnic Russian population. Though Patriots for Life is regarded as “pro-Russia,” in part because of his close relations with Vladimir Putin, the new chairman of the party has condemned Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine.

Members of the state-sponsored neo-Nazi Azov Battalion’s National Corps attacked Medvedchuk’s home in March 2019, accusing him of treason and demanding his arrest.

In August 2020, Azov’s National Corps opened fire on a bus carrying representatives of Medvedchuk’s party, wounding several with rubber-coated steel bullets.

Zelensky’s administration escalated the assault on his top opponent in February 2021 when he shuttered several media outlets controlled by Medvedchuk. The U.S. State Department openly endorsed the president’s move, declaring that the United States “supports Ukrainian efforts to counter Russia’s malign influence…”

Three months later, Kiev jailed Medvedchuk and charged him with treason. Zelensky justified locking away his leading rival on the grounds that he needed to “fight against the danger of Russian aggression in the information arena.”

Medvedchuk escaped house arrest at the onset of the war between Russia and Ukraine, but is a captive once again, and may be used as collateral for a post-war prisoner swap with Russia.

Under Zelensky’s watch, “the war is being used to kidnap, imprison and even kill opposition members”

Since Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24, Ukraine’s SBU security service had been on a rampage against any and all iterations of internal political opposition. Leftist Ukrainian activists have faced particularly harsh treatment, including kidnapping and torture.

This March 3 in the city of Dnipro, SBU officers accompanied by Azov ultra-nationalists raided the home of activists with the Livizja (Left) organization, which has organized against social spending cuts and right-wing media propaganda. While one activist said the Azov member “cut my hair off with a knife,” the state security agents proceeded to torture her husband, Alexander Matjuschenko, pressing a gun barrel to his head and forcing him to repeatedly belt out the nationalist salute, “Slava Ukraini!”

“Then they put bags over our heads, tied our hands with tape and took us to the SBU building in a car. There they continued to interrogate us and threatened to cut off our ears,” Matjuschenko’s wife told the leftist German publication Junge Welt.

The Azov members and SBU agents recorded the torture session and published images of Matjuschenko’s bloodied face online.

Matjuschenko was jailed on the grounds that he was “conducting an aggressive war or military operation,” and now faces 10 to 15 years in prison. Despite enduring several broken ribs from the beating by state-backed ultra-nationalists, he has been denied bail. Meanwhile, dozens of other leftists have been jailed on similar charges in Dnipro.

Among those targeted by the SBU were Mikhail and Aleksander Kononovich, members of the outlawed Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine. Both were arrested and jailed on March 6 and accused of “spreading pro-Russian and pro-Belarusian views.”

In the following days, the SBU arrested broadcast journalist Yan Taksyur and charged him with treason; human rights activist Elena Berezhnaya; Elena Viacheslavova, a human rights advocate whose father, Mikhail, was burned to death during the May 2, 2014 ultra-nationalist mob attack on anti-Maidan protesters outside the Odessa House of Trade Unions; independent journalist Yuri Tkachev, who was charged with treason, and an untold number of others; disabled rights activist Oleg Novikov, who was jailed for three years this April on the grounds that he supported “separatism.”

The list of those imprisoned by Ukraine’s security services since the outbreak of war grows by the day, and is too extensive to reproduce here.

Perhaps the most ghastly incident of repression took place when neo-Nazis backed by the Ukrainian government kidnapped Maxim Ryndovskiy, a professional MMA fighter, and brutally tortured him for the crime of training with Russian fighters at a gym in Chechnya. Ryndovskiy also happened to be Jewish, with a Star of David tattooed on his leg, and had spoken out on social media against the war in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s SBU has even hunted opposition figures outside the country’s borders. As journalist Dan Cohen reported, Anatoly Shariy of the recently banned Party of Shariy said he was the target of a recent SBU assassination attempt. Shariy has been an outspoken opponent of the U.S.-backed Maidan regime, and has been forced to flee into exile after enduring years of harassment from nationalists.

This March, the libertarian politician and online pundit received an email from a friend, “Igor,” seeking to arrange a meeting. He subsequently learned that Igor was held by the SBU at the time and being used to bait Shariy into disclosing his location.

For his part, Shariy has been placed on the notorious Myrotvorets public blacklist of “enemies of the state” founded by Anton Geraschenko–the Ministry of Internal Affairs advisor who endorsed the assassination of Ukrainian lawmakers accused of Russian sympathies. Several journalists and Ukrainian dissidents, including the prominent columnist Oles Buzina, were murdered by state-backed death squads after their names appeared on the list.

Common Ukrainian citizens have also been subjected to torture since the start of the war this February. Seemingly countless videos have appeared on social media showing civilians tied to lamp posts, often with their genitals exposed or their faces painted green. Carried out by Territorial Defense volunteers tasked with enforcing law and order during wartime, these acts of humiliation and torture have targeted everyone from accused Russian sympathizers to Roma people to alleged thieves.

Ukraine’s SBU studies torture and assassination from the CIA

Vassily Prozorov, a former SBU officer who defected to Russia following the Euromaidan coup, detailed the post-Maidan security services’ systemic reliance on torture to crush political opposition and intimidate citizens accused of Russian sympathies.

According to Prozorov, the ex-SBU officer, the Ukrainian security services have been directly advised by the CIA since 2014. “CIA employees have been present in Kiev since 2014. They are residing in clandestine apartments and suburban houses,” he said. “However, they frequently come to the SBU’s central office for holding, for example, specific meetings or plotting secret operations.”

Below, Russia’s RIA Novosti profiled Prozorov and covered his disclosures in a 2019 special.

Journalist Dan Cohen interviewed a Ukrainian businessman named Igor who was arrested by the SBU for his financial ties with Russian companies and detained this March in the security service’s notorious headquarters in downtown Kiev. Igor said he overheard Russian POWs being beaten with pipes by Territorial Defense volunteers being coached by SBU officers. Pummeled to the sound of the Ukrainian national anthem, the Russian prisoners were brutalized until they confessed their hatred for Putin.

Then came Igor’s turn. “They used a lighter to heat up a needle, then put it under my fingernails,” he told Cohen. “The worst was when they put a plastic bag over my head and suffocated me and when they held the muzzle of a Kalashnikov rifle to my head and forced me to answer their questions.”

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the first head of the SBU after the Euromaidan regime change operation of 2013-14, nurtured close ties to Washington when he served as general consul to the Ukrainian embassy to the U.S. during the George W. Bush administration. During that time, Nalyvaichenko was recruited by the CIA, according to his predecessor at the SBU, Alexander Yakimenko, who served under the Russian-oriented government of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.

In 2021, Zelensky appointed one of Ukraine’s most notorious intelligence figures, Oleksander Poklad, to lead SBU’s counterintelligence division. Poklad is nicknamed “The Strangler,” a reference to his reputation for using torture and assorted dirty tricks to set-up his bosses’ political rivals on treason charges.

This April, a vivid illustration of the SBU’s brutality emerged in the form of video (below) showing its agents pummeling a group of men accused of Russian sympathies in the city of Dnipro.

“We will never take Russian soldiers prisoner”: Ukraine’s military flaunts its war crimes

While the Western media has focused squarely on alleged Russian human rights abuses since the outbreak of war, Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Ukrainian social media accounts have proudly exhibited sadistic war crimes, from field executions to the torture of captive soldiers.

This March, a pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel called White Lives Matter released a video of a Ukrainian soldier calling the fiancee of a Russian prisoner of war, seen below, and taunting her with promises to castrate the captive.

Ukrainian soldiers’ use of the cellphones of dead Russian soldiers to mock and hector their relatives appears to be a common practice. In fact, the Ukrainian government has begun using notoriously invasive facial recognition technology from Clearview AI, a U.S. tech company, to identify Russian casualties and taunt their relatives on social media.

This April, a pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel called fckrussia2022 posted a video depicting a Russian soldier with one of his eyes bandaged, suggesting it had been gouged during torture, and mocked him as a “one-eyed” pig.

Perhaps the most gruesome image to have appeared on social media in recent weeks is the photo of a tortured Russian soldier who had one of his eyes gouged before he was killed. The accompanying post was captioned, “looking for Nazis.”

Video has also emerged this April showing Ukrainian soldiers shooting defenseless Russian POWs in the legs outside the city of Kharkov. A separate video published by Ukrainian and U.S.-backed Georgian Legion soldiers showed the fighters carrying out field executions of wounded Russian captives near a village outside Kiev.

It is likely that these soldiers had been emboldened by their superiors’ blessings. Mamula Mamulashvili, the commander of the Georgian Legion, which participated in the field executions of wounded Russian POW’s, boasted this April that his unit freely engages in war crimes: “Yes, we tie their hands and feet sometimes. I speak for the Georgian Legion, we will never take Russian soldiers prisoner. Not a single one of them will be taken prisoner.”

Similarly, Gennadiy Druzenko, the head of the Ukrainian military medical service, stated in an interview with Ukraine 24 that he “issued an order to castrate all Russian men because they were subhuman and worse than cockroaches.”

Ukrainian officials present woman tortured and killed by Azov as victim of Russia

While Western media homes in on Russian human rights violations at home and inside Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has authorized a propaganda campaign known as “Total War” that includes the planting of bogus images and false stories to further implicate Russia.

In one especially cynical example of the strategy, Ukraine 24–a TV channel where guests have called for the genocidal extermination of Russian children–published a photo this April depicting a female corpse branded with a bloody swastika on her stomach. Ukraine 24 claimed that it found this woman in Gostumel, one of the regions in the Kiev Oblast that the Russians vacated on March 29.

Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament, and Oleksiy Arestovych, the top advisor to President Zelensky, published the photo of the defiled female corpse on social media. While Vasylenko left the photo online, Arestovych deleted it eight hours after posting when confronted with the fact that he had published a fake.

In fact, the image was pulled from footage originally recorded by Patrick Lancaster, a Donetsk-based U.S. journalist who had filmed the corpse of a woman tortured and murdered by members of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion in a Mariupol school basement they had converted into a base.

At 2:31 in Lancaster’s video, the woman’s corpse can be seen clearly.

As weapons pour into Ukraine from NATO states and the war intensifies, the atrocities are almost certain to pile up–and with the blessing of leadership in Kiev. As Zelensky proclaimed during a visit to the city of Bucha this April, “if we do not find a civilized way out, you know our people–they will find an uncivilized way out.”

Monthly Review does not necessarily adhere to all of the views conveyed in articles republished at MR Online. Our goal is to share a variety of left perspectives that we think our readers will find interesting or useful. —Eds.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including best-selling Republican GomorrahGoliathThe Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

MR Online, April 19, 2022,