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Carter and Poroshenko must step back from the brink

UKRAINIAN Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko’s warnings about the dangers of armed conflict with Russia being provoked by President Petro Poroshenko should be taken seriously.

It may appear ludicrous to contemplate the prospect of Europe’s poorest country being at war with a major world power, but Poroshenko is backed by adventurist elements within Nato.

The “former” oligarch, who made an election campaign promise in 2014 to divest himself of the chocolate giant Roshen if elected president — but retains ownership and has extended his asset holdings — has presided over mass impoverishment and rampant corruption.

Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel foreign policy head Norbert Rottgen told him last month to “decide whether he wants to be president or an oligarch.”

But he has proven useful to Ukraine’s far-right nationalists by driving through their decommunisation agenda, rehabilitating war criminals such as Stepan Bandera and integrating neonazi paramilitary groups into the country’s armed forces.

President Poroshenko’s new law on “restoring sovereignty over the Donetsk and Lugansk regions,” which Symonenko condemns, is in direct contravention of the Minsk agreement that laid the basis for an agreed resolution of the Donbass conflict.

To speak of military action to repel and restrain the Russian Federation amounts to gross irresponsibility.

No serious observer could see Kiev’s forces as sufficient to confront Russia’s army, so Poroshenko’s plan — or the plan of those in whose interests he is acting — is to involve outside, presumably Nato, formations.

According to the Atlantic Council US think tank, the ultra-nationalist Azov battalion has already been supplied with US-made TOW anti-tank weaponry.

Although the Azov was incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard and deployed by Poroshenko against the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, the US House of Representatives unanimously adopted legislation outlawing the training and arming of the group.

It described the Azov as “openly neonazi” and “fascist” and prohibited US instructors from training or arming them.

Alexander Lukashevich, Russia’s ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), has also reported that US portable grenade launchers and advanced reconnaissance drones have also found their way to Ukraine’s armed forces.

Outside forces, presumably Nato, are encouraging Kiev’s rearmament and encouraging it to resolve the Donbass problem by force of arms, which clearly risks the danger of a Russian response.

Britain’s Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson encouraged General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the General Staff or head of the army, to make a sabre-rattling speech earlier this week, demanding greater military investment and claiming that Russia poses a real threat to this country.

Gen Carter spoke in apocalyptic terms of Russia being currently capable of defeating Britain in a war as though a bilateral British-Russian conflict was within the realms of possibility.

He highlighted the scale of recent Russian military exercises, stressing their siting on the borders of the Nato alliance.

That sounds threatening, but the reason that Russia’s war games, taking place on its own territory, are adjacent to Nato borders is that the cold war alliance has edged further east since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, absorbing former Soviet republics and Moscow’s erstwhile allies.

The army head’s demand for greater spending on military hardware is irresponsible since it would mean switching finance from already hard-pressed public services such as the NHS.

Both General Carter and President Poroshenko should be told to drop their war psychosis and to stop engineering pretexts for another war in Europe.

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