The conflict in Ukraine has seen a massive campaign of propaganda by western politicians and press, designed to whip up jingoism and distract from problems back home. Marxists must cut through the lies and reveal the real class interests at play.

The conflict in Ukraine has seen a massive campaign of propaganda by western politicians and press, designed to whip up jingoism and distract from problems back home. Marxists must cut through the lies and reveal the real class interests at play.

The main peculiarity of the present war in Ukraine is that it has been completely overshadowed by an unprecedented war of information. This has served to generate a lot of heat, but very little light. In fact, its principal objective is not to inform, but to conceal the real situation. In this, one has to admit, it has been highly successful.

Let us take the most recent developments. When the Russians announced that they were withdrawing some of their forces from the area around Kyiv, the joy of the imperialist scoundrels knew no bounds.

The Ukrainian army is advancing! The Russians are suffering heavy losses and are retreating in disorder!

A gleeful Joe Biden informed the entire world that, “Putin’s back is against the wall”. The London Evening Standard, on 28 March, screamed at its readers on its front page: PUTIN DEFEAT ‘IS MATTER OF TIME’.

Similar headlines were produced across the western press.

But before you start getting ready to celebrate a Ukrainian victory parade in Kyiv, it would be advisable to return to basic military concepts. And perhaps, for once, one or two hard facts might come in handy.

Defeat or tactical withdrawal?

Putin and high command

The noisy barrage of western propaganda is intended to conceal the fact that the Russians are not fleeing in the face of an advancing Ukrainian force.

They had already announced that they were withdrawing some of their forces from the north – where they were no longer needed – in order to regroup and join forces with the Russian army in the south and east, in preparation for an offensive against the most effective and battle-hardened part of the Ukrainian army, which is located in the Donbas region. This is now clearly Russia’s main aim.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that the withdrawal of troops from the area around Kyiv was a conciliatory gesture in order to facilitate peace talks. That was also very far from the truth.

Sergey Markov, a man who has been very close to Putin in the past, was disarmingly frank in dismissing Lavrov’s claim. He stated the obvious when he told BBC Radio Four News: “The decision to scale down military activity in Kyiv and Chernigov is so that Russian forces can concentrate on the Donbas.”

Did Putin miscalculate?

In order to have a clear idea of the real balance of forces on the battlefield, it is necessary to go back to the initial state of affairs at the start of the invasion, and to determine what effect this had on Putin’s original calculations.

The overwhelming probability is that Putin initially counted on a rapid Ukrainian surrender in the face of an advancing Russian army.

In fact, if Zelensky had been prepared to agree not to join NATO and to negotiate security arrangements with Russia, the invasion might never have occurred. Initially, there were signs that he would capitulate. In fact, he appeared to be in a state of panic. But under pressure from the ultra-nationalists and fascists, and above all from Washington, he refused to negotiate. That made the invasion inevitable.

There may be some truth in the claims made by the West that the Russian army initially experienced difficulties. The Russian forces may well be experiencing logistical problems. The supply of food, fuel, and ammunition in a very big country posed serious challenges.

Mistakes and bungling – always a factor in any war – will have also played a role. But armies soon learn, and mistakes can be corrected quite quickly. 

A far more serious mistake was Russia’s underestimation of the power of resistance of the enemy.

Before the Maidan coup, the Ukrainian army was a weak and dilapidated force, hardly worth considering as a serious factor. However, since then it has been reorganised on the basis of NATO support and training. In addition, it has received valuable experience of battle during the eight-year-long civil war in the Donbas. This fact had clearly not been fully appreciated by Putin or his generals at the start of the war.

But there was also another factor, which is harder to quantify, but of great importance in any war. Napoleon once remarked that, in war, the moral is to the physical as three to one. The Ukrainians saw themselves as fighting a defensive war to ‘save their Fatherland’. And defence is always a more tenable option than offence.

Zelensky – going against the advice of the West – did not flee the country, but stayed in Kyiv and called for a national defence, galvanising the resistance of his army and parts of the Ukrainian population.

Furthermore, since Russia has not officially declared a war (it is still described as ‘a special operation’), Putin cannot carry out a general mobilisation of conscripts and other reserves. That means that, despite Russia’s huge population, the actual troop numbers that can be deployed at present are somewhat restricted, although that can change.

How does all this add up? Russia has deployed around 200,000 troops, which, if taken together with the forces of the Donbas republics, brings its fighting force close to 300,000. 

The Ukrainian army, along with its local militias, are thought to make up around 400,000 fighters. These numbers will have increased due to its mobilisation of able-bodied men – although how useful such raw, poorly-trained troops will be on the battlefield is open to question.

At least on paper, head-to-head, the armies appear to be relatively equal. But such comparisons are deceptive. In the long run, the Russian forces retain a clear superiority in consequence of their larger and more advanced arsenal of arms, as well as their superior general staff, which have shown great skill and tactical flexibility in adapting to the changing realities on the battlefield.

Russia changes tactics

Ukraine invasion March 2

The initial target was to take control of the capital Kyiv. The Russian forces took up positions  around the capital, and even entered the suburbs in what appeared to be probing attacks, preparatory to a direct assault. The Ukrainians consequently mobilised for the defence of the capital. But the attack never came.

Having tested the resistivity of the opposing forces in the initial push for Kyiv, the Russians decided that a direct assault on the capital, involving hand-to-hand street fighting in crowded civilian areas, would be too costly in lives.

The repeated assertions that the Russians are blasting everything in sight, and deliberately targeting residential areas with no concern for civilian casualties, is a lie that provides the cornerstone of a massive propaganda campaign, launched by the Ukrainians with the aid of US intelligence. We will deal with that lie later.

For now, suffice it to say that the Russians decided that a direct assault on Kyiv and other major cities was not a viable option.

Once it became clear that a quick knockout blow to the capital was ruled out, the Russians changed their tactics. From that moment, the movement towards Kyiv assumed an entirely different character. What was originally intended as an assault on Kyiv was transformed into a manoeuvre that is known in military parlance as a feint.

The concept of such a manoeuvre is quite simple: to present a military force as preparing to attack a given place, or even to commence an attack, for the purpose of deceiving an opponent into committing resources to respond to the perceived threat. It is the equivalent of a boxer who aims a blow at the head of his opponent with his right fist, then, taking the other man off guard, delivers a knockout blow with a left uppercut to the jaw.

This, the Russians succeeded brilliantly in doing. By attacking on several fronts at the same time, the Russians weakened their striking force. This would appear to be counter-intuitive. But it had the advantage of forcing the Ukrainians to disperse their own forces in several directions, notably for the defence of the capital, Kyiv.

Kyiv was no longer the main Russian target however. That was now the Donbas and the coastal strip that connects Ukraine to the Black Sea, which forms a land bridge between Crimea and Russia. 

In order to explain Russia’s changed tactics, it is necessary to repeat some of the most basic rules of warfare, about which the western so-called experts appear to be completely ignorant. 

Clausewitz on war

Ever since the start of the war, the massive propaganda machine that the Ukrainians have put in motion with the help of US intelligence, has been repeating with monotonous regularity the same tiresome litany: 

“The Russian advance has stalled. They have so far not been able to capture and hold any large Ukrainian city.”

Has it never occurred to these ladies and gentlemen that it was not the intention of the Russians to do this?

At this point, let us call as a key witness for the prosecution: none other than Carl von Clausewitz, the man who was arguably the greatest military strategists of all time.

As a disciple of Hegel, old Clausewitz understood the dialectic of war very well. He postulated that armies, and not cities, are a nation’s centre of gravity. And he described the aims of war very succinctly in the first volume of his masterpiece On War. On the question of occupying territory and cities, he has this to say:

“The aim of war should be the defeat of the enemy.  But what constitutes defeat? The conquest of his whole territory is not always necessary, and total occupation of his territory may not be enough.” (On War, vol 1, my emphasis, AW)

Clausewitz explains that the aim of war is not the conquest of territory and cities, but the destruction of the enemy forces. Here is what he writes:

“Fighting is the central military act…Engagements mean fighting. The object of fighting is the destruction or defeat of the enemy.

“What do we mean by the defeat of the enemy? Simply the destruction of his forces, whether by death, injury, or any other means – either completely, or enough to make him stop fighting…The complete or partial destruction of the enemy must be regarded as the sole object of all engagements…Direct annihilation of the enemy’s forces must always be the dominant consideration.”

That is precisely what the Russian army is doing. This elementary principle of war is well understood by at least the most intelligent strategists. They understand that the real situation in Ukraine has nothing whatsoever in common with the screaming headlines in the press.

The following analysis by Sam Cranny-Evans and Dr Sidharth Kaushal of The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) – a defence and security think tank – expresses the real situation with admirable clarity. It is worth quoting what they have to say in some detail:

“The war in Ukraine has been dominated by an effective and far-reaching information campaign led by the Ukrainian state. The Ukrainian narrative is dominating both the news and social media cycles, which are now of equal importance in forming public opinion. The narrative is littered with broken Russian convoys, farmers triumphantly towing boutique Russian air defence systems away from their hiding places, and harrowing footage of Russian tank formations being destroyed. And yet, by analysing three maps depicting the operational picture, including one released by the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) and two curated by open-source investigators – the Twitter account Jomini of the West and Konrad Muzyka’s Ukraine Conflict Monitor – it is apparent that Russian forces are making progress.

However, an exclusive focus on cities – though understandable – may obscure more than it reveals. Though it seems clear that the initial Russian plan was based around a swift coup de main against Kyiv while the bulk of the Ukrainian army was pinned in the east opposite Donetsk and Luhansk, this is unlikely to remain the case. Even under best-case assumptions (from a Russian perspective), it is unlikely that Kyiv will be taken soon. However, it is worth considering that there is a second Ukrainian centre of gravity – alluded to by Vladimir Putin in his pledge to ‘demilitarise’ Ukraine – the regular Ukrainian army, most of which remains near Donetsk and Luhansk under the aegis of the Joint Forces Operation (JFO).” (My emphasis, AW)

And that is, indeed, the whole point. 

“The position of this force is looking increasingly precarious as Russian forces advance to encircle it on three axes. Russian forces of the 58th Combined Arms Army and 22nd Army, pushing north from Crimea, have commenced assaults on Beryslav along the Dnieper, and appear likely to link up at Polohy with Russian separatist forces and the Eighth Combined Arms Army advancing from Donbas. Elements of the First Guards Tank Army and Sixth Combined Arms Army advancing past Kharkiv also appear to have largely eschewed attempts to take the city – focusing instead on reducing it with artillery while bypassing it as they advance south and west past Poltava, cutting the JFO off from escaping northwards. Finally, in the southwest, Russian forces of the 20th Guards Motor Rifle Division appear similarly intent on bypassing Mykolaiv but, notably, may not be advancing on Odessa. Instead, they appear to be advancing north, which could suggest a desire to seize the western banks of key crossing points over the Dnieper.” (RUSI Report, Not Out of the Woods Yet: Assessing the Operational Situation in Ukraine 14 March 2022)

The main target of Russia is now the decimation of a key part of the Ukrainian army – some 60,000-100,000 troops in the Donbas. Russia carried out a broad attack throughout this region designed to keep these forces fully engaged and unable to manoeuvre in respect to other Russian operations. At the same time, a supporting operation out of Crimea took Kherson and staged another feint attack towards Odessa.

Having pinned down Ukrainian forces in the region, the Russians could focus on encircling and reducing Mariupol, which has now all but fallen. Thus, a strategically important land bridge has now been created between Russia and the Crimea, which also places the whole of the Azov Sea under Russian control.

Russia simultaneously launched a campaign of pinpoint missile attacks on Ukrainian facilities (oil depots and the like) designed to disrupt the enemy’s logistics, command and control, as well as its air power and long-range fire support. As a result, Ukraine is reportedly running low on fuel and ammunition. At this moment, it is not able to coordinate large-scale manoeuvres and it is unable to make any meaningful use of its air force.

With the fall of Mariupol, the feint attack in the north is no longer deemed necessary. That is the reason behind the orderly Russian retreat from the north. The thousands of newly-freed troops will now concentrate in the Donbas region.

Moving south from Izyum near Kharkiv and north from the Zaporizhzhya region, the aim is to envelope and destroy the Ukrainian forces in Donbas, which comprise tens of thousands of the country’s most determined and battle-hardened fighters – a large part of whom are recruited from, and commanded by, fanatical nationalists and neo-Nazi elements.

Thus, the truth is that the Russian army is not retreating at all. On the contrary, they are still advancing, slowly, deliberately, methodically, towards the real target, which is not Kyiv anymore, but the coastal strip in the south east and the larger Donbas region.

The emphasis on Russia’s alleged ability to take major cities as a measure of success was a stupid mistake. Russia has succeeded in pinning Ukrainian forces in cities like Kharkiv while it simply bypasses them. In the meantime, it has been massing its forces for a decisive blow in the east.

How the media lies

Newsweek

On 10 March, Fortune Magazine published an article by Marcus Ryder, which already expressed serious doubts about the truthfulness of the official propaganda:

“In a war in which the vast majority of western governments have supported Ukraine and opposed Russia’s actions, many western journalists seem to have almost abandoned their journalistic principles of due impartiality and objectivity in reporting the war.

“Journalists, like medics, must not take sides in a war. It is our duty to report the facts without fear or favour and as objectively as possible.

“If there is a side that is unquestionably ‘the aggressor’ and ‘in the wrong’, that should become apparent in our reporting of the facts and for our readers to judge. If the journalist makes that judgement for the reader, it breaks the contract of trust the reader has with the news organisation that the journalists are not cherry-picking the facts that suit the side they favour.

“As a reader, I need to be able to trust that journalists will report human rights violations, whether they are committed by Russian or Ukrainian forces. That does not make me a ‘Putin sympathiser’. Objective, impartial journalism that reports the facts makes me believe Putin is in the wrong. Subjective, biased reporting makes me question whether I am getting a fair and accurate picture of what is really going on. It makes me more reluctant to condemn Putin as I am not sure I am getting the full picture.”

But people in the West have never been given anything like the full picture. Contrary to the stupid propaganda, far from blasting everything in sight, the Russians have shown restraint in order to reduce civilian casualties – hence the incredibly low figures of reported civilian deaths.

This was pointed out in a very interesting article published by Newsweek on 22 March, called ‘Putin’s Bombers Could Devastate Ukraine But He’s Holding Back. Here’s Why’.

The article opens by stating that: “As destructive as the Ukraine war is, Russia is causing less damage and killing fewer civilians than it could, US intelligence experts say.”

It goes on to quote the words of high-ranking US officers, who had to speak anonymously, because they had been briefed by the Pentagon and instructed not to speak to the press. One of these, a US Air Force officer says:

“I'm frustrated by the current narrative – that Russia is intentionally targeting civilians, that it is demolishing cities, and that Putin doesn’t care. Such a distorted view stands in the way of finding an end before true disaster hits or the war spreads to the rest of Europe.”

Another source, an analyst with the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), says:

“I know that the news keeps repeating that Putin is targeting civilians, but there is no evidence that Russia is intentionally doing so…In fact, I’d say that Russia could be killing thousands more civilians if it wanted to.”

“In the analyst’s view,” Newsweek informs us, “though the war has led to unprecedented destruction in the south and east, the Russian military has actually been showing restraint in its long-range attacks.”

These highly illuminating comments are elaborated throughout of the article, from which I will now quote at length:

As of the past weekend, in 24 days of conflict, Russia has flown some 1,400 strike sorties and delivered almost 1,000 missiles (by contrast, the United States flew more sorties and delivered more weapons in the first day of the 2003 Iraq war). The vast majority of the airstrikes are over the battlefield, with Russian aircraft providing ‘close air support’ to ground forces. The remainder – less than 20 percent, according to US experts – has been aimed at military airfields, barracks and supporting depots.

[…]

“I know it’s hard to swallow that the carnage and destruction could be much worse than it is,” says the DIA analyst. “But that's what the facts show. This suggests to me, at least, that Putin is not intentionally attacking civilians, that perhaps he is mindful that he needs to limit damage in order to leave an out for negotiations.’

[…]

Russia did not bomb stationary air defense emplacements protecting cities. US analysts say Putin’s generals were particularly reluctant to attack urban targets in Kyiv.

As a result, regardless of the Kremlin’s plans – whether Russia was actually seeking air superiority or intended to limit damage in Kyiv – there is no question that Putin has had to revise the long-range attack plan.

The DIA analyst disagrees: “For whatever reason, clearly the Russians have been reluctant to strike inside the urban megalopolis of Kyiv.”

“They've been signalling,” the retired officer says. “Western airfields [at Lutsk, L'viv, and Ivano-Frankivsk] were hit because they were the most likely stepping stones for donated fighter aircraft coming in from Poland and eastern European countries.”

“When those targets were prepped,” he adds, there was also talk of a western no-fly zone where those [western] airfields might have been essential.

“And the so-called peacekeeper training ground [in Yaroviv] was hit because it was the place where the ‘international legion’ was to have trained,” the officer says. “Moscow even announced that.”

[…]

“People are talking about Grozny [in Chechnya] and Aleppo [in Syria], and the razing of Ukrainian cities,” a second retired US Air Force senior officer tells Newsweek. “But even in the case of southern cities, where artillery and rockets are within range of populated centres, the strikes seem to be trying to target Ukrainian military units, many of which by necessity operate from inside urban areas.”

How Ukrainians make civilians targets

It is a well-documented fact that the Ukrainian army routinely places artillery in residential areas next to schools and hospitals with the idea of attracting Russian fire. This was attested to in an article in the Washington Post by Sudarsan Raghavan on 28 March, where we read the following interesting admission:

Ukraine’s strategy of placing heavy military equipment and other fortifications in civilian zones could weaken western and Ukrainian efforts to hold Russia legally culpable for possible war crimes, said human rights activists and international humanitarian law experts. Last week, the Biden administration formally declared that Moscow has committed crimes against humanity.

“If there is military equipment there and [the Russians] are saying we are launching at this military equipment, it undermines an assertion that they are intentionally attacking civilian objects and civilians,” said Richard Weir, a researcher in Human Rights Watch’s crisis and conflict division, who is working in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military has “a responsibility under international law” to remove their forces and equipment from civilian-populated areas, and if that is not possible, to move civilians out of those areas, Weir said.

“If they don’t do that, that is a violation of the laws of war,” he added. “Because what they are doing is putting civilians at risk. Because all that military equipment are legitimate targets.”

[…]

“Where an attack on a military objective may result in civilian casualties, the damage to civilians needs to be balanced against the military advantage,” said Schabas, the international law professor. “If there is no military advantage, then the violence is not justified, and it is reasonable to speak of war crimes.”

But the line between what constitutes a war crime becomes more blurred if residential neighbourhoods are militarised and become battlefields where civilian deaths are inevitable.

That is the case also in Kyiv, where residential areas are frequently hit by Russian missiles, not because they were the intended target, but because they were knocked out by Ukrainian missiles and landed on populated areas. The article explains:

Security experts for western media organisations have noted that Ukrainian air defences are so centred in the city that when they hit incoming Russian rockets, missiles or drones, the debris has sometimes struck or fallen into residential complexes.

Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers warn journalists not to take photos or video of military checkpoints, equipment, fortifications, or impromptu bases inside the city to avoid alerting Russians to their locations. One Ukrainian blogger uploaded a TikTok post of a Ukrainian tank and other military vehicles positioned at a shopping mall. The mall was later destroyed on March 20 in a Russian strike that killed eight people.

There is no proof that the TikTok post led to the strike. On Facebook, a person supportive of the Ukrainian military urged that the man be hunted down for revealing Ukrainian military positions “for the sake of likes” on social media. “I pay $500 for any information about this author on TikTok. ID, residence address, contact details.”  The Security Service of Ukraine later said it had arrested the blogger.

Russian atrocities – real or staged?

Tank

The barrage of lying propaganda has been very successful in fooling the public, especially in the UK. But at last cracks are beginning to appear in the seamless façade.

In a recent broadcast on Channel Four News, senior correspondent Alex Thomson (in Poltava) for the first time expressed his misgivings about the way the Ukrainian military was censoring the news:

“In all the wars one covers, you invariably sign up to military censorship rules: so you don't give away positions and numbers of deployments and so forth, which could get people killed. And everybody is fair enough with that.

“Things have been a little more interesting here in Ukraine. In Kiev, near the centre of the city, a couple of days ago, an important strategic building was hit. That’s about as much as I’d better say about it. But for two days the entire world’s media and domestic media here have not been able to say really anything about it or show any detailed footage that has happened.

“I have never seen that degree of control achieved in any active war that I have ever covered, and it is very effectively done. It is just to remind people, if you will, that obviously, clearly, the Russians have a very cumbersome and clunky censorship regime going very strongly from Moscow out. And we all know about that, and we have seen a lot of it. But equally [here] there is some censorship and we do operate under those restrictions. It is good to remember that.”

It is in this context that we must see the latest reports about alleged Russian atrocities in Bucha, one of the villages from which the Russian army recently withdrew. The Ukrainian army claimed to have uncovered evidence of alleged Russian war crimes: dead bodies of civilians left lying in the street with their hands tied behind their backs, some with signs of torture, and so on.

But nobody was allowed to check these reports. The government in Kyiv immediately imposed a media ban on any journalists visiting this area for a period of 24-48 hours. The official excuse for the exclusion of all external observers was the potential for there to be booby traps in those areas.

But Thomson pointed out there was no evidence for this. He surmised that it was because there might be a “potential for war crimes investigations”, and therefore the “crime scenes” must be preserved for that purpose.

Of course, any serious claim of war crimes needs to be investigated by qualified people whose honesty and impartiality cannot be impugned. But does the Ukrainian army qualify for that definition? Mr. Thomson was careful to express himself very guardedly in his comments – all of which, as he reminded us – were made under strict military censorship:

“We should be very careful about leaping to any conclusions – if you have seen the photograph in our package tonight – about how those people came to where they were, in the state they were, with those men with their arms tied behind their back.”

Yes, of course that is true. But just one moment! The whole point about a crime scene is that it must be left completely untouched, in order to avoid being tampered with, fixed, or altered in any way. In deliberately excluding journalists, or any other outside observers, the Ukrainians had 48 hours to do whatever they wished with the place. 

That is more than sufficient to interfere with the crime scene, to plant incriminating evidence and generally present a distorted picture to the world. After that, they could feel free to escort in selected journalists and confront them with any ‘evidence’ they choose to set before them.

Would the Ukrainian side be capable of such deception? The question itself is the height of naivety. It is very clear that the Ukrainians have from the very beginning been involved in an elaborate, sophisticated, and highly-effective campaign of disinformation, which is repeated and magnified by all the media of the western world. Since information plays such a key role in this war, it would be hard to imagine that they would not use such methods.

In order to identify the perpetrator of any crime, the first question that must be asked is: Cui bono? Who benefits?

To commit mass murder and then leave the victims lying on the street to be found by the enemy does not seem to be the most likely tactic for the Russians, who would not benefit from it in the slightest degree.

But for the Ukrainians, who, despite all the absurd bombast, now find themselves in an increasingly desperate position, the benefit of such propaganda is of immeasurable importance. It would add far greater weight to the pleas for more military help that Zelensky has once again repeated on the floor of the UN Security Council. Oh yes! This is worth an entire shipment of anti-tank rockets for a man with his back to the wall.

In the absence of firm proof from absolutely impartial and trustworthy sources, we must withhold judgement as to the validity of these claims. Time will tell who was lying and who was telling the truth.

But we refuse categorically to be bulldozed by the propaganda machine that has been consistently manipulating the facts in the interests of the Ukrainian ruling clique and its imperialist backers whose hands are indelibly stained with the blood of countless innocent people.

A Ukrainian war crime

It is a well-known fact that in all wars atrocious deeds are carried out by both sides. There is no reason to suppose that the war in Ukraine is any different. But, strangely enough, there are never any reports about atrocities and war crimes being committed by the Ukrainians.

Until now.

Yesterday, the veil of secrecy and censorship finally slipped. We saw reports of an incident that took place in a location north of the town of Dmytrivka, just over five miles from Bucha. It was recorded and widely shown on social media. 

In it, four bodies can be seen lying on the ground in a pool of blood – all of whom are in Russian military uniform. The hands of at least one of the bodies appears to be tied behind its back.

Of the four soldiers pictured on the ground, one is still moving in the video, and wheezing sounds can be heard. One of the soldiers surrounding the bodies says: “Look, he is still alive.”

A soldier then shoots him in the head twice. He continues to move, so the soldier shoots again, and he stops.

The footage was originally shared on the social platform Telegram. The New York Times said it had verified the video, and the BBC said it had confirmed the location and found satellite images showing bodies on the ground.

According to the BBC reporter, the Ukrainian soldiers stood around the gruesome scene laughing and joking at their exploits. One of them can then be heard shouting “Glory to Ukraine”. A man responds with the phrase: “Glory to heroes.”

Now it does not require a great deal of heroism to kill a wounded man lying on the ground with his hands tied behind his back. This was not an act of war carried out in the heat of battle, but a cold-blooded act of murder.

A war crime is defined by the United Nations as a serious breach of international law committed against civilians or enemy forces during an armed conflict. The fact that the victims wore uniform changes nothing, since an unarmed prisoner of war is no longer an active combatant, and has exactly the same status under the law as a civilian.

This video caused a certain amount of embarrassment, but has been swiftly brushed aside with the usual assurances that it will be ‘looked into’. We can confidently predict that nothing more will be heard of it; that the Ukrainian military censors will tighten their grip still further to ensure that no more evidence of Ukrainian crimes will appear on social media.

We will make two more predictions with absolute confidence:

1)  There will be many more reports of alleged Russian war crimes in the near future.

2)  The greater the noise made over these stories, the greater the certainty that the Ukrainians are losing on the battlefield.

Joe Biden shows his teeth

Uncle Joe

Let us now arm ourselves with patience and listen to the words of wisdom from the lips of the elderly gentleman who presides over the most powerful country on the planet. Here he is, speaking to the press on the subject of Russian war crimes:

THE PRESIDENT: “I have one comment to make before I start the day. You may remember I got criticised for calling Putin a war criminal. Well, the truth of the matter – you saw what happened in Bucha. This warrants [calling] him – he is a war criminal.”

Well now, that’s plain talking! 

But wait! There is more:

THE PRESIDENT: “But we have to gather the information, we have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight, and we have to get all the details so this can be an actual – have a wartime trial.”

Now just a moment. First you say Putin is a war criminal. Next you say that “we have to gather the information”. 

But surely it is necessary to gather the requisite information in order to decide if the man is guilty or not?

Our Uncle Joe has taken upon his (somewhat sagging) shoulders the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. It reminds one of the judges in the old cowboy films: “We’ll give you a fair trial, then we’ll hang you.”

Moscow comments on Biden’s comments

The Kremlin did not mince words in replying to Uncle Joe. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists: “We categorically reject all allegations.”

Peskov said that Russian “experts at the Ministry of Defence have identified signs of video fakes and various fakes”.

“We would demand that many international leaders do not rush to sweeping accusations and at least listen to our arguments,” he said, according to AFP.

Russian investigators also announced a probe into the images, saying that according to Moscow’s military, they “do not correspond to reality and are provocative in nature”.

And Peskov asked what right the US had to accuse anybody of war crimes when US imperialism was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. That is not a bad question. I wonder if Washington is capable of providing an equally good answer.

A real case of genocide

The word ‘genocide’ has been bandied about repeatedly in recent weeks. Zelensky is particularly fond of using it to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine – although Joe Biden seems not to share his enthusiasm for that word. But what exactly is genocide?

The usual definition is the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group, with the aim of destroying that nation or group, such as the murder by the Nazis of six million Jews, or the mass extermination of Tutsis by Hutus in Rwanda. But what relation does that bear to deaths in Ukraine?

In all wars, civilians are killed, often in large numbers. But not every war is regarded as a war of extermination. What kind of figures are we talking about in Ukraine? Up to 3 April, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded a total of 3,455 civilian casualties in the country: 1,417 killed and 2,038 injured.

Of course, even one civilian death represents a human tragedy. But in comparison with almost any other war one might name, these figures are miniscule. And they come nowhere near any recognisable definition of genocide.

Let us take a more recent example. I refer to the bloody war in Yemen, where for the past eight years the Saudis and their allies have waged a merciless bombing campaign against the civilian population, deliberately destroying residential areas, grain storage silos, ports, and ships attempting to deliver food to a starving population. 

The UN has estimated that the war in Yemen had killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021. More than 150,000 of these are direct results of the armed conflict, but more have died from the hunger and disease caused by the war.

Saudi air raids frequently target civilian targets such as hospitals and schools as well as gatherings such as weddings and busy market places where there are no military targets nearby. These are often so-called double tap attacks that return to bomb rescue workers who rush to the scene.

Furthermore, the Saudi coalition has deliberately bombed all infrastructure, roads, ports etc. and imposed an embargo by land and sea which has prevented humanitarian, even aid agreed and provided by the UN, from arriving.

Despite UK government claims that it provides training to the coalition to avoid civilian casualties, there is no sign that this has reduced the deadly toll of the air raids. This might fairly be described as genocide. But Boris Johnson and Joe Biden have nothing to say about it.

Why not? Because Britain and the United States are complicit in this war of extermination against the people of Yemen. They support the blood-soaked Saudi regime of Mohammed bin Salman. They provide him with the weapons that are killing and maiming innocent men, women and children. They tacitly approve the use of mass starvation to crush the civilian population of a poor country.

If anyone ought to be hauled before the International Court of Justice, it is them. But nobody dares to say a word about that.

They are far more interested in shouting about a non-existent genocide in Ukraine and pointing an accusing finger at the man in the Kremlin, who treats their stupid rhetoric as the impotent blather that it is.

A critical moment

This represents a critical moment for the war in Ukraine. The encirclement and destruction of a large part of the country’s regular armed forces will have a catastrophic effect and quite likely lead to a collapse of morale. That would render the capture of Kyiv unnecessary.

Similarly, in 1940, the German army did not have to besiege Paris once the French army in the field had been encircled and decisively beaten.

That is one possible variant. If, despite this, they continue to resist, the destruction will be appalling. And, in the end, they will have to capitulate, accepting any terms the Russians wish to offer.

That is why Zelensky is anxious to negotiate some kind of a deal as quickly as possible. Behind all his recent speeches, despite their defiant tone, a note of desperation can clearly be detected.

But not everyone is equally enthusiastic about the prospect of a deal that would signify the cessation of hostilities in Ukraine.

A particularly disgusting role is being played by the British and Americans. They must know that the odds of a Ukrainian victory are vanishingly small. Yet Biden, and particularly Johnson, are still pushing them to continue fighting to the bitter end. Instead of encouraging them to find some kind of negotiated settlement, they systematically sabotage all attempts at negotiation.

The rabid clique of right-wing lunatics that now governs Britain has decided to place itself in the first ranks of the international war party. Not that this means that they intend to send any British soldiers to fight in Ukraine – still less to pick up a machine gun and go there themselves.

But they are now very suspicious that their allies in NATO, especially the hated Europeans, are preparing a sellout. Even the Yanks, it seems, are not above suspicion. A few days ago, The Times of London published an article with the interesting headline: “Don’t back down, Britain urges Ukraine; Government fears western allies will push Zelensky to settle for early peace deal.”

A more cynical and repulsive article, it would be hard to imagine. This is what it says:

Britain is concerned that the United States, France and Germany will push Ukraine to “settle” and make significant concessions in peace talks with Russia, The Times has been told.

A senior government source said there were concerns that allies were “over-eager” to secure an early peace deal, adding that a settlement should be reached only when Ukraine is in the strongest possible position.

In a phone call at the weekend, Boris Johnson warned President Zelensky that President Putin was a “liar and a bully” who would use talks to “wear you down and force you to make concessions”. 

“Some of our allies may be too eager for him [Zelensky] to settle,” a government source said, referring to France, Germany and the US. “We think Ukraine needs to be in the strongest possible position militarily before those talks can take place.”

The source said that this could lead to significant concessions on territory, sanctions and the pursuit of Putin as a potential war criminal.

Ministers believe that there must not be an “easy off-ramp” for Putin, while Johnson has said that he wants allies to intensify sanctions until all Russian forces have left Ukraine, including Crimea.

Isn’t that nice? These well-heeled gentlemen, sitting in the comfort of their rooms in Westminster, sipping the finest Scotch whisky, are urging Zelensky to fight on to the last drop of blood – of Ukrainian blood, that is.

As for our Boris accusing Vladimir Putin of being a liar – that is somewhat strange, coming from a man who is incapable of opening his mouth without uttering at least two or three blatant untruths.

If the war drags on and thousands of people are killed, what do the ‘friends of Ukraine’ in London and Washington care?

It is, of course, all very unfortunate. But it has the advantage of providing the ‘defenders of the Free World’ with wonderful frontpage stories, which are of incalculable value in distracting the attention of an increasingly discontented public from the harsh reality of rising prices and collapsing living standards. Surely, then, it is a cause worth fighting and dying for?

It is in their selfish interests to keep the slaughter going as long as possible, so that they can use it to cover up the misery of the people suffering from the drastic cuts in living standards inflicted by their government – allegedly, in the interests of the Ukrainian people!

But Zelensky understands better than anyone that the war must end in negotiation. He must also understand that by prolonging the agony of his people, the final settlement will be still worse than before.

The country will be destroyed, and Washington will not have enough propaganda material to attempt to disguise what will be a humiliating defeat.

And the poor Ukrainians will have to pay the price for it all.

A word of warning

Ukraine Invasion

All perspectives of necessity have a conditional character. This is truer still of any prognosis for the outcome of war, which – as Napoleon once remarked – is the most complex of all equations.

I have based my analysis on the available facts at my disposal. But in wars, there can be many sharp and unexpected turns. There will be many ups and downs before the final denouement. But insofar as it is possible to judge, the facts point in one direction.

It is true that the Russians have suffered losses, which are almost certainly greater than Moscow is prepared to admit. But the successes of the Ukrainians have been exaggerated by the media.

Here and there, the Russians have been slowed by small Ukrainian units, employing hit-and-run tactics to knock out tanks and other vehicles with modern rocket launchers, kindly supplied by Boris Johnson.

But however successful they may have been in particular cases, such guerrilla tactics cannot change the general direction of the war, far less decide its final outcome.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian losses – about which the media say absolutely nothing – must be far higher than the Russian ones. And Russia is far more capable than Ukraine of replacing its losses, and thus sustaining a punishing campaign for a greater length of time.

But the outcome will not necessarily be as quick or as straightforward as I may have presented it here. To begin with, the encirclement of the Ukrainian forces in the Donbas is a huge and complicated manoeuvre, which may take weeks, maybe longer, to fully accomplish.

Even then, it is not theoretically ruled out that Zelensky, under the pressure from the ultra-nationalist and fascist elements in his government and from his ‘allies’ in Washington and London, may decide to continue fighting, although he must know that this would be a disastrous course of action.

Joe Biden and Boris Johnson are helping Zelensky, who is standing on the edge of a cliff, to take a few steps forward. With friends like these, who needs enemies? In any case, the end result is not hard to predict.

Consequences

The consequences of all this will be far reaching. And they will not be to the liking of the stupid jingoists in Washington and London. All the western propaganda about the impending collapse of Russia, and the wild statements that Putin has his back to the wall, have already been exposed as so much ridiculous hot air.

The sanctions have, of course, had some effect on Russia – but not at all the catastrophic effects that the West had hoped for. They have infuriated the people and turned them against the West, without having the slightest effect on Putin’s actions or the war in Ukraine.

Biden and co. hoped that, by hitting the pockets of the Russian oligarchs, they would turn them against Putin. But it has had precisely the opposite effect. My sources in Russia inform me that support for Putin amongst the Russian elites following the imposition of western sanctions has actually increased.

Two months ago, most of the Russian oligarchs were pro-West. But that is no longer the case. The ones who are pro-western have emigrated, while those who have stayed behind are rallying around Putin.

As far as the broad masses are concerned, support for the war is increasing in all social groups. However, unlike in 2014, the support for Putin amongst the masses, though it exists, is rather passive. This can change at any time in the future, but not any time soon.

As for western attempts to get the masses to rise against Putin – that does more to help him than anything else. They may not like Putin very much, but they have a deep-seated loathing for NATO and US imperialism, which they rightly see as their sworn enemies.

We will have to deal with the economic effects in a future article. But the masses are already suffering the effects of sanctions in wrecking the fragile fabric of world trade, disrupting supply chains, and causing increasing shortages and soaring inflation.

The masses will have to pay the bill for the crimes of capitalism and imperialism: rising prices and collapsing living standards. This will fuel the fires of class struggle.

History shows that wars very often have revolutionary consequences once the poisonous fumes of chauvinism and war fever are dissipated. Already, the Greek workers are giving a lead with a general strike, and mass demonstrations against war and attacks on living standards. Others will follow.

The events in the Ukraine are the prelude to a new and stormy period in world history. In one country after another, the masses will begin to draw revolutionary conclusions. Marxists must be prepared!

The most important thing is not to be swayed by the unprecedented barrage of official propaganda, to keep a cool head, and to maintain a firm internationalist, revolutionary class position.

And the prior condition for this is to keep a firm grip on the real processes by means of a scientific Marxist analysis. Let our actions be guided by the marvellous words of that great dialectical thinker, Spinoza: Neither weep nor laugh, but understand.

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