Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 19.09.2017
At 8 o’clock in the evening on September 18, social media lit up about an explosion in Luhansk. “We’re in the downtown … have even jumped” read one posting. Rumours began to swirl that the “Monument to the Paratroopers of Novorossiya” had been blown up. The rumours turned out to be true. This particular monument had been installed and unveiled by the Russian invaders and occupiers of Luhansk on 2 August 2015, and sat beside an older “Strugglers for Communism” monument that was installed during the time of the Soviet Russian occupation. Honouring the foreign Muscovy soldiers who had attacked Luhansk and captured it in 2014, the “Monument to the Paratroopers of Novorossiya” was an infantry fighting vehicle mounted on a plinth. The explosion tore it apart and set it aflame.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Luhansk has been nominally run by an entity called the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LPR). This is a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) front that features local underworld figures and ex-Party of Regions fugitives as figureheads. Russia’s armed services and intelligence services are the real power. After the destruction of the monument, Russian occupation authorities used the mask of the so-called “LPR” to blame “Ukrainian saboteurs.” Ukrainian patriots on social media were thrilled at this sign that partisans may be at work deep behind enemy lines.
If the destruction of the monument was the work of Ukrainian partisans, then this is a positive development for the West’s defence against Russia’s invasion of Europe and for the eventual liberation of Donbas and Crimea. The lesson of La Résistance fighting Nazi German occupation in France in World War II is that partisans tie up the resources of the enemy in a burdensome occupation. The lesson of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) fighting Soviet Russian occupation in Ukraine from 1944 to the late 1950s is that partisans are the inspiration for the national spirit that leads to true independence and freedom. Whoever blew up the infantry fighting vehicle on a plinth in Luhansk blew up not just a symbol but an actual example of the Russian military aggression that plagues Ukrainians. They’ve got the Russians and their fake “LPR” scrambling in confusion, and that’s a desirable outcome.
Ukraine should be waging partisan warfare behind the lines of the Russian enemy today with the same discipline and purpose as the UPA did in its day. Ukraine is a sovereign state, and sovereign states must have a monopoly of violence within their borders. That means partisans need to fall under the legitimate and legitimating power of the central government. The Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) under which Ukrainian armed forces now operate is an inadequate mechanism to defend the Ukrainian homeland from foreign invasion from Russia. The ATO is limited to Donbas and does not take in Crimea, which is making a false distinction between two integral parts of Ukraine. The terms of reference talk about terrorism, which makes it difficult to fight and defeat Russian regular troops who attack Ukrainian defenders and civilians. To do the essential war work of sabotage and disruption, the ATO makes no mention of partisans operating behind enemy lines. National Security and Defence Council Secretary, Oleksandr Turchynov, stated on 13 June 2017 that Ukraine needs to move to a new format for protecting the country from Russia’s hybrid war. Legislation needs to be brought forward, he said, and the ATO cancelled.
Ukraine is for Ukrainians. That goes for every bit of Ukrainian territory, including Donbas and Crimea. The monopoly of violence belongs to the central government in Kyiv and to no one and to nothing else. Russians from Muscovy who are in Donbas and Crimea are invaders and hold Ukrainian territory by unlawful violence. Partisan warfare against the foreign occupiers — under the authority of the government and therefore people of Ukraine – can be helpful in achieving the liberation of Donbas and Crimea. Ukrainians are celebrating the destruction of a monument in Luhansk that glorified the nightmare of Russian imperialist aggression. Many more such blows need to be struck. Ukraine declared its formal independence 26 years ago. Now it must fight for real independence, by every means possible, right up to the Russian border at Rostov and at the Kerch Strait.