Ukraine: military stalemate, political divisions

The ongoing war between western and Russian imperialism has been bogged down in military stalemate since the start of Ukraine’s summer offensive in June 2023. There are massive numbers of casualties on both sides, and Ukraine is now running short of essential supplies of ammunition and artillery shells as financial and military support from both the US and EU falters. The idea that the severe economic sanctions imposed on Russia since the start of the military conflict would undermine Russia’s ability to pursue the war has turned out to be a major miscalculation by the western imperialist powers. The longer this stalemate continues, the more divisions in both the Ukrainian ruling class and amongst western imperialist powers are opening up. British imperialism, though, is stepping up its support for Ukraine and its commitment to NATO’s military provocations. Bob Shepherd reports.

 

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Ukraine Counteroffensive Fails

The war in Ukraine remains at a stalemate. Hopes for a Ukrainian breakthrough of the Russian defensive fortifications have now completely disappeared. Casualties on both sides are in the tens of thousands, and replacing them is requiring more extensive conscription. Despite the vast quantity of weaponry it has received from Western imperialist powers, Ukraine’s failures are beginning to raise questions as to whether some settlement needs to be sought even if there have to be some concessions to Russian imperialism. George O’connell reports.

 

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Ukraine exacerbating NATO tensions

As winter approaches, NATO’s proxy war against imperialist Russia remains in stalemate. The faltering Ukrainian counter-offensive and the consequent scale of casualties are creating a degree of nervousness amongst Ukraine’s imperialist backers. GEORGE O’CONNELL reports.

 

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Ukrainian and Russian communists against the imperialist war

Protest organised by the Kommunistische Organisation in Germany against the Ukraine war (photo: KO)

In the context of the summer camp organised by the Germany-based Communist Organisation FRFI was able to interview Ukrainian and Russian communists from three distinct organisations: the Union of Communists of Ukraine (SKU), the Workers Front of Ukraine (RFU) and the Revolutionary Communist Youth League (Bolsheviki) from Russia (RKSMb). These organisations are at the centre of Down with the war! (Nieder mit dem Krieg!), a solidarity campaign with the communists in Ukraine and Russia who are fighting both imperialist sides and defending the interests of the working class. In this interview with Alexander Trome, they present their theoretical and practical points of view on the current war.

 

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Ukraine: bloody battleground of imperialism

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky tours Bucha

The 2023 NATO summit on 11-12 July reaffirmed NATO’s intention to draw out the proxy war in Ukraine and ensure imperialist Russia remains tied in to a prolonged conflict. Equally explicit was its plan to mobilise against the challenge posed by China. However, the stuttering progress of Ukraine’s counter-offensive is creating differing views within NATO as to how it should play out. GEORGE O’CONNELL and BOB SHEPHERD report.

 

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Ukraine: war without end?

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow on 20 March illustrates a major problem for western imperialism: countries representing over 50% of the world’s population don’t support sanctions on Russia. The Xi-Putin talks were politically and economically significant, putting a dent in the relentless western propaganda that Russia is isolated and its economy on its last legs. Western imperialist powers continue with their war rhetoric as this inter-imperialist war is one they cannot now afford to lose. The arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Russian President Putin on 17 March is part of the propaganda battle. The message our ruling class wants to hammer home is that NATO and the ‘liberal democracies’ are united in their support for ‘democratic’ Ukraine against Russian ‘war criminals’, and that they are in it ‘for as long as it takes’. But behind this warmongering rhetoric there are inter-imperialist tensions bubbling between the US and major powers in the EU. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

 

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Ukraine: a brutal year of inter-imperialist war

Ukrainian tank

One year on from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which the Russian ruling class believed would quickly achieve its military and political objectives, the Russian military is bogged down in a protracted conflict. Ukrainian forces were able to turn back Russia’s initial military advances and have prevented any further major ones. Their ongoing success is entirely dependent on the massive amounts of arms and equipment pumped into Ukraine by NATO countries. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

 

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Ukraine: working class bears cost of imperialist war

As the conflict in Ukraine enters 2023 with no real end in sight, what is obvious is that this proxy war between the NATO imperialist military alliance and Russian imperialism will continue as long as the US continues to pump massive amounts of military hardware into Ukraine. British imperialism, having since Brexit tied its survival to its alliance with US imperialism, continues to act as the US’s loyal attack dog in its support for the war. There are, though, continuing underlying tensions between the interests of US imperialism and the major EU imperialist states which are reflected in their contrasting relations with China. The strength and extent of any social explosion against the escalating cost of living crisis, which is hitting the working class across Europe, will be crucial in determining the future outcome of the war. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

 

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British imperialist arms flood into Ukraine

A statement from ‘the Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street’ on 20 September laid out the continuing warmongering path western imperialist nations, led by Britain and the US, are pursuing in Ukraine.

The opening sentence declares that: ‘the Prime Minister announces the UK will meet or exceed the amount of military aid spent on Ukraine in 2022 next year.’ It then boasts that ‘the UK is already the second largest military donor to Ukraine, committing £2.3bn in 2022. We have trained 27,000 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2015, and in the last year we have provided hundreds of rockets, five air defence systems, 120 armoured vehicles and over 200,000 pieces of non-lethal military equipment’.

 

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Ukraine: the long war

Houses destroyed by shelling in Kiev

Ukraine’s military offensive at the start of September against Russian forces in the northeast of the country had been flagged up by the western ruling class media weeks before it began. Its military successes then came as no real surprise and are the direct result of the massive amounts of arms, military hardware and troop training that NATO countries have been pumping into the country. Since the Maidan coup in 2014 when western imperialism gained political dominance in Ukraine, the US has provided a staggering $17.2bn of what it calls ‘security assistance’ to the Ukrainian state; over $14.5bn of that has been provided since the Russian invasion on 24 February. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

 

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Ukraine NATO’s drive to war

The NATO summit that took place at the end of June in Madrid continued the path that US, British and European imperialism have embarked on in escalating their proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, while at the same time using the opportunity to widen its targets to include China. The ‘NATO 2022 Strategic Concept’ document launched at the summit for the first time lists China as a threat to imperialist interests. Amongst much rhetoric about ‘defending freedom and democracy’ the document includes the stark statement, ‘The People’s Republic of China’s stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values.’ These ‘coercive policies’ apparently include using its ‘economic leverage to create strategic dependencies and enhance its influence’. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

 

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Ukraine - a long war ahead 

Boris Johnson shakes hands with Volodymyr Zelensky, June 2022 (photo: Number 10/Flickr)

On 17 June Boris Johnson again made a flying visit to Kiev. On his return, he spoke about the fact that ‘we need to steel ourselves for a long war’. This is the same line as that used by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, who was reported as saying the conflict could last for years. The consequences of this for the international working class are dire, with continuing attacks on living standards exacerbated by the ongoing rises in fuel and food costs and the possibility of escalating military conflict across Europe. Stoltenberg declared that Ukraine had to be supported, ‘even if the costs are high, not only for military support but also because of rising energy and food prices’.

 

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Ukraine: US proxy war

A Ukrainian soldier in front of a wrecked armoured vehicle (photo: mannhai)

After over three months of war in Ukraine, Russian military advances have been repelled around Kiev and have slowed down and been brought to a halt in parts of the east and south of the country. This military achievement by Ukrainian forces is a direct result of the massive amount of arms and military hardware that is being funneled into the country by imperialism and the NATO bloc. Out of the over $5bn worth of hardware already pumped into the country since the invasion began, the US has now sent at least $3.9bn worth. Britain has contributed £200m with another £300m ready if needed. NATO’s encroachment onto Russia’s borders has also ratcheted up a notch with both Finland and Sweden making formal applications on 18 May to join NATO. These developments, both military and political, have given US, British and European imperialism confidence that Russia can be militarily worn down and defeated in Ukraine. The political consequence of that, they hope, will be regime change in Moscow and the formation of a government subservient to the interests of western imperialism. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

 

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Controlling the narrative: imperialist censorship and propaganda

Ukraine flags fly outside Westminster palace

 ‘Russia may be winning the shooting war, but Ukraine is winning the information war. That is the key to getting allies’ support and sympathy’. (Sean McFate, Atlantic Council, March 2022)

‘You furnish the pictures,’ the US media tycoon William R Hearst said in 1897, ‘and I’ll furnish the war’. The Spanish-Cuban war had not yet begun, but Hearst’s newspapers were to play a major role in ensuring that it did – and that the US public supported Washington’s aims. Who controls the narrative to a large extent controls the war. The information warfare raging over Ukraine today is a playbook of censorship and propaganda, as imperialist countries endeavour to keep their populations squarely behind NATO’s war aims.

 

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Ukraine: Zelensky’s kleptocracy

Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, 2019

While the mass media pumps out propaganda about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ‘heroism’, and the idyllic character of Ukrainian ‘democracy’, the Western imperialist ruling classes have no such illusions. In September 2021, the European Court of Auditors, which is a body of the EU, issued a special report, Reducing Grand Corruption in Ukraine. The preamble to the report defines ‘grand corruption’ as the abuse of high-level power that benefits the few, and causes serious and widespread harm to individuals and society. It continues ‘Oligarchs and vested interests are the root cause of this corruption’.

 

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War in Ukraine: No to NATO! No imperialist war!

A woman walks past the remnants of a Russian armoured vehicle in Bucha, Ukraine (photo: manhhai | CC BY 2.0)

Russian military action inside Ukraine began on 24 February 2022, three days after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of the two breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine, the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Russia’s reckless military action is a consequence of the relentless build-up of NATO’s military forces in Eastern Europe, coupled with the refusal to engage in any serious talks with Russia over its security concerns. Russia is attempting to defend its own capitalist and imperialist interests and to stop the advance of NATO. It is an expression, not just of desperation, but of the growing inter-imperialist rivalries within a global capitalist crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

 

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NATO out of Eastern Europe!

Ukrainian heavy weapons in Eastern Ukraine (photo: OSCE)

Russia’s military action in Ukraine is a consequence of the escalating pressure that the US, Britain and other European imperialist powers have directed against Russia’s imperialist interests through the relentless build-up of NATO’s military forces in Eastern Europe. Russia’s calls for serious talks on its security concerns have been either rebuffed or ignored by the imperialist powers.

 

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Ukraine: imperialism beats the drums of war

British troops in Estonia as part of NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence on Russia's borders, 2018

Three days of talks in early January on the Ukrainian crisis during three different Summits – the US and Russia, NATO and Russia and a full meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – failed to reach agreement on the future relationship of Ukraine to NATO. At first glance the issue appears simply to be whether Ukraine should or shouldn’t become a member of NATO. The underlying issue though is the growing pressure from imperialism on the borders of Russia and what Russia will, or can, do to defend its own capitalist interests in the region. As Vladimir Putin put it in his annual end of year press conference in December: ‘Further movement of NATO eastward is unacceptable. They are on the threshold of our house. Is it an excessive demand, no more attack weapons systems near our home, is there something unusual about this?’ In other words, Russia sees the attempts to make Ukraine a member of NATO as a strategic threat that it cannot agree to. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

 

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Ukraine: three years after the US-backed coup

Maidan revolution

The term ‘revolution’ has perhaps never been misused as frequently in the mainstream media as over the past few years. No longer does it refer to a vast social upheaval of the oppressed and exploited masses against a (usually US-backed) oppressive regime. Instead it is now used routinely to describe movements funded by US government agencies to replace governments which have fallen into disfavour with US puppets. The so-called Maidan revolution (deriving its name from the central square in Kiev where its supporters held their rallies) fits the bill perfectly. Although the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich had been democratically elected, he suffered from a fatal flaw. His wing of the bourgeoisie tried to perform a balancing act between Russia and the European Union (EU), while the opposition was intent on bringing Ukraine firmly into the orbit of the EU – and of the US, including NATO membership if possible. Neither this reality, nor the involvement of the fascist Svoboda party, did anything to dim the enthusiasm of petit bourgeois leftists in Western Europe for this odious enterprise – even as the US National Endowment Fund for Democracy (sic) poured funds into it.

 

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Solidarity with Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine

William Hague met with National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine Andriy Parubiy

SARU (Solidarity with Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine) organised a protest against Ukrainian fascist Andriy Parubiy who was in Britain to meet the Minister for Europe David Lidington, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Wittingdale and an inter-party group on relations with Ukraine in the British Parliament chaired by the extreme right-wing racist and homophobe Sir Gerald Howarth. The racist imperialist British government has no qualms about meeting with fascist politicians.

On Friday 23 October, Parubiy visited the Ukraine Cultural Centre in Holland Park where he was met with a protest organised by SARU, attended by the Revolutionary Communist Group (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!) and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).

 

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Ukraine and Russia: edging towards disaster

Ukrainian tanks withdraw after ceasefire agreement

In the year since the February 2014 coup against President Yanukovych over 6,000 Ukrainians have been killed in battle, 15,000 wounded and more than one million people displaced. The second Minsk ceasefire agreement between Ukraine’s government and its opponents in the south east of the country came into effect on 14 February 2015. However, the US and NATO continue to provoke conflict and are using Ukraine to target the Russian state. Trevor Rayne reports.

 

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Ukraine: war and crisis

Bomb shelter in Donetsk, January 2015

To justify the ongoing expensive and bloody war on the Donbass (south east Ukraine) and aggression towards Russia, the Ukrainian ruling class and its imperialist backers have taken to rewriting history. On New Year’s Day almost 4,000 people rallied in Kiev to celebrate Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera as a ‘national hero’; in his 8 January speech in Berlin, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk recast Nazi Germany as the victim of ‘Soviet invasion’ in the Second World War. So too do they fictionalise the present. Rejecting a Russian plan for the removal of heavy artillery from eastern Ukraine, at 6am on 18 January Kiev’s pretences to a ‘ceasefire’ collapsed, as it resumed massive shelling of the People’s Republic of Donetsk. Kiev’s strategy has cost more than 5,000 lives and involved the use of cluster bombs, missiles and aerial bombs on towns and villages in the Donbass. Justification is sought in an ‘anti-terror operation’ against alleged ‘Russian aggression’, yet after a year of conflict there remains no solid evidence for Russian military operations whatsoever. The imperialist countries remain silent on Kiev’s atrocities, instead offering it financial and military support. In view of such behaviour, Russian President Putin is correct to describe Kiev’s troops as a ‘NATO legion’.

 

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Ukraine: tightening the screw

A woman sits in front of a damaged building in Kurakhove, Donetsk

On 2 November millions of voters in eastern Ukraine took to the polls, electing new MPs and Prime Ministers to the People’s Republics of Donetsk (DNR) and Lugansk (LNR). With more than 300 international observers present, and not a single violation reported, turnout in the war-torn region was almost unprecedented. In Lugansk 62% of the electorate lined the streets to vote, while in Donetsk mobile polling stations almost ran out of early ballots; polling stations set up in the refugee camps near the Russian border saw similar scenes, with turnout at Belgorod reaching 70%.

The contrasts with the snap parliamentary election called by the Kiev government on 26 October could not be greater. Virtually boycotted in the east, official accounts placed turnout at 52%, a historic low, for an election marked by ballot stuffing, voter intimidation and violent repression of opposition groups. The result was a predictable victory for the oligarchy, as Prime Minister Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front party gained 22.14% of the vote and the President’s Petro Poroshenko Block took 21.82%; four of the five other parties meeting the 5% threshold to enter the Rada (parliament) are openly fascist.

 

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Ukraine - Contradictions sharpen despite ceasefire

EU and neo-Nazi flags fly toguether in Kiev

The announcement of a ceasefire between the Ukrainian military and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) on 5 September 2014 (extended on 19 September), is a reflection of the utter failure of the Kiev government to crush opposition in the country’s east in a war that has left more than 3,000 people dead, 6,000 wounded and over a million displaced. Russian President Vladimir Putin, vilified as a belligerent warmonger by the imperialist press, has played a leading role in organising the ceasefire, his seven point peace plan forming the basis of negotiations between Kiev and the DNR and LNR. The imperialists and their Ukrainian allies are now forced to reconsider their tactical approach. Jack Edwards reports.

 

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Ukraine - terror and tragedy

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

Events following the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine have exposed the cynical depths to which the US and its allies will sink to exploit disaster for political ends. Within hours, without evidence, US President Obama blamed the tragedy on soldiers of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), who allegedly downed the plane with a missile using equipment and training from Russia. These claims have resonated most loudly in Washington, London, Canberra and Kiev. They are an exercise in political speculation familiar to the bellicose US and British ruling classes; thus The Independent (21 July 2014) proclaims an ‘increasingly compelling’ case against the DNR, citing heavily-edited, unverified and contradictory footage from right-wing bloggers and Kiev’s secret service, as though they were proven fact. Jack Edwards reports.

 

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Ukraine: The descent into chaos

Ukraine is being pushed into chaos by the interim government and its NATO commanders. Dozens of US CIA and FBI agents have been installed in Kiev to advise the interim government and direct its forces. The police and army have proved unreliable when directed to attack opposition forces in eastern Ukraine and so fascist gangs have been recruited to the National Guard and put in government uniforms. They helped perpetrate a massacre in Odessa. Private security contractors, previously deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, have been hired. Death squads have been formed. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

 

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Ukraine: the threat of war

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

Crimea

By incorporating Crimea and Sevastopol into the Russian Federation, Russia’s rulers have demonstrated that they intend to halt US encroachment into the territories of the former Soviet Union. A referendum was held in Crimea on 16 March to decide on the region’s future. 82% of those eligible to vote took part; of these over 96% voted for unification with Russia. British Foreign Secretary William Hague described the vote as ‘a mockery of democracy’. Hague accused Russia of acting without respect for international law and of conducting a ‘land grab’ in Crimea. How could he justify British possession of the Falkland/ Malvinas Islands and Gibraltar? The states that accuse Russia of occupying Crimea intend to take over Ukraine. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

 

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Ukraine - war clouds gather

Neo-Nazis and extreme-right protesters in Ukraine

Lenin said that imperialism ushers in an era of wars and revolution - this now has substance – menacingly so. The deployment of Russian troops in Crimea and battleships off Crimea’s coast signals that the Russian ruling class views the 23 February coup in the Ukraine to be a strategic threat. The US funded and backed the coup. US strategy is to weaken Russia’s central state and fragment Russia. More immediately, in Ukraine the US wants to remove Russia’s naval base from Sevastopol in Crimea, break Russian military ties to industries in eastern Ukraine, bring Ukraine into the European Union and eventually into NATO, and station NATO missiles on Ukrainian territory. When the Russian parliament voted unanimously on 1 March 2014 to deploy Russian troops in Ukraine, Russia’s rulers showed their intention to resist and reverse the US encroachment into the territories of the former Soviet Union, which they consider their sphere of influence.

 

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Storm breaks over Ukraine

US Secretary of State Powell, British Foreign Secretary Straw and European Commission President Barroso swiftly took the side of the demonstrators in Kiev, protesting at the declaration of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych as winner of Ukraine’s 21 November presidential elections. Powell said the US did not accept the results of the election and warned of the consequences if the Ukrainian government did not act quickly. Russian president Putin congratulated Yanukovych before the results were announced. Powell visited the Ukraine during the election campaign and Putin visited twice to support Yanukovych. Writing in The Guardian (25 November 2004) Timothy Garton Ash declared for the demonstrators and said that Ukraine was on ‘the front line of the forward march of freedom’. As we go to press the Supreme Court has suspended the result of the election.

Powell, Straw and Barroso support opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko. Yuschenko is a former head of the National Bank of Ukraine and his associates include those who benefited from the privatisation of Ukraine’s industry. Yuschenko wants closer ties with the European Union (EU) and an open market economy. He said he wants Ukraine’s troops withdrawn from Iraq. Yanukovych seeks closer relations with Russia and received strong support from Ukraine’s Russian population, located mainly in the east of the country. The industrial workers and miners of the east see in the former German Democratic Republic what Yuschenko’s programme offers them: unemployment and poverty.

 

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Russia and Ukraine - Regional tensions

Russia stopped supplying gas to Ukraine on 1 January and a week later stopped all supplies to Europe passing through Ukraine. Russia accused Ukraine of stealing gas intended for other European countries. Supplies resumed on 20 January when the Ukrainian government agreed to pay a higher price for the energy.

About one fifth of the European Union’s gas supplies are piped from Russia across the Ukraine. Bulgaria receives 80% of its gas from Russia, Austria 70%, Germany 30% and Italy 17%. In the midst of freezing temperatures Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia and Greece were particularly hit by the shut down. Slovakia declared a state of ‘energy emergency’ and the French Peugeot-Citroen car factory was closed. There were demonstrations against Russia in several countries. British Prime Minister Brown declared: ‘No nation can be allowed to exert an energy stranglehold over Europe.’ Mighty fine words, but Britain does not import gas from Russia and so bombast was a luxury he could afford.

 

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