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March 21, 2014 - No. 31


Crimea Declares Its Independence and Proclaims a Sovereign State

Crimean people celebrate being accepted as part of the Russian Federation in Simferopol, the Republic of Crimea, March 18, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of Crimea signed a treaty on Tuesday accepting the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as part of Russian territory. (Xinhua)

Crimea Declares Its Independence and Proclaims a Sovereign State
Strategic and Geopolitical Implications of Crimea's Decision
What Is the Trouble and Who Are the Troublemakers? - Nathan J. Freeman

Free the Cuban Five!
Cross Canada Actions Held on March 5

Coming Events
Tour of Cuban Musician Gerardo Alfonso Popularizes World Conference in Solidarity with Cuba


Crimea Declares Its Independence and Proclaims a Sovereign State

In a referendum held on Sunday, March 16, citizens of Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

Despite western media hysteria that the non-Russian population of the Crimea -- Crimean tartars and Ukrainian nationals, which constitute 41.7 per cent of the Crimean population -- would either not vote or be bullied under military occupation, the election was said to be conducted with due respect for the expectations of a free election. Reports say that 83.1 per cent of eligible Crimean voters cast their ballot in the March 16th referendum. The final tally of the vote was 96.77 per cent in favour of joining the Russian Federation, and 2.51 per cent against. (According to official data, Russians constitute 58.32 per cent of the population of Crimea, 24.32 per cent are Ukrainians and 12.10 per cent are Crimean Tatars).

On March 17, the U.S. State Department and European Union imposed sanctions on government authorities and deputies claiming that the vote violated the Constitution of Ukraine. Seven Russians are included on the so-called black list of the US Department of State, including the president of the Federation Council (Senate) Valentina Matvienko, senator Andrei Klishas, and deputies Elena Mizulina and Leonid Slutski. The Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin and Krelim advisor Sergei Glasev were also included on the list. Similar measures of visa restrictions and freezing of bank accounts were adopted by the European Union against 13 Russian citizens and eight Crimean government officials and parliamentarians.

The G7 as well as the European Council and the European Commission also issued a joint statement on March 2, attacking Russia's position on Ukraine and declaring suspension of preparations for a G8 summit scheduled for June in the Russian resort city of Sochi.

Despite this, the Russian parliament signed a treaty accepting Crimea as part of the Russian Federation. Deputies of the Duma (Lower Chamber) denounced the reprisals saying they are convinced the measures have no relation to the Crimea issue, but to their country's positions which are independent from those of the U.S. and EU.

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Strategic and Geopolitical Implications
of Crimea's Decision

Prof Michel Chossudovsky explains the strategic and geopolitical significance of the referendum results. The union of Crimea with Russia redefines both the geography as well as the geopolitical chessboard in the Black Sea basin, Professor Chussudovsky writes. "It constitutes a major setback for US-NATO, whose longstanding objective has been to integrate Ukraine into NATO with a view to undermining Russia, while extending Western military presence in the Black Sea basin," he adds. An excerpt of Professor Chussudovsky's article follows.


With the March 18, 2014 Treaty signed between Russia and Crimea, the Russian Federation will extend its control over the Black Sea as well over the Sea of Azov, the West coastline of which borders on Eastern Ukraine and the Donesk region. (see map below)

Under the agreement between Russia and Crimea announced by president Putin, two "constituent regions" of Crimea will join the Russian Federation: the "Republic of Crimea" and the "City of Sevastopol." Both will have the status of "autonomous regions."

The status of Sevastopol as an autonomous entity separate from Crimea is related to the location of Russia's Naval base in Sevastopol.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia retained its naval base in Sevastopol under a bilateral agreement with Ukraine. With the signing of the March 18th Treaty, that agreement is null and void. Sevastopol including the Russian naval base become part of an autonomous region within the Russian Federation. The naval base [was] within Ukraine under a lease agreement. Moreover, Crimea's territorial waters now belong to the Russian Federation.

Strategic Waterway: The Kerch Straits

Russia now formally controls a much larger portion of the Black Sea, which includes the entire coastline of the Crimean peninsula. The Eastern part of Crimea -- including the Kerch straits -- are now under Russia's jurisdiction control. On the Eastern side of the Kerch straits is Russia's Krasnodar region and extending southwards are the port cities of Novorossiysk and Sochi.

Novorossiysk is also strategic. It is Russia's largest commercial port on the Black Sea, at the cross-roads of major oil and gas pipelines between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.

Historically, the Kerch straits have played a strategic role. They constitute a gateway from the Black Sea to Russia's major waterways including the Don and the Volga.

During World War II, the Kerch peninsula occupied by Nazi Germany (taken back by the Red Army) was an important point of transit by land and water. In the coldest months of Winter, it became an ice bridge linking Crimea to the Krasnodar region.

The Kerch straits are about 5 kilometers in length and 4.5 km. wide at the narrowest point between the tip of Eastern Crimea and the peninsula of Taman. Kerch is a major commercial port linked to railway, ferry and river routes.

Kerch straits, photo taken from Crimean side, narrow width; right aerial view of straits]

The Sea of Azov: New Geopolitical Hub

Of significance, the integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation means that Moscow is now in full control of the Kerch Straits linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The Ukrainian authorities are no longer in control of the port of Kerch. The bilateral agreement between Russia and Ukraine governing the maritime route through the Kerch straights has been scrapped.

The straits constitute an entry point into Russia's major river waterways. The Sea of Azov connects with the Don River and the Volga, through the Volga Don Canal. In turn, the Volga flows into the Caspian sea.

The Kerch straits are strategic. The Kerch-Yenikalskiy Canal allows large (ocean) vessels to transit from the Black sea to the Sea of Azov.

Moreoever, the Kerch Straits link the Black Sea to the Volga which in turn connects to the Moscow river through the Volga-Moskva canal.

Full control of the narrow Kerch straits by Russia ensures unimpeded maritime transit from the Black Sea to Russia's capital as well as the maritime route to the Caspian Sea (Black Sea-Sea of Azov-Don-Volga Don Canal-Volga-Caspian Sea).

In December 2013 Moscow signed a bilateral agreement with the Yanukovych government in Kiev pertaining to the construction of a bridge across the Kerch Straits, connecting Eastern Crimea (which was part of Ukraine) with Russia's Krasnodar region. This agreement was a followup to an initial agreement signed in April 2010 between the two governments. This bridge would largely be geared towards train transport routes.

The Russia-Ukraine 2013 agreement pertaining to the construction of the bridge had, for all purposes already been scrapped before March 16. Crimea's union to Russia was already in the pipeline prior to the referendum, it was a fait accompli. Less than two weeks before the March 16 Referendum, at the height of the crisis in Ukraine, Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered the state-road building corporation Avtodor, or "Russian Highways," "to create a subsidiary company that will oversee the building of a bridge across the Kerch Strait."

Needless to say, the project will be fully under Russian ownership and control. The Kerchen straits are within Russian territorial waters on both sides of the straits.

The Sea of Azov, Eastern Ukraine and the Donbas Region

The Eastern Ukraine and the densely populated Donetz basin (Donbas region) of Ukraine -- in which the Russian population constitutes a majority -- borders on the Western coastline of the Sea of Azov, which is now in large part under Russian control. [...]

(Global Research, March 18, 2014)

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What Is the Trouble and Who Are the Troublemakers?

The cunning of history has positioned Ukraine as the latest country in which post-Soviet Russia and U.S.-led imperialism confront each other. The U.S.-led camp, which includes the old European colonialism, is on a rampage. The Russian government has responded in a measured way, securing its naval assets in the Crimea and going so far as to take Crimea out of the clutches of the fascist coup that seized power in Kiev while putting the elected president, Alexander Yanukovych, to flight.

Students in Khrakov, Ukraine, lay flowers at monument to Second World War partisan fighters and the Soviet Red Army. (Jaroslav the Wise National Law University)

Beyond and underlying the intermonopoly contradictions (mainly over energy resources access and control[1]) that are at odds and in play at this time in that region, the longest-standing and most burning issue for the peoples of this region has surfaced once again: how can the equality and sovereign rights of nations and peoples, irrespective of their ethnic makeup, be established (and in some respects re-established) with a guarantee that is meaningful under current conditions? Only as a constituent founding republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1921 did Ukraine finally became a nation-state embracing all the Ukrainian-speaking ethnos. Regardless of the decades of imperialist propaganda before and during the Cold War dismissing Ukraine as a puppet of Moscow and its people starved of rights etc., it was the USSR itself, with its constitutional provision upholding the right to secede from the Union, that provided the first-ever guarantee of Ukraine's independence. Indeed, Ukraine was one of the few founding Soviet republics to enjoy its own seat at the United Nations.

Economically, during the Soviet period, the Ukrainian working class transformed their country from an agricultural colony to an agro-industrial economy supplying the coal industry that fuelled industrial development throughout the Soviet Union, to an industrial-agricultural economy participating as an exporter of specialized heavy industrial machinery and advanced pharmaceuticals into world markets. Today, under the stewardship of Arsenii Yatseniuk, a previously-unheard-of private banker, Ukraine is bankrupt and a report has even appeared -- so far uncontradicted -- that its national treasury was put on a plane to New York the day after the recent Right Sector-Svoboda coup in Kiev and is now in the custody of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in Manhattan.

Ethnographically speaking, it is widely accepted down to the present that the Russian ethnos and some of the Ukrainian ethnoses share a common origin. For the period preceding the emergence in the Ukrainian region of the Cossacks and their hetman system of governance at the height of the European Middle Ages, a complete and verifiable catalog of all the original peoples of Ukraine remains in dispute.

Notwithstanding this academic fact, nevertheless, it is widely accepted that, earlier in the Middle Ages, the probably originating portion of the Russian ethnos emerged from what became known as the Kievan Rus. This was a collection of settlements in the region of present-day Kiev. In other words, the emergence of part of what becomes a distinct Russian ethnos begins in Ukraine about a millennium ago.

As far as social and political organization goes, however, before the middle third of the 19th century, there existed neither an abstract conception of a Ukrainian nation nor of a Ukrainian territory peopled predominantly by a single Ukrainian ethnos.[2] The principle of a Ukrainian nation was elaborated in the middle of the 19th century by a movement of intellectuals led by Taras Shevchenko. His was effectively the founding voice of modern Ukrainian national literature and culture. On the one hand, standing up for a Ukrainian nation energized the mass resistance of the peoples particularly of western Ukraine against the annexationist efforts of the Polish monarchy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[3] On the other hand, the growth of the struggle for full Ukrainian national autonomy encountered a serious challenge from the social and economic conditions prevailing, and rapidly deteriorating, in eastern Ukraine (some of which was already effectively Russian). There the national question confronted a profound socio-economic challenge, deriving from the Russian landowners' pressure in this period -- in eastern Ukraine and throughout Russia  -- to "en-serf" the peasants and deprive them ultimately of any legal rights to work any land of their own or for their own family's account.[4] In the years immediately following its defeat in the Crimean War, the halting and indecisive character of Tsarism's attempts at "reform from above" was not unexpected.

After eliminating serfdom in 1861, however, the failure of Tsar Alexander to allow the peasants to own and work land on their own, independent of the whims of the nobility or other landowners, greatly boosted the Ukrainian national movement along with all the other centrifugal forces tearing at the absolutism of tsarist autocracy.

Meanwhile, the stage in which the various movements for national autonomy from Tsarist autocracy inside imperial Russia eventually found their footing would emerge during the First World War. The Russian peasantry were conscripted in their hundreds of thousands to die like flies under heavy German shellfire. By the end of 1916, not only had the armies of Britain (plus its soldiery from Canada and other colonies) and France been bled to a point of near collapse. At the same time, the two-million-man army of the Tsar, which was supposed to be the Entente powers' ace-in-the-hole against Germany, more or less collapsed and ceased to play any strategically consequential role in the conduct of the war.[5] Soviet propaganda for decades repeated the view that the USSR was the guarantor of a self-determining Ukrainian nation-state. Its correctness was demonstrated dramatically once again, this time by negative example, with the first so-called "Orange Revolution" imposed in 2004 via a coalition of neo-fascists and neo-liberals instigated and propped up by the George W. Bush administration that seized power in Kiev through mass demonstrations in the city's central Maidan Square. Ten years later under the Obama administration, the latest coup has taken place along many of the same lines. Once again, it is the Ukrainian people's turn to settle the question of what is the trouble and who are the troublemakers of the front of their national sovereignty. Only their movement and struggle can take away the war-threatening power of the US and EU imperialists on the one hand and restore brotherly relations of equality and mutual benefit with their neighbours the Russian people on the other.


1. The map below illustrates the network of Russian natural gas pipelines to southern Europe, including southeastern Germany, that go through Ukraine's territory. (There are other Russian pipelines that go directly to northern Germany and Scandinavia.) Russian gas currently provides 30 per cent of the heating and industrial needs of Germany.

2. Since the French Revolution, one of the greatest damages wrought by Eurocentric thinking stems from the assumption that the one nation-one country pattern -- which an extremely short list of countries in western Europe happen to have enjoyed always and everywhere -- represents the true direction towards which all the rest of humanity ought to strive.

3. These powers sought to expand their control over this region, which they called "Eastern Galicia". This designation came from schemes that they hatched with the Russian tsar that came to fruition during the 1770s, in which the territory of Poland was partitioned among Russia, Vienna and Warsaw. This, and the background of its development in the preceding couple of centuries, is examined in detail in Michael Hrushevsky, A History of Ukraine (Yale University Press 1941), Chapters 21-23

4. The shattering defeat suffered by Russia in the Crimean War strengthened the hand of a faction at the Tsar's court seeking to reform the administration (including especially tax collection) of the lands worked by enserfed peasants. The leading faction in the national movement in western Ukraine thought these "modernizers" could be their silent ally in eastern Ukraine, standing in between the Ukrainian national movement and the Tsar. See Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History (University of Toronto Press, 1989), Part Four "Ukraine Under Imperial Rule."

5. With the launch of the revolution in Petrograd in March 1917, hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers fled the front lines of the war for home. With the Bolshevik victory in October/November, Russia was completely out of the war. The Entente powers quickly assembled a counter-revolutionary army to attack and destroy the Bolshevik victory. The peasantry from various Ukrainian regions controlled by Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were initially recruited for the armies of Kolchak and Denikin, the Russian Tsarist officers leading the counter-revolutionary war. See Vasyl Kuchabsky, Western Ukraine in Conflict with Poland and Bolshevism 1918-23 (Edmonton AB: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 2009 -- first English translation of the 1934 German edition)

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Free the Cuban Five!

Cross Canada Actions Held on March 5

On March 5, Vancouver activists marked their 100th monthly picket for the freedom of the Cuban Five -- Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González -- political prisoners unjustly held in U.S. prisons for protecting Cuba against terrorist attacks launched from U.S. soil, three of whom are still being held after more than 15 years. The Five were arrested on false terrorism charges in the U.S. in 1998 while investigating anti-Cuba terrorist groups, and were given lengthy sentences after a phony trial in Miami, Florida. To mark Vancouver's significant achievement in breaking the silence about the case of the Cuban Five, coordinated actions were held on March 5 across Canada in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton, as well as in San Francisco and Seattle in the U.S.


Picket outside U.S. consulate in Vancouver, March 5, 2014.

On March 5 about one hundred activists took part in a picket in front of the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver demanding freedom for all the Cuban Five. Friends of the Cuban Five came from across BC to join in the picket.

Following the Vancouver picket, a meeting was held that evening with the Cuban Ambassador to Canada His Excellency Mr. Julio Garmendia Peña, to mark the occasion. Stephen Kimber, the author of "What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five" presented his book which exposes the lies surrounding the case of the Cuban Five.

Evening meeting in Vancouver, March 5, 2014, featuring the participation of Cuban Ambassador to Canada His Excellency Mr. Julio Garmendia Peña (bottom, far left).

The Ambassador of Cuba conveyed the appreciation of the Cuban people to all the friends of Cuba in Canada for their participation in the struggle for the liberation of the five patriots and for breaking the silence about their just cause. He stressed that we must step up the struggle to reach the day when Antonio, Ramón and Gerardo will also walk free on the streets of Cuba, next to their families and friends.

Author Stephen Kimber at the Cuban Five event in Nanaimo, March 6, 2014.

Don Foreman, representing the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which is active in the fight to Free the Five, presented a special maple baseball bat to the Free the Cuban Five Committee-Vancouver in honour of the occasion. The bat was made by Canadian Bill Ryan, who produces the bats on behalf of Gerardo, and carries the insignia of the Cuban Five.

The Free the Cuban Five Committee-Vancouver with the support of the Embassy of Cuba also organized programs in several other BC cities in the days following the picket. Events took place in Naniamo, Victoria and Kamloops, as well as in Seattle, Washington.


The Cuba Edmonton Solidarity Committee (CESC) held an informative meeting at the University of Alberta on March 5, its contribution to the ongoing international campaign to Free the Cuban Five.

The President of CESC introduced the meeting and situated the continuing U.S. attacks on Cuba in the current context, noting how the U.S. is sponsoring similar attacks against Venezuela and Ukraine to try to bring about regime change.

The second speaker showed how the real terrorists are the U.S. and the anti-Cuba émigré groups they sponsor. He stated that the main reason the U.S. falsely charges Cuba with terrorism is to divert attention from its own terrorist activities. His presentation included a detailed list of U.S.-sponsored terrorist attacks carried out in Canada, for which the Canadian state has never arrested or charged anyone.

The third speaker, who maintains contact with the Five, gave details on the current situation of the Cuban Five and the progress of the campaign to free those still in jail. The presentations were well received and followed by a lively question and answer period where others gave their views.


A militant picket took place across from the U.S. Consulate in Toronto on March 5. Signs and banners demanded the release of all of the Cuban Five and that the injustice done to these heroic Cuban patriots be rectified. The participants shouted "Free the Cuban five! Free All the Cuban Five Now!" and their case was briefly outlined in speeches and on leaflets handed out to those passing by.

It was emphasized that terrorist actions by the anti-Cuban mafia based in the U.S. have cost the lives of more than 3,400 Cubans and caused a great deal more injuries and damage, that the Cuban five were acting against these terrorist crimes, and that while they were unjustly jailed for very long terms for their legitimate actions, the terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles go unpunished and are protected by the U.S. government.


In Ottawa, a picket was held across from the U.S. Embassy on March 5. This is part of a new initiative started this year by activists in Ottawa and Gatineau to hold a picket at that location on the 5th of every month.


Montreal activists moved their longstanding regular monthly picket for the Cuban Five to March 5 to coordinate with all the other actions marking the 100th monthly picket in Vancouver. They gathered outside St. James United Church in downtown Montreal before marching to the U.S. Consulate.

(Photos: TML, Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver, Quebec Cuba Solidarity Roundtable)

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Coming Events

Tour of Cuban Musician Gerardo Alfonso Popularizes World Conference in Solidarity with Cuba

The Canadian Network on Cuba is organizing a tour of outstanding Cuban composer and guitar player Gerardo Alfonso Morejón to promote the Third Meeting of World Solidarity with Cuba in Havana, October 27-29, 2014. Gerardo's beautiful poetic songs will be heard from Halifax to Victoria, with stops in 11 cities from March 22 to April 13.

Sandra Ramírez, North American Specialist from the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) will accompany Gerardo and speak about the Solidarity Meeting. The work of ICAP is focused on promoting people-to-people exchanges and friendship between Cubans and peoples around the world. It strives to act as a force for peace, mutual exchange and true internationalism in the world.

The conference, organized by the Cuba Solidarity Movement represents international support for the validity of the Cuban model of social justice and its viability as an alternative for "another world," for which the peoples are fighting.

Guided by the anti-imperialist, visionary and humanist thinking of José Martí and Fidel Castro, this conference demonstrates Cuba's internationalist vocation and solidarity with all the just causes which benefit the peoples and their enjoyment of their fundamental right to freedom, peace and social justice.

About Gerardo Alfonso Morejón

Gerardo Alfonso is part of the nueva trova (new song) movement that started in Cuba in the 1960s and combines traditional folk music with political lyrics. His songs touch upon themes of humanity, society, love and life. He has shared the stage with world famous musicians Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanes, Vicente Feliú and many others.

His lyrics have assured him a place in the hearts of all Cubans, just as his fusion work has won him high marks among musical critics. His songs incorporate elements of Latin American music -- basically Brazilian and Caribbean -- but he has also understood how to take advantage of his urban and popular roots in a range of mixtures that span from rock and reggae to rap and guaguanco, though never abandoning his trova essence.

Saturday, March 22 - 7:30 pm
College St. United Church Sanctuary, 452 College Street --
Admission $10, Canadian Cuban Friendship Association (Toronto), 416-410-8254

Monday, March 24 -7:00 pm
Just Us! Kings Wharf, Dartmouth N.S.

Wednesday, March 26 - 7:00 pm
Centre culturel Simon Bolivar, 394, boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest
info@solidaritequebeccuba.qc.ca, 514-728-7222

Friday, March 28 -- 7:30 pm
Sandy Hill Community Center -- 250 Somerset East, Ottawa
$15 or PWYC, Ottawa-Cuba Connections, 613 594-8335

Tuesday, April 1 -- 6:30 pm
Byran-Prince Books, 1060 King Street West
Adm. $10 - PWYC - No one turned away, Hamilton Friendship Association with Cuba
and Matapa Music and Arts Organization, info@cubacanada.org

Niagara Falls
Thursday, April 3 -- 7:00 pm
Falls View Hose Brigade Hall, 5786 Dunn Street
$15 Admission, CCFA Niagara, 905-304-0700

Information Meeting and Concert

Mi Casita Restaurant 429 Wyandotte St. East
For information: ccfawindsor@gmail.com

Monday, April 7 -- 7:00 pm
Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House, 800 East Broadway
$10 Admission, 778-882-5223

Tuesday, April 8 -- 7:00 pm
2994 Douglas St. BCGEU Hall 7 pm

Thursday, April 10 -- 7:00 pm
House Concert, by invitation
Cuba-Edmonton Solidarity Committee,  Email: njt.edmonton@gmail.com

Friday, April 11 -- 7:30 p.m.
Broadway Disciples United Church
$10 Admission, Manitoba-Cuba Solidarity Committee, 204-783-9380

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