From Damascus to Donetsk..

Travelling west from the centre of Moscow past the Kievskaya building leads one to Park Pobedi – Victory park – and to one of the most dramatic monuments in the world to victory over fascism. The huge bronze sculpture of St George slaying the Nazi dragon provided the inspiration for my Christmas greetings card in 2015, some three months after Russia’s dramatic entry into Syria to slay the Dragon of Daesh as it advanced on Damascus.

Russia’s intervention began much as it has in Ukraine – with a “stand-off” attack using cruise missiles, in Syria’s case fired from ships in the Caspian. The targets were oil tankers, which had been trucking Syrian oil out of the North East via Iraq and Turkey for export to Europe through Israel. Russia had been demanding that the US stop this trade by Da’esh – whose profits it used to fund its operations and war against Syrian forces – but the US did nothing. Along with Turkey, where Erdogan’s son Bilal was profiting from the shipping, the US and Israel both benefited from selling the stolen oil.

ISIS Oil export routes North from Deir Al Zour and West from Raqqa

Following the cruise missile attack, which eliminated around 1000 tankers and ruined Da’esh’s nice little earner, Russian forces moved in to help the beleaguered Syrian Arab Army push back jihadist groups who were advancing rapidly towards Damascus with tanks and rocket launchers and with the blood of Alawites in their nostrils. They had recently launched a truck bomb that destroyed part of the National Hospital in Jisr al Shughour, killing and injuring both civilians and soldiers who were trying to protect it. Jaish al Fatah – the Army of Islam – which entered Syria from Southern Turkey in March following cooperation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, filmed the truck-bomb’s journey and explosion – below is the moment of detonation from their video:

Truck Bombing of Jisr al Shoghour National Hospital, May 15 2015

Now Russia has launched a similar intervention in Ukraine, and the monument in Park Pobedi reminds us why. Behind St George are sculpted the names of the terrible battles fought against the Nazis – in Minsk and Kiev, Sevastopol and Stalingrad:

It's hard to do justice to this awe-inspiring monument, with its golden angel at the pinnacle - but helps one understand the depth of feeling in the Russian psyche about the purging of Nazism from Europe and the sacrifices made to achieve it. Another angle: 
While it appeared that Moscow's hand was forced by Western scheming and finally by the launching of a new offensive against the residents of Donetsk and Luhansk, there can be little doubt that Russia was well prepared to respond and do so decisively. The effective neutralisation of Ukraine's defences against aerial attack immediately put Russia in a commanding position. Despite many advance warnings from the US in particular, most of which were nonsense at the time, NATO didn't seem prepared for this cruise missile assault - which incidentally hindered any attempt to supply further arms and equipment to Ukrainian forces. 
 The serious problems Russia might have encountered with a land invasion following the generous supply of anti-tank weaponry to the Ukrainians and various special forces battalions don't appear to have arisen yet, and instead we have the rather ludicrous spectacle of men standing in front of military convoys and tanks, only to have them stop or drive around. By contrast there was news and video today from an Al Jazeera team in Dnipropetrovsk that was fired on by a Ukrainian army contingent. One of the crew sustained two bullet holes to his phone, but these undisciplined soldiers were excused for "just doing their job". 

It's hard not to draw comparisons with Syria, particularly following news recently revealing the CIA's programme training "insurgents" in Ukraine since 2015 - the date of Russia's intervention in Syria. "At least" since 2015 is probably more accurate, given that the UK appears to have been cultivating nationalist forces in Ukraine for decades. While the official CIA line is that these paramilitaries were being prepared to react in the event of a Russian invasion and occupation of the country, it seems also likely or certain that recapturing Crimea would be the ultimate goal. Such a threat would quite clearly go beyond Russia's red line, given that Crimea is now part of Russia. 

At the same time, what the US is actually doing in Syria is hard to ascertain - beyond its totally illegal occupation of land east of the Euphrates, theft of Oil and Gas from there and support for terrorist groups to maintain instability to its advantage. Perhaps Russia isn't quite sure either - so took the opportunity to demonstrate its naval resources and capabilities from the Hmeimim base near Lattakia. Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu made the trip there, accompanying strategic bombers and more vehicles for military police, and demonstrated his genuine commitment to Syria's protection in a human way:
President Assad and Defence Minister Shoigu, Hmeimim February 2022
It's a view that you wouldn't see on the permitted TV services in the West, now that RT and Sputnik and Press TV have been cleansed from the hemisphere. Apparently their spreading of lies and misinformation endangered national solidarity, both within and between countries. This was a point made a month ago in an interview with a "journalist" in Kiev, from Euromaidan, who was trying to stop Russian TV services from being broadcast in Ukraine as they spread false ideas about Kiev and created popular unrest. Much as the broadcasts of the BBC's Steve Rosenberg and the exiled Sarah Rainsford - now in Lviv - are doing in Moscow and St Petersburg. These broadcasts also have a multiplier effect, as Western media are focusing excessively on the deluded young Russians waving Ukrainian flags and getting arrested. Meanwhile here in the world's retrograde underbelly anyone displaying Russian sympathies is liable to be hounded out or worse.   Bearing that in mind I thought it important to pin my own colours to the mast: 
Self portrait with flags, February 28th 2022

DM 28.2.22