The Cold War – Redux (Duplicity). Ukraine Part 2.

I have recently written the first of two novels in my latest Apocalyptic series, ‘Force Majeure – Purgatory’ and ‘Force Majeure – Paralysis’. The third in the series will be out mid next year. Prior to these two books, I wrote a Cold War trilogy, The Red Effect, The Black Effect and The Blue Effect, portraying what I believe could have happened in the 1980’s, had the Soviets, and the Warsaw Pact, taken the decision to attack West Germany and plunged the world into a third world war.

I now ask myself the question, are we heading down that very route now? To answer that, I am in the process of writing the first book in a new Cold War trilogy, or the ‘Cool War’ as it is sometimes referred to. The first draft title is ‘The Cold War – Redux (Duplicity)’.

Where does my story start? I felt the only way to find the answer to that was to go to the very melting pot that could turn the Cool War, into a Hot War, the Ukraine. I have made two trips so far, and the next 12 Posts will relate my experiences while there.

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The flag of Ukraine.

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This is the view along Threshchatyk Vulyysya, looking back towards Independence Square, as I continue my journey. I now head towards the Kiev Dynamo stadium and the government buildings. The scene of even more violence in the Ukrainian people’s attempt to secure Independence yet again.

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Peoples Arch of Friendship, Kiev.

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Its literal name is ‘Arch of Friendship of Peoples’. Opened on 7 November, 1982 to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the USSR and the celebration of the 1,500th Anniversary of Kiev city.

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The view from Naberezhne Highway, that runs alongside the Dnieper River.

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On the high ground close to the Friendship Arch, looking back towards the Dnieper River from where I took the last picture.

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I then headed towards the Kiev Dynamo Stadium. You can see the Independence Square monument in the distance.

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When I first saw this structure, I couldn’t figure out what it was.

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I then crossed the Bridge of Lovers. It is also known as the Bridge of Suicides (The last suicide was in 2007) and the Devils Bridge (due to it rocking in strong winds).

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Padlocks, with the names of lovers etched on them.

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I eventually came across the Kiev Dynamo Stadium, and discovered the construction I saw earlier was actually one of four floodlight towers for the stadium.

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Another set of buildings that caught my eye on my way to the stadium entrance, was the golden domes of St. Michael’s Monastery. The statue in the background, with the raised sword, also caught my eye. That will be covered in my third Post.

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The main entrance to the Kiev Dynamo Stadium.

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The stadium was the scene of violent unrest during the Euromaiden riots as the anti-government demonstrators headed for the parliament buildings.

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The scene back in January 2014.

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The riot police, along with the Berkut, a quick reaction force, a special police force, had great difficulty quelling the riots and eventually resorted to using gunfire. The Berkut, implemented in 1993, were considered particularly violent towards the Ukrainian citizens. I believe they have now been disbanded.

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A stand off, but with petrol bombs being regularly thrown at the police lines.

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An anti-government protester with helmet and homemade wooden shield.

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The Euromaiden Revolution, as it has become known as, lasted from late November 2013, to late February 2014.

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Fireworks and smoke grenades were used by both sides. The protesters also used slingshots, petrol bombs and heavy chains to attack the riot police.

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Again, the position of those that fell during the riots have been painted on the ground. These ones are just in front of the Kiev Dynamo Stadium.

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These ones on the road itself.

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More memorials to the fallen enroute from Independence Square to the parliament buildings.

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I soon approached the western end of the Verkhovna Rada building, set in Constitution Square. This is where the Ukrainian Parliament meets.

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Now approaching the southern side of the building.

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The iron gates, showing the coat of arms of Ukraine, that lead to the Inner sanctuary of the parliament grounds.

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These were the original gates, echoing the Soviet Epoch.

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In England, you wouldn’t hesitate in asking policemen, or soldiers, who man cerimonial buildings of interest, for a photograph. I approached these two, asking to take a photograph and initially they were extremely reluctant. But, eventually they agreed to make a tourist’s day, and posed for the shot.

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This is the front view of the Parliament building.

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Three storeys high, it is crowned with a dome made of metal and glass.

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There was a fairly heavy police presence around the Parliament building.

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They didn’t appear to be showing any concerns of someone taking photographs of the building.

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But during the riots, the scene was very different.

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It was, and is still, a very complicated situation in Ukraine. So, if some of my information is incorrect, then please flag it to me and I can amend the content. Thank you for reading this first Post.

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Site and content, including photographs, is copyrighted to Harvey Black.

 

The Cold War – Redux (Duplicity). Ukraine Part 1.

I have recently written the first of two novels in my latest Apocalyptic series, ‘Force Majeure – Purgatory’ and ‘Force Majeure – Paralysis’. The third in the series will be out mid next year. Prior to these two books, I wrote a Cold War trilogy, The Red Effect, The Black Effect and The Blue Effect, portraying what I believe could have happened in the 1980’s, had the Soviets, and the Warsaw Pact, taken the decision to attack West Germany and plunged the world into a third world war.

I now ask myself the question, are we heading down that very route now? To answer that, I am in the process of writing the first book in a new Cold War trilogy, or the ‘Cool War’ as it is sometimes referred to. The first draft title is ‘The Cold War – Redux (Duplicity)’.

Where does my story start? I felt the only way to find the answer to that was to go to the very melting pot that could turn the Cool War, into a Hot War, the Ukraine. I have made two trips so far, and the next 12 Posts will relate my experiences while there.

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The flag of Ukraine is a banner of two equally sized horizontal bands of blue and yellow. As a national flag, it was used officially from 1848, since the Spring of Nations when it was hoisted over the Lviv Rathaus. It was officially adopted as a state flag in 1918, by the West Ukrainian People’s Republic. But when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, the flag was outlawed and anyone hoisting the blue-yellow flag in the Soviet Ukraine, would be persecuted as a criminal. It was officially restored in 1992, following Ukraine’s Independence.

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Boryspil International Airport, Kiev. Situated 29 kilometres east of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, it is the country’s largest airport. It is one of two passenger airports that serve Kiev, the second one, Zhulyany Airport, is closer to the city, but much smaller.

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The view of the side of the airport, seen from one of the cafes inside.

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Once settled in my hotel, after changing my dollars for Ukrainian currency, Hryvna, in a linen shop, yes a linen shop, I headed for Independence Square. There are some impressive buildings in the city and I will show more of them as my Posts progress.

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The view from Khreshchatyk of the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square. It is the central square of Kiev.

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It is often referred to as just, Maidan, ‘square’.

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The square was given its current name after Ukraine’s independence in 1991. Following the end of the Soviet era, the Maidan has since become a focal point for public political activity. The square, along with the Stadium and Parliament buildings, was one of the sites of the Euromaidan protests that started in November 2014.

Initially swinging towards an association with Western Europe, the President at that time, Viktor Yanukovych, had a change of heart and suspended preparations for the Implementation of an association agreement with the European Union. Whether as a consequence of a desire to remain a part of the Eurasian Union, advocated by President Putin, or because of the rising debt as a consequence of the Russian Federation hiking up the prices of gas, and additional pressure from the Russian Federation itself, no one truly knows.

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Independence Monument, the victory column, located on Independence Square, commemorates the Independence of Ukraine. It is 61 metres in height.

The provision of Gas to Ukraine, provided President Putin with a real stranglehold on the country. In December 2013, he promised to reduce Gas prices by 30%. Around about that time, Ukraine probably owed somewhere in the region of over $4 billion in debt to Gazprom. Putin also promised to help fund the debt ridden country. This all changed after the uprisings and Yanukovych fleeing the country, and in June 2014, gas supplies to Ukraine were cutoff. It was only restarted after trilateral talks between between the European Union, Ukraine and Russia, when it was agreed that the European Union would act as guarantor for Ukraine’s gas purchases.

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The monument is a column with a figurine of a woman, Berehynia (female spirit), on top. The statue is made of cast bronze and weighs about 20 tons.

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The view opposite the statue. The glass jars/bottles have been placed on the ground to represent the shape of the Coat of Arms of Ukraine.

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Each has a small candle inside.

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During the riots in Kiev, that started in late November 2013, things looked very different then. I will cover more of this during my next few posts before I travel further south. The Trade Union building can be seen in the background on the

far right.

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Trade Union Building, Independence Square, in flames. The building was used as an Opposition Base during the Euromaiden riots

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This is a photograph of the Trade Union building taken this year, 2015, in the preceding photograph you can see the true effects of the fire.

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There are many stands in Independence Square communicating their own view about the events at the Maiden.

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There were a number of individuals collecting money for the hospitals, who are treating and caring for the Ukrainian Army soldiers, or soldiers from the Volunteer Battalions, who gave up their time, and lives in some cases, for the defence of the Donbass region as they battled against the pro-Russian separatists.

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Independence Square.

The sign on the old Gaz says, ‘they are collecting for humanitarian and financial aid for battalion “Donbass-Ukraine.”

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Independence Square is also a place for speeches, party political meetings and when closed off on a Sunday, for friends and families to just have fun.

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But the Ukrainian Parliament is still wary of any event occurring in the square, as a consequence of previous events in the city. I couldn’t identify a police presence at all, so decided to look around the outskirts of the city and came across a bus parked up not far from the entrance to the Kiev Dynamo stadium. It would only take a five minute drive to reach the Maiden.

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The riot police seemed fairly relaxed, and didn’t appear to be anticipating trouble. But they were there all the same.

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Again, during the period of heavy rioting, the scene were very different, the riot police had their hands full in quelling the troubles. The people of Ukraine, and in this case those living in and around Kiev, were adamant that they favoured a relationship with the West, rather that the Russian Federation.  The Russian Federation was proposing the creation of the Eurasian Union, the old Soviet Union under a different mantle?

I remember the violence of the riots in Belfast during the 80s. Being a part of a ‘Snatch Squad’ on a number of occasions. When you see some of the clips of the riots in Kiev during the height of the troubles, it will bring back lots of frightening memories for British soldiers who served in NI at that time.

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Belfast, Northern Ireland in the early eighties.

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Where civilians were killed during the riots, and there were many, the shapes of their fallen bodies have been painted where they fell, in remembrance of those horrific times.

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This the view along Threshchatyk Vulyysya, looking back towards Independence Square, as I continue my journey. I now head towards the Lobanovsky Dynamo stadium and the government buildings. The scene of even more violence in the Ukrainian people’s attempt to secure Independence for a second or third time in their history.

It was, and is still, a very complicated situation in Ukraine. So, if some of my information is incorrect, then please flag it up and I can amend the content. Thank you for reading this first Post.

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Site and content, including photographs, is copyrighted to Harvey Black.

 

Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Part 5

I have just finished writing my third novel in the Devils with Wings series, Devils with Wings: Frozen Sun. The Fallschirmjager, after their successful battle taking Crete in only 10 days, are shipped to Poland to partake in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

They leave temperatures in excess of forty degrees to be used, not in an airborne operation, but as a fire brigade, plugging gaps in the line around Leningrad. They were Army Group North’s strategic reserve.  They were quickly placed into the fray, fighting along the River Neva, where temperatures dropped to below -30 degrees, sometimes as low as -40. They were successful at plugging the gaps and preventing the Soviet Union from exploiting their bridgeheads over the River Neva, but at a price. Some units suffered up to 75% casualties. Many who had survived the assault on the Fortress Eben Emael, (Devils with Wings) and the fierce fighting on the Island of Crete (Devils with Wings: Silk Drop) met their fate in this bitter struggle with the atrocious weather and the never ending Soviet hordes.

The German Army, and the Fallschirmjager, were soon to experience the hostile Russian winters.

By mid-July, the German Army had come within a few kilometres of Kiev. 1st Panzer Army headed south as the 17th Army advanced east, trapping three Soviet armies near Uman. They eliminated the pocket and pushed across the Dnieper.

2nd Panzer Army crossed the River Desna, flanked by 2nd Army, trapping a further four Soviet armies.

4th Panzer Army was again heading for Leningrad. Reinforced by tanks from Army Group Centre. On the 8th August they broke through the Russian defences. By the end of August, 4th Panzer Army, supported by 16th Army and 18th Army, had got within 30 miles of Leningrad.

At this staff, Hitler ordered the final destruction of the City, and by the 19th September Army Group North got to within 7 miles of Leningrad, but casualties were mounting. Hitler lost patience and ordered the City to be starved rather than stormed.

Some of the types of equipment used in this biggest ever invasion of a country are shown below. Most of the photographs were taken at the Bovington Tank Museum.

T-34/85. 

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Speed 33mph.

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T-34/85. 26.5 tons.

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85mm Zis gun.

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Big Cat brought in to fight the Russian tanks.

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Panther. Larger and much better quality than the T-34. But production was slow and there were never enough of them.

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Crew of five protected by 80mm of armour.

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44 tons. Speed of 28.5 mph. 75mm gun.

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Panther.

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Pz Kpfw VI Ausf B

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88mm.  King Tiger or Royal Tiger. SS Panzer battalion 101.

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The Allies first met this in Normandy, soon after D-Day.

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Royal Tiger.

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68 tons. Armour 150mm thick. Speed 24mph.

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Tiger I, mobile at the Bovington Tank Museum

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T-34

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Destroyed T-34

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T-34’s in a Russian winter.

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T-34 graveyard.

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KV heavyweights.

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My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my photographs and information with you and help set the scene for my forthcoming novel.

Photographs and Blog is copyrighted to Harvey Black

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