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Ukraine: Intransigence, ire, talking not shooting …

  • March 5th, 2014
  • Posted by EU Australia

Ukraine EU mapIf words will sort out what the confrontation is about, and what can be done, the parties are providing ample material for a very full explanation, some day.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

A confrontation over principle between the new government in Kiev, and the Putin government in Moscow, looked to be defining the conflict.

In Kiev, they are insisting on self-determination, and describing the revolution there as a democratic reform; in Moscow, he is saying their seizure of power is not legitimate, and the Russian government has some right to intervene against it.

That has the appearance of a seismic fracture, an historical moment, which one side, looking to a different future, intends to carry through, and move West; while the other side reveres the past, and will seek to keep past relations going.

VBLADIMIR PUTIN SPEAKS, A LOT

Putin press conferenceA wide ranging media conference given by President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, 4.3.14, had journalists scrambling and comparing notes to get a clear idea of what might have been said.

An Iraeli outlet came close to a consensus read of it, with: “Putin: military force last resort in Ukraine, but all options on table.”

Capturing some of the flavor of the flow of discourse, it led with: “In first comments on Ukraine crisis, President rejects ‘unconstitutional change’ in former Soviet state, warns of widespread anti-Semitism emanating from Kiev.

Said Euronews:

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia saw no need to use military force in the Crimea region of Ukraine for now, in remarks apparently intended to ease East-West tension over fears of war in the former Soviet republic. The use of force by Russia in Ukraine would be a choice of last resort, Putin said, and sanctions being considered against Moscow by the West would be counter-productive.

Putin told a news conference at his state residence outside Moscow there had been an “unconstitutional coup” in Ukraine and ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich, an ally of Russia, was still the legitimate leader of the country despite giving up all power…

Haroon Siddique of The Guardian sent it out ‘RUFF’ for readers to decide:

That was a lot to take in, so here are some bullet points:

• President Putin said that Russia reserved the right to use force in eastern Crimea in the event of “lawlessness” but it would be a last resort.
• But he said Russia would not go to war with the Ukrainian people. If we do take military action, it will only be for the protection of the Ukrainian people,”said Putin, adding that there was no scenario in which Russian troops would fire “on women and children”.
• The Russian president denied that Putin that the Russian-speaking soldiers occupying key Crimean military sites were Russian troops, describing them as “local self-defence forces”. On the similarity of their uniforms to those of Russian soldiers, he said such uniforms could be purchased anywhere.
• He said any action taken by Russia would be legitimate, contrasting its stance with that of the west. He said the west had acted without UN approval or distorted UN security council resolutions when taking action in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.
• Viktor Yanukovych is the legitimate president of Ukraine, Putin said. Yet he also said Yanukovych, who he said was removed in an “unconstitutional coup”, has “no political future”. Putin said Russia gave him shelter because he would have been killed otherwise.
• President Putin said Russia would not recognise the results of elections in Ukraine which were held under the current conditions of “terror”.

Vladimir Putin was being quoted on one main point, that he might be able to countenance a broad government of “all parties” in Ukraine, to hold presidential elections, not under the present political and constitutional  arrangements.

REPLY FROM THE OTHER SIDE

Sergayev YUkraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev (picture), adopted a patient if slightly contemptuous tone, in a rhetorical address to Vladimir Putin, at the UN Security Council:

”We still have not received any compelling answer to the simple question: why are Russian forces illegally occupying Crimea and brutally violating international law?” he said.

“We have a different conception of human rights to you.

“The revolution was a revolution of dignity.

“People of all nationalities came out on the streets.

“They were not directed by any political party.

“There was no pressure from the West, such as you would say.

“People want dignity not a corrupt and horrible system.”

AUSTRALIA IN SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATE

Quinlan gAlso at the Security Council, the Australian Ambassador, Gary Quinlan, delivered a statement close to the average of commentary by parties outside of the immediate conflict, while leading on an insistence that actions by Russia were “undermining the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their own future.”

The statement defined the Russian position as contrary to international law; said that the Russian government  should enter into dialogue with Ukraine, and pull out its armed forces; and it urged the Ukraine to avoid getting provoked.

Security CouncilFull text of Australian statement:

Madam President

Thank you to Assistant-Secretary-General Fernandez-Taranco for his briefing. We welcome Ambassador Sergeyev’s (Ukraine) participation in this meeting.

The situation in Ukraine clearly continues to escalate. Tensions continue to rise, and the potential for military confrontation is obvious.

Since this Council last met on Saturday, Russian military activity in Crimea has seriously intensified and there are reports of more Russian troop deployments on Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders, violations of Ukraine’s airspace by Russian fighter planes and reports of Russian naval vessels blocking the exits of Sevastopol Bay in Crimea.

We are seriously concerned about escalation of Russian military activity. These actions, along with the decision by the Russian Parliament to authorise the use of force in Ukraine, are wholly unacceptable.

Russia’s actions are undermining the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their own future.

Russia’s actions are also contrary to international law. They contravene the UN Charter. They also contravene agreements to which Russia itself is a party – the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the 1997 Bilateral Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Under these agreements, there is a specific commitment to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine and a commitment to non-intervention. And to refrain from the use of force – or the threat to use force.

The Australian Government – together with the broader international community, which is speaking clearly and with one voice – has urged Russia to stand-down and withdraw its armed forces, abide by its international legal commitments, and immediately take steps to reduce tensions. Russia must engage in direct dialogue with Ukraine in accordance with Article 7 of its own Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership with Ukraine.

In this Council Australia has already called for Russia to respect Ukraine’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. We reiterate that call here today.

We also reiterate our earlier call not just to avoid provocation, but for proactive steps to de-escalate this crisis.

We commend the restraint shown by Ukraine itself in the face of continuing and very serious provocation. We support the efforts of the new Government of Ukraine to deal with this crisis and stabilise the situation in its country.

Madam President

The international political engagement we have seen to date on this issue has been essential and it must continue – indeed, increase. It is indicative of the level of concern regarding Russia’s actions, and the extent of the determination on the part of the international community to de-escalate this crisis.

The international community – and this Council – must support all efforts towards de-escalation. This means exploring and promoting all opportunities for mediation and dialogue.

Australia would also strongly support the deployment of a full monitoring mission to Ukraine, and we are grateful to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for working on this possibility. This would be the best way to address Russia’s stated concerns about minority rights and we urge Russia to consider this. We welcome the news that the OSCE may deploy some initial monitors tonight.

We also welcome the engagement by the UN Secretary-General, and the visit by Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson to Ukraine. We urge all parties to cooperate with the Deputy Secretary-General as he seeks to promote dialogue and cooperation and see for himself the facts on the ground. It is imperative he be given access to all parts of Ukraine.

Madam President

This situation must be resolved by peaceful means – there is no other option.

As Australian Prime Minister Abbott said in the Australian Parliament yesterday, unprovoked aggression should have no place in our world. Russia should stand-down and withdraw its forces from Ukraine in accordance with its obligations, and the people of Ukraine ought to be able to determine their future themselves.

Thank you.

Reference

Australian Government, Canberra, Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, United Nations Security Council, 3.3.14. http://australia-unsc.gov.au/2014/03/ukraine/, (4.3.14).

Euronews, Lyon, Armed intervention would be legitimate” says Putin, 4.3.14. http://www.euronews.com/2014/03/04/live-updates-putin-breaks-the-silence-on-ukraine/ , (4.3.14).

Israel News, Tel Aviv, Pitin: Military force last resort in Ukraine, but all ptions on table, 4.3.14. http://www.ynetnews.com/home/0,7340,L-4666,00.html, (4.3.14).

Haroon Siddique,  Putin: Russia reserves right to use force in Ukraine; Putin’s press conference summary, The Guardian, Manchester, 4.3.14. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/04/ukraine-crisis-shots-fired-crimea-airbase, (4.3.14).

Pictures unmultimedia.org

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