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Ukraine: Russians, demanding attention, endangering Europe’s peace?

  • April 26th, 2014
  • Posted by EU Australia

eastern europemapTension and anxiety once again revived over Ukraine, entering the weekend of 26-27.4.14.

Ukrainian forces were moving against armed groups identifying with Russia, remaining in occupation of state buildings in the Donetsk region South-east of Kiev; in defiance of the peace agreement signed a week before; encouraged by mixed and muddled signals from the Russian government.

The Economist on 26.4.14, summed up a broad consensus of outside views:

“For a brief moment it seemed that eastern Ukraine’s slide into conflict might be halted.

“A deal struck in Geneva on April 17th between Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine called for illegally occupied buildings to be vacated and armed groups to give up their weapons.

“But Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, brushed it off, saying that, since the Ukrainian government was illegal, only if it left its buildings would his people do so …”

The way-laying of a party of observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Ukrainian military officers with them, added to the bad omens. The self-proclaimed regional authority said it wanted to swap the group for some of its people detained by the government, amid some doubt whether that ‘authority’ had sufficient control on the ground to enact such a deal.

(Concessions on the Ukrainian side: stepping back from offensive proposals to quash Russian as a national language, and agreement to consider a federal structure of government, giving significant autonomy to regions).

The region of Ukraine and the Black Sea, once more, looked to be suffering from that too-common world affliction: gangs of young men, with guns, sometimes drugs, and impunity.

Already by Thursday the United States, European powers in accord, was pessimistic about how the peace arrangements would go.

It had despatched a few small forces, company or battalion strength, to the Baltic States and Poland, sensitive places in the event of any spreading of the problem, and as members of the NATO alliance, covered by the notion of touch-one-touch-all.

President Obama was doubting the Russian bona fides.

“So far at least we have seen them not abide by the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva,” Obama said in Tokyo at the start of a tour of Asia, reported in The Guardian, 24.4.14.

“Instead we continue to see malicious, armed men taking over buildings, harassing folks who are disagreeing with them, destabilising the region and we haven’t seen Russia step out and discouraging it.”

He spoke of “consequences”, and further sanctions being imposed by the Western allies.

The Russian state by this weekend had begun to haemorrhage foreign currency, its credit worthiness damaged by the punitive pressure from outside.

Its leadership insisted Europe and the USA were the ones becoming “insolvent”, due to debt levels they were carrying; sent ships exercising around the oil-lines of the Caspian Sea; roused troops, again, along the  border with Ukraine; and looked the other way as their air force began to probe Ukrainian air space.

Reference

The Economist, London, Eastern Ukraine: Descent into darkness; a deal in Geneva fails on the ground, 26.4.14. http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21601313-deal-geneva-fails-ground-descent-darkness, (25.4.14).

The Guardian, London, Ukraine crisis: Obama warns Russia that more sanctions are ‘teed up’, 24.4.14. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/24/geneva-deal-ukraine-russia-sergei-lavrov, (25.4.14).

Pictures  Eastern Europe map, cerf-institute.org

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