On January 21 Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov was in fact one of the top-level officials who made a statement about the recent events in Ukraine. In his speech at a press conference he stated that Moscow is ready to become a mediator between the confronting sides in Ukraine, if it is asked about this, but there has been no request as yet. It should be noted that earlier Ukraine’s representative in CIS Ivan Bunechko said that Kyiv does not need any international help to handle the situation.
On the other hand, the Russian Duma is also drafting a statement concerning the events in Ukraine. “We all are following the situation in Ukraine with deep concern and we see that the situation has become more acute as a result of street actions and clashes. There are wounded people both among the protesters, and even more among the law-enforcers,” mass media quote Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin as saying. Moreover, the Russian speaker said that “it hurts him to see how the wave of civil conflict has swept over the country which is brotherly to Russia.” Many questions arise. Why the “brotherly” country has started to speak now after remaining silent for nearly three years, during which Ukrainian authorities have asked Russia to reconsider the gas agreement which was strangling Ukraine and, by the way, was signed as well under unclear circumstances by former prime minister in 2009. The Day asked a Ukrainian expert and a Russian one to comment on the statements made by two top-level Russian officials and Russia’s role in current crisis in Ukraine.
“THE EU IS TO BLAME, NO LESS THAN RUSSIA, FOR WHAT IS GOING ON IN UKRAINE AT THE MOMENT”
Semen NOVOPRUDSKY, independent journalist, Moscow:
“In fact, Lavrov has made another wonderful statement. He said that what is going on in Ukraine does not meet European norms of behavior. On the whole, hardly anyone has done more than Russia to make the events in Ukraine inconsistent with European norms of behavior. On the whole, if what was going on there met Ukrainian norms of behavior, it would be accepted by Russia as a defeat in its foreign policy.
“In fact, this is clearly a diplomatic rhetoric. It is hard to imagine that Russia has any means of direct influence on the situation. There will hardly be any military help. As for the possibility of maximum violent scenario, Ukrainian government will do pretty well even without Russia. This is a figure of speech. I think Lavrov had to say something, because, generally speaking, Russia did not respond to these events in anyway, although, frankly speaking, it was the inspirer of these events. For example, I don’t have any doubt that if Ukraine signed the Association Agreement with the EU, there would have been, naturally, no Euromaidan, or clashes in Kyiv. Clearly, in this case these are direct consequences of the choice and means chosen by Ukrainian government. And Russia is one of the perpetrators of this choice. In this case Russia has already played its role in the newest history of Ukraine.”
What can you say about Naryshkin’s statement that he cannot look calmly at the conflict sweeping over the brotherly nation? For Yanukovych after being elected president asked to reconsider the disadvantageous gas agreement, which was strangling Ukraine’s economy, and Russian government did not respond.
“Of course, this is the same kind of political cynicism. All these talks about brotherly countries rather reminds of Soviet rhetoric. Strictly speaking, now it is not clear what will happen to gas prices. Apparently, Russian politicians are going to practice in cynical rhetoric now. But it is clear that neither Naryshkin, nor Lavrov are responsible for making political decisions, only Putin. But he has made all the decisions he could make in Ukraine. I don’t think Yanukovych will be holding any secret negotiations now and ask him what to do in this situation.
“It is absolutely obvious that Russia is responsible for the events in Ukraine. And Russia does not have any constructive decision for Ukraine anymore.
“Via destructive scenario, which is being realized in one way or another, there is indeed no good compromise which would satisfy all the sides. But there is a threat that Ukraine, unfortunately, may become a dictatorship, if Yanukovych decides to tighten the screws and use force randomly. If Ukrainian opposition, which in my view from Moscow is fragmented, has no power to resist this, Ukraine may become more like Russia, from the viewpoint of political suppression.
“But if Russia sees that Yanukovych cannot cope with the situation, it will try to overthrow him. In fact, I won’t be surprised if Russia starts playing some geopolitical game aimed at replacing of Ukrainian government, of course, not by Klitschko, but by someone whom Russian power finds more reliable in terms of continuing the course towards turning Ukraine in a geopolitical province of Russia.”
On the other hand, is not Europe to be blamed for refusing to support Ukraine, by this pushing it into Russia’s embrace?
“As for Europe, there is a huge problem. Over the past three or four years Europe has quite clearly lost political subjectness. Unfortunately, Europe is so weak and politically fragmented that even in spite of creation of the post of the high representative for foreign policy EU leadership does not in any way meet the demands of present-day politics. Of course, the EU is to blame, no less than Russia, for what is going on in Ukraine. The European Union, not only in the case with Ukraine, but in many other cases as well, shows total political incapability. It is clear that the EU could not give what Ukraine was asking for. There is an impression that the EU did not expect or did not pay attention to the fact that Russia would be fighting very toughly for keeping Ukraine in its geopolitical orbit. And it turned out to be absolutely unprepared for any actions. It became clear that Russia would take any measures to prevent the signing of the Association Agreement, which is by and large a framework agreement which does not mean that Ukraine would be admitted into the EU in the offing. Of course, there is no doubt that the EU is to blame.”
“RUSSIA IS THE MOST POWERFUL FACTOR IN THE CRISIS UNFOLDING IN UKRAINE”
Hryhorii PEREPELYTSIA, Doctor of Political Sciences, professor at Kyiv-based Shevchenko University:
“Russia is currently implementing the strongest influence on the flow of the two-month long conflict between the power and the opposition. This conflict can be called a military-political crisis, because it has given way to a violent scenario, in which two confronting forces are taking part. At the same time, one side is representing the power and Russia, because their interests in this context coincide. For Moscow is critically interested in establishing here a classical authoritarian regime like Putin’s regime in Russia or Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus. Therefore to a certain extent it is a reflection of Russian scenario, which is implemented via the ‘Ukrainian choice,’ including the part of people who are involved in this scenario.
“For the agreements made last December, when Yanukovych went to Putin, can be realized namely on the basis of the affinity of the regimes. And only under these circumstances there can be a possibility to harmonize the relations between Ukraine and Russia and start Eurasian integration.
“Of course, democratic Ukraine is totally incompatible with Russian political regime, and namely this sparked the wars in 2013 and before. Probably, sometimes Russian factor have a more powerful effect on this conflict than actually Bankova Street. All these ‘dictatorship’ laws, which have been approved, were written at Kremlin’s dictation or copied from it. Therefore Russian scenario can be traced even in this.”
What do Russia’s statements concerning helping Ukraine and its desire to become a mediator in the conflict indicate? What “brotherly” help can there be?
“Lavrov’s offer to help does not exclude military assistance. This may be the kind of ‘brotherly’ help the Soviet Union gave to the Afghan regime under the flag of peacekeeping. They can send their task forces to reinforce the internal forces. But the statement made by the Ukrainian representative that we will cope on our own indicates the confidence that present-day authorities are sure that military resource will be enough to suppress the other confronting force. But this is a very serious signal that Ukraine does not need any help.
“As for mediation. How can Russia be a mediator between Ukrainian power, the opposition, and Maidan? For it is openly supports the government and cares about its own interests, which are close to the interests of the power, except for splitting of Ukraine.”
What can Europe or America offer in response? How can they help to solve the conflict?
“There has been a session of foreign ministers of EU member countries. What did they do? They expressed their regret about the way the situation has taken and their sympathy with Ukrainian citizens, and stated that violation of rights is inadmissible. And what they managed to achieve at most was condemnation of the laws which were approved on January 16. This is the only reaction we can expect.
“As for the US, Zakharchenko will possibly be deprived of American visa. So what? The influence of the European Union and the US on these processes is minimal. At the beginning of the conflict the EU voiced a proposal to be a mediator. But we don’t see it now, they have taken it back.
“The US does not have any levers to influence the situation. And the European Union is powerless. They cannot even imagine what should be done in this case and whether they need to do this. Send Kwasniewski, like it has already been offered? But he has been here already.
“The publication of the laws, which have been approved recently, will only increase the temperature. And then the question of using the weapon will arise. Therefore the conflict will continue to escalate. As far as there is an absolute confidence in victory by violence, everything will move to the stage of armed escalation. Then it will be very dangerous for the power, because now people are picketing the estates of the state officials, but tomorrow they will simply burn them. My forecast is: the conflict will escalate until the power runs out of force resource.”