Sunday, March 30, 2014

US and Russia must include Ukraine in negotiations

From Mustafa Nayem's facebook:

"Moscow has given Washington an ultimatum: either the federalization of Ukraine with regions acquiring self-determination on foreign policy issues, or the Kremlin reserves the right to overcome "the crisis" in Ukraine by all means available to her. 

I.e., either we [Ukrainians] remain serfs of the United States and of Russia, or we will be conquered. 

Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama remind me of Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition during the times of Maidan. 

For three months Bank Street [president's administration] and opposition leaders tried to build realities ignoring the opinions and demands of the people. 

Now the United States and Russia are deciding the future without even inviting Ukrainians to the negotiating table. We have already seen where this could end. 

A Maidan 2.0 awaits - a geopolitical one. Whether this could be a cohesive protest or a guerrilla war is not yet clear. 

They may negotiate about lots of things, but in end Ukraine should have the final say - however pathetic this may sound."

[Gleaned from Matthew Kaminski's twitter]

p.s. Watch this 20 minute video from a man who really knows Odessa and Ukrainian politics in general.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Poroshenko to be next president? [Updated]

Latest OPs indicate Petro Poroshenko will be next Ukrainian president - 24.9% of voters are ready to support him.

Klychko is at 8.9%,

Tymoshenko has 8.2% support.

PoR candidate Serhiy Tihipko is currently supported by 7.3% of voters.

Poroshenko and Klychko met British PM Cameron and his Foreign Secretary Hague today at 10 Downing Street.

The emotional maelstrom currently being experienced by many Ukrainians is described by the excellent young journalist , Ben Judah here. 

Update: Lots more interesting latest OP figures, in English, here  from the Polish Institute of Foreign Affairs e.g..
  • Support for the snap parliamentary election is rock solid: 66% 
  • Predictably, public support for NATO membership has grown – 34% are in favor (compared to only 20% in November 2013), anti-NATO sentiments diminished – only 40% are against (compared to 65% a year ago). Most crucially however: another 19% are undecided; this group can be “won over” by the media and politicians.
  • Solid majority support for EU membership – 52% (compared to 45-47% in January),  only 27% support Ukraine’s membership in Russia’s Customs Union (down from 36% in January).

Friday, March 21, 2014

A must see video..

I cannot recommend strongly enough this video of a brilliant recent presentation at Chatham House, London, By Professor Michael Ignatieff, Professor of Practice, Harvard University; with eminent British journalist, Lindsey Hilsum, International Editor, Channel 4 News, in the chair.

Is the Age of Intervention Over? 

"Professor Michael Ignatieff explores whether democratic support for intervention is eroding across the West, and what the consequences are for international relations and the concept of responsibility to protect. He also discusses how the current situation in Crimea reflects a twisting of the language of intervention to suit geopolitical purposes."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Notes on Crimean land grab

The excellent Orysia Lutsevych of Chatham House tweeted this a few hours ago:

"#crimea annexation also result of total failure of Kyiv policy to integrate the peninsula with the mainland. They all failed to anchor it."

Results from a most detailed sociological research conducted on the peninsula by the Razumkov centre several years ago support Lutsevych' assertions.

E.g When co-respondents were asked in 2006 if they considered Ukraine to be their fatherland [batkivshchyna] 74% said yes. By 2008, this figure had dropped to 40.1%. The number who had difficulty replying increased from 3.8 to 27% during that same period.

When Crimeans were asked in 2009 whether Ukraine should join up to a Russian/Belarus union, 78.6% said yes.

When asked if Ukraine should enter the European Union, there were twice as many no's as yes's.

Notably, around 80% had never come across any discrimination on nationalistic lines, at work or in educational establishments, so its seems Crimea was a racially harmonious and agreeable place... [until now]...even though, according to the research, less than 3% of Crimea's population usually spoke Ukrainian at home...

Had there been a properly conducted referendum with 'stay as we are', or 'go for independence and possible reunification with Russia' options, the information provided by Razumkov in their research indicates a majority would most likely choose the latter option, but the majority would not be overwhelming...

Nevertheless, Party of Regions, which held 80 out of the 100 seats in the Crimean parliament, did not include secession in their 2010 election campaign programme. And Russia, by signing the Budapest accord, and by agreeing and paying rent for their base in Sevastopol over many years, merely continually confirmed they considered Crimea to be Ukrainian sovereign territory.

p.s. In 1940 your humble blogger's father conducted his Red Army military training in what was the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Crimea. He got to know Crimea well and always considered it to be Tatar...he often recalled the dread that filled the indigenous Tatar population at the sight of a 'ruskiy soldat'..Putin's claim that, "Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia," would not have convinced my dad, despite the large Slavic influx in the '30's.

p.p.s. Read this marvellous article from the brilliant Timothy Snyder..."Freedom in Russian exists only in Ukraine"

"Russian is a completely normal language of interchange in Ukraine. There, tens of millions of Russian-speakers read a free press, watch uncontrolled television and learn from an uncensored internet, in either Ukrainian or in Russian, as they prefer.

In Russia, the major social media have been brought under state control, television has been almost completely subdued and several of the remaining free-thinking blogs and internet news sites have been shut down or pressured. This leaves Ukraine as an island of free speech for people who use the Russian language.

There is a country where millions of Russian-speakers lack basic rights. That country is the Russian Federation. There is a neighbouring country where tens of millions of Russian-speakers enjoy basic rights — despite the disruptions of a revolution and Russian invasion. That country is Ukraine. "

Finally, I recommend this article: 'Crimea’s Sudeten Crisis', by Bobo Lo, Chatham House:

"The West should stop reacting to Putin with “shock and awe” – shock that he can act with such seeming impunity, and awe at his perceived tactical brilliance. Europe and the US have vastly greater influence and resources than Russia, with its atrophied political system and exhausted economic model. What they lack is the willingness to accept the economic and political costs of defending the values that they claim to uphold.

Western leaders must recognize that appeasement cannot ensure peace and stability in Europe – not even under the fig leaf of “engagement.” When dealing with a leader whose credo is defined by the notion that “the weak get beaten,” Western governments must demonstrate their resolve, without sacrificing flexibility. Only on this basis can the crisis in Ukraine be addressed without fundamentally compromising transatlantic security."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Akhmetov playing with fire {updated]

Some seasoned observers of the current situation in Ukraine claim: "The methods, shifting rhetoric, the vibe in Crimea all point to a wider war"

Most worryingly disturbances by pro-Russia demonstrators in Donetsk have continued for many days and there is little sign they may abate.

Andriy Vysynskiy, in an 'Ekonomichna Pravda' article, suggests 'King of Donbas', Rinat Akhmetov, could bring matters under control with little trouble it this was his wish, but has his own plans. Akhmetov is the man who owns half the town, its law enforcement agencies, judiciary, civil servants, everything of significance; particularly now his old partner-in-crime Yanukovych has jumped ship. If Akhmetov truly wished to clear the pro-Russia demonstrators and out-of-town provocateurs, this could be done, no problem.

Seasoned journalists like Serhiy Leshchenko, takes a similar line. Leshchenko also alleges Akhmetov's aircraft was turned back from Great Britain without landing after rumours that Akhmetov would be asked by Brisish authorities to 'help with enquiries'. Swiss authorities have also raided his DTEK company in Geneva.

Vysytskiy suggests Akhmetov favours a federalisation of Ukraine, or perhaps even a confederation formed by cantons on the Swiss model whereby German, French and Italian citizens all manage to co-exist. His motive? To entrench his power even deeper in the region and to reduce the likelihood of persecution by central Ukrainian authorities in the future for his previous 'transgressions'. [Both the flight of Yanukovych and the arrest of Dmitro Firtash in Vienna several days ago, must have shaken Akhmetov, who has homes in London, Monte Carlo, and elsewhere, to the core.]

The USA, it seems, would also favour some kind of  "power sharing and decentralization through a constitutional reform process" Putin is demanding: 'No NATO, No EU,

If disturbances continue in the eastern oblasts of Ukraine, Akhmetov and his oligarch companions will call for a referendum on federalisation, insisting they are bowing to the demands of 'the street'. But Putin may have other ideas...

p.s. Here is the proposal Lavrov allegedly put before Kerry in London last Friday.

It declares "the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and neutral military and political status [of Ukraine] shall be guaranteed by Russia, the EU, and the US...

Not worth the paper it is written on....territorial integrity was guaranteed under the Budapest what? And now its no EU either....

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Putin's grand dream...and grand mistake

"Putin's grand dream and the prime directive of Russian foreign policy is to create something that he calls the "Eurasian Union." From Moscow's point of view, Russia is far too important a country to simply join the European Union, as if Russia were Poland or the Czech Republic. Putin means for Russia to create its own union, a reconstituted Russian empire founded on the political and economic system now in place in Russia. The grand dream is off to a slow start. To date, Russia has managed to assemble only a customs union involving Kazakhstan and Belarus, both of which are reluctant to deepen political ties with the Kremlin....  
This is the importance of Ukraine. In 1991, Russians understood that without Ukraine, there was no Soviet Union. Today, without Ukraine, there is no Eurasian Union, no empire worthy of the name. Herein lies Putin's mistake."

Latest analysis from top experts

Lots of excellent analytic articles out there right now on the current crisis in Ukraine. Here are a few:

A lengthy, detailed "how we got to this situation" piece from "Der Spiegel",  [in English], here.

This, from James Sherr, about the flaws in Putin's imperialist policy

And this  from Lilia Shevtsova from the Carnegie Moscow Center about possible unintended consequences of Putin's game plan

Also  "Putin’s Phony War - How Vladimir Putin concocted a conflict to soothe his own paranoid fears."

"Convinced that the new authorities in Kiev will finally pull Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit, Putin is hacking off as much of the country as he thinks he can get away with. He doesn’t want to re-create the Soviet Union as much as form a ring of buffer territories to ward off Western influence from the Russian heartland. For Putin, it’s the beginning of the endgame for his regime’s survival."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Yatsenyuk at Atlantic Council

Watch video here 

Impressive?...I think so.

p.s. "What are Moscow’s objectives?

Russia’s objective is Ukraine as a whole, not just Crimea, whose importance is only instrumental.

Moscow’s political goals are threefold. 

  • First, to make Ukraine ungovernable by undermining the executive and by depriving outside stakeholders such as the EU and IMF of predictability and confidence. 
  • Second, to impose on Ukraine a Western-sanctioned constitutional “solution” based on federalization (which, under current conditions, means disintegration) and a special status for Crimea. 
  • Third, to show Kiev, Brussels, and Washington that nothing can be achieved in Ukraine without Moscow’s consent. In sum, Russia wants to reduce Ukraine to subservience—or chaos.

 Russia’s military goals are evolving. Moscow’s tactics are based on the principle of 'razvedka boem', or employing military means to assess an adversary’s strength and willpower."

Source [James Sherr - carnegieeurope]

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Putin trying to turn the tide of history

"Knowing Russian used to be a key to success in Central Asia, but now it’s is taking a backburner to English and other languages. Why? The answer involves a sharp decline in ethnic Russians in the region, a pivot on education, energy independence and a war of words. Does it really matter? Actually, yes. The de-Russification of Central Asia could allow the region to dust off quite a bit of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s influence and thus impact his global pull.

In Central Asia, the younger generation sees Russian as one of many languages to learn as opposed to the language to learn. A recent study showed 82 percent of Turkmenistanis lack any Russian language knowledge, as do 87 percent of Tajikistanis, 59 percent of Uzbekistanis, 50 percent of Kyrgyzstanis and 16 percent of the residents of Kazakhstan. While many Kazakhstanis still know Russian, they have followed the trend of most Central Asian countries in reducing the number of Russian-language school pupils. Between 1990-1991 and 2010-2011 Kazakhstan reduced the number of pupils by 69 percent. Kyrgyzstan was the only country with a rise.

The decline of the use of Russian language is a significant and obvious change in Central Asia, one that has Putin worried. In fact, he said that the decline of Russian being spoken as a native language around the world is “ruining the country” and “creating problems,” and even called for a Council of the Russian language, created by the Ministry of Education. 

Rough estimates claim the total of Russian language speakers will fall from 300 million in 1990 to 150 million by 2025."[source] 

There has been a concerted effort by Russian speakers to try to stem this tide since the '70's...Many Ukrainians fear this policy of Russification [whose high-water marks were the 1975 and 1979 Tashkent conferences on use of the language in the USSR]...this is why language issues are so important to them..

And this is why Putin is willing to break clearly defined international law to grab Crimea...

Friday, March 07, 2014

More than half of Ukrainians want to join EU

More than half of Ukrainians want to join the EU, even though such a possibility is many years away. 

Putin's outrageous intervention in Crimea will surely increase this number.

Petro Poroshenko, one of the most enthusiastic supporters of closer ties with the EU, is now favourite to win Ukrainian presidential elections at the end of May. 

Even when it finally dawned on Yanukovych  the 'game was up' on EuroMaidan he ordered snipers to shoot dead dozens of demonstrators. Even though Putin knows Ukraine is now lost, he ordered the assault on Crimea.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Spotlight turns to Eastern Ukraine [Update]

This is the new banner at the top of 'big-selling Segodnya' newspaper website. 

Segodnya's management is in Kyiv, but it is linked to Donbas political and business groups and is owned by Ukraine's biggest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov. 

It says "United [or indivisible] country", in both Russian and Ukrainian...

Tonight 'Segodnya' reports about a violent demonstration which has just taken place in Donetsk city centre which was attended by up to 10,000 peaceful pro unity of Ukraine demonstrators. They were attacked by thugs from a 2000+ demo of pro-Russia demonstrators, some of whom threw smoke and tear gas grenades. Shaktar Donetsk ultras tried to protect the pro unity demonstrators. Passions ran high and there were a number of injured. Even police and ambulances were attacked. 

Local law enforcement bodies will have to get a grip soon. They have a big responsibility on their shoulders but, ominously, struggled to keep order tonight..Many Shakhtar Donetsk ultras were arrested and received fines..but it seems the pro-Russian thugs were let off...

It is a shame that many decent citizens of Donetsk are now having to live in fear of Tityshky shipped in from out of town.

This report from, a Donetsk-based website, [in English] is illuminating..

p.s. I recommend this piece from the Canadian 'The Star' about the criminal past of Crimea' new strongman, Sergey Aksyonov aka 'Goblin'. 

Andrew Wilson explains: The new Crimean authorities were established at gunpoint. 

Despite Russian rhetoric about a “coup” in Kyiv, the real coup was in Crimea. The Crimean Assembly building was taken over at gunpoint after a seemingly successful rally supporting the authorities in Kiev. Berkut militia, fleeing from their crimes in Kiev, were allegedly involved. 

In the absence of any proper law enforcement agency, a dangerous mix of organised criminals, lunatic cossacks, a pro-Russian radicals may soon run riot across Crimea...heaven help anyone that stands in their way...

The roughing up of UN's special envoy to the Crimea, Robert Serry and his assistant today, is just a taster of what is to come..

pps Latest update in English from Donetsk here 
What happens in this city is vitally important...

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Putin's invasion of Crimea is counter-productive

Two of the lead stories on the big-selling Donbass newspaper site:

Chairman of Donetsk Regional Council Andrei Shishatskiy today appealed to residents of the region.

"Dear compatriots!

Yesterday I was elected chairman of the regional council.

I want to thank deputies for their trust and support, as well their civic position expressed during and after the session.

Dear friends!

I want you to know, I officially declare that in the oblast there exists the necessary and proper [nastoyashchaya] power to protect you. The regional council and state administration are working in difficult and complex circumstances.

Now the most important task before us is to preserve peace and the integrity of Ukraine. I urge you to remain calm. Do not give in to provocations! Time and the law will put everything in its place.

Thank you! "

[Yesterday provocateurs stormed the regional council building. Shishatsky had to fight his way out and was violently 'roughed up'. Video here ]

Also this piece with headline: "Putin, we do not need your protection!" Donetsk protested against separatism (Photos and video)

It seems this spontaneous demonstration was organised by two young women via social networks. About 2000, mainly students and intellectuals, attended. It is clear by the hastily hand-painted banners that the demo was not organised by 'higher powers'. They organisers, who were surprised by the big turn-out, intend to meet the new Donetsk oblast governor, Serhiy Taruta, and gain his support.

On the British Channel 4 news today, PoR parliamentary deputies Nestor Shufrych and Vadim Novinsky unequivocally declared Crimea to be part of Ukraine..

P.s.At a news conference in Moscow, Mr Putin insisted that the heavily armed men who had taken over official buildings in Crimea and blocked Ukrainian troops in their barracks were pro-Russian "local forces of self-defence" - not Russian troops.

Lot of evidence shows Putin lied about this, even though the armed personnel that taken control of large portions of Crimea have no insignia or marking on their kit.

In unguarded moments some have admitted to journalists they are Russian soldiers.

I suspect having to remove insignia may be troubling for these, no doubt competent, 'pro-Russian forces' and may even be harmful to their morale. Every soldier needs to know the authority he is serving, who his commanding officer is. In order to maintain morale every soldier must be proud to serve 'the badge' on his uniform or the banner at the front of the column.

When these 'pro-Russian forces' face off their Ukrainian counterparts they are in no doubt who they are up against  - it is denoted by the blue and yellow flags and the trident emblems on their uniforms.

Without any markings on their own gear to represent their authority a nagging suspicion will grow that if things get heavy or go wrong, they will be disavowed and sold out...Putin will simply wash his hands of them..

For this reason these 'pro-Russian forces' will be particularly careful and reluctant to use deadly force, even if provocateurs seen hanging around them, as in Belbek today,  are active.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

No casus belli

Presidential elections in Ukraine were to take place in Spring next year. They are now scheduled to be held at the end of May. Whenever they were to be [or will be], it was almost certain a pro-EU president would have have been elected and progress made in the signing of the EU/Ukraine Association Agreement. Putin simply could not accept this, hence the invasion of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine.

Putin's gangster logic is "If I can't have it...nobody can have it..not until it is raped and pulled to pieces"...This is the reason for his actions.

The vast majority of Russophone Ukrainians are relatively comfortable living in Ukraine. Most revealingly, it is your blogger's experience that even when many Ukrainian diplomatic officials communicate with one another, during unguarded moments, it tends to be in Russian..

To the vast majority of Ukrainians, including Russophone Ukrainians, the idea of any armed conflict with Russia is absolutely abhorrent. There is lots of evidence that provocateurs [a Russian speciality] have been active in Ukraine. They were present yesterday at a mass meeting in Donetsk..[see previous blog]

The vast majority of Russophone Ukrainians do no feel Russian just as Australians or Canadians do not feel English, even if they have an affinity for Great Britain..

A supposedly pro-Russian [absolutely not anti-Russian] president with strong administrative powers has run the country for the last four years, and a new government has only been formed a few days ago. There is scant evidence that Russophone Ukrainians have been discriminated against in any significant way in recent years. Western politician and media seem to ignore this fact.

The parliament of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada, is an entirely legitimate body...any ruling it makes is absolutely incontrovertible. Many recent decisions have been made there by more than a constitutional majority.

There is no place in Ukraine where Russophones felt more secure than in is a semi-autonomous region. There is a powerful Russian navy base in Sevastopol... so why the invasion?

Quite simply, there is no casus belli...not even a tiny fig leaf..

p.s. The 'king of Donbas' - the king of Ukraine's most significant Russophone reigion, Rinat Akhmetov, has just posted this on the SCM site:

Dear fellow Ukrainians,
The future of our country has been put under threat. The internal political tension threatens to escalate into a lengthy conflict and destroy the integrity of Ukraine. 
The use of force and lawless actions from outside are unacceptable.
I believe that the crisis must only have a peaceful solution.
I call upon all fellow citizens to unite for the sake of the unity and integrity of Ukraine. Today this is the most important action. We must keep a cool head, not yield to provocations and make well-considered and balanced decisions.
The unity of society, business, and authorities is our strength.
Today the economy is a real political power. Our objective is to ensure the safety of people and their families and secure stable operations of companies in the country.
We will work 24/7 to sustain the operability of Ukraine’s infrastructure. This is our biggest contribution to the integrity of the country.
I call upon the politicians and the Ukrainian government to take every effort to secure the nation’s territorial sovereignty, restore democracy, and the unalienable rights and freedoms of citizens.
I call upon business circles in Ukraine and business partners of Ukrainian companies to join our efforts and work together to contribute to the peaceful settlement and to spare no material resource.
I believe that through our combined efforts we will champion our future – a strong, united and independent Ukraine.
I state with all due responsibility that SCM Group, which today employs 300,000 people and represents Ukraine from west to east and from north to south, will do everything possible to maintain the integrity of our country.
[My highlight]

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Appeal from Donetsk oligarch to save Ukraine from Putin Updated

One of Ukraine's richest man, Donbas oligarch Serhiy Taruta, has published an impassioned statement for Ukraine's integrity to be maintained. Here is a portion: 

"The introduction of Russian troops onto the territory of Ukraine can only be considered as an occupation - a military occupation of peaceful territory. 

Do we need to explain where this will it end for me and you? I think not - we will lose everything. All that was invested and built in 23 years of independence will be destroyed if not by fire then by economic collapse. We must defend Ukraine.

Yes it is imperfect. Yes it is multiligual. But it is ours! Ukrainian businessmen, citizens, politicians - now is the time to unite! Today, we are all Ukrainians. All under one national flag. Now is not the time to settle scores with each other....Today we need to defend our country by every means that we have. Because without joining forces now, we may not have a future..."

Ukraine's oligarchs, most of whom are probably are of the same opinion as Taruta, have sufficient security personnel working for their enterprises and under their control to maintain order in major cities in Eastern Ukraine. Their input is important at a time when Ukraine's police forces are demoralised and when the Kremlin is actively and generously sponsoring provocateurs in these cities. 

Putin's glove puppet Yanukovych says he supports the intervention of Russian military forces on Ukrainian territory.

According to big-selling 'Segodnya' newspaper the chairman of the Donetsk oblast state administration, Andriy Shishatskyi declared at a large public meeting in Donetsk today that he supported a unified Ukraine, but demanded Donetsk to be respected. He was supported by most of those who attended, but about 70 provocateurs, "tourists" from Russia, heckled his speech, as well as those of priests even when a minute's silence was maintained for all who died in the recent troubles..

Videos of the meeting show lots of Russian flags being waved...

p.s. Some important points:

The situation in Crimea was stable prior to the ingress of Russian forces. There have been demonstrations, but no major violence has been seen recently on the peninsula. Certainly no 'fascist agitators' or radicals have shown any sign of activity.

No member of Ukraine's armed forces or law enforcement agencies have engaged in any physical repression against ethnic minorities.

The new 'prime minister' of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, who appealed to Russia for 'help' heads the Russian Unity party, which managed to garner just 4% of votes cast in the last local parliamentary elections. 

The Kremlin claims the current authorities are illegitimate. Despite this official talks between acting Ukrainian PM Yatsenyuk and his Russian counterpart have taken place, as have bilateral discussions at lower levels of government. So are the current authorities in Kyiv legitimate, or not? 

The Kremlin considers Yanukovch to be legitimate president of Ukraine, and is demanding Yanukovych be reinstated because they consider February 21 deal  between him and three opposition leaders, was not adhered to by the other signatories. 

All other participants, including French, German, Polish witnesses consider the deal was broken by Yanukovych and is now invalid. The Russian participant in negotiations, Putin's special envoy Vladimir Lukin, did not even sign the Feb 21 deal..

The numbers of Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada deputies who have lobbied for Russian intervention have been really very small...

The Kremlin may have been fearful that with a new administration in Kyiv, the 2010 Kharkiv accords by means of which the Russian Black Sea fleet extended their rental period of Sevastopol to 2042, would be scrapped. Hence their rash actions of the last few days.

Update: Taruta may be appointed Donetsk governor....Another big oligarch, Igor Kolomoysky may be appointed governor of Dnipropetrovsk..