The parties in Ukraine have an obligation to give the fragile peace process a chance to work. When the Good Friday Accords were signed in Northern Ireland, it was not the end of the process, but only the beginning. Over a decade later, that process is still ongoing. In Ukraine, the sides are just as intractable. Many people want to merge with the West. Others want closer ties with Russia or even to become Russian. People on both sides are willing to give their lives for that. This is a perfect recipe for conflict, with both the West and Russia jumping in and exploiting them in their power games.
Moscow and Kyiv spent today blustering at each other over the perceived failure of the peace process when it has barely begun.
Lavrov said that the Ukrainian government has not taken steps to clear out Kyiv’s central square, which pro-Western demonstrators have occupied for months, and that it had not granted an amnesty to arrested protesters, as required by the Geneva deal. “Instead of freeing those already arrested, particularly the ‘people’s governor of Donetsk,’ Pavel Gubarev, the authorities in Kyiv are continuing to arrest political figures from the southeast,” Lavrov said.We await specifics from the Russians. We do not see any such reports of arrests in the news today.
Ukraine's leaders took to Meet the Press and other media outlets to make their own allegations against Russia. Allegedly, the shootout Sunday was a false flag operation by the Russians in order to make it look like Right Sector was responsible. And allegedly, Russia's agenda is to revive the old Soviet Union. The latter allegation was undermined today by Putin's decree rehabilitating the Crimeans from Stalin's convictions. Putin (same link) also plans to make Tatar the third official language in the province along with Russian and Ukrainian. The last thing that Putin needs is another guerrilla conflict on his hands, and the Crimean Tatars were the group that was most opposed to Russia's annexation of Crimea.
For their part, the White House is playing wait and see. Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Julie, what I can tell you is that we continue to monitor events in eastern Ukraine closely. We've seen differing reports about what happened in Slovyansk yesterday but cannot independently confirm responsibility for these actions. Overall, we are concerned about the situation there, and we urge paramilitary groups throughout the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine to lay down their weapons and depart the buildings that they have occupied, as was called for in the accord signed in Geneva last week. We continue to call on Russia to use its influence over these groups to press them to disarm and to turn occupied buildings over to the authorities.The Ukrainian government and its allies have an obligation to be factual in its allegations. For instance, the US refused to implicate the Russians in the Slovyansk shootout, while the Right Sector claimed it was a false flag operation by the Russians. And the US did not make any kind of allegations regarding the ambitions of Putin; Ukraine's leader did in a shrill call for military aid. The problem with these sorts of allegations is that we have had our recent experience with such allegations in the leadup to war with Iraq. The aluminum tube allegations, the "slam dunk" that wasn't, and Judith Miller's "reporting" that was actually FOX News propaganda serve as a warning for us against rushing into any conflict prematurely even if Russia was not nuclear-armed.
We commend the government of Ukraine for continuing to demonstrate restraint, and are hopeful that all parties in the Rada will shortly be able to agree on an amnesty bill to help deescalate the situation in the east. As we have said, if there is not progress within days we remain prepared, along with our European and G7 partners, to impose additional costs on Russia for its destabilizing actions.
So when it comes to that specific incident, we're still unable independently to confirm who’s responsible for what happened there, but there’s no question that there’s been a great deal of destabilizing activity and that Russia has influence over the groups that have engaged in that activity, who have seized buildings. And we continue to call on Russia to use that influence to pressure those groups to disarm and to return the buildings to authorities.
Well, first of all, they signed the agreement and they have committed themselves by signing to use their influence to stabilize the situation in Ukraine or to urge those over whom they have influence to disarm and to return buildings that they have occupied back to the authorities. And we continue to press them to do that. As we have made clear, should Russia continue to engage in destabilizing actions in Ukraine, there will be costs. There has been already. And should they escalate their destabilizing activity the costs will escalate.Two things. First of all, the US, like Russia and Ukraine, needs to give the peace process a chance to work. Some of the people who seized the buildings don't necessarily have as strong ties to Putin as popularly believed and some openly said they were let down when Russia signed the Geneva deal. Others need time to reflect on the diplomacy that is going on. This sort of thing takes time, possibly years. The other thing is that there is no military solution to this conflict. Ambassador Pyatt said publicly that Ukraine was outgunned, which makes Vice President Biden's trip to Ukraine and show of support meaningless unless diplomacy is given a chance to work.
So we're in a place now with the Vice President in Kyiv and meeting with Ukrainian government officials where we are demonstrating our support for that government, for the process that they have undertaken of both reform and near-term elections, and we are continuing to call on all parties to honor the agreements they made in Geneva.
That said, it is not in Russia's interest to invade directly. Putin is not the kind of leader who will invade unless the battle is already won. To seize East Ukraine will overextend Russia, who is still fighting battles in the North Causcus, and will simply create more capital flight from Russia. In the end, the biggest deterrent to Russian aggression is the markets, which tank every time Putin shows aggression or belligerence. Yesterday, however, I said that Ukraine could be partitioned. What I mean is not that Russia will invade, but that the intractable nature of the ideologies of Ukraine's people means that the country could break up of its own accord similar to how the Soviet Union broke up. It could happen tomorrow, it could happen next year when austerity cuts hit home, or it could happen 10 years down the road.
OSCE reports that while many areas in Eastern Ukraine remain calm, two places remain hot spots.
The overall situation in Donetsk remained very tense. Occupation of state institutions was ongoing. The Deputy Chief Monitor of Special Monitoring Mission visited Donetsk and met with various local interlocutors. Activists manning the barricades expressed a friendly interest in the Geneva Statement.Max Fisher of Vox says that the President's strategy is to contain Russia similar to what the West did before.
In Sloviansk the entire town is under the control of armed groups. The security situation is assessed as deteriorating, and operating conditions for OSCE teams are marginal. The reported shooting incident of 20 April early morning is a worrying deterioration of the situation. Due to unpredictable security risks, it was not possible for the Special Monitoring Mission to reach the scene of the incident in the immediate aftermath of the incident on April 20. However, SMM aims to access the town on Monday April 21.
On 19 April in the morning the monitors from the Kharkiv and Donetsk teams visited Sloviansk. Before reaching the town, they observed multiple checkpoints, each manned by dozens of individuals, most unarmed and unmasked. According to the head of the local branch of the Communist Party, a wish to live in a federal Ukraine was shared by many Sloviansk people. The interlocutor also indicated a significant rise in crime after the take-over of the town by the separatists. Before entering the occupied Town Administration, the monitors observed the heavily barricaded and fortified entrance hall, and the numerous armed and masked individuals present.
President Obama, fed up with Putin, has rightly recognized that it's time for the United States to adopt a radically different strategy for dealing with Russia, in Ukraine and around the world. That strategy, articulated on Sunday by New York Times reporter Peter Baker and his sources, is what we might call "new containment": isolate Russia and actively curb its global influence, as we did with the far more powerful Soviet Union.
The tradeoff of new containment is significant: cede the former Soviet sphere to Russian influence and meddling, but cut Putin off everywhere else. The upside is that Russia does not get to be a global power and does not get to meddle in the Middle East, in East Asia, or elsewhere as it once did. The downside is that Moscow is allowed greater freedom to do as it wishes in the former Soviet republics of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The Times reports that Obama "will not extend the punitive measures to whole sectors of the Russian economy, as some administration officials prefer, absent a dramatic escalation." In other words, Russia will continue to get away with its forcible annexation of Crimea and its ongoing efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine. It's not clear what would constitute a "dramatic escalation," but if Putin can already get away with invading and annexing part of a foreign country, then he's got pretty close to free reign within the sphere of former Soviet republics. Much as the original Cold War strategy of containment entailed allowing Soviet tanks to stream into Budapest in 1956, new containment means accepting the Russian occupation of Crimea and perhaps other neighboring territories today.The question is whether or not Russia will take the bait. My prediction is that Putin won't -- he'll let Eastern Ukraine collapse under its own weight and leave West Ukraine to the tender mercies of the IMF. One thing that the Kremlin has been harping on is their perception that the US is now responsible for the new government in Kyiv.
One possible solution to this crisis would be for Ukrainian parliament to pass its amnesty provision, have the pro-Russian protestors leave, and emigrate to Russia if they so desire. Putin today signed into law a bill making it easier for Russian speakers in the former Soviet Union to become citizens. This could avoid future troubles such as what is happening in Ukraine as ethnic Russians could just leave and move to Russia.
But the most disturbing development in this crisis is the treatment of journalists by certain anti-Maidan protestors.
A Ukrainian journalist and EuroMaidan activist was reportedly taken captive by pro-Russian militants in the embattled eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk late on April 20 and is being held in the local security service building seized earlier by the group.And three others were harassed.
Irma Krat, 29, the editor-in-chief of Hidden Truth TV and the leader of an all-female self-defense unit during the EuroMaidan Revolution that ousted the former government and President Viktor Yanukovych, was captured around 8 p.m. on Easter Sunday, Krat’s lawyer, Oleg Veremiyenko, told the Kyiv Post on April 21.
He said she was being held with freelance journalist Serhiy Lefter, 22, who had been detained since April 16.
Meanwhile, Donetsk journalist Denis Kazanskiy reported on Facebook that three foreign journalists had been captured on April 21. He told the Kyiv Post that he had spoken with Belarusian journalist Dmytro Galko on the phone as he was being taken captive.If the Donetsk separatists wish for their side of the story to be heard, they have an obligation to let journalists do their job. We note that the Euromaidan protestors did not stop RT's crews from filming the protests in Kyiv Square. And Russia has an obligation to use their influence to protect journalists covering Eastern Ukraine. Furthermore, they have an obligation to let OSCE monitors do their jobs; the OSCE reports that their operating conditions in Solvyansk were "marginal" and that they were unable to get in on the 20th.
After being detained for 30 minutes, Galko and the two other journalists he was with were released, he told Radio Svoboda by phone.
“We were detained in Slovyansk together with Italian and French journalists for alleged unauthorized recording,” he told the news outlet.