The situation in Eastern Ukraine is becoming more dangerous by the day and one has the feeling that the country is slowly slipping into a civil war. These are the conditions under which, on Thursday, April 17th, negotiations in Geneva have opened between Russians, Ukrainians, the European Union and the United States. The first result of these negotiations has been an agreement to disarm various militias right now in Ukraine, which is a positive step. But, quite clearly it is not enough to stop the process leading to a civil war.
The situation is now quite serious. Part of the population in Eastern Ukraine is simply expressing its mistrust for the government that came out of the Maidan “revolution.” Another is publicly expressing its wish to join up with Russia. Extremists are occupying public buildings and the government in Kiev threatens the use of force. One may notice that the “militias” who acted in the Maidan events, and which are very largely composed of far-rightist militants some of which do not hesitate to display their pro-nazi sentiments, are threatening to go to the Eastern part of the country. We are, and it must be stated clearly, at the cusp of a civil war. Most clearly, the government in Kiev is in a logic of « securing pledges » in view of negotiations. This would explain the so-called « anti-terrorist operation » which resulted in a fiasco on Wednesday, April 16th, when part of the soldiers were disarmed by the crowd of anti-government demonstrators. But this is true also of the militias who want to join up with Russia. It is therefore imperative that a moratorium of movements be declared on both sides.
In such a context, it is clear that any inconsiderate usage of force risks throwing the country into civil war. Presently, it must be emphasized that there can be no other solution than political. On a way or another there is a need to “federalize” Ukraine. This would be the only solution to protect cultural, religious, political and economic rights of all Ukrainians. Clearly, the solutions proposed by the government in Kiev are not satisfactory. One should have, and I have been saying this for over a month (March 3rd), called up elections to a Constitutional Assembly. The idea of coupling a referendum on the Constitution with the presidential election lags behind the events of these past days. To hold onto it, as the government in Kiev is doing, is absurd. It’s putting cart before the horse. There will, evidently, have to be a referendum on the Constitution, but the latter will have to be written by ALL Ukrainians. Which is why I am calling for a Constitutional Assembly. Short of this, a commission of national reconciliation should rapidly be put in place. But I persist in saying that the political solution must go through a Constitutional Assembly which alone can have the necessary legitimacy to impose a political issue to this crisis. The sooner all parties involved will recognize this, the better.
The Geneva Conference should have as its first goal to prevent civil war and to find a reasonable solution to the Ukrainian crisis. It is obvious that this crisis is provoking grave troubles among the European countries, and the countries of the European Union tend a little bit too much to think that they alone represent Europe, when Russia, too, is a European country. We have, in addition, the cases of Hungary and of Romania, which are directly interested by this crisis, and the governments of which are very worried by the weight acquired by extreme-right nationalists in Ukraine.
Such a conference was not making much sense without Russia. This has been understood, but half-heatedly. The countries of the European Union and the United States continue to perpetuate the myth of the « good » (the demonstrators of Maïdan) and the “bad” (the “power in place”) without understanding that the demonstrators were very diverse. In the same way, if there were indeed perfectly detestable people in the team in power, it seems to me that the administrations have acted with great restraint. To reason in terms of “good ones” and “bad ones” is a political aberration. It is moreover becoming quite clear that, in the Western media, a politics of double-standard is developing. Everything which comes from Russia or which is in its favour is invariably qualified as “bad.” Both the EU and the USA are still today the same rhetoric, which is not only utterly stupid but actually counter-productive. The same is to be said about “sanctions” against Russia. This does not harbour well about the future of these negotiations.
It is therefore of utmost importance that the Ukrainians start talking again amongst themselves. For this purpose, and considering the present situation, it is imperative to have:
1. A moratorium on the movements of forces, as much of those of the government as those of the diverse militias, and a common decision of all Ukrainian forces not to resort to force. One must, first of all, freeze the situation.
2. An announcement of elections to a Constitutional Assembly or, failing that, of a conference of national reconciliation to be broadly open to all parties and truly representative of all opinions among Ukrainians. If one goes the way of an assembly, it should not decide of anything important without a qualified two-thirds majority.
3. The Constitution, which will be elaborated there, must be submitted to a referendum.
4. The powers of the President should be limited so long as the new constitution is not adopted.
These are the four conditions for a political issue to this crisis to be found.
The situation is rapidly evolving, and one of the main reasons is the economic crisis which has grafted itself onto the political one. More and more people in the regions of Eastern Ukraine consider – with good reason – that their living standard is bound up with good relations with Russia. We are getting dangerously close to the point where irreparable events will take place. Instead of giving “morality” lessons, which anyway were not applied in the civil war in Yugoslavia, and it would be good to remember this, the countries of the European Union and the United States would do better to advance constructive proposals.