Ukraine: now moscow has the better cards

While the west has been able to set the agenda in kiev, moscow, along with the state media, has been able to bide its time after the crimean move and the protests in eastern ukraine

Just as western governments and most western media backed the euromaidan movement against the yanukovych government and russia, and supported it financially, with personnel, and through attention alone, things are going the same way for the pro-russian anti-maidan movements. While moscow is pushing for ukraine’s federalization and neutrality, the russian media is overflowing with coverage of the protests, quite obviously to add to their weight.

The ukrainian government is currently lamed. An ultimatum has expired, the activists have not responded to it, the first fights are taking place. And allegedly, the russian military is lurking near the border just waiting to move in to protect the russian-speaking and russian people. Tomorrow, representatives of ukraine, russia, the eu and the u.S. Will meet. In the run-up there are apparently already irritations.

While russian media in kyiv have focused on and rejected the violent and far-right parts of the maidan movement and the illegal occupations, now gunmen in eastern ukraine occupying state buildings and securing them with barricades are also part of a liberation movement, while in western ukraine and the west the image previously fostered by the ukrainian and russian governments that the protesters are all controlled by russia is being propagated.

The fact that after the rapid overthrow of the yanukovych government by the radical forces of the maidan movement, an equally rapid change of government was orchestrated in crimea, which led to independence and eventually to crimea’s inclusion in the russian federation by means of a hastily held referendum, surprised many people. While the euromaidan was traded as a self-organized movement, however, supported by parties, oligarchs and geopolitical interests abroad, from the western perspective the events in crimea were considered remote-controlled and controlled by the russian military.

Everything seemed to be well-planned, which strengthens the amption that similar plans for the secession of eastern ukraine exist in moscow. But can and will moscow or. Putin put on the show again with the same script? Russia may be able to swallow crimea, especially since there are considerable geopolitical interests here (russian-speaking population, black sea fleet, large gas and oil deposits in the sea), but the takeover of eastern ukraine was difficult for russia to digest, if only financially.

With the move to secede crimea by means of a referendum, the result of which cannot be verified, i.E. By means of staged or real self-determination of the population, russia has for the time being maneuvered itself into the sidelines – also because hardly any states want to accept or even demand such secession referendums for their own population groups – but moscow is now on the better side of the conflict. On the maidan, yanukovych and moscow were inevitably on the losing side, no matter what the ukrainian government and opposition movement did. As in an asymmetric war, on one side there were the people who only demand self-determination, and on the other the heavily ruffled state power that is repressive.

Now the new ukrainian government and the western demanders have to respond to protests that are almost identical in form and determination. Pure repression is not possible, because it undermines its own legitimacy, and after crimea, kiev must be careful not to repeat the same spectacle. A real dilemma, which was also caused by the fact that the government in kiev, which was boosted by the maidan movement, was much too late in recognizing the interests and fears of the people in eastern ukraine. With the expulsion of the allegedly consistently pro-russian yanukovych regime, parts of the eastern ukrainian population have also been stigmatized. The western governments, caught up in cold war thinking, also failed to mediate, or mediated too little, because their primary interest was to protect ukraine, keep it in the western sphere of influence, and weaken russia.

This is the situation when there is an international conflict in which the media of the countries involved also find it difficult to keep their distance. What is striking in russia, of course, is how the state-controlled media take a stand and give a very one-sided portrayal, in which criticism of the russian government has practically no place. This is different in the western media, but here, too, a posture similar to that after 9/11 has developed in many cases: either one is in favor of western ukraine, the new transatlantic unity, nato and the eu, or one is a russia or putin supporter. There is little else in between.

Russian media are currently reporting in a seemingly neutral way on the protest movements in the eastern ukrainian cities, which are demanding a referendum, but are by no means advocating this only by peaceful means. One gets the impression that this is a mass movement, but this is obviously not the case. Neutral is also called for by the "people’s armed forces" which means that in eastern ukraine, as in kiev, militias are forming not only to "self-defense" arms and weapons stockpiles, but are also particularly radical and want to escalate the conflict. It was no different in kiev. Here, the opposition parties had reached an agreement with yanukovych under the mediation of eu foreign ministers, which made an orderly new beginning possible. But the maidan movement, above all right sector, did not accept this, and the ukrainian parliament fell over just as quickly as the eu.

In addition, the russian media suggest that the majority of citizens in the eastern ukrainian cities support the protests. In any case, the fact is that they do not protest themselves, but let it happen, that is, they seem to tolerate it, which also means that the kiev government is not really recognized and the exclusive western orientation in the region, which is economically dependent on russia, is not approved.

At present, everything seems to be coming to a climax and a decision. Actions in eastern ukraine are intensifying, in donetsk the chief of police resigned, in slavyansk the police headquarters and the building of the secret service were stormed. Here also "little green men" soldiers without insignia, as in the crimea. The government in kiev is wavering between toughness and concessions. President turchinov has convened the national security council. The east ukrainian militants want to push through their demands, before that they do not want to clear the buildings and lay down their arms. They do not seem to care about the offered amnesty.

Neither moscow nor the western governments seem to be ready to de-escalate the conflict and to exert a moderating influence on kiev and the protesters in eastern ukraine. At any rate, it is hard to imagine at this time how on 25 september. May elections are to be held in ukraine. Turchinov continues to dither. He said that the regions should be strengthened, but that federalization, as proposed by moscow, would only serve the purpose of breaking up ukraine. This is, of course, nonsense, after all, even the usa or germany states. The irrational insistence on a centralized state definitely demands the conflicts.

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