Posts Tagged

Ukraine

With renewed negotiations to end the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region on the horizon, the views of those people most affected by the war – the residents of eastern Ukraine – should be taken into account. Russia insists that the people living in areas of the Donbas currently controlled by separatists, who it supports, do not what to reintegrate with Ukraine. But two surveys I carried out in the Donbas in 2016 and 2019, revealed that a majority of those we surveyed in areas not controlled by the government would prefer to be part of the Ukranian state. The war in the Donbas started more than five years ago and has cost in excess of 13,000 lives. At least 1.4m …

As the war in eastern Ukraine drags into its sixth year, all the attempts to end it have so far failed. But in a significant development on October 1, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced his provisional agreement to hold local elections in the currently occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as Donbas. The war in the Donbas began when mass protests in support of greater territorial autonomy escalated into a separatist crisis in the spring of 2014. Russia has been supporting the rebels in the Donbas since the inception of the war, which by now has claimed more than 13,000 lives. In an attempt to end the conflict, Ukraine and Russia signed two agreements in Minsk in 2014 …

The EU looks, walks and talks like an empire. After extending its borders into Central and Eastern Europe, the EU has just created its third protectorate in the Balkans. From now on Greece will effectively be run by the EU the way Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina already are. Empire is not a synonym of evil despite some bad historical connotations, especially from the colonial era. Power can be exercised in noble ways, and peripheries often prefer to be “conquered” than abandoned. However, the EU’s ambition to run dysfunctional countries by decree is doomed to fail and will represent yet another blow to the project of European integration. Formal involvement of the UN or the IMF in running the protectorates will not …

Bloody clashes in front of the Ukrainian Parliament have reminded us about the EU’s tormented neighbour. Ultra-nationalists were not successful in the last parliamentary elections, but the tragic situation in Donbas has allowed them thrive. At stake this time were planned changes to the Ukrainian Constitution that envisaged a territorial decentralization as stipulated by the Minsk Agreement. For Ukrainian radicals these changes “imposed” from outside amount to a partition of their country. Is Ukraine unravelling? I do not think so, but much depends on Europe. European leaders said many times that the future of Europe and Ukraine are entangled. The last thing they want is to have a huge failed state on their eastern border. This is why President Poroshenko …

The issue of Crimean separatism is not new. In the early post-Soviet period it became one of the biggest challenges newly independent Ukraine had to manage. A closer look at the events of the early 1990s and the concept of Crimean autonomy helps to put current events in perspective and points to an alternative to war. A history of fractious multi-ethnicity, a legacy of autonomy experiments, a Soviet-era transfer from the RSFSR to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954, a center-periphery struggle in Ukraine, economic dependence, the tense relationship between Ukraine and Russia, and readily available military resources (in the form of the Black Sea Fleet) account for the complexity of the ‘Crimea question.’ Separatism peaked in 1992-1994, and internal and …

Ukrainian politicians have special talent for surprising the international community. First are the results. More eyebrow-raising is special way of organising them. This time Ukraine’s parliamentary elections, held back at the end of October, started quite well. But while the voting process itself has been described as fair by most international observers, the political campaign and the actual counting of the votes – no doubt the most important part of the democratic election process — has been characterized by the abuse of power, the excessive role of money, extraordinary events such as power cuts in the polling stations, fights between representatives of the parties, accusations of fraud and scandals in denying observers access to polling stations.

The colour revolutions in Georgia (“Rose” 2003) and Ukraine (“Orange”, 2004) seemed to promise that countries on the North and East of the Black Sea would shake off their “post-Soviet” label and take a firm and unwavering road towards Europe and the US. Perhaps the states of Central Asia would choose a similar route. Russia would have to take a back seat. A resurgent Russia under Putin has destroyed much of this myth, not least because of Russia’s involvement in the de facto states which have arisen from conflicts: South Ossetia and Abkhazia (Georgia), Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenia/Azerbaijan) and Transnistria (Moldova). Russian influence after 200 years of empire runs deep, but local factors also have a bearing; the EU and US have not applied sufficient drive or resources to the region, or to the conflicts, to balance or check Russia.