Biden Backs Kiev Pressure on Eastern Ukraine in Place of Negotiations
The Maidan authorities’ heavy-handedness towards ethnic Russians within Ukraine has been unmistakable from the start: in particular, the Rada revoked a law that had granted Russian language official status in the country, and Kiev appointed leaders of its own choosing to administer the eastern regions. These measures backfired dramatically when Crimea swiftly organized a referendum to declare its independence from Ukraine and to pursue unification with the Russian Federation.
Crimea's secession did not softened Kiev’s stance towards the remaining Russian-heavy provinces in the east, and so locally organized forces in the east occupied administrative buildings in nine cities two weeks ago, with the announced aim of arranging referenda on autonomy or independence. Last week in Geneva negotiations between representatives of Kiev, Russia, Europe, and the US generated an announcement asking the protestors in the east to desist, offering them amnesty for all but capital crimes, and promising to begin a process of public debate on the future political structure of the nation.
Despite Russia’s pleading, the protestors were not part of the Geneva talks, and their representatives immediately expressed their distrust of the Kiev authorities’ willingness to allow any genuine autonomy to the eastern regions. The protestors continue to occupy many administrative buildings, and the tense standoff continues.
For insight into the impasse, Radio VR’s David Kerans spoke with Moscow-based political commentator Dmitry Babich. Babich emphasized that the secession of Crimea has raised the stakes regarding federation for the Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine, because Crimea's very large block of pro-Russian voters is no longer part of Ukraine. The east feels much more isolated now inside Ukraine, and is very wary of subjugation at the hands of openly Ukrainian nationalist political parties that wield so much influence in Kiev. The physical beatings delivered to two pro-eastern political leaders in recent days have heightened their concerns, as have Kiev’s official categorizations of the protestors as terrorists.
Babich pointed out that Moscow continues to propose negotiations with the Maidan government that would include representatives of eastern Ukraine, and would be geared to working out a mutually acceptable form of federation. So far, however, Kiev appears bent on military subjugation of the protestors in the east, and the US is egging them on with strident accusations that Russia is orchestrating and arming the protest movement.