Ukrainians all over the world are appalled at the cynicism and manipulation with which the Russian government is fermenting civil unrest in Ukraine. Their aggression and destabilisation is being carried out, not only with arms and deliberate provocations, but also with the ugliest campaign of disinformation that the world has seen since the end of the Cold War.

The facts are that the unconstitutional illegal ‘referendum’ in Crimea on 16 March was a farce, organised by a government which was taken over at gunpoint by a party that gained only 4% of the vote in the 2012 election, and supported by Russian soldiers and gangs of men equipped and armed by Russia. 

Against a backdrop of an escalation of provocations being systematically organised by the Russian Federation in various Ukrainian cities  and a build-up of Russian troops threatening Ukraine’s borders, the Russian authorities have cynically presented a list of demands to the US and EU in respect of Ukraine. These include/foresee the federalization of Ukraine, state language status for the Russian language, recognition of the Crimea being a part of the Russian Federation and a block on Ukraine ever joining NATO or the EU.

This is, of course, all just a smokescreen to detract from the heart of the matter. Russia is in breach of its obligations under the Budapest Memorandum, under which Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in return for guarantees of territorial integrity and sovereignty. Russia, as a member of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, is also violating the Helsinki Final Act; the United Nations Charter; its obligations to Ukraine under its 1997 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership and the Russia-Ukraine 1997 Agreement on troop bases in Crimea.

The measures taken so far by the EU and the US are welcome, particularly the short term financial support for Ukraine’s economy, and the sanctions announced on 17 March. But travel bans and asset freezes against a relative handful of Russian politicians are not enough. No sanctions are being implemented against Russian banks, some of which, including VTB in London, are controlled by the Russian state and suspected of complicity in financing Russian adventurism around the world. Ukrainians fear that EU governments, particularly the UK, will protect Russian financial interests in the West rather than promote democracy and freedom in Ukraine.

Much more concrete assistance from the West will be needed to help Ukraine protect its borders, to reform and strengthen the rule of law, and to ensure that Ukraine’s new democracy can create the inclusive, tolerant and transparent society that Ukrainians want. Now, more than ever, Ukraine needs action rather than words.

Everyone hopes that there can still be a constructive dialogue to resolve the crisis that Russia has created in Ukraine. But dialogue must be from a position of strength. Any weakness of response will be seen by President Putin and his closest ex-security services advisers as carte blanche to push into Ukraine and try to create a puppet state subservient to Russia rather than the will of the Ukrainian people. That would be a tragedy for the world, not just for Ukraine.

AUGB General Council

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Ukrayinska Dumka


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