Zoe Nutter keeps you updated on the crisis in Ukraine
Resurfacing after a week of unknown whereabouts, Mr. Yanukovych announced to the world that he will “keep on fighting for the future of Ukraine”. The news conference, held in Rostov – a Russian city in close proximity to Crimea, reveals the ousted president’s clear intention to “remain in politics”.
Mr. Yanukovych’s hasty flight prompted the formation of an interim government in Kiev, following the deaths of over 80 people in the most violent confrontation between protestors and police forces since the rise of civilian unrest three months ago. Sparked by a seemingly familiar narrative of a non-conciliatory East/West divide, the protests began when Mr. Yanukovych veered from consolidating both political and trade agreements with the European Union in November. This move infuriated large factions of the population who perceive the alliance with Russia stale, not in the least progressive or forward-looking, and prolonging a floundering corrupt economy.
In 2010 – for instance – after the economy contracted roughly 15% and the percentage of the population below the poverty line hit 24.1%, Russia agreed to export discounted gas to the Ukraine in exchange for an extended lease on a naval base in Crimea. The Ukraine’s economic status is dependent on Russian support, at a very steep price. Once the most significant economic asset to the Soviet Union, the Ukraine still depends on Russian energy supplies and financial packages to keep it afloat.
Although Mr. Yatsenyuk, a leading organizer of the street demonstrations in Independence Square, now represents the Ukraine as acting prime minister he is settled within Russian borders, and the tension persists. Murmurs of the occupation of Sevastopol airport by a pro-Russia militia on Friday, quickly led to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s deployment of more than 15,000 Russian soldiers into the autonomous republic of Crimea by Sunday – still, it is unclear how many of these troops were already stationed in the region. The president declared that his military advancements are intended only to protect “Russian citizens and compatriots on Ukrainian territory”, but as Russian and pro-Moscow expatriates greet these soldiers with praise in the region it remains unclear what will result from this blatant “potential aggression”.
Forced to disarm, Ukrainian soldiers in the occupied region are overwhelmed by Russia’s military action. The international community – not to mention the acting government in Kiev – is enraged, declaring Russia’s action a violation of international law. The NATO ambassadors have urged Russia to “de-escalate tensions” by “withdrawing its forces to its bases and refraining from interference elsewhere.” NATO have said that military action against Ukraine is a breach of international law. US Secretary of State John Kerry voiced his anger on the CBS programme Face the Nation: “You don’t just, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext”. Despite this inflamed condemnation, no military presence has yet to confront the Russian consolidation of power in Crimea – but Ukraine’s envoy to the U.N. has made himself very clear: Kiev is prepared to involve an internationally supported military offensive against Russia if it were to expand its military action.
The corrosive political fragmentation within the Ukraine has led to a complete destabilising of the country. Today, the lack of national solidarity and scant domestic military power leaves the possibility of the consolidation of the state along original borderlines unfeasible.