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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ukrainian authorities in cooperation with US and EU start the series of national roundtables and talks amid the tense situation in Eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian Armed Forces launching an anti-terrorist operation
in Eastern Ukraine
(Image: AFP)
Amid the growing tensions in the volatile Eastern Ukrainian regions, where the separatists’ illegal referenda were recently being held, Ukrainian transitional government in cooperation with the Western partners continue the attempts to resolve the deepening crisis peacefully. Though the anti-terrorist operation is still ongoing in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and this campaign, launched by Ukrainian Armed Forces and Security Forces, had significant successes, but there were several losses as well, and local police and local authorities still remain loyal to the pro-Russian separatist groups, controlling some of the Eastern Ukrainian cities.

Thus, despite the anti-terrorist operation and continuous statements of Ukrainian authorities and international community as well, that the referenda, held in Donetsk and Luhansk region on the issue of independence of these regions, are totally illegal and cannot be recognized, Donetsk and Luhansk separatists have held their polls, though according to the reports, they’ve managed to organize it only in several cities. It’s worth mentioning, that even Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government actually backs the separatist movements and terrorist activities in Eastern Ukraine, has urged the separatists to postpone the referenda. Putin also declared later that Russia will not recognize the results of these polls as well.

The referenda were attended by less than 30% of local residents, though the separatists’ leaders claimed that almost 75% have cast their voices, while more than 89% have supported forming of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic respectively. But in the reality both referenda have failed, according to the statement of the representatives of the local regional offices and journalists, working in the area.

Map showing holding of the separatist referenda in Eastern Ukraine
(Image: BBC)
But the situation remains tense, as the self-proclaimed leaders of the illegal People’s Republics have declared that they don’t obey the rule of Kyiv anymore and that they declare a military operation against Ukrainian officials. The separatist leaders have also declared that there will be no presidential elections in Donetsk and Luhansk region, but Ukrainian High Electoral Commission declares that the process of preparation to the elections in underway, and the polling stations will be open in the both volatile regions. The most important task for Ukrainian government now is to make everything possible to ensure and guarantee that presidential elections will be held, and Ukrainians will have the chance to vote for the legal and legitimate President. Turmoil in the Eastern of Ukraine and Russian aggressive deeds and the so called “hybrid war”, which Russia leads in Ukraine now, pose a serious threat to these elections.

Ukrainian Armed Forces continue their anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine, and many terrorists and separatists are either liquidated or arrested. The operation is slow due to the difficulty of the circumstances, as Ukrainian security forces are forced to launch this operation in the cities, full of local residents. Ukrainian security forces’ task during this operation is to eliminate the terrorist activity in the region and to avoid civilian casualties. But as the terrorists and separatists are hiding in the houses in the residential areas and use constantly human shields, the operation is hard and slowly. Ukrainian Armed Forces and SBU have had serious losses since the beginning of the operation, as more than several dozen servicemen have been killed and many injured during the operation.

Herman Von Rompuy, Head of European
(Image: Wikipedia)
Tuesday, 13 May, became a really tragic day for Ukrainian military, as the troops of Ukrainian servicemen were attacked in the ambush by the terrorists. The buses carrying the servicemen and soldiers were shot from the rocked propelled grenade, what resulted in an immediate death of six Ukrainian soldiers. The seventh soldier has died from his wounds. The attack has also left dozens of wounded servicemen.

Thus, situation in the Eastern regions is really hard to control, but Ukrainian authorities are sure that the crisis should be resolved peacefully and through the talks. The initiative of the series of national roundtables and negotiations attended by the representatives of the transitional government and representatives of the problematic regions and mediated by the Western diplomats and observers was proposed by Ukrainian government and approved by the acting President Oleksandr Turchinov several days ago, on the eve of the “referenda” in eastern Ukraine. But the representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk separatists have rejected this proposal and stated that they will not participate in the talks with Ukrainian authorities and called on Russia to send the troops and to support the regions.

Ukrainian officials in their turn have declared that dialogue and talks are possible only with those who are peaceful and didn’t commit in the crimes. Those who are involved in the terrorist activities, those who continue to kill, torture and terrorize Ukrainian citizens, could be treated only one way, as it happens in any civilized country, according to the statements of Ukrainian transitional government. All the terrorists should be held accountable for their activities and crimes, while the dialogue could be held with those who are ready for that and for the resolving of crisis. Ukrainian officials have also declared amnesty for those who aren’t involved in the crimes and terrorist activities and have been only participating in the rallies etc. Kyiv is ready and open for the dialogue and it’s ready to listen to this region, in order to find the best way to resolve this situation.

Arseny Yatsenyuk, Ukrainian Prime Minister
(Image: Reuters)
EU and USA also welcomes these series of roundtables, as Ukrainian Western partners see it as the only one possible way and solution for Ukraine in order to preserve Ukrainian territorial integrity and to prevent military conflict and escalation. EU and US are ready to mediate, and Western diplomats and officials will also participate in these talks. In addition to that, Ukrainian side accepts the proposals of the Western diplomats to gather for the second round of Geneva talks, but only in case if Russia will demonstrate its readiness for that. Unfortunately, Russia doesn’t do any significant attempts in order to help to destabilize situation in Eastern Ukraine. Even more, Russian military troops still remain stationed along the borders with Ukraine, and they haven’t been withdrawn. US and NATO have presented recently satellite picture demonstrating the huge amount of Russian military forces and technique at the borders.

The upcoming talks and roundtables are expected to be based on the political roadmap, proposed by OSCE. This roadmap includes several key steps, among them disarmament of all the militia groups and bands, halt the violence and confrontations, stop of the anti-terrorist operation, negotiations, stabilization of the situation and holding of the early presidential elections in Ukraine. OSCE representatives are expected to be presented during these negotiations. Ukrainian side in its turn demonstrates its readiness to talk and find the peaceful solution. Russia remains the key factor in these talks, and only Russia can stop that, what is happening in Eastern Ukraine now, state Ukrainian officials.

EU representatives, including German Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier and President of European Council Heman Van Rompuy, have already arrived in Kyiv in order to meet with Ukrainian politicians and officials and to participate in national dialogue talks.