Sunday, July 20, 2014

Time for Ukraine to divide

Ukraine, as we know it, is dead. The country is irrevocably broken into two by ethnicity, language, geography and now blood. The sooner the people of Ukraine accept this, and the European Community, the Russians and the Americans accept this, the sooner the nation can divide into its two natural parts and move on.

It is more than 20 years since the orderly, democratic, bloodless dissolution of Czechoslovakia took place on January 1, 1993, when the Czech Republic and Slovakia came into being as two sovereign nations. Like Ukraine, this was a nation divided with geographic neatness between language and ethnicity.

There is no mystery about how this point has been reached. There is also no mystery as to who is to blame for staining Ukraine with the murder of 298 people on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. There is no need for conspiracy theories.

Soon after the aircraft was shot down, a social network page of Igor Strelkov, "defence minister" of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, posted this message:

"We just downed an An-26 near Torez.”

He would soon delete this post, but it was too late. The Ukrainska Pravda news site also posted an audio recording of intercepted field communications between Ukrainian separatists.

"We just downed a plane," a rebel identified as Bes (Demon), said.

A second recording, between two militants, was released and included the following exchange in Russian:

“How are things going there?”

“Well, we are 100 per cent sure that it was a civilian plane.” 

“What plane is that?” 

I haven’t figured out yet. I haven’t got close to the main wreckage. Now I’m nearby the place where first bodies started falling...”

“Are there any weapons? 

“Nothing at all. Civilian belongings, medical scraps, towels, toilet paper. 

“Are there any documents? 

“Yes. One belonging to a student from Indonesia.”

Before this exchange, a message has been posted on the official Twitter account of the Donetsk People's Republic which said:  "@dnrpress: self-propelled Buk surface-to-air missile systems have been seized by the DNR from (Ukrainian) surface-to-air missile regiment A1402".

That tweet, too, was later deleted, but again too late.

Over the weekend the Ukrainian government said Buk missiles had been observed being secreted across the Russian border.

This was clearly a monumental mistake by a group of murderers who want the Russian-speaking Donetsk region to secede from Ukraine.

Let them secede. They have managed in poisoning the well of Ukrainian nationhood so successfully that the sooner there is national plebiscite on secession the better.

The people have already spoken. The splintering of Ukraine began to take a formal shape in the presidential election of 2010 when Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian-speaking former governor of the Donetsk Oblast province, defeated Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. She is a Ukraine nationalist who became internationally famous for her distinctive golden braids and for her

advocacy of Ukraine joining the European Community and ending Russia’s control over the country.

The 2010 vote divided almost perfectly along ethnic lines. The greatest support for Yanukovych came from the regions in the east with Russian-speaking majorities, and the greatest support for Tymoshenko came from the Ukrainian-speaking west.

Ukrainian politics became deeply polarisied when Tymoshenko was imprisoned for corruption by the new pro-Russian government, a move condemned by the European Community and supported by the Kremlin.

The polarisation of public life, exacerbated by government corruption and incompetence, became so intense it led to widespread civil disorder, culminating in the overthrow of President Yanukovych in February after mass street demonstrations. A violent attempt to quell the unrest by the elite security police backfired so badly the president fled to Crimea, then to Russia. The gap in national cohesion allowed the emergence of violent nationalists on either side of the language-ethnic divide.

Russian President Vladimir Putin retaliated for the ouster of Yanukovych by ordering the occupation and annexation of the Crimea, a majority Russian-speaking region both strategic to Russia and historically part of Russia.

In Ukraine’s presidential election on May 24 wealthy businessman Petro Poroshenko was elected by a significant majority. It was not held in Crimea or sections of the Donetsk region controlled by armed separatists. This instability was subsequently exacerbated by the Putin government providing support for armed separatists and holding Ukraine to ransom over energy supplies.

This Russian meddling, and the fermenting of violence, culminated in the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner and the massacre of 298 civilians. There is a direct line of blame between Russia’s funding of the insurrection and this massacre, though the killing of 298 foreign nationals appears to have been unintended.  

What has deepened resentments in the aftermath of the massacre has been the actions of the Ukrainian separatists and the Russian government in covering the tracks of the killers and trying to pass the blame onto the Ukrainian military. The logic of Russia’s blame-shifting is that the Ukrainian government had breached a ceasefire and was therefore responsible for any hostilities.

The deeper reality is that Ukraine is now two nations in everything but law. It can be split via plebiscite. On the western side is a de facto sovereign state, Ukraine, which is aligned with the European Community and could quickly be invited to membership. On the eastern side is the autonomous region of Donetsk, which could become sovereign or be absorbed into Russia as an autonomous department. Ukraine’s river system even provides natural borders.
As for the detail of where a new border between Ukraine and Donetsk would run, that should be decided by the people, by plebiscite. Better a formal division than more blood, blackmail and disaster.

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1 comment:

  1. Conspiracy theorists are having a field day: The Israelis shot down MH17 to deflect criticism from their invasion of Gaza. Putin shot it down to kill 100 ‘poofters’ on their way to Melbourne for an AIDS conference. Ukraine shot it down knowing Putin would be blamed. Ukraine shot it down because they thought it was Putin’s private plane... endless nonsense, and it will continue, but the truth is... well, the truth is exactly what it appears to be.

    Russian separatists shot an airliner out of the sky. Whether they knew it was an international airliner or not isn’t known, perhaps no-one owned a pair of binoculars so they just locked on to any aircraft.

    What is known is that Ukraine has many BUK missile launchers and the Russian separatists last month boasted of having captured one. Soon after, many aircraft were shot down over the warzone, including MH17.

    So why hasn’t Kiev moved to secure the site of MH17, it’s their sovereign territory and Putin would not dare try to prevent them doing so. Is it that the missile that killed 300 people might be shown to be theirs?

    Why are demands being made of Moscow and not of Kiev? Oh, I forgot, we're on Kiev’s side, aren;t we.

    These known facts, along with well-publicised communications between the separatists, takes Moscow, along with Putin, pretty much out of the solution equation and renders Hillary Clinton a warmongering fool and an impediment to any quick resolution.