THE PEACE DEAL IN KYIV: A COMMENT
"A breakthrough peace deal for Ukraine halted two days of violence that had turned the center of the capital into a war zone and killed 77 people, bringing sweeping political change that met many demands of the pro-European opposition. Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich agreed to give up powers, hold early elections and form a government of national unity. Parliament voted for changes to the legal code that could see the release of Yanukovich's jailed rival, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. By nightfall, opposition leaders who signed the deal were addressing peaceful crowds from a stage in Independence Square, which for the previous 48 hours had been an inferno of blazing barricades and protesters were shot dead by police snipers. Although the flames were out, the crowd was still defiant, holding aloft open coffins of slain demonstrators and making speeches denouncing the opposition leaders for shaking hands with Yanukovich. The Ukraine crisis began with protests in November after Yanukovich turned his back on a far-reaching economic deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia instead. If it holds, the deal hammered out with the mediation efforts of the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, would mark a victory for Europe in a tug-of-war with Moscow for influence in the divided ex-Soviet state of 46 million people. But it remains to be seen whether violence can be halted and whether a lurch away from Moscow will cost Ukraine a $15 billion Russian financial lifeline it needs to stave off bankruptcy. "There are no steps that we should not take to restore peace in Ukraine," Yanukovich said in announcing his concessions before the agreement was signed. "I announce that I am initiating early elections." Within hours, parliament voted to revert to a previous constitution slashing Yanukovich's powers, sacked his interior minister blamed for this week's bloodshed and paved the way for Tymoshenko's release. EU leaders and the White House praised the deal but Moscow made grudging comments that fell short of endorsing it. The European foreign ministers signed the document as witnesses, but a Russian envoy did not.... Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski described the agreement as a "good compromise for Ukraine". It "gives peace a chance. Opens the way for reform and to Europe," he tweeted. It fell to Sikorski to sell the deal to the skeptical opposition. ITN video filmed outside a meeting room during a break in the talks showed him pleading with opposition delegates to accept it: "If you don't support this, you'll have martial law, you'll have the army, you'll all be dead.".'"Sabine Siebold and Natalia Zinets, "Ukraine peace deal halts violence but crowds still angry". Reuters. 21 February 2014, in www.reuters.com
"In spite of their confident public statements, EU officials sounded more nervous behind closed doors about whether the Ukrainian leader would follow through. “Obviously there are concerns and uncertainties,” said one European diplomat briefed on internal EU deliberations. “Yanukovich has about as much credibility as – well, it’s not much....” Also uncertain is whether Moscow will seek to undermine an agreement that could, in theory, allow Ukraine to resume progress towards further integration with the EU, and a bailout from the International Monetary Fund. Those possibilities make the deal a significant setback for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who has fought to keep Ukraine in Russia’s orbit. In a telling gesture, Mr Putin’s representative in the Kiev talks, Vladimir Lukin, left on Friday without signing it as a witness – unlike the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, who witnessed it on behalf of the EU. Andriy Klyuyev, pro-Russian head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said Mr Lukin “did not have a mandate” from Moscow to sign the document. He added that he expected relations with Russia – which he called “our key strategic partner” – to remain good. Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin’s spokesman, was not immediately available for comment on the Ukrainian deal and there were signs the Russian government was not satisfied. “I don’t think this agreement will last, because there are no guarantees that the radicals who started this escalation will stop their violence,” said a Russian foreign policy official".Neil Buckley, Roman Olearchyk and Kathrin Hille. "Kiev calm but uncertainties temper relief over agreement". The Financial Times. 21 February 2014, in www.ft.com. One does not have to be very cynical to be concerned about the eventual outcome of the crisis in Ukraine. Notwithstanding the fact that the settlement brokered by the European Union has a good deal to speak for it, the fact is that leaving Ukrainian President Yanukovich in power for another nine to ten months seems a dangerous gamble. At this point in time, it appears to me self-evident that Yanukovich is a dangerously unpredictable political character. The events of the past month, show that he is not another Leonid Kuchma: corrupt and power hunger but au fond, unwilling to push matters to a va banque level. Hence the peaceful outcome of the crisis in 2004. Yanukovich based simply upon his tactics this week appears to indeed be willing to dangerously push matters to the brink and then some. And while he is has been temporarily defeated, inasmuch as the security forces were unable to handle violently or peacefully the protestors, one can readily assume that he will seek to exploit any fissures and cracks that may emerge in the upcoming months. Or should I say: he would be willing to invent or foster fissures and cracks that may allow him to reintroduce state violence as a means of remaining in power and to either void or negate future Presidential elections. By fair means or foul. Especially, since it is now difficult to imagine where will Yanukovich and his clique will fit in, once he leaves the Presidency. A chance to retire to a comfortable perch, sitting on x amount of ill-gotten gains, `a la Kuchma no longer appears either possible or plausible. Accordingly, Yanukovich has many reasons indeed to endeavor to make a pig's breakfast of the agreement if he indeed can. Simiarly, it is quite clear and not very surprising that Moskva is has also reasons to be highly dissatisfied with the agreement. It would be kinderspielen to imagine that Putin, et. al., will not endeavor to employ every lever at their disposal to over-turn this agreement and try to persuade Yanukovich (not that he would need much by way of persuasion...) to once again engage in a trial of strength with the opposition or should I say that this point Ukrainian civil society. The only reason that I personally have for optimism at this point are as follows: i) the Ukrainian narod, its civil society has shown itself to be able to match force against force with Yanukovich's henchmen. It is not difficult to imagine that if Yanukovich were to endeavor to re-introduce state violence, that the same scenario will play itself out again; ii) The European Union by crafting the settlement is both de facto and de jure committed to it being followed through. If this week's diplomatic focus is not merely a one-off, but the beginnings of something approaching a clear and consistent European Union policy to bring Ukraine into the European Union fold; with trade, economic assistance and investments to follow, then that is all to the good; iii) finally, the release to-day of the jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is I believe perhaps the key reason that we can expect Yanukovich to finish anno domini 2014 in someplace else than Kyiv. Whatever her many other failings, Tymoshenko is a master political tactician and rabble rouser. With her now hopefully leading the opposition and perhaps indeed Parliament, Yanukovich's days indeed should be numbered. At this point in time, one may only hope that is the case.