Ukrainian civil war: Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

Political-level consultations between EU, Ukraine and Russia on the implementation of the EU/Ukraine Association Agreement. Pavlo Klimkin, Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexey Ulyukaev, Russian Minister for Economic Development, Vladimir Chizhov, Head of the Mission of Russia to the EU, Alexander Tsybulskiy, Head of the Department of Interaction with the Eurasian Economic Commission and Economic Cooperation with CIS Countries of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, and Elena Danilova, Head of the Department of European Countries of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development (faced, from right to left). (EC Audiovisual Services 11/07/2014).

Political-level consultations between EU, Ukraine and Russia on the implementation of the EU/Ukraine Association Agreement. Pavlo Klimkin, Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexey Ulyukaev, Russian Minister for Economic Development, Vladimir Chizhov, Head of the Mission of Russia to the EU, Alexander Tsybulskiy, Head of the Department of Interaction with the Eurasian Economic Commission and Economic Cooperation with CIS Countries of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, and Elena Danilova, Head of the Department of European Countries of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development (faced, from right to left). (EC Audiovisual Services 11/07/2014).

The Russian convoy of 280 lorries loaded with humanitarian aid (food, water, electricity generators, etc.) crossed the borders without Kiev’s permission last week and delivered on Friday 22 August its cargo to Luhansk, a key position in the warfare between the government special forces and the pro-Russian separatist rebels who still hold the city. The convoy was held for many days in the Russian-Ukrainian borders by the Kiev authorities on various pretexts, enraging Moscow rulers. President Putin told Chancellor Merkel over the phone that the convoy couldn’t wait any more and he ordered it to cross the borders without the official green light.

The situation is not at all clear, and the West accuses Moscow of violating Ukraine’s sovereignty, a fact that “cannot go unpunished” Washington says. The truth is that Russia uses the time cherished tactics of humanitarian aid, as a red herring in order to directly intervene in the fight. The situation has to be clarified today in Minsk, where high level representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the EU are scheduled to meet. Let’s take one thing at a time.

All the major world powers use the humanitarian aid pretext, when they want to justify before public opinion at home their interferences abroad. To be noted that in the east of Ukraine the military conflict has now entered in a critical stage and the combat is centered in and around Luhansk and Donetsk.

Throwing some millions out?

The Russian convoy can be seen as an attempt by Kremlin to freeze the warfare at its present point, before the Kiev forces succeed in pushing the rebels out of Ukraine. Evidently, this is to be achieved since the Kiev government and President Petro Poroshenko, urged by their western masters, to use every conceivable means in order to win the war. Human rights organisations are now accusing Kiev of war crimes against the populations of the east. It’s about bombarding residential areas in Luhansk and Donetsk and intimidating the local civilians, pressing them to leave the place. Not to say anything about the Kiev’s inhuman and ruthless decision to cut electricity, water and food supplies to cities of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.

It is as if Kiev tries to ‘ethnically’ cleanse the east of the country from the Russian speaking millions and this under the guidance of western Europe and the US. Understandably, it’s impossible to throw out some millions of inhabitants from their homes, but what if there will be nothing left for them to get by on?

Kiev set to win the war

In any case, as things stand now the pro-Russian rebels and the rulers of Kremlin are now on the defensive on both fronts; Kiev seems to be winning the war and Russia is isolated in the international arena. The western sanctions against Kremlin are threatening to completely cut Russia out from the international financial markets, and Moscow is now economical and politically cut off from the rest of Europe. Putin’s retaliation by means of imposing an embargo on food imports from the EU is becoming a boomerang. The ensuing hikes of vegetable, fruit and animal product prices have created a negative feeling in Russia.

All taken into account, it looks like Putin and the rest of Moscow rulers understand, that if the combat continues in Ukraine it will lead to a defeat of the pro-Russia side. Add to that the internal difficulties in Russia proper (inflation, fly of capital, problems in every market, etc.) plus the international embarrassment, and Putin may be held responsible for everything by his fellow countrymen.

The West cannot tolerate more

Things are not better on the other side of the fence. Kiev and its western allies understand that the kind of unorthodox military means used by Poroshenko against the entire population of the eastern parts of Ukraine, can’t continue for long. Any time the Western media may start talking about war crimes committed by Kiev’s special forces against the Russian speaking civilians. In view of all that, the two sides, Moscow on the one hand and Kiev and the West on the other, are presently looking for a way out. This is in contrast to their so far bellicose stance. The meeting in Minsk set for tomorrow 26 August is the result of this new development.

The Minsk meeting

Last week EU Commission President Manuel Barroso informed the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about his plans, after he received an invitation from him and President Putin to attend the Customs Union – Ukraine Summit meeting in Minsk on 26th August. Barroso told Poroshenko that he has decided to ask the EU High Representative and Commission Vice-President Catherine Ashton, Vice-President Günther Oettinger, responsible for energy, and Commissioner for international Trade Karel de Gucht, to represent the European Union to this event.

Everybody hopes that this meeting may mark the beginning of the end of this bloodshed. The hundreds of thousands of refugees could again look forward to returning to their devastated home towns and cities. Indeed the catastrophe of infrastructures is immense and it will take years to rebuild it. Predictably, the eastern parts of the country will be the last priority for the administration in Kiev, more so because the government will be obliged to severely cut down its spending and borrowing.

All in all, it’s pretty clear that Ukraine is paying the price of its deep internal political, cultural, linguistic and religious division. The animosity between the east and the west parts of this ill-fated country, subsided during the USSR years, but now the split has viciously hit back. If today’s meeting in Minsk is to be annulled the Ukrainian civil war may threaten the entire Old Continent and probably the world.

 

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