Andrey Grebenshchikov is second secretary in the political section of the Russian embassy to Canada.
Before leaders of leading industrialized countries get together in Brussels this week – once again, without Russia – it is appropriate to shed more light on the crisis in Ukraine from Moscow’s perspective.
Our Western partners are convinced that it all has started with Crimea, a so-called illegal annexation by Russia. Few talk about the anti-constitutional coup that ushered interim authorities into power in Kiev, leaving in tatters the Feb. 21 agreement for early elections and limits on president Viktor Yanukovych’s powers.
The coup was followed by calls to strip Ukrainian minorities of the right to use their own languages and raids by ultra-nationalist movements against dissenters. Intimidated by the violence and confronted with Kiev’s attempt to penetrate the territory by force, the people of Crimea used the right to self-determination provided for in the United Nations Charter. By overwhelming majority, they spoke in favour of reunification with Russia.
Then, Ukraine’s southeastern regions ignited. Russian diplomacy has tried hard to bring the Kiev authorities and the people in Luhansk and Donetsk to the negotiation table. There was hope that the situation would improve after the April 17 Geneva agreement and that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s monitoring mission would defuse the crisis. Instead, we got Odessa followed by Mariupol. Kiev launched a punitive operation against its own people, calling them terrorists.
Another bit of blue sky came with the road map developed by Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, current head of the OSCE. However, it didn’t stop the violence. The regions of Lugansk and Donetsk decided to up the ante, holding referendums on independence from Ukraine, despite Moscow’s pleas for postponement.
Our Western colleagues assured that the dust would settle as soon as a “free and fair” presidential vote took place in Ukraine. But not only were elections held against a backdrop of continuing military action, but the Kiev authorities immediately ordered an escalation, with the use of heavy armaments, including aviation and artillery, in cities and at civil sites.
Meanwhile, our Western partners, including Canada, acted unhelpfully, legitimizing only one part of the Ukrainian society and turning a blind eye to the aspirations of eight million others.
Kiev’s bloody operation against its own citizens has not received an objective assessment. Nobody wishes to notice the atrocities committed by ultra-nationalists and Kiev’s refusal to comply with the existing agreements. The Russian voice is neither heard nor taken into account. Instead, everybody wishes only to see a mythical “Russian hand” behind the crisis, placing all responsibility on Moscow. This ignores the complex reality and further complicates the situation.
What other steps should Russia take to prove that it has nothing to do with the slaughter and that it wishes to see a peaceful, thriving Ukraine?
On Monday, acting as president of the UN Security Council, the Russian Federation submitted a draft resolution calling for an end to the violence in southeastern Ukraine and the immediate start of practical talks with a view of reaching a sustainable ceasefire. The text was intentionally prepared in a depoliticized way, aimed at alleviating the sufferings of the civil population and at implementing the Geneva agreement and the OSCE road map. The initiative provides another chance to break the deadlock and it shouldn’t be lost.
Our Western partners should heed the call and use their influence to support the resolution, instead of focusing on useless discussions in Brussels meant to punish Russia, reminiscent of Cold War times. The time has come to finally take a serious look at the complex situation in Ukraine without black-and-white simplification. Only through co-operation can this acute crisis be resolved.