Kiev’s military op in E. Ukraine ‘crime against own people’ – ex-Ukrainian President Yanukovich
The smoldering military conflict in eastern Ukraine has been propelled back into the headlines, with a new spike in violence in early February.
The escalation highlighted the fragile nature of the ceasefire and the need for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, the key condition on the way to a peaceful settlement, which was reconfirmed in the recent Normandy format meeting.
In an interview with Russian and Ukrainian media on Tuesday, former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich, now living in southern Russia, argued that the military suppression of unrest in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions was an inherently flawed and ill-conceived decision by Kiev.
The bloodshed in eastern Ukraine might have been averted if the authorities in Kiev made an attempt to find common ground with people in Donetsk and Lugansk, Yanukovich said, adding that the decision to launch their so-called ‘anti-terrorist operation’ against the rebels amounted to a declaration of war against the people.
“Of course, everyone who took part in this decision must be held responsible. This is a crime against their own people,” the former Ukrainian leader said.
“The current authorities did not make a single attempt to talk to the people, who were against the coup,” he argued, adding that Kiev should have found a way towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict at that stage.
“Any blockade of the Donbass region is not in the interests of Ukraine… if they do not need Donbass, they should say it openly, but if they do, then start negotiations with these people, why torment them?” he said.
Instead, the Ukrainian government “divided the country into winners and losers,” further alienating the eastern regions, Yanukovich pointed out, arguing that the authorities stop at nothing, including terror.
“The government actuality believes in its impunity… it has lost the fear of the people,” he said, listing “killing journalists, shutting down various information agencies, silencing dissidents” among the various “draconian methods” the government has resorted to in order to assert itself.
In 2016, the UN human rights watchdog, the OHCHR, released a report accusing both sides of the conflict in Ukraine of multiple human rights violations, including torture, intimidation, illegal detention, and executions. The report also shed light on a government-run torture program and clandestine detention centers.