‘Ukrainian president is acting from position of weakness’
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced a ceasefire plan for government troops in the east of the country onJune 18.The decision came after a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin that took place a day earlier. However, the Kiev authorities have already called for ceasefire a couple of times, demanding from the Eastern Ukrainians that they lay down the arms unilaterally with no guarantees that the military operation will be stopped.
RT:This isn't the first time President Poroshenko has promised to end the crackdown in the East. Do you believe he is genuinely committed?
Neil Clark: It isn’t the first time, that’s why we have got to be very wary about this because it is quite clear that he is acting out of a position of weakness. Things have not gone to plan for the Ukrainian authorities here. They launched their offensive against the so-called terrorists in the East several weeks ago, it hasn’t gone to plan. In fact he has hardly been able to regain control of parts of the country. He hasn’t been able to provoke Russia into intervening, and as we know the people in the east are still there and they are fighting back and even inflicted casualties on the Ukrainian forces. So I think now Poroshenko has had to rethink, and the US who is behind it all has also had to rethink. So we have got to be very wary. The worst thing that will happen here would be for the people in the east to lay down their arms and then there will be another massive assault on them of the Ukrainian government using a kind of phony pretext to carry out the offensive. So we have to be very careful to wait to see the details.
RT:Reports suggest Ukraine could be about to buy 1,000 armored vehicles. This doesn’t match up with pledges to scale down the military operation, does it?
NC: Absolutely, and I fear that what we could see here is Poroshenko playing for time. He might be calling for a ceasefire to kind of lull people into a false sense of security in the east and then, when his new military hardware arrives, to relaunch this offensive. The offensive hasn’t gone well, it hasn’t succeeded, there have been a lot of reverses for the Ukrainian authorities. We could be very cynical, we have got to wait to see the details. Of course every single person wants to see an end to hostilities. We have over 300 people killed according to the UN figures in the East, and many of they have been civilians, even children have been killed. Obviously, we want peace, however I don’t think we can trust Poroshenko and the Ukrainian authorities. We’ll wait for the details to reserve judgment.
RT:What kind of plan is Kiev pursuing?
NC: Part of the strategy has been quite clear, it has to be to provoke Russia into intervening. That has failed, and what Russia could have done, it has already done. The responsibility for this is on the Ukrainian government and behind it of course is the US. While it's welcome to hear this from Poroshenko talking about the ceasefire, we have got to be very careful. The devil is really in the details here, before we can even talk about having some kind of negotiations and a peaceful solution to this, because up to now we had this before, we had the Kiev authorities saying they want a ceasefire, carrying on with pounding, with assault on the people in the east. The actions speak louder than the words really.
RT:The deaths of two Russian journalists in Lugansk, along with the abductions of media workers, have shocked many. There are also reports that Russian TV channels are being blocked in several cities in Ukraine. Is there any freedom of press left in the country?
NC: The situation in Ukraine is quite appalling from the journalistic point of view. We have journalists simply targeted for reporting the “wrong” kind of news or are working for the “wrong” kind of channels. I have heard about RT coming off the air, if that's true. The Ukrainian government has been very draconian and it is actually working against the free press here. I have heard from someone commenting on the situation here that it is worse than it was in the Iraq war – even the Iraqi authorities were better toward the press than the Ukrainian authorities are here. So it’s another black mark against Ukraine.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.