‘New Ukrainian govt undemocratic in the extreme to push for early EU association agreement’
The Yatsenuk government should have waited for two months, to get the ‘formal democratic mandate’ to do that, Shoebridge believes.
On Friday, Ukraine and the EU signed an association agreement, signaling closer relations.
On February 19, the Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council ordered the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry to introduce visa requirements for Russian citizens. However, several hours later the Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenuk said that government wouldn't rush to introduce visas with Russia, given close socio-economic and family links between the two nations. Such a controversy in official statements on the same issue makes you think that there is no consensus among the new authorities, Shoebridge believes.
RT:What are actually the real intentions of the new government in Kiev? And will the new leaders in Kiev be able to overcome their divisions by the time of the elections in May?
Charles Shoebridge: Yes, this visa situation is one of the latest of a number of occasions where there seems to be [a number of] conflicting mixed messages coming from within the Ukraine government. Of course, one could say “Well, there is some confusion within the government, it’s a new government after all; it needs some time to settle in and get its policies sorted out and speaking in one voice.”
But there could be another reason for this, which is that there are struggles for power, if you like, within the Ukrainian government itself. After all the Ukrainian government is currently dominated by two political parties. Within these parties different individuals have different views and different agendas as well, so it may well be that the lack of communication between different aspects or different parts of the Ukraine government with some more willing to assert their desires and their agenda than others. And certainly there seems to be lack of consultation within the government, and this power struggle for authority and positions within that government structure may well accelerate.
What we are seeing is not these mixed messages becoming less over time; they actually continue to happen suggesting that the direction of the Ukrainian government is not towards settling down and speaking with one unified voice. And we also need to consider it in the context of the upcoming elections suggested to be two months away, and they will be jostling for power and influence. And the elections, even if they do go ahead smoothly, may not return people to the same ratio of power that’s currently within the Ukraine government, which of course is far from being an inclusive government.
RT:Ukraine's interim prime minister has also postponed the signing of the economic part of the association agreement with the EU. But wasn't the EU deal the main goal of the protests which led to the upheaval? How will Maidan react to this further delay?
CS: Initially, the Maidan protests were sparked by the decision not to sign the EU association agreement, but I think they quickly moved into something much more important; they turned to a desire to have less corruption and indeed one could even say that the reaction against the political establishment was reflected when Timoshenko came and spoke to Maidan, and there was some disaffection in the crowd that the old guard were coming back to dominate what some would see as their revolution.
But the numbers on the Maidan were very small; this was not the Orange revolution of hundreds of thousands of people. We were talking about 20-30 thousand people even at the maximum times and this is the opposition's own figures. And of course many of those have now gone home because they see that toppling the old government that was their aim has been achieved.
One needs to look at where the power actually lies, and it seems to be that in many cases the police and the established functioning organs of states are actually not functioning, and the power of the street still seems to be largely in the hands of certain activists more on the far-right, those who have been more organized on military lines. Svoboda is powerful within the government in terms of the number of positions it holds. Consequently, the demonstrators on the street are perhaps not as important as they once were. It’s also certainly the case that if the election is due to be held in two months and the old government was toppled supposedly on the trigger of the EU association agreement, then it would be seen by many, I think quite rightly, to be undemocratic in the extreme to be forging ahead with such a controversial measure without any formal democratic mandate. Just by delaying by two months the signing of this agreement, it could potentially be done for the people of Ukraine to speak in a fair and free election with a democratic mandate.
RT:Arseny Yatsenuk is now condemning the referendum in Crimea. However, back in 2007, as Ukraine's foreign minister at the time, he was supporting Kosovo's independence. Why is that?
CS: I think it’s well-established that politicians generally, of course there are exceptions, use principles on a piecemeal basis. We’ve heard many Western politicians condemning the taking over or the referendum itself in Crimea. The referendum has really just proved what people knew would happen anyway. I think even in the West there was an acceptance among political leaders that even if the election had been completely free and fair, the vast majority of people [in Crimea] would have voted to go back to Russia.
And yet that has been condemned in the West because it puts the Western leaders in a difficult situation where they are actually condemning the principle of self-determination. The thing that according to Western arguments makes this referendum illegal is that the Ukrainian government won’t allow it to happen. But even if secession or independence wasn’t legal because it wasn’t approved by the Ukrainian government, this doesn’t mean you can’t hold a referendum. Of course, it’s enacting on a referendum that may well be illegal.
In Kosovo, of course, the Western leaders would say it was a different situation because there was a humanitarian intervention, and then the referendum took place. But the independence took place some years later, so there was no overriding humanitarian reason at that time. So you will get the situation that even can apply in a broader sense to situations such as Iraq and even perhaps Afghanistan to some degree. But the West sees fit to intervene in the independence of other nations to violate sovereignty, and indeed in this case of Kosovo to create a new state without the consent of the parent state. But they will try to find differences in this case.
Notwithstanding all of that, I think there is an acceptance among the West’s leaders that Crimea is a special case, that they will make much noise right now about the situation, but they understand without any shadow of a doubt that this is a fait accompli and that Crimea is now a part of the Russian Federation.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.