Rhein on Energy and Climate

Since the end of February, when President Yanukovych left the country, Ukraine has been caught in a spiral declining public order close to civil war.

Russia has no doubt been a major, though invisible player behind he scenes. Through skilful “exploitation” of Russian speaking Ukrainians in the Crimea and Eastern provinces it has helped destabilising the country in the hope to make the presidential elections on 25th May impossible.

It has kept intervening in the domestic affairs of the country in a way that oversteps all we have seen in Europe during the last 25 years.

Annexing Crimea, supplying “secessionist forces” with modern arms and encouraging them to take control of local and regional administrations in the Eastern and Southern Ukraine constitute blatant violations of international law.

The cynicism with which foreign minister Lavrov has explained these interventions is unheard of: how can he dare to teach the interim Ukrainian government that is seriously striving to establish democracy and the rule of law “that elections and referendums must be free and fair, and proceed in a situation excluding violence and under objective and unbiased international monitoring” ( May 5th 2014).

Have there ever been free and fair elections in the Russian Federation? Has there ever been objective and unbiased international monitoring in Russian elections? Has the Kremlin ever granted opposition parties free access to the media, let alone allow its regional governments to have the slightest influence on foreign policy decisions?

Basically, Putin does not want free elections in Ukraine, because these might allow democracy and rule of law to govern in another neighbouring country after the Baltic countries, Poland and Georgia.

It is only after realising the risk of many more casualties on the one hand and costly isolation from the rest of the world that on May 7th Putin has suddenly declared the elections to be a step in the right direction, provided all Ukrainians will see their rights guaranteed.

It is therefore crucial for the Ukrainian interim government to go ahead with the preparation of the elections throughout the country, including a sufficient number of monitors from across the world to insure transparency and objective reporting.

Formally enjoying the full support of all Council of Europe governments, Russia included, it should immediately call back all military units to the barracks, even if this keeps official buildings in the Donetzk region occupied by “secessionist forces and may lead to very low voter participation there on May 25th.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 8/5/2014

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