March 5, 2014 (Nile Bowie for RT) – As divisions deepen between the eastern and western regions of Ukraine, the backers of the putsch regime in Kiev portray Russia as a reckless aggressor to absolve their own responsibility for engineering the crisis.
While denunciations of Moscow have streamed out of western capitals in recent days over the standoff in Crimea, it should be understood that the political crisis currently unfolding in Ukraine could have been wholly avoided. In attempts to defuse unrest and maintain legal and societal order, ousted President Yanukovich offered remarkable concessions in his proposal to install opposition leaders in top posts in a reshaped government, which was rejected. Russia expressed readiness to engage in tripartite negotiations with Ukraine and the European Union with the hope that both Moscow and Brussels could play a positive role in Ukraine’s economic recovery, but the EU was unwilling to accept such a proposal. The February-21 agreement was mediated by Russia, France, Germany and Poland and aimed to end the bloodshed in Kiev by reducing presidential powers and establishing a framework for a national unity government, in addition to electoral reform, constitutional changes, and early elections.
There was clearly no shortage of opportunities to ease the polarization of the Ukrainian state through an inclusive political solution, and yet the opposition failed to uphold its responsibilities, resulting in the ouster of Ukraine’s democratically elected leader to the detriment of the country’s political, economic, and societal stability.
As the new self-appointed authorities in Kiev dictate terms and push legislation through a rump parliament, the reluctance of western capitals to address the clearly dubious legitimacy of the new regime suggests that the US and EU condone what is effectively a coup d’état with no constitutional validity.
The leaked phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, is a testament to Washington’s proclivity for foreign meddling and its brazen disregard of Ukraine’s sovereignty. It is no coincidence that Arseniy Yatsenyuk – handpicked by Nuland for the role of prime minister – now occupies that position in Kiev’s new leadership, and much like the reckless agitation strategies employed by the US elsewhere, extremist groups were manipulated to allow the nominal moderates to seize power on Washington’s behalf.
A new dawn for the far right
In order to maintain enough momentum to oust Yanukovich, Ukraine’s opposition leaders relied on allies in the radical camp such as fascist groups like Svoboda, Trizub, and the Right Sector. These organizations espouse ethnic hatred against Jews and Russians and promote neo-Nazi ideals. The foot soldiers of these movements laid the groundwork for the putsch by occupying the Maidan [Independence Square], storming government offices, and attacking riot police with Molotov cocktails, firearms, and other lethal weapons.
Members of these far-right groups have been integrated in so-called ‘self-defense forces’ that now patrol Kiev and other major cities, and have been seen wearing symbols that include the Celtic cross, which has replaced the swastika for many modern white-power groups, the wolf-hook SS insignia, and other occult symbols associated with the Third Reich. In his capacity as prime minister, Yatsenyuk has relinquished control of Ukraine’s national security forces to the heads of these radical organizations, who have openly used threatening and bigoted language to incite ethnic hostility, in addition to calls for Russians and Jews to be either destroyed or expelled from Ukraine.
The political ascent of radical forces that represent a minority of Ukrainian public opinion has alarmed minority communities, indicated by Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman’s calls for Kiev’s Jews to flee the country in light of recent political developments. Regions in the east and southeast of Ukraine, where many ethnic Russians and Russian speakers reside, are experiencing the Maidan protests in reverse, as protestors plant Russian flags atop government buildings in rejection of the new leadership in Kiev.
Since seizing power, the putsch regime in Kiev has attempted to pass laws against the official use of Russian and other languages throughout the country, fueling social unrest and secessionist sentiment in some quarters that culturally and linguistically identify themselves as Russian. Fast-moving developments in Kiev and actions taken by the new regime have enflamed the crisis, and any Russian intervention should be seen against the backdrop of eastern and southeastern Ukraine’s rejection of an unconstitutional transfer of power that directly threatens the integrity of the state.
Russia as a stabilizing force