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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Un an de guerre et l’unité s’éloigne

by Vadim Kamenka

A Year of War, and Unity Recedes

Translated Wednesday 22 April 2015, by Gene Zbikowski

On April 6, 2014, the unelected government led by Yatseniuk launched a military assault to retake the cities in the east. In Donetsk, Lugansk, Slaviansk and Torez, insurgents had taken control of buildings to condemn his first measures. One year later, the Minsk accord opens the way to a compromise but the government is refusing to negotiate… Will Ukrainian society be able to heal its fractures?

“We must guarantee peace, stability and tranquility. The Dnipropetrovsk region must remain a bastion of Ukraine in the east, to preserve the peace and tranquility of the citizens.” A year after the military operation in the eastern Ukraine began, President Petro Poroshenko’s declaration resonates like an admission of failure. Over 6,000 deaths, a humanitarian crisis, an economy on the brink of bankruptcy, corruption that is still deeply rooted, and a dismembered country.

“In the end, the United States, Europe and Russia are waging a war and the Ukrainians are paying the price,” is the summary of Anatoli Sokoliuk, former spokesman for the Ukrainian Communist Party (KPU), which broke up.

Ukrainian society has never been so fractured. Unity, which remains the government’s political argument, works less and less. The territorial divisions have never been so strong according to a poll published by the Zerkalo Nedeli website. Seventy percent of the people living in the western Ukraine think that the protest movement at Maidan square in Kiev was the major event in 2014, as against 15% of the people living in the Donbass. And on the other hand, the declaration of independence by the Donetsk and Lugansk regions ranks as the top event in 2014 in the east, as against only 3% of the inhabitants of the western regions.

How can this problem be solved? Federalism? According to the British daily paper The Guardian, henceforth “a good number of elected officials and politicians in Europe openly pose the question: why is federalism, which works to preserve national unity in many countries, rejected by Petro Poroshenko?” In Ukraine too, many inhabitants are offended that Orthodox and Russian culture should be perceived as a betrayal of Ukrainian identity. “Instead of benefiting from the diverse cultural heritages that our country offers us, we reject them. This line is dangerous and contributes to the fracturing of our society,” continues the political scientist Elena Chaltseva.

The government directed by Arseni Yatseniuk and president Poroshenko is still refusing to negotiate with the Donbass insurgents. And yet, the accord signed in Minsk stipulates negotiations with the “authorities” in the two people’s republics of Donetsk (DNR) and Lugansk (LNR) in order to pave the way to greater autonomy. “An autonomy of the regions, a federation … solutions exist. Only, the more the destruction accelerates, the fewer the chances of seeing this nation united again,” was the analysis of Andrei Grachev, Mikhail Gorbachev’s advisor. This feeling is shared by many personalities. For this to succeed, Jacques Sapir continues on his blog, “this implies a ‘national pact’ and that it be reformulated.”

Geopolitics is another element of fracture. In Ukraine, the new authorities in poweraccelerated the crisis by stating that they want to join NATO. Joining NATO is a veritable red line for Moscow, and Ukraine suffered the same fate as Georgia in 2008, with an open conflict.

“The Americans have never abandoned the old idea of tearing the Ukraine out of the Russian zone of influence”, Andrei Grachev repeated. But “the economic and political destabilization of a big country like Ukraine is not in the interest of anyone in Europe. With Russia, we have to unite our efforts to help Ukraine to regain a stable situation and be vigilant on the enforcement of the Minsk II accords”, concludes Jean-Pierre Chevènement, France’s special representative to the Russian Federation.

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