The Rights of the Russian-speaking Population were and Remain Essential for Peace
ISSUE 2022 / 5
According to this quote, the war in Ukraine did not start on 24.2.2022 with Russia’s military intervention. The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, in Donetsk and Lugansk, has been smouldering for eight years. OSCE reports regularly complained about violations of the Minsk ceasefire agreement, which was concluded on the 14.2.2015 under the auspices of Russia, France and Germany. After that, rebels and Ukrainian government troops destroyed civilian infrastructure. But German media hardly reported on the suffering of the approximately 3 million people in eastern Ukraine and the 1.5 million refugees, as was documented as early as 2019. Already two years ago, “the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in Europe since the Second World War” became apparent (Caritas International 2019).
Instead of working on peace concepts, German politicians discussed arms deliveries to Ukraine even before the Russian invasion began. By taking sides in the conflict, they undermined the Minsk agreements. They damaged the longstanding efforts of the OSCE mission and thus brought down Europe’s own peace initiative. Such a U-turn can only be understood in a larger security policy context in which not only Russia but also influential NATO member states want to assert their interests. The German and international public is currently being kept completely in the dark about this. They are made to believe that only Russia is responsible for the fate of Ukraine.
The core statements of this article were published weeks before the outbreak of the war (Topic in Focus 2/2022). It describes the inner-state conflict lines that were the decisive reason for the escalation. The Ukrainian government still refuses to give the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine the human rights protection to which it has committed itself as a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe as well as through the Minsk Agreements.
That is why the separatists insist on their statehood. The parallels to the Kosovo war in early 1999 are obvious. But at that time, the NATO countries provided military assistance to the Albanian minority, while today they support the central government in Kyiv unreservedly. Their military-strategic doctrine has thus undergone a 180-degree turn. Western democracy-based values are obviously in danger of drifting into the arbitrary.
“Andrij Waskowycz: The war [in Donetsk and Lugansk] is being suppressed because there are no solutions to the problems that this war brings with it. There is no idea of how to end this war. And it claims new victims every day. People are killed by shelling or by exploding mines. The buffer zone, where the war is taking place, is the second most heavily mined region in the world. Because of this, people in the buffer zone cannot cultivate their land.
They live there in a constant state of emergency. They have difficulties meeting their basic needs for food and healthcare. The children find it difficult to reach school, they often have to walk a long way. In addition, they have also seen a lot of violence or been under fire for days and witnessed bombings in basements. …” (Quote from an interview with the president of Caritas Ukraine, in: Caritas International: 23)
The Ukrainians would do well to learn from their recent history and work on their own solutions to their internal conflicts. As shown above, they pursued the idea of a second parliamentary chamber from the very beginning of their statehood. The idea was to give the regions more say and to counterbalance the strong position of the president. Based on their experience with the old Soviet system, they were sceptical about a federal model whose regional structures would be tailored to the settlement area of cultural or linguistic communities.
In contrast, a majority of Ukrainians in the referendum of 16.4.2000 accepted the proposal to decentralise their country independently of the cultural identities of its inhabitants. From today’s perspective, it was a mistake for Kiev to give in to political pressure from the Council of Europe and drop this project. Without such a new constitutional reform in favour of regional self-government, it is not conceivable that Kiev will regain the confidence of the population of its eastern regions.
It would be up to the member states of the Council of Europe and the EU to admit that they have given Ukraine wrong advice on administrative and language reform. Instead of interfering in the domestic developments of their member states, they should ensure that the external framework conditions for Ukraine’s democratic development are right. This includes refraining from further polarisation and enemy stereotypes.
What is called for at present is not a hasty membership of Ukraine in the EU or NATO. Rather, concepts are needed that allow for overlapping areas of integration in politics and the economy in order to give not only Ukraine, but also Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe a prosperous development perspective. [S. 21]