The Ukrainian government has offered sweeping autonomous powers to restive, pro-Moscow regions of the country, in an attempt to hold its head above water against Moscow, without a source of revenue or a viable army. Acting prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told regional leaders and businessmen Friday, April 11, in the eastern town of Donetsk, where pro-Russian separatists have declared a People’s Republic, that he is ready for parliament to consider a law on referendums. The referendum staged by Crimea last month caused the region to join the Russian Federation and practically precipitated the revival of the Cold War.
The devolution of power to the regions is a major concession by the pro-Western administration in Kiev to Moscow which, backed by 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, demands recognition of the rights of Russian speakers living in the country’s east and south by means of a federal system..
Yatsenyuk proposed handing “executive committees” in each region, all financial, economic, administration and other powers,’ giving them “the ability to attract investment.” The central government is ready to meet “the legal demands of every resident of the country,” he said.
With the separatist movement spreading – Saturday, armed men in camouflage occupied a police building in Slaviansk, 150 km from the Russian border – the provisional government in Kiev met the protesters half-way to avert Ukraine’s breakup into pro-Western European and pro-Russian regions. His only condition was that the regional administrations recognize central government in Kiev.
The prime minister did not refer to the Crimean breakaway from Ukraine when he addressed the separatists. It was clear to both sides that the strategic peninsula's annexation to Russia was water under the bridge and any international deal on the future of Ukraine would have to accept it as an accomplished fact and move on.
The offer of devolution came six days before the foreign ministers of the US, Russia, the European Union and Ukraine are due to meet in Geneva to discuss how to defuse the world powers’ confrontation over Ukraine.
Yatsenyuk’s offer sounded like a trial balloon to show Moscow how far the West was willing to go for an accommodation. The Donetsk protesters turned him down on the spot, but the rules of the game are laid down in Moscow. . Even so, up until the four-way foreign ministers’ meeting in Geneva, local separatist firebrands will increasingly assert their claims in one trouble spot after another by taking over power centers in their regions. Clashes cannot be ruled out with the provisional authorities when they show resistance.
debkafile: The provisional Ukrainian government’s offer of near-autonomous powers to the regions is the first backward step to be taken by the US and EU from its confrontation with Moscow since Crimea’s breakaway.
Russian troop concentrations on Ukraine’s borders are clearly there to stay, and Moscow has further turned the screw by its “gas sanction” against Ukraine, which is being charged a much higher price for its gas and told to settle payment for past supplies. If Moscow makes good on a threat to cut off Ukraine for non-payment of bills, supplies to the rest of Europe would be disrupted.
From the early days of the Ukraine crisis, debkafile’s sources reported that the government set up in Kiev had no chance of survival; nor were its leaders qualified to rule a country of 46 million – and certainly not to stand up to Russian military and economic might.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration and NATO officials continued to issue a stream of portentous denunciations against Moscow – and Friday, more Crimean officials were added to the US sanctions list – even though it must be obvious to Washington that the US, Europe and NATO combined are short of the traction – military, economic and political – for forcing Moscow to accept the provisional regime. The billions of dollars they have laid out for propping it up went on a lost cause.