Ukraine enters almost a month into crisis with unpredictable consequences for its social and political stability, sensitive regional balances and international politics. The conflict of local power and control in Crimea becomes bloody:
(Photo Credit: Alarabiya)
Two people have been killed in clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian activists in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv, the BBC reported, citing officials. Five people were injured overnight, as gunshots were fired. Rival groups blamed each other for the violence. Earlier, Russia and the US failed to agree on how to resolve the crisis in Crimea’s region, ahead of a secession referendum there. Russia vowed to respect Sunday’s vote – but the US said it was illegitimate. Moscow has been tightening its military grip on the Crimea’s peninsula – the southern autonomous republic in Ukraine – where voters are to decide on whether to re-join Russia or stay with Kiev. The violence reportedly began on Kharkiv’s Svoboda Square on Friday evening and later moved to an office of a pro-Ukrainian group in the city. Eyewitnesses said that pro-Russian activists tried to storm the rival protesters, who had barricaded themselves in. The witnesses said that shots had been fired and Molotov cocktails thrown in. Kharkiv Mayor Hennadiy Kernes was later quoted by Ukrainian media as saying that two people people were killed and five injured. Meanwhile, Kharkiv Governor Ihor Baluta called the incident “a provocation.”
(Photo Credit: Alarabiya)
On the other hand, yesterday’s bloody incident in the Crimea’s territory proves that the standoff could have unpredictable consequences for the region:
Russia is outraged by a deadly clash in eastern Ukraine yesterday, though it has no plans to invade the region, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, as a standoff continues with the West over Crimea.
More importantly, it is becoming clear that Russia has the strategic advantage over the situation, and also the ability to reciprocate financially:
Dozens of Russians linked to Russia’s gradual takeover of Crimea could face U.S. and EU travel bans and asset freezes on Monday, after six hours of crisis talks between Washington and Moscow ended with both sides still far apart. Moscow shipped more troops and armour into Crimea on Friday and repeated its threat to invade other parts of Ukraine in response to violence in Donetsk on Thursday night despite Western demands to pull back. EU diplomats will choose from a long list of 120-130 possible Russian targets for sanctions on Sunday, as pro-Moscow authorities who have taken power in the Crimean territory hold a vote to joinRussia in the worst East-West confrontation since the Cold War. Several diplomats dismissed a German newspaper report that said the list would include the heads of Russia’s two biggest companies, energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia would be guilty of a backdoor annexation of Crimean peninsula if its parliament ratified the Crimea referendum, which is taking place after an armed takeover of Crimea and gives voters no chance to say “no”. He has warned Moscow that U.S. and EU sanctions could be imposed as soon as Monday, although U.S. officials said after Kerry’s marathon meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London on Friday the door was still open for more talks. Lavrov played down his own ministry’s threats, saying Moscow had no plans to invade Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow groups have occupied some government buildings.
On the other hand, it is certain that referendum is to be done according to Russia’s plans, and there is also a political certainty that the outcome will be pro-Russian:
The Russian President on Friday rejected Western accusations that a referendum on whether Ukraine’s Crimea region should join Russia would be illegal, making clear the vote would go ahead as planned on Sunday. In a telephone conversation with U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon, Putin “underscored that the decision to conduct (the referendum) fully corresponds to the norms of international law and the U.N. Charter”, the Kremlin said. The pro-Russian politicians who took control of Crimea after the ouster of Ukraine’s president late last month have expressed confidence that a large majority of people in the region would vote to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Ban told reporters at the United Nations that he and Putin had “discussed the need to work towards a durable and fair political solution” in Ukraine, and that they had agreed to stay in touch. ”The situation and emotions have been hardened over the forthcoming referendum in Crimea,” Ban said. ”What I am concerned (about) is that there should be no such hasty measures and decisions which may impact the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine. That has been my consistent message in accordance with the charter provisions.”
In the diplomatic front Lavrov assures that the Kremlin has no plans to invade southeast Ukraine, but depending on the situation, all the cards are on the table:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that his country has no plans to invade southeast Ukraine, following talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. “Russia has no, and cannot have, any plans to invade the southeast region of Ukraine,” Lavrov said after discussions held just two days before a referendum in the Crimea’s peninsula. He said differences remain between Moscow and the U.S. following negotiations in London aimed at ending the crisis in Ukraine, whose Crimea’s strategic region is voting this weekend on whether to secede. After several hours of talks with Kerry, Lavrov confirmed there was “no common vision” between the two nations – although he described the dialogue as “useful.” He reaffirmed that Russia will “respect the results of the referendum” in Crimea and said sanctions would harm relations. “Our partners also realize that sanctions are counterproductive,” he said. European and U.S. leaders have repeatedly urged Moscow to pull back its troops in Crimea or face possible economic sanctions and political isolation. Lavrov said Crimea means more to Russia than the Falklands mean to Britain.
Finally, it is clear that Russia considers Crimea as the “Kremlin’s return” to its Soviet geopolitical sphere of interest, based on Russia’s strategic interests in the Black Sea. It is for sure that Crimea has an exclusive economic zone in the Black Sea. It is also important to be mentioned that the West could not support a full military operation in Ukraine.