Archive for February 21st, 2014

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Time to seriously consider the exit

February 21, 2014

No. no.  I am not considering exiting Ukraine – nothing so dramatic.  It’s home for all that is good and bad about it, and here I will remain regardless.

I am referring to the mounting body count for which the authorities, having far greater resources at their control, have to take the brunt of responsibility for.

I recognise of course, that there are elements within those protesting who are also responsible for deaths, provocation and injuries.  I also recognise that neither the authorities nor opposition politicians have very much – if any – control over the actions of these elements.

When large numbers of protesters are expected to abide by a truce negotiated between a deeply unpopular president and a merely tolerated (but not followed) opposition, it is wishful thinking to expect it to last – and so it has transpired that last it did not.  Deaths in double figures today once more.

However, the more extreme elements do not exist in significant strength or depth – they are not a match for the full and unmitigated the machinery of the institutions of state when all is said and done.  Whatever these elements can do, the institutions of state are more than capable of a response far more disproportionate to incidents to which they are reacting – ergo the authorities that control the institutions of state must carry the largest burdens of responsibility – provoked or otherwise.

Thus as the body count of both protesters and police continues to rise on an almost daily basis, the ultimate responsibility is that of the President.

Clearly the Rubicon has been crossed by both State and society and clearly society cannot offer its resignation to calm matters – certainly not to authorities with a totalitarian outlook and little regard for the due processes of rule of law.

Thus there is but one way to avoid a bloodbath becoming a humanitarian disaster – and that is for the current president to be encouraged to exit the political stage – swiftly – for the sake of the nation.  Quite clearly a national unity government operating under the current constitution rather than that of 2004 would be rather pointless as it would be powerless via a vis presidential whim.  The “western choice” to lead Party of Regions during this time of transition is clearly Sergey Tigipko – a man more than capable of working with the opposition in a national unity government.

This tweet echoing conversations I had in Kyiv with a couple of diplomats at the end of last year.

There is perhaps also a lesson to be learned from Mr Putin’s time in office, in that he consistently backs losers in Ukraine.  He backed Yanukovych overtly in 2004 and got Yushenko.  He tacitly backed Tymoshenko in 2010 and got Yanukovych.  Russian support for Yanukovych now, given its track record of backing Ukrainian losers is ominous – though expecting Russia to whisper in the presidential ear that it is time to head for a negotiated exit is clearly out of the question until a suitable alternative has been identified – if one can be identified – to put the Russian colours behind.

Thus it will fall to “blunt private conversations” with both president and those that surround him, to encourage his negotiated exit – whether that mean an immunity from prosecution guaranteed by an external actor, the retention of ill-gotten gains, a quiet life in the gilded cage of his Mezhyhirya home – whatever.

Solutions to the Ukrainian crisis are few, as are the rapidly reducing future options of the current president when it comes to a very quiet retirement somewhere other than prison as the body count continues to rise.

Perhaps it is time to quietly but robustly offer a negotiated way out now.

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