Sideshow Bob – Viktor MedvedchukJune 24, 2014
Seemingly President Putin has anointed his close friend Viktor Medvedchuk as his “peace envoy” to eastern Ukraine.
Viktor Mededchuk being the leader of the “Ukrainian Choice” public movement that came into being in order to scupper the EU agreements when Viktor Yanukovych was in power and “wavering”. Mr Medvedchuk became the permanent Kremlin whisperer in ex-President Yanukovych’s ear – and also one of the most despised men in Ukraine at the same time.
The “Ukrainian Choice” public movement media campaign delighted in the U turn of President Yanukovych – very quickly disappearing from the public domain once the then president took flight.
President Putin is also the god father of Viktor Medvedchuk’s daughter.
However, by anointing Viktor Medvedchuk as the Kremlin’s “peace envoy” it displays limited intent from a Kremlin that has nothing to gain by attaining anything like a genuine peace in eastern Ukraine. It is nothing more than a sideshow.
President Putin has made it clear that he welcomes Mr Medvedchuk’s preliminary contact with those within Luhansk and Donetsk. He has also stated “Medvedchuk received the go-ahead to a meeting with the OSCE mission regarding the establishment of a dialogue between Kyiv and southeastern Ukraine, which Russia supports at ambassadorial level.”
Quite which ambassadors he expects to meet and discuss eastern Ukraine remains unclear.
The People’s Republics have no ambassadors that any Ukrainian ambassador would meet for it implies recognition. Having a chat with Mr Medvedchuk as a Ukrainian citizen would be no problem. Having a chat with him as President Putin’s “peace envoy” presents little problems either. Should he don any form of official appointment from either region within any unrecognised administrations – it is the end of any role as interlocutor.
So what meetings at ambassadorial level does Mr Putin refer to? Why would any ambassadors need Viktor Medvedchuk to be present for such discussions?
OSCE will of course meet with Mr Medvedchuk – it is within their remit. However OSCE has already publicly stated that it supports President Poroshenko’s plan and asks all to support it. If President Poroshenko’s plan works then it works to the benefit of Ukraine – but not to the benefit of Kremlin interests. Nobody should be under any illusions that the Kremlin will continually seek to undermine and subvert Ukraine for a decade or so to come.
Mr Medvedchuk will no doubt be speaking to Boris Lozhkin, the new head of the Presidential Administration as often as Mr Lozhkin will pick up the telephone to him. The two men used to have shared media interests some years ago. However, Mr Lozhkin is not about to abandon the presidential plan or sell out President Poroshenko for the sake of Mr Medvedchuk.
The Medvedchuk sideshow is intended to have only a few results.
The first to try and paint a picture of Kremlin attempts to deescalate the situation in eastern Ukraine, thus avoiding further sanctions from the Europeans in particular – on something close Kremlin terms by engaging with those Kyiv refuses to via a very pro-Kremlin intermediary.
The second is to provide a well known Ukrainian voice parroting the Kremlin line once more. Since the implosion of Party of Regions, the Kremlin has lost its well known voices in Ukraine. Promoting Viktor Medvedchuk back onto the Ukrainian political stage, a tried, tested and trusted voice may gain some traction – or not.
The game plan bonus, should Mr Medvedchuk gain a little traction in the Ukrainian media, to erode the presidential plan and drop a firm anchor preventing – or at the very least slowing considerably – Ukraine’s European integration.
As unlikely as all of this is to succeed, it will be tried nonetheless. Perhaps it need only work until new RADA elections should any pro-Kremlin factions emerge – if they don’t, then it need work for as long as it can have even the slightest drag effect.
The Medvedchuk sideshow is just that. A Kremlin attempt to apply a very thin veneer of “peaceful deescalation” for the sake of appearances, whilst continuing to try and undermine Ukrainian direction westward.
Nevertheless, as with all sideshows, watching it can be an interesting way to pass the time now and again – and be aware, sometimes sideshows make it all the way to Broadway.