Posts Tagged ‘Belarus’


Lukashenka on Ukraine

March 25, 2014

Stripping away all the journalistic fluff from this RFERL article, President Lukashenka is bang on the money when talking about Ukraine – as you would hope from a dictator ruling a neighbouring state.

Firstly he agrees with the entire world – less Russia – that the annexation of Crimea sets “a bad precedent” –  Of course it does, for international legal agreements such as the Helsinki Final Act (amongst a list of international agreements) have not only been challenged but clearly ruptured.

It may not be that President Lukashenka has any great concerns regarding the annexation of parts of Belarus, but he will have concerns regarding separatist movements within the Russian Federation that by extension may have detrimental outcomes for Belarus.

When it comes to recognizing or not recognizing the annexation of Crimea, Crimea is not an independent state unlike Ossetia or Abkhazia.  Crimea today is a part of Russian territory. You can recognize or not recognize that, but this will change absolutely nothing.

Nobody would dispute what he says – the reality on the ground speaks for itself.  The only thing really worthy of note is that by stating “Crimea today is part of Russian territory” may infer he holds a belief that may not always be the case – though it seems a very remote and distant prospect.

The next statement I will unpack into separate parts.

“Ukraine should stay a united, undivided, integral state that is not a member of any block because it would be very sensitive both for us and for Russia if, for example, NATO’s military would deploy in Ukraine tomorrow, this we can’t allow to happen.  This is our global interest. So we have to make an agreement that nobody has a right to meddle in Ukraine anymore.”

The first – “Ukraine should stay a united, undivided, integral state” .  Here he is absolutely right.  The federalising of Ukraine will do nothing more than create a permanently unstable nation for decades to come.

Secondly – ” that is not a member of any block because it would be very sensitive both for us and for Russia if, for example, NATO’s military would deploy in Ukraine tomorrow, this we can’t allow to happen.  This is our global interest.” 

As I have written before “The political choice offered once again – an officially neutral state that does not “Europeanise” too much and offend Russian sensibilities – or what is left of Ukraine (Lviv and a few surrounding fields that were once Galacia) can do as they will once the south and east have been secured by Russia one way or another.”

President Lukashenka also pushing an internationally recognised neutral status for Ukraine as part of the solution it would seem.

To his last point “So we have to make an agreement that nobody has a right to meddle in Ukraine anymore.” – He is quite right.  The problem now being there is no trust.

Having seen the UN Charter, Helsinki Final Act, Budapest Memorandum, The Russia-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty and more, simply raped of any meaning unilaterally by Russia – and to be frank rather feebly responded to by the Europeans and certain guarantors thus far – trust in Russia is at an all time low, and trust in a few western nations has been shaken too.

What possible guarantees of non-interference in exchange for non-block neutrality will now be accepted – and from who would Ukraine accept such guarantees in the belief they could be called upon, and a swift and robust response delivered?

The trust problem not only exists between Ukraine and Russia of course.  Who would act as guarantor for Ukraine now, when any guarantor can no longer trust Russia to act reliably and legally?

Sadly President Lukashenka offered no insight into the very serious problem of trust.


Ukrainian/Russian/Belorussian land border demarcation begins

April 13, 2012

The official land demarcation of the sovereign nations of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus has eventually begun.

The first post hammered into the ground at Sinkovsky village in the Ukrainian Oblast of  Chernihiv at the exact spot where Ukraine, Russia and Belarus all meet.


Well, and having official marked Ukrainian borders with Moldova, and the EU nations the same now must take place with its other neighbours to the north and east.


Because if Ukraine and Russia eventually want to turn Visa free dialogue (Russia not withstanding Kaliningrad which already has Visa-free with Poland), road maps and readmissions (Ukraine) with the EU into actual Visa-free travel, then obviously there needs to be clearly agreed borders between both nations and recognised by the EU as one side of any arbitrary line being one nation and the other, another.

I had feared that this would drag on with little interest from Russia, simply to put a spanner in the EU/Ukrainian road-map works, however of late both Russia and the EU (in particular Germany, Poland and France – Weimar Triangle) have been pushing the Visa-free issue with Russia forwards rather than backwards.

It is now in Russian interests (as well as Ukrainian interests) to officially complete a territorial demarcation process of just what belongs to whom and officially recognising that between themselves.

The problem I suspect will not be over any land border demarcation negotiations, but more specifically over the sea boarders, in particular the Kersh Strait and the little island of Tuzla Spit which sits within.

Who will cede over this strategic little spot will be quite interesting to discover.  Traditionally it has been administered by Crimea, however Crimea was not part of Ukraine until 1956 and both were part of the now defunct USSR with Russia.

Enough wiggle room for Russia to put up a convincing argument in negotiations?  Unlikely the EU will care.  They will simply be looking for a formal conclusion to demarcation in the process, however a likely stumbling block ahead between Ukraine and Russia.


Nobel Peace Prize – A Belorussian nomination

February 25, 2012

You may remember a few days ago that I told you that Yulia Tymoshenko had been nominated by her prodige Natalia Korolevska for the Nobel Peace prize.

I wrote at the time,  “Given the events of 2011 and on-going events of 2012 globally, from Belarus to Egypt, from Libya to the DRC and the countless numbers of incarcerated activists, dissidents and politicians who do not have a masseuse visit them in prison, are subjected to genuine and abhorrent physical torture daily, and are completely cut off from the media and outside world, how highly should Ms Tymoshenko’s nomination rank?”

It is fair to say that I consider the Tymoshenko nomination rather shallow at this moment in time.  Several years down the line after ignoring ECfHR rulings then maybe the nomination would have more traction with me.

Anyway, the first nation I mentioned was Belarus and it has not taken very long for Ales Byalyatski from Belarus to indeed be nominated.  Quite rightly too I will add.

However Mr Byalyatski has not been nominated by his prodige or indeed anybody from within Belarus in some form of neurotic hero worship or internal profile awareness campaign (which can be tainted with allegations of pure propaganda by the actions of the nominating sponsor).

His nomination comes from Prime Minister of Slovakia, Iveta Radicova, and already has the public support of Shirin Ebadi the prominent and well known Israeli human rights activist.  In short, international nomination and international backing, very much as you would hope for an international and prestigious prize.

It should also be noted that aside from Slovakian and Israeli support for his nomination, a number of prominent Ukrainians also support his nomination.

You may take the view that Ukrainian support for his nomination is cynically given to undermine Ms Tymoshenko’s nomination, however, we should not forget there is little love lost between the current Ukrainian government and that of Belarus.   Something that became evident in a very public and bitter war of words when Ukraine snubbed Belarus at the insistence of the EU at a meeting in Kyiv after it became clear that if President Lukashenko of Belarus attended, Jose Manuel Barroso of the EU would not.

Given the particularly venomous public statements Lukashenko made about Ukraine, there is really nothing surprising about certain high profile Ukrainians taking the opportunity to support a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for a jailed human rights activist in Belarus.  Political pay-back by Ukraine quite possibly, but from my point of view, pay-back that supports a very worthy candidate regardless of Ukrainian motivation.


Ukraine’s opposition tactics – Effective or not?

February 14, 2012

A few days ago I rattled off some thoughts about Ukraine’s “united democratic opposition”.  Aside from noting that not all opposition parties had signed up to a unity agreement, I also questioned why popular “third option” parties such as Yatseniuk’s Front For Change should join such a collective when the only unifying political ideal is the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

I questioned whether Front For Change liberal voters would vote for a unified opposition ticket if it also meant the anything but liberal, ultra right-wing Svoboda party would benefit equally from their vote.  Since that post I have had several emails from Ukrainian readers (who preferred not to have their comments published) confirming that they will not vote at all if a vote for a combined Yatseniuk/Tymoshenko/Klitchko etc ticket also means a vote for putting more Svoboda politicians in power.

One can only assume that this will disadvantage the opposition on polling day if such boycotts occur on a fairly large scale, and also causes one to question whether the opposition parties are really following a sound policy.  As I stated in the highlighted link above, there is a genuine and growing call for a choice other than the Yanukovych and Tymoshenko parties as displayed by plumetting PoR ratings but hardly any gains of equal number for Tymoshenko’s party.

Of course there is still time for the agreement between most opposition parties to fall apart when it comes to actually agreeing who will run for what seat at the parliamentary elections, although if a united single nomination opposition candidate is the policy they chose to follow, such public displays of disunity would be a disaster.

It is though, the only policy I have found that has been publicly aired by the opposition parties.  Whether that is because they are a concoction of vastly differing political points on the left-right index of ideology and simply can’t agree on any other policies, as yet I am unsure.

Aside from the single announcement that the majority of opposition parties had united to run on a single candidate per seat ticket in an effort to consolidate the opposition vote, there has been nothing more.  Not on party websites, not in the media (not even on the opposition owned media). – Nothing.  No momentum since the “unity agreement” whatsoever.

All opposition media noise remains directed towards Yulia Tymoshenko’s imprisonment and nothing more, from various parties.  Now obviously they don’t want her to be forgotten, but as a paltry 2000 demonstrators at her trial and judgement day should display to the opposition, very few Ukrainians care enough to get off their backsides to do anything about it.

The A-political tax code demonstrations and immediate and large scale reaction to the government taking down EX.UA file sharing website simply dwarfed the reaction to her imprisonment.  On both occasions it should also be noted, the government ceded ground to the public.

One must start to question whether a “united democratic opposition” “Free Yulia” is a solid platform and singular policy to put before the Ukrainian voting public who prima facie don’t particularly seem to care.  This will surely reach only those who would vote for the opposition anyway.

It seems the Ukrainian opposition have learned absolutely nothing from their opposition neighbours in Belarus.

Since the brutal and repulsive crackdown on Belorussian opposition supporters  in 2010, the only issue the Belorussian opposition have pursued is a policy of continual highlighting of  “political prisoners”, completely failing to take advantage of serious chances to promote alternative policies to the Belorussian regime when open goals such as economics, giving away the Belorussian gas companies to Gazprom asking Russia to fund the Belorussian army etc have presented themselves.

I fear the Ukrainian opposition will do exactly the same thing.  They will simply miss all the alternative policy open goals and continue to talk, pretty much to themselves and the bureaucrats in the EU,  about Yulia Tymoshenko, despite the prima facie apathetic attitude of the Ukrainian public over the issue (both at the time and ever since) that raised hardly any protests at all.

It seems to me that if the opposition want to engage in policies that all Ukrainian people care about, they need to at the very least starting talking about alternative policies to those the current government have over defence, the economy,  agriculture, energy, health and on-going reforms etc.  You know, all those things that affect all Ukrainians every day of every week of every month of every year.  What that “governance stuff” is all about.

I am starting to have a very serious concern that the Ukrainian opposition will follow the Belorussian opposition and begin to be caught in a vortex where they are simply talking issues that fall way down the every day priority list of most Ukrainians.

There needs to be, and very quickly, a conversation with the Ukrainian public about their lives and ways to improve them, rather than a running commentary on Yulia Tymoshenko.

I still have serious concerns that any “third option” gains in the last elections will suffer after the October 2012 elections, namely those that follow in 2016/17, if they run on a “united ticket”.  Particularly more so if the opposition win a parliamentary majority and it turns into a political farce similar to the last time they were all in coalition together.  Lest we forget they failed to agree on anything, sacrificed position and principle for lowest common denominator compromise in a bid to hold the coalition together come what may, and displayed that power rather than principle and political ideology meant more to them than the platform voters put them into office on.

To be tarred with a failure brush a second time would be a disaster due to being in a coalition that flatters to deceive once again.

Surely somebody in the “united democratic opposition” must realise that a dual policy of the enemy of my enemy is my friend and “Free Yulia” are not the policies that Ukrainian voters are overly interested in.  They are interested in alternative opposition policies that will affect their daily lives, hopefully for the better.

I have grave doubts about both the “single ticket” and “Free Yulia” policies as the only foundation of the united opposition movement.  There simply needs to be more – much more!  It seems they are in a parallel political universe talking only to themselves and are determined to  fail to engage in a very necessary conversation with the Ukrainian public over things which really do matter each and every day to them.

If all real policy talk that effects peoples daily lives is left to the PoR, then they won’t even need to fix the elections, they will win anyway.

One can only hope that opposition sort themselves out fairly quickly and start talking about things affect the daily lives of those I live amongst.  Maybe even more so as US Courts are gathering amongst the storm clouds for Yulia Tymoshenko without any help from the Ukrainian government.

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