Ukraine under attack

Print edition : May 30, 2014

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine's acting Prime Minister. Photo: AFP/ANDREW KRAVCHENKO

THE purpose of this article is to rebut some false allegations, myths and even lies about developments in Ukraine as in recent months Russia has launched an unprecedented international campaign of disinformation to whitewash its brutal interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine (Cover Story, April 18).

The first lie is that the new Ukrainian government is illegitimate.

On February 21, after three months of mass protests and more than 100 victims, former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich, opposition leaders and foreign mediators signed an agreement on the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine according to which the Parliament of Ukraine adopted a law to restore the country’s Constitution of 2004, which limits presidential powers. But President Yanukovich betrayed his obligations and refused to sign it. On February 22, he withdrew himself from performing his constitutional duties and escaped to Russia.

Under these circumstances, Parliament assumed full political responsibility for the situation in the country. According to the Constitution, in the event of the early termination of powers of the President, his functions should be carried out by the Chairman of Parliament. Presidential elections were set for May 25.

On February 27, the new legitimate government headed by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was formed with overwhelming support from all major political parties represented in Parliament. Any statement about a coup in Ukraine is absolutely baseless. Parliament acted within its legitimate constitutional authority to restore order and governance. Not a single Central government building was occupied in Kiev during the revolution.

It is also worth mentioning the claims about “fascists in Kiev”. Winston Churchill said, “The fascists of the future will be called anti-fascists.” That is exactly what happened in the case of Ukraine when, with Kremlin’s actions extremely resembling Hitler’s Anschluss of Austria and occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938 under the pretext of protecting German ethnic minorities and their rights, many orchestrated voices decry “fascists in Kiev”.

The right of rebellion against tyranny and oppression can be referred from the third paragraph of the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ukrainian protests embraced all the sections of Ukrainian society. Hundreds of political, human rights and grass-roots groups joined the peaceful revolution. Right-wing groups were just a portion of Maidan’s self-defence forces. As they were prominent in the street clashes, they did not dominate the political agenda, subordinating their steps to Maidan’s command and opposition leaders.

In the present government, there are only two Ministers (Agrarian Policy and Ecology) from the right-wing “Svoboda” party. It is worth mentioning that in the 2012 parliamentary election this party won 10.4 per cent of the seats.

In comparison, right-wing parties in recent years won 26.6 per cent of the seats in Switzerland, 20.5 per cent in Austria, 19.1 per cent in Finland, 13.6 per cent in France, and 11.7 per cent in Russia. Notably, the far-right Alliance of European National Movements sided with the Kremlin’s action against Ukraine.

According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its report of April 15 on the human rights situation in Ukraine based on the results of the mission by Ivan Simonovic, the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, “all accounts heard by the OHCHR delegation, the fear against the ‘Right Sector’ is disproportionate… there was no confirmed evidence of attacks by the ‘Right Sector’, including any physical harassment, against minorities”.

The third myth is that the so-called “referendum” in Crimea legitimises its annexation by Russia. The best response here is the “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine” resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on March 27, whereby 100 countries vowed not to recognise changes in the territorial status of Crimea and concluded that the referendum “had no validity”.

The Russian media reported that 83 per cent of the Crimean population participated in the “referendum” and that 97 per cent of them voted to join Russia; the actual turnout was around 34 per cent, according to the Mejlis of Crimean Tatars, who boycotted the vote. This data was confirmed by members of the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights; it estimated a 30-50 per cent turnout, with only half of the participants opting for Russia.

On April 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that “Crimean self-defence forces were of course backed by Russian servicemen” although previously he had denied any Russian military involvement in Crimea as he currently denies Russian special operation units acting to destabilise eastern Ukraine. The referendum under the occupation is just a cover-up of the military operation, not a popular vote.

Ukraine is under attack. Separatist forces guided from Moscow are using terror tactics. They take hostages; threaten, attack, detain and kill political opponents; escalate hatred against Ukrainians; and refuse any sound solution in the real interests of the local community and the country.

Let us face the truth and not rationalise the actions of the aggressor. Ukraine wants peace, not war. But it is ready to defend itself even against the nuclear-armed power that brutally trampled upon its bilateral and international obligations. Even moral support would suffice.

Oleksandr Shevchenko, Ambassador of Ukraine in India.

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