Russia: We won’t intervene in Ukraine
posted at 9:21 am on February 25, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
That’s the good news. The (potential) bad news? They want a return to the status quo ante, at least in part, before holding any more elections — and they want the West to stay out of Ukraine in any sense:
Moscow pledged Tuesday it would not intervene in the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine but said the country should not be forced to choose between Russia and the West.
“We confirmed our principled position of non-intervention in Ukraine’s internal affairs and expect that everyone follows similar logic,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
“We are interested in Ukraine being part of the European family, in all senses of the word,” he said after talks with Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn.
But he added: “We agree that… it is dangerous and counterproductive to force Ukraine into a choice — either you are with us or against us.”
That is a bit of a false choice anyway. There are very few voices calling for an all-or-nothing orientation toward the West, even in western Ukraine. The foreign minister of France, Laurent Fabius, denied that the EU was asking for any such arrangement. On the other hand, Viktor Yanukovich stiffed the EU in favor of an economic bias almost totally in favor of Moscow despite deep unpopularity with such reliance on their former Soviet masters in much of the country.
Perhaps this, then, is a fallback position for Moscow, and a realization that Yanukovich isn’t likely to be welcomed back to power in Ukraine. The relatively strong response from the West — including the rapid deployment of a high-ranking State Department official to Kyiv — must have caught Moscow off-guard. The statement from Lavrov notably omits any reference to the deposed president, and instead demands a return to order from the new authorities, after watching the statue of a Russian Empire field marshal get knocked down like those of Lenin:
The foreign ministry also Tuesday lashed out at the toppling of a statue of Russian field marshal Mikhail Kutuzov in the western city of Lviv, calling it a “barbaric and Russophobic action.”
“We demand that the new Ukrainian authorities stop this lawlessness,” it said.
Who are the new Ukrainian authorities? Right now, it’s still not clear. The Ukrainian parliament delayed the formation of a new government for another couple of days, despite the EU’s insistence on having a government in place before assistance on debt can be transmitted:
Ukraine’s interim authorities balked at forming a new government Tuesday as horse-trading among parties in parliament continued, despite pleas from the European Union to quickly pave the way for an emergency aid package.
Activists on the Maidan, the protest epicenter formally known as Independence Square, expressed dissatisfaction with the roster of familiar faces that the parliament has been considering for top posts following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych over the weekend.
“We need totally new people,” said Yaroslav Kazmyrchuk, 70, who described himself as a pensioner and a revolutionary. He said the protest on the Maidan — where a large crowd gathered Tuesday morning — would continue until it was clear that all the “bandits” would be removed from power. …
A Maidan council has been established by a group of prominent activists to consult on ministerial choices. According to a statement it posted, “We will check each candidate to be proposed by the new parliamentary majority” to be sure that no one who is rich, or who worked for Yanukovych, or was involved in human rights abuses, is selected.
“Each member of the new government must secure the Maidan’s approval,” the statement said.
That may be a noble concept, but it also may end up paralyzing the parliament on putting Ukraine back on its feet. All sides will have to find ways to compromise enough to make government work, or the state could collapse. At that point, Russia may have its pretext to intervene, at least to secure the Crimean peninsula and its primarily ethnic-Russian population. Reform can’t happen overnight, and the Maidan has a narrow window in which to demonstrate that it can govern as well as lead.