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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ukraine La solution diplomatique n’est pas encore sur la table

by Vadim Kamenka

Ukraine : No Diplomatic Solution As Yet On the Table

From our special correspondent in Moscow.

Translated Thursday 28 August 2014, by Isabelle Métral

The handshake between Piotr Porochenko and Valdimir Putin at the Minsk summit last Monday has been shown over and over again on television screens. “”Enough of these embraces, sign a cease-fire and respect it!”, snaps a small group of friends in a bar in the Russian capital’s center. The dramatic image of the meeting between the Customs Union (Russia, Kazakhstan, Byelorussia) and Ukraine is not to everyone’s taste in Moscow...

“On and on they talk and keep promises. But eventually, thousands of people are still dying. I am disgusted,’ fumes Sveta, one branch of whose family comes from the East of Ukraine. “I just can’t believe that a real war is currently being waged over there. In the twenty-first century, and in Europe, by the winner of the Nobel prize for peace!”

In the capital, emotion is seething. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have already sought refuge in Russia. And after several months of fighting nobody can explain how the conflict ever broke out. “None of the proposals that might have led to a de-escalation has been implemented. Neither a cease-fire in order to negotiate with anti-governmental forces, nor a referendum, nor a further devolution of self-government. The only response since April has been the use of force,” protests Andrei Filipov, a member of the Russian Communist Party.

Skepticism about the Minsk meeting between the Customs Union’s heads of State, the Ukrainian president, and the EU’s representatives has been considerably aggravated by Petro Porochenko’s recent declarations. On the eve of the summit, the Ukrainian leader repeated that he could not sacrifice “the country’s sovereignty, for peace”, and raised his military budget by two billion euro. On Monday night he dissolved Parliament and promised a general election on October 26th in order to get rid of all counter-power." in such a context, a halt to the fighting is highly unlikely. Especially as NATO has invited Ukraine to its summit. "Russian authorities set the red line at the Alliance’s further extension to the East,” journalist Nadeja Azhgikhina observes.

For the time being, the European Union (EU) is committed to the logic of a commercial war with Russia that neither side can win. The European leaders and Commission’s political line towards Russia and the Ukrainian crisis is increasingly criticized. In Germany the Chancellor’s new diplomatic line – a break with German Realpolitik - is denounced by many intellectuals. In a chronicle published in the daily Die Zeit, Gabor Steingart, director of der Handelsblatt, argues that Angela Merkel “will gain nothing by following Washington’s reprisal policy”, and that “the strategy of escalation is a blatant proof of Europe’s lack of a realistic objective.” Even as the German Chancellor, on a visit to Kiev, was promising President Porochenko 500 million euro towards the reconstruction of the East of Ukraine, Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD German vice-chancellor, came out in favour “of the federalization of Ukraine,” the only way the country’s “territorial integrity “ can be preserved. The very solution defended by Moscow!

There definitely are political solutions. Other diplomats propose a Helsinki II meeting that would pronounce Ukraine a non-aligned country. In a speech delivered during his 2012 campaign, Vladimir Putin proposed an alliance between the Eurasian Union and the European Union that would open the way to “a change in the geopolitical and economic configuration of the continent”. The idea was again put on the table last Monday in Minsk as an advantageous way out of the crisis.

Let us hope that it will be taken up this time.

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