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Prof Arun Mohanty


This was the fifteenth annual summit between India and Russia but since this happened to be the first summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a swiftly changing global geopolitical environment, there were strategic affairs experts predicting a certain degree of uncertainty in the cooperation between the two time-tested, all-weather, special and strategic partners. The latest Indo-Russian summit after a new government came to power in Delhi and Russia’s increasing but irrational international isolation through imposition of sanctions reminiscent of the Cold War days has absolutely belied the predictions about increasing loss of significance of the Indo-Russian strategic partnership. This summit will go down in the annals of Indo-Russian time-tested relationship as yet another genuine milestone, highlighting the unique nature and continuity in our close relations. The summit has once again proved that there is a consensus in India as far as our strategic relationship with Russia is concerned and change of government in either capital does not really affect this partnership.

The current summit happening in the back-drop of US warnings against India was yet another test of India’s strategic autonomy in the domain of foreign policy-making. Ahead of President Putin’s visit, the US State Department had issued an unambiguous warning to India saying this is not the time to do business with Russia. The current Indo-Russian summit, roughly one-and-a-half months before US President Obama’s trip to India, took place under the shadow of this US warning. US Deputy Secretary of State Marie Harf, in her briefing on the eve of President Putin’s visit to India, had issued the warning that “this is not the time to do business as usual with Russia, and we have conveyed this to our partners across the world.” This was no doubt a veiled threat to countries wishing to pursue independent foreign policy.

“I know there is a lot of rumours, often of trade deals, or economic deals, but let us see what is actually put into practice. Let us wait and see what comes from the visit;” said the US Deputy Secretary of State. India was aware that Washington was carefully watching President Putin’s India visit, making the summit a test of India’s autonomy in foreign policy-making.

That India steadfastly refused to fall in line with the US and went ahead in doing business with its time-tested friend—Russia—is a clear testimony of the fact that India will not succumb under pressure while strengthening its ties with Russia. On President Putin’s arrival in Delhi Prime Minister Modi tweeted that “times have changed but our friendship has not“ and he looks forward to having a “productive visit that will take Indo-Russian ties to newer heights“, suggesting that he was ready to take forward our special and privileged strategic partnership without succumbing to any outside pressure.

Describing the bonds between our two countries “very strong”, Prime Minister Modi further said “our nations have stood by each other through thick and thin”, thus stressing the solid foundation and emotional aspect of the enduring friendship. During the first ever meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of BRICS summit in Fortaleza, our Prime Minister had said: “Every child in India knows that Russia is our best friend.”

The summit also proved the India’s relationship with Russia stands on its own merits, independent of its ties with other major powers.

Our strategic pundits—who wonder what Russia, a poor shadow of the mighty USSR, can offer to India—should not lose sight of the fact that Russia remains a strong pillar for India’s development, security and international relations. That is why Modi said that the nature of global politics and international relations might be changing but that does not change the importance of Indo-Russian relationship and Russia’s unique place in Indian foreign policy. The Prime Minister’s statement that the significance of our strategic partnership will grow further in future refutes the assessment of a part of our strategic community trying to belittle the strength and nature of the abiding Indo-Russian strategic partnership.

During the summit both sides expressed confidence that a strong bilateral strategic partnership advances the national interests of the two countries and contributes to a more stable and secure world order. The two countries have resolved to strengthen this partnership over the next decade through concrete initiatives in diverse areas and to make bilateral institutional dialogue architecture more result-oriented and forward-looking. While leaders of both countries would continue to meet on the sidelines of international fora, the annual summit would review the progress and supervise the realisation of the vision of Indo-Russian partnership.

In an era of US unilateralism and attempts to build a unipolar world, the Joint Statement issued at the end of the summit highlights both sides’ commitment to upholding the principles of international law and promoting the central role of the UN in international relations. Delhi and Moscow have resolved to work together to evolve a polycentric and democratic world order based on the shared interests of all countries. The two states will work for democratisation of the global political, economic, financial and social institutions so that these institutions better represent the aspirations and interests of all segments of the international community.

Though the Joint Statement is silent on the situation in and around Ukraine, India’s opposition to economic sanctions imposed without the approval of the United Nations Security Council is a clear demonstration of solidarity with Russia. Here it should be remembered that Russia had opposed the Western sanctions imposed on Delhi in the wake of India’s nuclear tests in 1998. The presence of Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov in Delhi and his interactions with Indian businessmen are viewed by some as yet another show of Indian solidarity with Russia that had steadfastly stood by us during the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. It is important to note here that while asked about Russia’s annexation of Crimea that Delhi refused to condemn, Prime Minister Modi, in a clear dig at the US policy, said: “In the world right now, a lot of people want to give us advice. But look within them, they too have sinned.”

Delhi and Moscow have reaffirmed the need for reforming the UN Security Council in order to make it more representative and effective in dealing with emerging challenges. They agree that any expansion of the Security Council should reflect contemporary realities. The sides will work together to ensure reforms of the UN Security Council with that end in view. Russia, which was one of the very first few countries to stand by us on the issue, has once again promised to extend its support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of the Council.

 The two countries have expressed their readiness to continue consultations and coordination in multilateral fora such as G-20, EAS, BRICS and RIC. Russia has promised to leave no stone unturned to see that India becomes a full member of the SCO following the completion of all required procedural negotiations during the organisation’s Ufa summit next year.

 While discussing the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, both sides supported the idea of evolution of open, balanced and inclusive security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region based on collective efforts, taking into consideration the legitimate interests of all states of the region and guided by respect for the norms and principles of international law.

 While discussing the regional hot spots and conflicts, Delhi and Moscow have stressed to find solutions to them exclusively through dialogue and peaceful means avoiding unilateral use of force, which is a clear criticism of the unilateral Western military interventions in different regions of the world.

Altogether 20 agreements—seven at the government-to-government level and thirteen at the private sector level—have been signed as a result of the summit; these are all designed to bolster cooperation in various areas. What is noteworthy is that for the first time more agreements have been signed to boost cooperation between the private sectors or between state-run companies and private players. For the first time under an agreement, Russia’s energy major Rosneft would supply one million tonnes of crude oil to ISAR, one of India’s top private players, for refining it in the latter’s facilities in India. ISAR and VTB have signed a deal on the financial aspects for implementing this deal. India’s Tata Power and Russia’s Direct Investment Fund have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for bolstering cooperation in the energy sector. This is an important development in the backdrop of the fact that Indo-Russian economic relations are largely government-led; this needs to be corrected given the fact that the bulk of the economy in both countries is in the private sector. FICCI and its counterpart, Delovoi Russia, have signed a deal for providing impetus to the sagging bilateral trade and economic relations.

Indeed, all the components of our strategic partnership have received additional impetus as a result of this summit. First of all, a path- breaking strategic vision document has been signed to bolster our cooperation in the vital nuclear sector. Russia, which has already built two nuclear reactors at Kudankulam, would now build another at least 10 reactors in the next several years, out of which four reactors would be built in the same place in Tamil Nadu and another six would be built in a site that has not been decided so far. Russia has expressed its desire to play a significant role in India’s nuclear industry by building altogether 25 reactors in coming years. Here, there are a number of advantages in our cooperation with Russia. First of all, we have traditional cooperation for a number of years. Secondly, unlike the US, Russia does not attach political conditions to cooperation in this major sector. For example, if the US builds a nuclear plant in India and Delhi at any stage decides to go for further nuclear tests, Washington in that case would take back everything from the project. Thirdly, the US has not built a single reactor in the last 12-13 years and apparently lags behind Russia in the area. Fourthly, India and Russia have reached some kind of understanding on India’s controversial liability law while the US firmly opposes that. Last but not the least, Russia’s reactors are considered the safest in the world. However, the US, that has facilitated our access to the NSG and expects a chunk of India’s nuclear reactors’ market, will most likely be very much irked by the Indo-Russian strategic nuclear deal. In this connection, if US Deputy Secretary of State Marie Harf’s statement is any indication, the Indo-Russian nuclear deal is going to cause a lot of heartburning in Washington. Harf has stated that Washington and Delhi have agreed in the Joint Statement to establish a contact group for advancing implementation of civil nuclear energy cooperation, which will address administrative issues, liability, technical issues, licensing and other topics as required. She went on to say: “I know there is a lot of rumours, often of trade deeds or economic deals, but let us see what is actually put into practice. Let us wait and see what comes from Putin’s India visit.” The statement speaks for itself.

Hydrocarbon is another strategic area which has received boost as a result of a number of deals signed between ONGC, Oil India, ISAR, Tata Energy on one hand and Russia’s power majors like GAZPROM, Rosneft, Zarobezhneft etc. on the other. India would go for new acquisitions in East Siberia and both countries have decided to launch joint exploration in the Arctic. Progress has been made in the area of Russian LNG supplies to India and active discussions are on for bringing Russian hydrocarbon to India through pipelines.

Defence, which has remained a core sector of our strategic cooperation for decades, has received a further boost as a result of President Putin’s discussions in Delhi. Notwithstanding all the talk about declining bilateral defence cooperation, Russia still remains our military hardware supplier with almost 70 per cent of our defence procurements coming from Moscow. The fact that during the five years ending 2013, Russia accounted for 75 per cent of India’s procurement whereas the US accounted for just seven per cent speaks for itself. Our traditional cooperation in this vital sector has moved from just buyer-seller relationship to the domain of increasing joint research, development, and BrahMos missile, fifth generation fighter jet, multi-role transport aircraft etc. are a few glaring examples of such beneficial cooperation.

Russia has started participating in our “Make in India” programme before it was announced by the Modi Government. Such sophisticated military hardware like Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets, T-90 tanks, missiles is already being built here for years. President Putin’s current visit has resulted in an agreement for production of advanced helicopters in India, which was lauded by Prime Minister Modi. Production of Sukhoi Superjet-100, MS-21passengers aircraft in India are under active discussion by both sides.

In order to boost the flagging trade and economic relations, agreements have been reached for the supply of rough diamonds worth $ 2.1 billion in the next three years by Russia to India; fertiliser, pharmaceuticals have been identified as promising areas for increased cooperation. Both sides have set a target of $ 30 billion worth trade turnover and $ 30 billion  investment in each other’s country by the year 2025. It has been decided to accelerate the functioning of the North-South International Transport Corridor and sign a Free Trade Area and Comprehensive Economic Cooperation agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union for strengthening trade and economic cooperation.

On the whole, the fifteenth Indo-Russian summit will go down in the history of bilateral relationship as yet another new milestone, taking the time-tested, all weather, special and privileged strategic partnership to a new level.


Reality Check before the Fifteenth Indo-Russian Summit

Prof Arun Mohanty

Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay an official visit to India from December 10 to 12, 2014 to participate in the fifteenth Indo-Russian annual summit. Russia is the first country and was the only state till a few years back with which we have developed this annual summit mechanism to find out ways and means for strengthening ties and exchange opinions on a host of international and regional issues of mutual concern. Though the understanding for holding annual summits was reached with President Yeltsin way back in 1992, the Russian President could make only one visit to India in 1993 during his entire presidency. However, President Putin, rightly considered as the architect of Indo-Russian “privileged and strategic partnership“, should be credited for making this annual summit mechanism a reality.

The significance of this summit lies in the fact this will be first full-fledged summit between the two strategic partners after the new BJP-led government came to power in Delhi, though Prime Minister Modi and President Putin had a meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brazil. Although President Putin has visited India around a dozen times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is no novice to Russia either. Modi visited Russia a few times when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat in order to strengthen ties between the Russian region Astrakhan and his home State. The exchanges between the two leaders have been quite warm. Modi has indeed emphasised that Russia is India’s time-tested friend.

Though Modi’s interest in Japan, the US, China has been highlighted in our press giving the signal about Modi’s foreign policy priorities, not much is known about the new government’s possible interests in Russia. There have been commentaries drawing attention to the fact that not a single Indian Minister, with the exception of Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan (who was in Moscow to attend a conference), has visited Moscow so far to reassure Moscow about the importance of Russia for India, though Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has paid two visits to the Indian capital during the period after the new government came to power.

President Putin’s upcoming visit to India takes place in the backdrop of dramatic changes in the international arena following the Ukrainian crisis that prompted serious Western sanctions against Russia. The Russian foreign policy is poised to take a predominantly pro-Asian turn and to make renewed efforts to hasten the end of US hegemony paving the way for a genuinely multipolar world. India is considered a vital stakeholder in the process of transforming the world into a multipolar global system.

The Delhi summit also takes place in the backdrop of Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s first ever Pakistan visit paving the way for defense cooperation between the two countries. Marshal Grechko was the first and last Soviet Defence Minister to visit Pakistan way back in 1969. The issue is likely to figure in the summit discussions. However, India—that has itself diversified its sources of weapons procurement leading to a significant chunk of defence contracts going to the US—can hardly do anything when Russia diversifies its arms export destinations. Russia was the only strategic partner of India that was not providing arms to Pakistan. Moreover, Moscow’s argument —that it wishes to cultivate Pakistan in order to tackle the Afghan situation that might get worsened after the US withdrawal from that country—can hardly be refuted.

Notwithstanding these mild irritants, the forthcoming summit promises to be yet another landmark event in the annals of bilateral relations. More than a dozen agreements are under discussion for signing during the summit that would provide new impetus to our relation-ship in many spheres. The most important document planned to be signed in the course of the summit is the document on strategic vision that would provide a roadmap for development of our relations in several major spheres.

Nuclear cooperation is likely to take the pride of place in this important document. Construction of two reactors at Kudankulam has been complete, and full understanding has been reached regarding the construction of the next two reactors at the same site. There is a plan to build another two reactors with Russian assistance at the same place. There seems to be some differences between the two sides on the number of reactors to figure in the vision document. While Russians propose to build some 20-22 nuclear reactors in the coming years, India is willing to give only 12 reactors to Russia keeping more for the US for “strategic” reasons. However, here our policy-makers should not lose sight of the fact that Russia has the best technology in the world in this sphere whereas the US lags behind Moscow in the area as it has not built a single reactor during the past 12 years.

Cooperation in defence, energy, science and technology are other pillars of our strategic partnership. Gradually, as Russia streamlines its defence production, irritants in the sphere are likely to be things of the past. Arguments in the Indian media about the meagre Russian spending in defence production and research and development should not be taken seriously as Russia has embarked on a multi-billion programme to revamp the military-industrial complex of the country. Russia is going to spend 20 trillion rubles (US $ 770 billion) till the year 2020 to modernise its defence industry and is working on a still bigger long-term modernisation programme of its military industrial complex till the year 2030. We should take note of this fact. It is further noteworthy that the thrust of our defence cooperation has been shifted from the buyer-seller relationship to joint research, joint development etc. While the Brahmos supersonic project is an excellent example of our successful cooperation, there are other important projects like fifth generation aircraft, multi-role transport aircraft currently in progress.

In spite of the fact that we have diversified our sources of military hardware procurement and significant defence contracts have gone to the US and Israel, Russia remains and would remain our most important supplier in this field for many more decades to come. India should not go for diversification for the sake of it. We have to see the reliability and trust-worthiness of the supplier. Which country will give us a nuclear submarine on rent? We should not also forget how our other suppliers attached political conditions and stopped supplying important spares in an attempt to blackmail us. At the same time Russia has to take note of the fact that delays in supply, pricing policy have caused a lot of dissatisfaction in India and it has to work accordingly in order to maintain its hold in the Indian arms market.

Energy is another important pillar of our cooperation. Energy is virtually the traditional sphere of our cooperation. The former Soviet Union and Russia have extended vital assistance to us in hydropower, thermal, nuclear energy generation. Of late our cooperation is gradually moving to the hydrocarbon sector. Russians were the first to find oil and gas in Indian soil at a time when Western experts had emphatically said there was no hydrocarbon underneath the Indian earth. India has made investments upto US $ 7 billion, our highest investment abroad, in the energy sector.

Our policy-makers should pay attention to two things in this sector. First, Russia is building a number of LNG plants across its Pacific cost, and it is worth investing in those plants for ensuring LNG supplies to India in future. Secondly, we should give more attention to bringing Russian gas to India through pipelines and, in this case, particular attention should be given to the proposed pipeline from Altai to Himachal Pradesh. Russia has offered stakes to us in the Vancour energy fields in the East Siberia region. President Putin’s visit should be used to have more cooperation in this area, particularly in the realm of acquisition.

The summit should be a platform to take our high-tech cooperation to new heights. Russian proposals for taking part in India’s “Make in India” programme, particularly manufacturing Sukhoi Superjet-100, MC-21 passenger aircraft, producing helicopters should be given due attention.

The weakest link in the otherwise vibrant strategic partnership is our cooperation in the trade and economic sphere. In fact trade and economic relations do not match the excellent political relations and do not reflect the potential of the economies of both countries. Both countries had taken a decision in 2009 to increase the trade turnover to US $ 20 billion by the year 2015. However, our latest trade turnover is languishing at around US $ 11 billion. Serious efforts should be made to change the abysmal situation in this sphere. In this connection sufficient attention must be given to the North-South transport corridor proposal. The problem with our bilateral trade is that it takes more than 50 days for Indian goods to reach Russia and so is the case with Russian goods heading towards India. This is not at all conducive for our trade as nobody wants to block his money for more than 50 days when the same commodities can be imported to Russia from Turkey, Dubai, Europe and China in a matter of a few days. If the North-South transport corridor functions then the transit time and transport expenses could be reduced by almost 50 per cent. That is why both governments should really take serious cognisance of this project which can be realised only through government investments because of the long gestation period.

The last point to be driven home is that Western sanctions have created conditions for increasing Indian exports to Russia. If Russia is planning to import foodstuff from Latin America, why cannot India supply them to Russia? Finally, pharmaceuticals and diamond trade hold huge potential for increasing our mutual trade turnover by several billion dollars, and these need to be discussed in depth to make Mumbai a hub of our joint activities in diamond and for the export of more pharma products to the huge Russian pharma market worth US $ 27 billion where Indian exports constitute less than US $ one billion.

Given the changing geopolitical situation, the forthcoming Indo-Russian summit holds a lot of promise to take our time-tested strategic partnership to new peaks.




Tragedy in Donbas Sky and Ukraine Crisis

Arun Mohanty

This article has been published in Mainstream, VOL. 52, No. 31, July 26, 2014. 

The Malaysian aircraft crash on July 17 over the Donbas sky in Ukraine that caused death to all the 298 passengers and crew members of the flight is no doubt a serious tragedy of huge magnitude. But playing dirty politics around the tragedy and using it as a weapon in the geopolitical game is absolutely immoral and obnoxious. The blame-game surrounding the incident is so intense and unprecedented that it appears as if some forces were just waiting for this kind of tragedy to happen in order to launch their Russia-bashing and new cold war-mongering. Without waiting for the investigation to begin, Washington started accusing the anti-Kiev insurgents and Russia for shooting down the Malaysian aircraft. Ukraine did not wait even for ten minutes after the tragedy to hurl accusations against Russia and anti-Kiev insurgents supported by it.

The tragedy became a pretext immediately for political speculations. The Obama Administration declared that it does not believe that the Ukrainian forces were responsible for this crime, and the Australian Prime Minister went a step ahead by directly accusing Russia for the tragedy. Ukrainian President Pyotor Poroshenko went even further by talking of external aggression against his country and blaming ‘terrorists’ (rebels from the east of the country) for the crime.

In her statement, Ukraine’s gas queen and former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko said Russian militants were no way different from the Al-Qaeda terrorists and the world should treat them as it treats the Al-Qaeda, demanding NATO intervention on the issue. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arsenei Yatsenyuk threatened Russia with the Hague Tribunal promising that there were enough space to accommodate all of them there. Zoryan Shkiryak, advisor to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, called for the supply of sophisticated military hardware to Kiev and NATO’s immediate military operations against the ‘Satanic forces’. If you summarise all the comments made by the Ukrainian leaders it leads to one conclusion: “Russia is responsible for everything and the NATO intervention should begin immediately to put her in place.”

The air-crash took place over the conflict zone of Donbas, and debris of the aircraft fell on the territory within a radius of 15 km controlled by the anti-government insurgents. Though the leaders of the rebellious, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic starting from Prime Minister Alexander Baradai to Defence Minister Igor Strelkov  have time and again said that  there is absolutely no  problem  from their side for the international experts and investigators to reach the crash site, the inter-national media—taking a cue from the Ukrainian Government—has been accusing that insurgents are creating obstacles for the arrival of inter-national experts and trying to destroy evidence at the crash site. There were reports that insurgents have started collecting corpses and sent one of the black boxes of the aircraft to Moscow. However, the fact is that representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic neither collected the bodies nor started the search operation till July 20 because the OSCE experts present at the site did not permit them to do so notwithstanding the fact that the dead bodies were on the verge of being decomposed under 30 degree temperature and that there was fear of wild animals from the nearby forests might have a field day there.

Finally, 219 corpses and 66 fragments of human bodies have been recovered and preserved in four refrigerator-wagons of a special train. The Donetsk Republic’s representatives are ready to send these to any place where the Kiev authorities would like to have them. Latest reports suggest that the train with the dead bodies is moving towards Kharkov belying the speculations that insurgents are not willing to hand them over to the Kiev authorities.

Regarding the accusation that rebels are playing delaying tactics, it should be stated that the second group of international experts from various countries were held up at Kiev for several days till July 21 under various pretexts making it clear that Kiev is trying to delay the investigation process.

Belying the reports that insurgents have handed over the black box of the ill-fated Malaysian aircraft to Moscow, it has been established that one black box found at the crash site is in Donetsk, and the local authorities would like to deliver this to the international investigation team, but by no means to the Kiev authorities who are capable of tampering with it. In the backdrop of accusations that insurgents are creating obstacles, using delaying tactics, holding back the dead bodies and the black box etc., the OSCE representatives at the crash site have made no complaints as such against the representatives of the local authorities, and more than that none of them has jumped to the conclusion that the Malaysian aircraft was shot down by the anti-Kiev rebels through a Buk missile.

The international media, following the lead from the US and Britain, has gone hammer and tongs against Moscow and accused the Donetsk rebels of being responsible for the crash as they hit the Malaysian aircraft with a Buk missile supplied by Russia. The insurgents have strongly denied the charge by stating that they do not have such missiles in their arsenal at all. The fact that insurgents have downed transport aircrafts, SU-25 jets, belonging to the Ukrainian armed forces in the past is being used as evidence that the rebels have shot down the Boeing 777 passenger aircraft of the Malaysian Airlines. The rebels claim that they have means in their arsenal to hit targets only up to the altitude of three to 3.5 km, but have no Buk missile with them. However, the ill-fated Boeing 777 aircraft was flying at an altitude of more than 10 km, which could be hit perhaps by a Buk missile or SU-25.

The armed forces of Russia and Ukraine definitely have Buk missiles in their arsenals. It is absolutely unlikely that Russia could fire this missile to hit the Boeing 777 aircraft. This leaves only Ukraine which could have fired the missile to hit the aircraft. Ukraine claims that it has not fired any Buk missile to hit the Malaysian aircraft, and it is the rebels who have hit the aircraft causing the deadly crash.

Now let us analyse the following facts which might provide some clue to nail the culprit. President Obama has said “Ukraine neither has the possibility in the region nor the motivation to hit the aircraft”, which contradicts the facts provided by the Russian Defence Ministry according to which there were Ukrainian armed forces with 27 “Buk M1” missiles in the crash zone on July 17 when the tragedy unfolded.

Some Russian experts believe that the Malaysian aircraft was deliberately diverted by the Ukrainian side to the zone of active military conflict where Air Force and anti-air defence systems were used. Conventional wisdom says that the airspace over zones of active conflict is usually closed for flights, which should have been done in the case of the Malaysian Airlines flight too. Instead, the Ukrainian dispatchers asked the Malaysian aircraft to deviate from its designated corridor to deep into the conflict zone where Kiev was conducting its so-called anti-terrorist operation with heavy artillery and air power. To make matters more intriguing,  the pilot of the Malaysian aircraft was asked  to  lower the altitude of the flight from 10.6 km to 10.3 km. Malaysian Airlines Senior Vice-President  Heub Gortor,  in his press  conference  at Amsterdam airport, has confirmed that  their aircraft had to  deviate from its course and fly  at a lower altitude on the demand from the Ukrainian avia dispatchers on the ground.

One Spanish dispatcher working in Kiev’s Borispol airport asserts in his twitter that the Malaysian aircraft was seen with two military aircrafts of the Ukrainian armed forces next to it, one of which was supposedly a SU-25 aircraft, few minutes before the crash. Kiev is not providing any information about this and its silence on the issue only heightens the suspicion. “The military aircrafts were flying next to 777 three minutes before it disappeared from the radar, only three minutes,” writes the man in his twitter account. “When the Boeing disappeared from the radar, the Kiev Government told us that it had crashed. How could they have known so soon?”—writes the man.

Russian online newspaper Dniru, quoting the press office of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic of Lugansk, reports that the Malaysian aircraft could have collided in the air with Ukraine’s SU-25. Apparently, witnesses have seen the Boeing being attacked by the Ukrainian Air Force jet, after which the plane broke into two pieces in the air and fell on the territory of Donetsk region, writes the publi-cation, quoting a source in the Republic’s press service.

  In the meanwhile the Russian Defence Ministry has announced that on July 17, the day of the tragedy, the Russian Radio’s technical services recorded the activity of the Ukrainian radar station ‘Kupal’ of a Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile  system battery, which was deployed in the vicinity of the  settlement of Styl situated  30 km south of Donetsk. The Ministry said that Buk-M1 anti-aircraft’s system‘s technical specifics permit the exchange of information on air targets among batteries from the same division. Apart from this, the Russian Defence Ministry stressed that the missile, therefore, could have been launched  from all batteries deployed by the Ukrainian Army in the settlement of Avdeevka, situated at 8 km north of Donetsk or in Gruzko-Zoryanskoye, situated at 25 km east of  Donetsk.

   One of the villains of Ukraine’s post-coup history is Dnepropetrovsk’s Governor, notorious oligarch Igor Kolomeisky, who is associated with all the important happenings of the country. The dispatchers  service  handling  the Malaysian aircraft  is situated  in Kolomeisky’s  fiefdom, the Dnepropetrovsk  city,  and indeed, it  had asked the pilot to enter the conflict zone by  deviating from the designed corridor and lowering the altitude. This happened near Avdeevka, the settlement housing the military garrison captured by the rebels. This garrison apparently had a few defective Buk missiles, which are now being described as the main culprits in the Boeing crash. According to Russian media reports, some foreigners who were present in Dnepropetrovsk those days, about whom Donetsk Defence Minister Igor strelkov had also spoken, were most likely  assigned the task to hit the Malaysian Boeing.

There are a number of contradictory versions about the presence of Buk missiles in the arsenal of the insurgents of the unrecognised Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Alexander Borodai, the Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s republic, strongly denying the insurgents’ complicity in the tragedy, stressed that they have no Buk missiles at their disposal, and whatever means they have in their arsenal can hit objects at an alti-tude of three to 3.5 km. This has been virtually confirmed by some Ukrainian officials as well. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Vitaly Yarem in an interview has confirmed that the rebels from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions have not captured any Buk missile complex. He has stated that after the air crash, the military represen-tatives have reported to the President that the terrorists (insurgents from the south and east of Ukraine) have neither Buk missile complexes nor S-300 anti-air system, adding that these weapon systems were not captured by the ‘terrorists’. The other version says rebels had captured some defective Buk missiles near Avdeevka but they can hardly use them as they do not have the expertise.

There are conspiracy theories doing the rounds in the media. Russian sources report that the aircraft carrying President Putin also flew in the same route with an interval of 36 minutes after the Malaysian carrier, suggesting that President Vladimir Putin was the real target.

On the first day after the crash, international media highlighted the interception of the conver-sation of a rebel commander with a Russian intelligence officer boasting about the shooting down of an aircraft in Donetsk region. Russian experts firmly believe that the tape was doctored, edited and moreover, uploaded few hours before the crash took place, which apparently can be easily proved. After this, the Ukrainian side has stopped talking about this tape, raising suspi-cions about their motive. Of late President Poro-shenko is talking about new evidence with sputnik photographs etc., but has so far failed to produce them.

In the meantime, experts draw attention to   Ukraine’s old habit of resorting to falsehood and manipulation citing the example of the shooting down of a Russian passengers plane by the Ukrainian forces in 2001. The Ukrainian missile complex S-200 had then hit a Russian Tu-154 aircraft with 78 passengers on board over the Black Sea flying from Tel-Aviv to Novosibirsk. All passengers and crew members of the ill-fated flight perished. For ten long days, the Ukrainian side refused to confess that one of its rockets deviating from its designated route by mistake hit the Tu-154 aircraft. Finally Ukraine’s then President, Leonid Kuchma, in the face of strong evidence, had to admit  that his forces had hit  the Russian aircraft but did it in a very strange manner, saying: “We are neither the first nor the last ones to make such a mistake. There is no need to make a tragedy out of the incident.” He said this without expressing any condolences. We have to take note of the fact that Kuchma at that time did not enjoy the support of the US as the current Ukrainian President Poroshenko does.

  This time it remains to be seen how long will it take for the truth about the crash to be established. The facts that Ukraine gave the air-space over a conflict zone, asked the pilot of the ill-fated aircraft to deviate from the designated route to enter deep into the war zone and then lower its altitude point fingers towards the Ukrainian authorities. Specialists observe that, according to international law, it is not the aviadispatcher or the Aviation Minister, but the head of the state himself, who takes the decision on such issues. That means permitting flights in the war zone falls within the responsibility of the Ukrainian President himself, despite all his rhetoric about involvement of terrorists, external aggression from Russian side etc.

Certain things would be clear if you look at the incident from the motivation point of view or ask the question: who gains from such a situation? Neither Russia nor rebels from the east of Ukraine gain absolutely anything from the crash.  Russia, after the Crimean crisis that was followed by Western sanctions, can hardly afford to aggravate the situation any further for itself. Rebels also do not gain anything from the air-crash, particularly at a time when they were inflicting heavy causalities on the government forces. Firing a missile at the aircraft by mistake cannot be ruled out. But the whole episode, going by the media hysteria, looks like a well-conceived provocation aimed at maligning Russia and the insurgents from the east of Ukraine. There is already a call for NATO intervention along with further Western sanctions on Russia to stop support to the Ukrainian rebels.

President Putin, who is being much maligned and demonised in the international media in the aftermath of the air-crash, has been pursuing a prudent policy by calling for a ceasefire and objective, international investigation of the tragedy. There is a Russian saying: there is no happiness, it is unhappiness that helps to have it. The tragedy in Donbas sky should push all sides for a lasting ceasefire that is being consistently proposed by Russia and the rebels from the east of Ukraine and is supported by many European leaders. However, the Kiev regime, bolstered by the US, does not seem keen to have a lasting ceasefire, which might further complicate the peace process in that war-torn country. And the ceasefire should be followed by meaningful dialogue between the representatives of the Kiev Government and insurgents from the east and south of the country that should ultimately open the path for transforming Ukraine into a federation. This is the only peaceful solution of the Ukrainian crisis. This could be possible if good sense prevails over the Kiev regime and its US backers.

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Ukraine Crisis Continues

Arun Mohanty

This article has been published in Mainstream, VOL. 52, No. 30, July 19, 2014.

The Ukrainian Government has been continuing punitive military operations in the rebellious south-east of the country for more than two months, and did not go for extending the ceasefire date in spite of the call by leaders of Germany, France and Russia. The initial talks in participation with former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, representing official Kiev, and well-known Ukrainian public figure Victor Medvedchuk, the leader of the “Ukrainian Choice“, representing the rebel side, were short-lived burying the hopes for negotiated settlement of the conflict that has snowballed into the most serious global crisis ever since the end of the Cold War.

The newly-elected Ukrainian President, Pyotor Poroshenko, has been talking about his two plans for the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis: Plan A stipulates to have a negotiated settlement, and Plan B emphasises on a military solution. President Poroshenko for a moment seemed to adhere to Plan A, raising hopes for extension of the ceasefire deadline followed by resumption of talks between official Kiev and the representatives of the rebellious regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east of the country. Nearly seven million people out of the total 45 million population of the country live in these two regions considered to be the industrial heartland of Ukraine.

President Poroshenko’s decision not to prolong the casefire has been most likely prompted by two factors. First, he is under tremendous pressure from the US Administration to intensify the punitive military opera-tions in the east of Ukraine. The US tactics seems to be to escalate tension through intensification of military operations in the rebellious region and thus provoke Russia to use force in Ukraine. Russia is unlikely to sit as a silent spectator when more and more Russians and Russian-speaking people in the east would be butchered by Kiev, which has been stressed by President Putin in his recent address to the Russian diplomats. Secondly, President Poros-henko is also under pressure from the “Maidan”, consisting of the “Right Sector” people who represent the neo-fascists and radical nationalists primarily living in western Ukraine and have been threatening the President with ‘Maidan’ that threw the then Ukrainian President, Victor Yanukovich, out of power in February this year through a violent coup.

Poroshenko’s decision not to prolong the ceasefire under apparent Washington pressure seems to have awakened the Europeans about the US game-plan that seeks perpetuation of the crisis and tearing away of Ukraine from the Russian orbit forever. This has led to certain course correction of the European powers on the issue of the Ukrainian crisis. In spite of US pressure, the European powers, except Britain and Poland, are in no mood to intensify punitive sanctions against Russia, which is being projected as an aggressor though it has withdrawn its troops from its border with Ukraine for the sake of tension de-escalation facilitating peace talks. The European countries, compelled to toe the US line on Ukraine in the past, appear to be having second thoughts about their unqualified support to Washington on the crisis, and this is reflected in their latest actions. The European Union has clearly told the US to understand that the path of negotiations is the only way to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, ruling out any use of force. This was evident from the joint telephonic conversation that was held between German Chancellor Merkel, French President Ollande, Russian President Putin and Ukrainian President Poroshenko on June 30. It was decided to organise the talks of the contact group set up on the Ukrainian issue with the participation of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Russian ambassador to Kiev Mikhail Zurabov and OSCE special representative Telyavini as a result of these telephonic discussions.

These discussions were also aimed at achieving unconditional bilateral ceasefire, release of all hostages, establishment of control over the Russia-Ukraine border through OSCE moni-toring and verification. It was further decided that Ministers of Foreign Affairs of these four countries would immediately start working to set up a mechanism for achieving the above objectives. It seemed that the discussions laid out a clear roadmap for a peaceful solution of the Ukrainian crisis. However, Poroshenko’s decision to resume the military operations in the east of the country within just a few hours after the discussions were concluded defying the above agreement clearly indicates the level of US pressure under which he is compelled to function. Despite this development, some European Union members, particularly Germany and France, continue to insist on a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian question, which is clear from the talks that Chancellor Merkel and President Ollande held with Poroshenko on July 4, 2014. The talks once again insisted on immediately resuming the work of the trilateral contact group for bringing about a lasting cease-fire and release of the hostages. Foreign Ministers of Russia, Germany and France had a joint telephonic conversation on July 6 that once again insisted on implementation of the Berlin agreements reached on July 2 for immediate resumption of the work of the contact group for achieving a lasting ceasefire between the Ukrainian troops and insurgents of south and east Ukraine.

Europe, perhaps realising the US game-plan, appears to be showing greater understanding of the Russian position that aims at facilitating talks between Kiev and the insurgents for achieving a peaceful resolution of the crisis. There is growing acceptance in Europe of the fear that a full-fledged military conflict in Ukraine would play havoc in the continent as tens of thousands of refugees would cross the Ukrainian border fleeing from the horrors of the war. European concern about the emerging humanitarian catastrophe at the centre of the continent as a result of Kiev’s punitive air strikes would only further grow as Kiev intensifies its bombardments over south-east Ukraine.

Indeed, tens of thousands of citizens from the war-torn Ukrainian territory have reached Russia in order to escape from bombings and heavy artillery fire by the Ukrainian troops. While the Russian Migration Service says that one lakh and sixty thousand Ukrainian citizens have sought refuge in Russia over the weeks, other sources put the figure of refugees at more than half a million. The gap is attributed to the fact that many Ukrainians, who have crossed over to the Russian territory, have not registered themselves at the migration service office. Exodus of refugees is likely to grow in the coming weeks and months as Kiev intensifies its military operation in the south—east of the country.

Incidentally, I met with one of the female Ukrainian refugees at the residence of one of my Russian friends, who is a leading journalist in Moscow. My friend’s daughter, Natasha, has given shelter to this Ukrainian lady, Marina by name, who has fled Slavyansk, the symbol of the heroic resistance to Kiev’s semi-fascist forces. Marina, through constant flow of tears from her eyes, narrated the horrors perpetrated by the Ukrainian authorities in her home town, which is without water and electricity supply and under complete blockade. Narrating the story of her escape from Slavyansk, Marina said that she had to run away from the ghost town leaving her two sons fearing they would be caught in the train and sent to the filtration camp (concentration camp). She was right in her apprehension. Ukrainian border guards harassed her as much as they could in the most inhuman manner and forcibly took away from her bag US $ 5000, her entire life’s saving, to start a new chapter in her life in Russia. She had plans to bring her sons to Russia after she gets settled there. But she was left on the streets without any money, and Natasha, on learning about her plight, came forward to provide her shelter in her tiny two-bedroom Moscow apartment.

The Russian Migration Service has set up hundreds of camps in the bordering regions, but is unable to cope with the massive exodus of refugees coming from Ukraine. The Ukrainian Government does not provide safe corridor for passage of the refugees, rather the Army indiscriminately bombs over the rebel territory jeopardising the lives of scores of innocent people, which I saw in Russian TV reports.

Marina told me about the filtration camps run by the pro-government forces in Ukraine. What I understood from her was that these filtration camps are nothing but concentration camps run by the pro-Kiev forces. Men and women of active age are caught by the pro-government forces and thrown into these concentration camps where they are physically tortured for extracting information about the insurgents. Though the government troops too torture the captives, most notorious in this act are the National Guards, mainly consisting of people with fascist ideology from west Ukraine and the devil private armies built by Ukraine’s most notorious oligarch and the Governor of the Dnepropetrovsk region, Igor Kolomeisky.

The entire development reminds one of the situation of East Pakistan in 1971, when the language movement there snowballed into a liberation war leading to the emergence of Bangladesh, a new country in the political map of the world. This happened because West Pakistan treated East Pakistan as its colony and tried to impose its values and culture destroying the Bengali language and culture. When the people in East Pakistan launched a massive movement to save their language and culture, West Pakistan tried to crush it through crude military inter-vention that led to the exodus of millions of refugees to Indian territory and triggered the revolution culminating in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.

The current situation in Ukraine is so similar to that of East Pakistan that one cannot but draw a parallel. There is an east-west divide in Ukraine too. West Ukraine, over the past two decades following the Soviet disintegration, has been making all efforts to impose its language, culture and value system over the rest of the country, particularly over the south-east of the country, predominantly inhabited by ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people. West Ukraine, consisting of three regions—Lyubov, Ivan Franko and Ternopol—out of the total 27 regions of the country, is inhabited by ethnic Ukrainians, whose number is just about four million of the 45 million strong country. According to gallop polls, 84 per cent of the Ukrainian population prefers to speak in the Russian language, which leaves less than 16 per cent preferring to use Ukrainian and other minority languages at home and official transactions. But all the Presidents of post-Soviet Ukraine, without any exception, including those like Kuchma and Yanukovich, who won the elections on a broadly pro-Russian platform, have tried to impose the Ukrainian language, west Ukrainian culture and values over the vast majority of the country that wants to speak its native language as well as defend its native culture and value system.

This vast majority was more or less a passive and silent majority, preferring not to protest against violation of their cultural and language rights. But the coup in Kiev on February 22 by the fascist forces with the support of the US awakened the sleeping masses of the south-east of Ukraine who were frightened by the prospect of radical nationalists keeping the entire country under their grip. People living in the south and east of Ukraine refused to obey the junta that came to power in Kiev through a coup and defied the fascist authorities in Kiev. Though Kiev now has a more or less legitimate government with Pyotor Poroshenko as the elected President, however controversial the election might be, he is not his own man and is controlled by the US and its henchmen—the fascist forces of west Ukraine, who are keen to escalate tension with Russia and keep the vast majority without their language and cultural rights. So the people in the south-east of Ukraine are unlikely to agree to live in such a situation, particularly after making such huge sacrifices in their battle for independence and sovereignty.

All this is not to argue that there is no peaceful solution of the issue or Ukraine cannot exist as an united country within its present borders. In spite of all that has happened, it is still possible for Ukraine to remain as an united country but what the US and Ukrainian leadership have to realise is that Ukraine can-not survive as an unitary state any more. Ukraine with its civilisational divide and historical fault-lines, has to be a federation based on constitutional reforms. This is the only peaceful solution for keeping Ukraine united and sovereign. However, the new President, instead of initiating talks for making Ukraine a federation, intensifies military operations; talks about some abstract decentralisation of power in the Polish pattern and keeping the country as an unitary state, which can never be acceptable to the people of south-east Ukraine and which only further complicates the already complicated issue. If Kiev does not start serious negotiations with the representatives of the rebellious territory for making the country a federation, it would be impossible to prevent the break-up of Ukraine.

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 Russian Spring in Ukraine

Arun Mohanty

This article has been published in Mainstream, VOL. 52, No. 21, May 17, 2014.

The much-talked about and controversial referendum in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions located in the eastern part of Ukraine (which is ruled by an interim government that came to power through a coup) took place on May 11, 2014. And its preliminary results show that an overwhelming majority of the population living in the region have voted in favour of independence.

According to Aleksandra Malihina, the chief of the Election Commission of the Lugansk region, 96.2 per cent of the people taking part in the referendum voted in favour of independence. In Donetsk 89.7 per cent people voted in favour of the region’s self-rule where- as 10.19 per cent people voted against independence. The voters turnout in both the regions was huge with more than 80 per cent of the total voters in the Lugansk region and more than 75 per cent in the Donetsk region taking part in the referendum. And this massive turnout in the backdrop of the ongoing military operations and intimidation must have come as a surprise as well as eye-opener for the interim government in Ukraine that was proclaiming that not more than 12 per cent people in the south-east of the country demand independence. The Ukrainian Army’s massive military operations with the use of heavy artillery against its own peaceful citizens in order to disrupt the referendum had little impact on the voter turnout but unfortunately led to dozens of deaths. More than twenty people were killed in the Donetsk region’s port city of Mariopol alone as a result of the interim government’s brutal military operations there. More than 300 people have been reported to be killed as a result of the military operations.

As expected, the OSCE has refused to recognize the outcome of the referendum, calling it ‘provocative and illegal’. The OSCE has urged to execute its roadmap for deescalating tension in Ukraine and has called all sides—Ukraine, Russia, Europe and the US—to adhere to the document. The US and EU have refused to recognize the results of the referendum and have threatened Russia with new sanctions if it accepts the outcome.

Russia, which had urged to delay the referendums as part of the understanding with the OSCE, has said that it ‘respects the will of the people and results of the referendum’ and has expressed the hope that ‘practical implementation of the results of the referendum would take place in a civilized way’.

So the referendum turned out to be a new turning-point in the Ukranian issue. The results of the referendum herald a new era in Ukraine’s contemporary history—the emergence of a new political reality. It is a precursor to the formation of a new state—Novorussia, the historic name by which the territory was known till the October Revolution. This territory was a constituent part of core Russia, and was not a part of Ukraine under the Russian empire. Bolsheviks for varied reasons had merged this territory with Soviet Ukraine that became a constituent republic of the USSR in 1922.

In the immediate aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis that entered a new phase following the coup on February 22 which brought an illegiti-mate government to power, the first major step of this government was to strip the Russian language, spoken by 94 per cent of the people, of its regional language status. This author had argued that Ukraine can no more exist as a unitary government and federation is the only way left for Ukraine to remain as a united state. However, the illegitimate interim government, led by Acting President Oleksander Torchinov and Acting PM Arseniy Yatsenuyk, hesitated to talk about making Ukraine a federation through a constitutional reform; instead they chose to talk about decentralization of power—a trap into which the people in the south-east of Ukraine refused to fall.

The illegitimate interim government in Kiev in the meantime tried to build and flex its military muscle with tacit US support. A US $ 17 billion worth of IMF loan was promised to Kiev on the condition that it maintains its grip over the south-eastern part of the country. This was a clear signal to Kiev from Washington that the interim government has to hold control over the country’s south-east by any means, otherwise it won’t get the full amount of the promised IMF credit. Instead of talking to the people in the country’s south-east on the future federative structure of the Ukrainian state, the interim government chose to use brutal military force against its peaceful citizens to suppress the movement there. More than 400 US mercenaries are reported to be taking part in the military operations launched by Kiev. When the hope for negotiations for making Ukraine a federation died, the movement for independence gathered steam and people in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions chose their own People’s Governors defying the Central authorities in Kiev. They declared the formation of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic on their territories, and finally declared to hold referendum on the independence of their regions on May 11.

The referendum held in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, constituting almost one-sixth of country’s population and the industrial heartland of Ukraine, marks a new stage in the Ukrainian crisis and confirms the fact that Ukraine is on the path of sure disintegration. Three regions—Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk—have declared independence from Kiev. The illegitimate interim government in Kiev, supported by the West and neo-fascists, is absolutely responsible for the imminent disintegration of Ukraine. The heavily populated three regions are donor-regions which feed not only central but also western Ukraine. In such a situation, secession of these regions would make it next to impossible for Kiev to return the $ 17 billion IMF credit, particularly in the backdrop of the fact that Ukraine’s debt to Russia alone amounts $ 18 billion. The European price for Russian gas supplies to Ukraine would deliver a serious blow to its economy and it will find it difficult to recover from it.

Ukraine, under the current illegitimate inte-rim government, is fast turning into a failed state. What has happened in Crimea, and subsequently in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, is only the beginning of the disintegration process, which is likely to spread to Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Odessa, Nikolayevski and other regions very soon. The new authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk are planning to appeal to the UNO for recognition of their independence. As soon as the new authorities resolve the organizational, political, cadre and financial issues linked to their independence, a similar process is likely to gather momentum in the above mentioned regions as well.

The illegitimate interim government is not in a position to resolve the crisis through the use of military force. The military operations launched by the Kiev Government in the course of a month have not succeeded in bringing even a single small town under its control in the rebellious territory. The Right sector, consisting of fascist forces, may be good at annihilating innocent people, but cannot resolve any serious military problem. That is why the resistance forces in the rebellious territory clearly have an advantage over the official military forces. The resistance forces in Donetsk and Lugansk are likely to extend their support to the resistance movement in other regions, particularly in Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk and Odessa. If these regions secede from Ukraine, one should forget about the existence of Ukraine within its current borders, and that would turn Ukraine practically into a failed state.

Ukraine is a fragile state with almost no history of independent statehood except for a very brief period in the 16th century during the existence of Zaparozhesky Syche. Different parts of the present-day Ukrainian territory had belonged to different empires—like the Lithuanian, Polish, Austro-Hungary and Russian empires etc., at different times. The western part of Ukraine, which was known as Galicia, was always a part of Europe, and was brought under the USSR from Poland only on the eve of the Second World War by Stalin. While Catholicism is practised in west Ukraine, Orthodox Christianity is practised in the rest of Ukraine. The Ukrainian state has been stitched with territories belonging to different civilizations and empires. This is not to argue that it does not have the right to continue as an independent state within its present borders.

A country with such civilisational divides and historical fault lines should be extra conscious to keep its flock together and the territory united. Unfortunately, Ukraine could not develop itself as a modern nation-state within two decades of its independence. It has utterly failed in developing a pan-Ukrainian national idea and a national elite with a vision for the entire country. The dubious attempt to impose the Ukrainian language in a country—where 94 per cent of the population prefer to speak the Russian language and accept Russian culture, and establish the rule of neo-fascists—can hardly help in ensuring its territorial integrity.

The anguish and discontent in the country, particularly in its south-eastern part, was simmering for a long time as a result of the Ukrainisation of the country by the minority, and the near ban on the Russian language and culture. But the illegitimate interim government, dominated by ultra-nationalists, that came to power as a result of a coup, and its first major step to deprive the Russian language of its regional language status provided the trigger for widespread discontent among the people, particularly in the south and east of the country. The government, in order to address the discon-tent, should have gone for a negotiated settlement for making Ukraine a federation; instead, it chose to use military force and the neo-fascists to suppress the movement. This in turn triggered a process that increasingly looked like a national-liberation movement. The illegitimate interim government in Kiev can hardly put down this movement now.

There can be several scenarios of development in the near future. Russia is unlikely to use the Crimean tactics to reunite this territory with it immediately. Though Russian President Vladimir Putin retains the permission from the Federation Council, the Upper House of the Russian parliament, to use force, he may not do so unless its citizens are attacked, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has made it clear. People living on the rebellious regions are likely to opt for Russian citizenship. If those citizens are attacked, Russia is unlikely to sit as a silent spectator and may resort to the use of force in their defence. The new authorities in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are going to appeal to the UNO for their recognition following which Russia might extend diplomatic recognition to them. These two regions might survive like South Ossetia and Abkhazia under Russian protection. Moreover, leaders of the rebellious regions are already contemplating another referendum for reuniting with Russia. If such a referendum is held, it is not difficult to guess the outcome of this exercise, which would provide additional legal ammunition to Moscow to bring the territory under its fold.

Having said all this, I would like to emphasize that possibilities for keeping Ukraine’s territorial integrity are far from exhausted. Taking into consideration the advantage that Russia and the rebellious regions now enjoy after the referendum, members of the illegitimate interim government in Kiev and their masters in Was-hington and Brussels must immediately launch serious negotiations that would make Ukraine a true federation with enough autonomy to the regions and would address Russia’s genuine security concerns. Otherwise no force can prevent Ukraine’s disintegration process, which is fraught with serious consequences for Euro-pean as well as global peace.