Is Ukraine about to split?

The past week has gone in a whirlwind. Ukrainian President Yanukovich signed an agreement for early elections and to restore the Constitution to 2004 standards which would place limits on presidential authority and restore parliamentary democracy in Ukraine. Then he fled the city for parts unknown before turning up in Kharkiv.

(photo: Reuters)
(photo: Reuters)

Following his flight the Rada (parliament) called for his resignation and nationalized his mansion outside Kyiv. Thousands of citizens have toured the opulent dwelling and shook their collective heads in disbelief.

If you want to know what we think, Russia will win this eventually. It would have been preferential for Ukraine to have chosen a path of independence from the EU but with trading relations while at the same time maintaining close but voluntary ties to Russia. Perhaps she will, but we’re not that hopeful.

There is no reason for Ukraine to eventually join the EU any more than a reason to join the Customs Union. One would mean permanent status as second-class citizens while the other would mean a return to slavery.

At the same time a proper relationship with Russia could do a lot for Ukraine but corruption in Russia would first have to be rooted out. As that state of reality exists at the highest levels, Ukraine would do better by delaying any big deals with Moscow for the time being.

Meanwhile Russian media is reporting that Mr. Yanukovich has apparently set up shop in Kharkiv. It makes sense as it is close to Russia, in the heart of Eastern Ukraine and is a former capital of Ukraine, the latter being a very long time ago to be sure, but it has significance to Ukrainians in that area. However one can only marvel at the irony as his arch rival Yulia Tymoshenko was just released from imprisonment at Central Clinical Hospital No. 5 in Kharkiv, it was the very city where Yanukovich fled for protection.

RT also reports that in Kharkiv thousands of people assembled and some 3,000 local councils deputies from areas in southeastern Ukraine declared their intent to form a government in order to continue the constitutional republic of Ukraine, saying that their first order of business is to seek restoration of “constitutional order” throughout the country.

In a joint statement released from Kharkiv, the deputies pledged that “[i]We, the local authorities of all levels, the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Sevastopol region decided to take responsibility for ensuring the constitutional order and the rights of citizens on their territory[/i].” The majority of deputies represent the Party of Regions and the Communist Party.

The deputies declared that the government in Kyiv is no longer legitimate and charged local authorities to form new militia services to maintain order, saying that they would seize military arms depots in order to keep them out of the hands of the opposition.

It appears to have been a well-organized event with Regional Governor Mikhail Dobkin and Kharkov administration head Gennady Kernes among those leading the movement. The main assembly took place in the Kharkiv Sport arena and was attended by observers from Russia, including Aleksi Pushkov of the Russian parliamentary commission on foreign affairs, and Mikhail Markelov of the Russian Federation Council’s committee on foreign affairs. Several governors from Russia’s eastern regions were also present according to Russian media reports.

Update: RT is reporting that Yanukovich has been taken by supporters to a private residence in the Crimea area for protection.