The current situation in Ukraine is nothing short of a deep social and political crisis provoked by the leaders of Maidan, a small group of people driven by extremist ideology and tolerance, who put their personal ambitions ahead of the national interest and would stop at nothing in their desire to seize power. By unleashing severe tensions in the country, engaging in violence and ethnic terror they are destroying lives of millions of Ukrainian people, wrecking the future of Ukraine as a modern democratic European nation.
The rights of national minorities are being violated, the interests of regions are disregarded as rule of law seems to be an empty word for the de facto Ukrainian authorities. These are the main reasons why people of the Crimea decided to determine their own political future by means of a referendum and do it fast. And we have to respect their right for self-determination, guaranteed by the UN Charter, and cherished by Britain when it comes to Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands. It seems that they, too, heard the British Government’s argument in the Scotland referendum campaign that is by far better to be part of a bigger and stable nation.
There is currently no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine. The acting government was formed by the Parliament under threats and even direct use of force against MPs by far-right extremists. Local governments all over Ukraine are taking the situation into their own hands. The country runs a real risk of civil war and disintegration. However, there is still a chance to save Ukraine from political, social and, not least, economic collapse.
The agreement signed on 21 February by President Yanukovych and opposition leaders, and mediated by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland, provided for a constitutional reform in Ukraine. This idea remains fully relevant.
A new constitution should recognise the legitimate aspirations of all Ukrainians and all of the nation’s regions to live safely in accordance with their traditions and customs. The principles of rule of law, protection of human rights, including the rights of all minorities, freedom of speech and activities of political parties and mass-media should be enshrined. Ukraine’s political system should be based on the idea of a democratic federal state like, say, Germany after two world wars, Russia or America. Its status of military-political neutrality should be enshrined in the Constitution and guaranteed by the EU, Russia, the US and a UNSC resolution.
Russian along with Ukrainian should be given a state language status while other languages will be granted a status in accordance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Regions should independently elect their legislative and executive bodies through a direct vote and have wide authority, reflecting the cultural and historic identity of each to them, with regard to economy and finance, the social sphere, language policy, education, while ensuring protection of rights of national minorities living in each of the federation constituent entities. Interference in church affairs and interfaith relations should be strictly prohibited.
Following the adoption of a new constitution by a nationwide referendum, national elections should be held, together with elections of legislative and executive bodies in each constituent entity. A broad and objective international observation will be crucial.
These are the proposals that Russia has put forward to our Western partners. We believe we could unite our efforts in encouraging Ukrainians to find common ground on the principles outlined.
Generally speaking, the multi-ethnic Ukrainian people have the right to live in a democratic and civilised state, and the future of Ukraine can only be in their own hands. It is a proper process that ensures the right outcome. The 21st February agreement was based on this assumption. It is not yet late to make good on those commitments, if the Ukrainian revolution is to be about democracy and human rights and not about imposing national-radical ideals and narrative by an extremist minority upon the rest of the society. Russia is willing to help if the former is the case.
Alexander Yakovenko is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irleand ambassador of The Russian Federation.