The situation in Ukraine has weakened rapidly.
The agreements reached between President Yanukovych and the opposition on 21 February have been scrapped by opposition leaders; the legitimate Head of State that was supposed to remain in office has been effectively expelled from the country and a temporary president has been appointed.
Presidential elections have been set for 25 May; no steps have been made in the area of lawful reform. The fact that protest leaders treat their words and signatures so lightly was no surprise for us. But it is astonishing how easily those external mediators who sealed the agreement, namely the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland have declared the deal to have been “overtaken by events”.
The situation of the Russian community in the Crimea has become particularly precarious. As soon as rallies exploded in protest against the way in which events in Kiev unfolded, the Crimeans were accused of wanting independence and threatened with force by the Russians. There has been a lot of speculation regarding the deployment of troops by the Russian Black Sea Fleet, taken as a defensive measure in full compliance with the relevant joint agreements with Ukraine.
During the night of 1 March, unknown armed men sent from Kiev tried to seize the building of the Crimea Interior Ministry. Only decisive action by self-defence groups enabled stopping the aggravation that has left many people injured.
Most recently, the leader of the “Right Sector” group that was instrumental in the “victory of the Maidan”, Dmitry Yarosh, has openly called for an alliance with Doku Umarov, the most-wanted leader of the Chechen group with close links to Al Qaeda.
Within this framework, it is not surprising that as many as 143,000 people from Ukraine have applied for asylum in Russia over the past two weeks. Faced with this situation Prime Minister of Crimea, Sergey Aksenov appealed to the Russian authorities for assistance in maintaining peace and unity in the peninsula.
The numerous calls by the Russian authorities aimed at moderating the situation have been pointless. Instead of addressing the situation through structures such as the OSCE and the Council of Europe that have a solid expertise in the field of human rights, including minority rights, we have seen the Ukrainian situation discussed by NATO, which certainly sent the wrong message.
Russia remains open to cooperation with all partners in order to seek a political solution to the crisis. What is needed is a clear understanding that this cooperation is honest and founded not merely on the ability to hold fruitful negotiations, but also on the ability to comply with agreements reached that take into account the interests of the Ukrainian people as a whole and all partners of Ukraine.