Pro-Russian separatists seized administration buildings in Ukraine’s east as the government in Kiev accused President Vladimir Putin of stoking unrest.
Protesters with Russian flags stormed offices in the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, where demonstrators called for a referendum to join Russia and for the boycott of May 25 presidential elections. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said today that Russia was trying to split his nation.
The aim is to divide Ukraine and turn part into “a territory of slavery under a Russian dictatorship,” Yatsenyuk said in televised remarks from Kiev. “It’s crystal clear that an anti-Ukrainian plan” is under way, “a plan to destabilize the situation, a plan so that foreign troops cross the border.”
The scenes echo the actions of pro-Russian protesters who stormed Crimea’s assembly and paved the way for Putin to annex the Black Sea province last month. Putin, who’s massed troops on Ukraine’s border, says he has the right to defend Russian speakers from “fascists” after Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster. Ukraine says Russia has sent agents to foment unrest and justify carving off more of the nation.
It is obvious that Putin has embarked on a more aggressive form of empire building by coercion, which of course is not dissimilar to the old Soviet model which included conquest. While Russia remains a formidable military power, too powerful for the US to challenge seriously in Eastern Europe, Putin’s moves are partly due to Economic weakness.
Russia’s economy will struggle to grow at 1% this year. More importantly, it is overly dependent on oil and gas exports, plus military hardware. The prices for Russia’s oil and gas will fall over time due to fracking, new nuclear and solar-led renewables. Technologically, Russia will also struggle to keep up with Western and before long Asian military technology. Therefore, Putin’s push for economic growth and influence, at least in his mind, is by recreating part of the Soviet Union.
This will not work because few Eastern Europeans benefited from that repressive regime and they have more to gain from independence, preferably with democratic governance. That transition may not be easily achieved but at least people in Eastern Europe’s totalitarian regimes can see the progress in their neighbouring countries which are more democratic. However, this Russian Customs Union struggle with the West will continue for at least the duration of Putin’s rule.
The nettle that Western Europe and the USA need to grasp is sufficient economic pressure on Russia for the country’s oligarchs to remove Putin from power.Back to top