The flare up in Ukraine presents western powers with a complex situation. The West, led by the United States, has supported the interim government in Kiev against Russian manoeuvres designed to wrest control of chunks of the former Soviet Republic. The Ukrainian government led by its suave and erudite-looking Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has maintained that Russia has fomented violence in the country, especially in the east. Moscow, which has close cultural and historical ties with Ukraine, however, maintains that it only acted to protect the Russian speaking people in the east.
The brutal killing of 42 people in the southwestern Ukrainian city of Odessa on Friday has added another aspect to the conflict. What was till now a Russia-West standoff threatens to acquire another dimension. What led to the deaths of mostly pro-Russian supporters who were incinerated in a trade union building in the city of one million? Till now, Kiev would have everyone believe that the east of the beleaguered country, because of its Russian-speaking majority, was being baited by Moscow. However, the flare up in Odessa, which is far from the Russia-bordering east of the country, has raised new questions. Is the unrest threatening the entire country, and may seep into areas as far as the capital Kiev, which is considered almost entirely free of Russian influence?
Yatsenyuk has accused Moscow of peddling influence with separatists. He alleges that the Kremlin engineered the violence that was the worse after the ouster of Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovich thrust the country into weeks of unrest. In the same breath, he holds the Ukrainian security forces responsible for the security breach and questions their integrity.
If there were so many Russian supporters in a city till now away from the centre of unrest, it doesn’t augur well for the Ukrainian administration. Looking at the situation, one may be forgiven to believe that the country is soon going to be split. Hordes of pro-Russian supporters continue to occupy new government buildings every day. Kremlin-backed troops can be seen everywhere as Kiev doesn’t tire explaining to the world that its May 25 presidential elections will put the political process back on track.
Yatsenyuk’s government has the near-impossible task of convincing the world of its flailing legitimacy in the wake of the rising number of attacks on Ukrainian security forces. The failure of Ukrainian troops to take on Russian supporters in most areas has added to skepticism about the interim administration’s abilities.
A growing civil-war like situation and rising Russian interference calls for desperate measures by Ukrainian authorities and western powers to stem the tide of secession that is sweeping the country. Only sanctions will not serve the purpose. The West has to rise to the occasion to prevent the disintegration of Ukraine.