Four weeks after the Ukrainian presidential election that was meant to normalize the situation in the country, the pacification of troubled Ukraine is still a far cry. Sadly, in the eastern parts of the country violence is rife and the region is plunging further into civil strife.
The military approach in Ukraine offers no solution. The toll in loss of human life and human suffering is already high and only bound to rise if armed confrontation is allowed to continue. The government in Kiev claims that more than hundred twenty Ukrainian service personnel have been killed so far in clashes with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern provinces, scores of rebel fighters have also perished along with an identified number of civilians. The latter group, the civilian population is, as always in such civil war situations, caught in the middle of crossfire and tragically victimized. It is reported that the Russian speaking population of eastern Ukraine in fear of their lives flee into bordering areas of the Russian Federation thus exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.
The ferocity of the clashes in the eastern city of Luhansk is also reflected in the list of casualties among foreign media correspondents. Western and Russian reporters are treated alike by shelling and mortar fire. This is a worrying phenomenon: last month, an Italian photographer and his Russian translator were killed in the crossfire. A couple of days ago, a young Russian state television reporter was killed after his position was shelled in clashes between Ukrainian forces and Russian-speaking fighters near Luhansk while his sound technician went missing.
Violence leads to more violence and endless human suffering. It does not provide solutions but only complicates human reconciliation. Newly elected President Petro Poroshenko was ill-advised to order an attack by government forces on the rebels in the east in order to regain territory under the control of separatists. In this way the conflict is exacerbated and the loss of human life and suffering on both sides is mounting. Irrespective of the outcome of the armed conflict both the government in Kiev and the separatists leadership will have to eventually sit around the negotiating table to discuss the future governance of their country. They cannot escape from dialogue. When exhausted from fighting they will discuss. Common sense tells: why not cease fire and start the political process now saving lives of fellow Ukrainian people.
Thus a ceasefire agreement is a first and foremost prerequisite. At the same time it is a dire need in order to halt the unfolding humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine. President Poroshenko is best advised to order this ceasefire. Having earned a fresh people’s mandate to run the country he has to show leadership. Last month’s mandate is the source of his power but also the endorsement of the reconciliation process. Poroshenko was elected President of the Ukrainian people in their entirety. He constitutionally represents all Ukrainians of every hue, creed and mother tongue and not only a sect of them. Thus he should dispel sectarianism from his thoughts.
While ordering his troops to stop the attacks, Poroshenko needs to make a plea to the rebels to lay down their arms, guarantee safe passage out of their strongholds and above all offer a general amnesty. All the above are sine qua non conditions for consolidating the political dialogue which will determine the political future of the country.
In the current context of armed confrontation, the primary objective should be to seek institutional and political arrangements which contain, if not eliminate, the strife within the country as rapidly as possible. Ceasefire, amnesty and political dialogue is the order of today – not tomorrow!