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Clashes in Ukraine’s east could lead to split

This article is over 10 years, 1 months old
The imperial powers’ brinkmanship in Ukraine continues despite their peace deal, writes Simon Basketter
Issue 2400
Armed pro-Russian demonstrators occupy Slovyansk city hall in eastern Ukraine
Armed pro-Russian demonstrators occupy Slovyansk city hall in eastern Ukraine

Events surrounding the deaths of five people following a shootout at a barricade near the pro-Russian town of Slovyansk were murky to say the least. 

The Russians say it was an assault backed by the Ukrainian government. The Ukrainians say it was faked by Russian intelligence. 

Adding to the war of words the bodies of two other pro-Russians turned up in a river earlier this week.

Meanwhile vice president Joe Biden is the highest ranking US official to visit the country.

His visit came as a peace deal arranged last week looks in danger of falling apart.


As Biden offered more aid to Ukraine, Russia promised that Crimea would get lots of casinos.

Pro-Russian protesters, assisted by men in camouflage uniforms, seized control of government buildings in half a dozen towns across largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine earlier this month.

European Union and US officials have threatened Russia with more economic sanctions if the rebels do not leave.

The US also released images of soldiers in eastern Ukraine that it says are Russian.

The rebels have shown little sign of retreat. They have declared an independent “People’s Republic of Donetsk” in the east’s biggest province.

They have also appointed themselves to official posts in towns and cities, setting up checkpoints and flying Russian flags over government buildings.

Ukraine announced an “anti-terrorist” operation to retake the territory last week.

But that effort largely collapsed in disarray when a column of paratroops surrendered rifle parts and some armoured vehicles to a separatist crowd.

There were demonstrations for the cameras by both sides over the Easter weekend. 

In Moscow Patriarch Kirill of Russia’s Orthodox Church led prayers for Ukraine.

He called on God to put “an end to the designs of those who want to destroy Holy Russia” and that Ukraine was “spiritually and historically” at one with Russia.

In Kiev, Patriarch Filaret, of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church, offered a rebuke to what he described as Russian aggression in his Easter prayers. 

He said, “God cannot be on the side of evil, so the enemy of the Ukrainian people is condemned to defeat,” he said. “Lord, help us resurrect Ukraine.”

And in a bizarre if ominous turn both sides have accused the other of antisemitism. 

A war on Europe’s eastern border isn’t inevitable. 

But the imperial powers gathering for a summit and declaring and then denouncing the collapse of a peace deal is no recipe for a solution to the crisis.


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