Red Neckties and Defiance from Ukrainian Separatists
Across Russia, the media is celebrating the one-year anniversary of declarations of independence by two separatist entities in Ukraine - the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics - and the start of war against Kiev. According to the Russian military's official online magazine, Krasnaya Zvezda, or RedStar, "due to Kiev's termination of funding and support for (Donetsk) state institutions, its curtailment of banking activities, and its failure to fulfill social obligations... people's republics set up their own management structures and social security agencies."
Russian authorities and the media are highlighting their view that the war in Donetsk had nothing to do with Moscow, but was a reaction to events in Kiev in early 2014: "This armed struggle was not the choice of Donbas residents," the journal insisted, using the name given to the regions of Southeastern Ukraine, "they were forced to confront the military actions of Ukrainian politicians who seized power in Kiev as a result of the February 2014 revolution.
"Today, Donetsk and Luhansk continue to insist on a peaceful settlement of the conflict within the framework of the Minsk Agreement (between Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France). Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the DNR's government, said that he will utilize every opportunity to resolve the conflict peacefully in the Donbas region."
Red Star also quoted the head of the Luhansk government as seeking peace, but on the separatists' own terms: "Luhansk... is hoping to preserve its autonomy, but within the borders of the 'other Ukraine,' provided the full range of agreements is carried out, including changes to the (Ukrainian) constitution and support for a decentralization of power."
On the other hand, a separatist official promised a new round of fighting if the separatists don't get what they want.
Much to Kiev's frustration, it appears that senior-level international leaders also support broad autonomy for the breakaway regions. According to former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, decentralization and the creation of autonomous regions within Ukraine will help resolve the conflict in the east. "Within the boundaries of Ukraine, there are people with different histories...There is serious tension between them, particularly between the people in the east, the population in central Ukraine, and residents of Polish descent in the west. In this case, the solution is already known - broad decentralization, where the central government does not interfere in all the details of life in the country," he told the Russia-24 TV channel.
D'Estaing pointed to the relations between Scotland and the United Kingdom, and between Catalonia and Spain, as providing the model to follow. "In Scotland, there is a prime minister, as well as a separate budget and tax policy. That is the model you want to apply in Ukraine, and not try to have one side beat the other. If you do this, the Europeans will be quite happy." D'Estaing made these comments after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sounding a note of dark humor, residents of Odessa, a port city in southern Ukraine and the site of recent tensions between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian elements, hung red neckties all over their town as a response to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's appointment of former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili as governor of the Odessa region. Saakashvili was the leader of the bloodless 2003 Rose Revolution that swept away pro-Russian leadership in Georgia and brought a pro-Western government to power. The neckties are a reference to the infamous video of Saakashvili nervously chewing on his tie during Georgia's 2008 conflict with Russia.