‘Both presidential elections and Donbass referendum in Ukraine should be postponed’
Neither the Ukrainian presidential elections, nor the May 11 referendum on the future of the Donbass People’s Republic, can take place at the moment because of the absence of the proper atmosphere, Jonathan Steele from The Guardian newspaper told RT.
RT: Russia doesn’t support the idea of holding presidential elections in Ukraine. Indeed, we can witness the ongoing violence, voices of the southeast regions are suppressed by force, while it is highly possible that ultranationalists will gain in the elections. What’s your take on that?
Jonathan Steele: I do follow this argument. I think the presidential elections cannot take place at the moment in the proper atmosphere. They won’t be held properly in the south and east of the country. And anyway, the two leading candidates both represent essentially the West of the country, so there will be a quite divisive new president. Similarly the referendum on May 11 about the future of the Donbass People’s Republic is also unwise to be held in a similar environment of tension and emotional anxiety. Both should be postponed.
RT:The West seems to support Kiev as though there was never a revolution which toppled an elected President. Why do they suggest the interim leaders should get popular support? Does actually the Kiev government have any legitimacy?
JS: The Kiev government recognizes, although it wouldn’t say so publicly, that the government in Kiev is not fully legitimate and that the president is only the former speaker of parliament who was voted in by parliament, not directly. So they are desperately anxious to get an elected president whom they can then claim is legitimate. But the real issue is not legitimacy, it is representation. Are the people in Kiev representative of the whole country? Clearly they are not. They do not represent any longer people of the south and the east. In the same way a lot of the armed men who are occupying these buildings in the east of the country and who are saying they want to join Russia are not representative either. The majority of people in the east and the south want to remain a part of Ukraine if they can, if they are not forced into moving to Russia because of the provocations by the Kiev people.
RT:Kiev says the military operation is to try and bring stability in a region that's trying to break away. That sounds reasonable, doesn't it?
JS: That is what they say but they should de-escalate, in fact, they should suspend this military operation. There were the Geneva talks on April 17 that called for political dialogue and national dialogue, commitment to try to resolve these things, to constitutional change to satisfy everybody. And almost the day after that was signed they started this so-called counter-terrorism operation which has just provoked people. The occupation of the buildings in Donetsk, Lugansk and Slavyansk did not threaten the lives of anybody but these military operations by the Ukrainian government do threaten people’s lives and we already have the death toll reaching dozens per day instead of a handful per day in last week or two. It could be soon hundreds per day and then you reach the point of no return and you are in a civil war. So it is really up to Kiev to take the political initiative now, suspend military operations and start serious dialogue with the people in the south and east.
RT:Washington and Brussels are calling for sanctions for Moscow, claiming it is orchestrating all the unrest in Ukraine. What evidence have they got?
JS: I think the thing has been driven by neo-cons. Neo-cons in the State Department like Victoria Nuland, neo-cons in the EU like Carl Bildt and Radek Sikorski in Poland – these are the people who are taking the initiative, and of course there is always this sort of argument that Russia is being tough whip, so we can't back down and so you get this sort of machismo coming into it. I wish the people like Angela Merkel who are clearly more pragmatic and more moderate would speak up more loudly and take the lead in looking for political solution, which is the only thing that can prevent the bloodshed and actually the only thing that can provide a long-term settlement in Ukraine, which is a divided country. There has to be a dialogue to try to overcome these divisions. You can’t overcome them through force.
RT: The West is still accusing Russia of preparations for military intervention into Ukraine and even presented some “proof photos” which actually had no connection with Ukrainian crisis. Is there any possibility for Russia to launch military operation?
JS: It’s fairly tenuous. They’ve took movements inside Russia but that’s still inside Russia, it is not in Ukraine. They talk about these little green men who are Russian special forces, but even if there are a few there, they cannot control huge crowds of people. The dominant forces are the local people who want a change in the attitude of the Kiev government if not a change of the government itself, and that’s what is driving it, it’s not been driven by these armed groups at all.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.