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'Eastern Ukrainians aren’t seeking separation, they’re expressing their will'

Published time: May 12, 2014 14:05
A girl casts a ballot in a polling station during a so-called referendum in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on May 11, 2014. (AFP Photo/Genya Savilov)

The referendum results in eastern Ukraine are sending a message that their rights are not adequately protected and recognized by the Kiev government, former Indian Foreign Minister Kanwal Sibal told RT.

RT: The region of Lugansk says it will now ask for UN recognition. Do you see any chance of that?

Kanwal Sibal: I don’t think that will happen, but I heard that people who held the referendum are saying that they still remain part of Ukraine. While it is self-determination at the moment, evidently they are not thinking of a separate state. Therefore, there is no occasion for them to go to the United Nations – if this is the basis of the referendum, that will be premature. And certainly in the UN there is no chance of getting approval of this because the US, the Europeans and many others will not approve this and there is no question of approval by the Security Council. But the people in eastern Ukraine have made a very strong point that they don’t recognize the legitimacy of the Kiev government and an equal right to express their democratic feelings, as those who were agitating in Kiev a few weeks earlier, and that their wishes must be taken into account and that May 25 elections won’t be legitimate as it will not incorporate the eastern part of Ukraine in the election process.

I think they have been wise at the moment, not declaring that the referendum means that they are going to separate from Ukraine. Unless of course diplomacy works and they are able to find a solution by changing the constitution and [carrying out] reforms of the system which recognize the legitimate and autonomous rights of the eastern Ukrainians, they can always use this referendum as a handle to prove that the vast majority of the eastern Ukraine are not in favor.

RT: The Donetsk and Lugansk regions have voted for the right to self-determination. Is this likely to change anything for them?

KS: I think they have clearly sent a powerful message not only within Ukraine but also to Europe and the world in general that there is a huge internal problem in Ukraine and the rights of the eastern Ukrainians are not being adequately protected and recognized by the central government in Kiev on which there seems to be very little pressure of the US and the EU to find a solution through dialogue.

The Geneva process has created the basis for some kind of a dialogue but there is a temptation by the Kiev government to use force against the eastern Ukrainians. That is not going to resolve anything and it will be a huge pity for the Ukrainians, for the region, for the world, if the situation in Ukraine descends into some kind of a civil war. It will be extremely painful for Russia.

RT: Kiev and its Western backers say this referendum is illegal. Is this a statement based on law or politics, do you think?

KS: I think they have no reason to say whether it is legal or illegal because people in the eastern Ukraine are not seeking their approval. They are expressing their political wishes in eastern Ukraine and they have a right to do so. This is an internal process, they are not asking for international recognition, so I can’t see why the Europeans or the Americans should make a pronouncement on what is happening internally. In fact, their reference should be directed toward promoting the internal dialogue in Ukraine. As I said earlier, the rights of the eastern Ukrainians are not adequately recognized and protected, and there is some kind of autonomy given to them. That is the only way to find a solution short of a civil war. I’m afraid the Western countries, the US and the EU, are still trying to play geopolitical games and the aim is somehow to keep the whole of Ukraine outside of the Russian sphere of interest and bring it into the Western sphere of influence, which is a recipe for continuing tensions and conflict. They should have avoided it. After all, Europe prides itself on being a continent of peace, and there we see the revival of a Cold War atmosphere and Cold War tactics and geopolitical play, which is extremely painful to the rest of the world.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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