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‘It would be disastrous if the Ukrainian president resigned’

Published time: January 30, 2014 08:08
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (L) shakes hands with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton prior to their meeting in Kiev on January 29, 2014. (AFP Photo / Presidential Press Service Pool / Andriy Mosienko)

The US and the EU should support the Ukrainian president and urge the rebels to accept the amnesty agreement, otherwise it could lead to a civil war, global policy expert Martin Sieff told RT.

RT: So the opposition has already refused to follow the amnesty agreement, saying they won't leave. What more can the government offer them at this point?

Martin Sieff: It is very difficult to say that. I think that the United States and the EU nations are very much mistaken. What they should be doing is supporting the Ukrainian government and urging the rebels, the holdouts, to accept the amnesty agreement. The most important thing is to defuse tensions and to prevent a new explosion of violence, and the opposition are not doing this.

RT: And how do you think people on the streets will react to that?

MS: It is very questionable. The vote is the constructive vote but the fact that you have the hardliners still holding out and refusing to accept the government terms is certainly a negative development.

RT: Police say there was fighting between two opposition groups, who fired rubber bullets and even threw grenades at each other. Are we seeing cracks in their unity?

MS: I think we indeed are and I think one of the aspects of this crisis which is being widely underestimated in Brussels and Washington is precisely that, as we see on a much larger scale in Syria, you have really different opposition groups and there is a real danger of conflict and possibly an eventual civil war between conflicting opposition groups.

January 29, 2014 (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)

RT: If these are just regular Ukrainians coming out to voice their anger at the government, where would they get weapons like rubber bullets and grenades?

MS: A very good question. I don’t have the answer, but you are right to suggest this question.

RT: The prime minister has resigned, and an opposition leader was offered his post. Why isn't the opposition jumping at this opportunity to make real political change?

MS: You are absolutely right – there is no question that was the case. Senator John McCain of the US was the republican presidential candidate back in 2008, was there alongside very responsible leaders from Western and Central Europe. They were pouring gasoline, petroleum, on the fire, and they have the responsibility for the explosions that have followed.

RT: We saw EU leaders rally the protesters late last year. Do you think that could have emboldened the crowds to take their rioting to another level?

MS: I think the answer is obvious, because they are not in a constructive mode. They are in an oppositional destructive mode. They don’t want to make change to due process. Their real target was not the formal prime minister. Their real target is President Yanukovich himself.

RT: Clearly the country is still on a knife-edge. Is really the only option for Yanukovich to resign now?

MS: No. I think it would be disastrous if President Yanukovich was to resign. I think if that was the case, the dangers of civil war in Ukraine, between western Ukraine and eastern Ukraine, with Kiev caught in the middle, would be much greater. President Yanukovich should be supported by the EU and the US. He is the main force for moderation and reconciliation left in this country.

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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