The world powers must end Russian occupation of Ukraine now and Canada should continue playing a major role in this fight.
If you listen to the Russian authorities today, you hear they are protecting Russian-speaking minority in Ukraine from “extremists” and “far-right” groups who took over the national government after the revolution suddenly ended a couple of weeks ago. In other words, Russian-speaking Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine and Crimea are being “liberated” by Russia. Yet, who buys Russia’s argument?
Canadian and western governments officially recognized the new government in Ukraine. For three months the world watched graphic images on the riot police beating, kidnapping and shooting protesters in Ukraine. The ousted pro-Russian President Yanukovych, who is believed to have acquired billions of dollars for his family, fled to Russia under the pressure from the protesters and western powers. The Parliament appointed the acting President, Cabinet and set the date for the Presidential election on May 25, 2014 following all the official rules and procedures. The new government declared their wish for Ukraine to build closer ties with the European Union and be good neighbours with Russia. This government consists of four Ministers who were born in Russia and well as the newly appointed head of a regional administration Mr. Ihor Kolomoyski, a billionaire with strong ties to the Jewish community in Europe. As Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich (BLYKH) of the United Jewish Communities of Eastern Europe and Asia/American Friends of Kiev pointed out to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, he needs to “show that you care about the people of Ukraine. Show that you are with them and change that G8 to G7.”, after all G7 countries cancelled their attendance of the G8 meeting in Sochi, hosted by Russia in response to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Clearly the appointments of Russian-born Ministers and the remarks made by the Jewish leaders show that Russian propaganda is falling apart.
Western leaders, including Canada are on the right side of history; however, Russian government and military are showing no sign of backing off. On the first day of Crimean occupation, Russia surrounded Crimean Parliament with troops and installed a new pro-Russian Premier of Crimea who called for a referendum on independence next week. The results of this referendum will not be recognized neither by the central government in Ukraine nor by the western countries. To complicate things, Russia’s President refused to acknowledge thousands of Russia troops on the ground in Crimea claiming these are “self-organized Crimean para-military forces” despite the fact they all wear the same uniforms, use similar weapons and military vehicles; yet, showing no visible insignia.
Canada’s response has been swift and strong. The government imposed travel ban and froze assets for the former members of Ukraine’s government involved in using violence against the protesters. Moreover, Canada put on hold a number of joint initiatives with Russia. The United States has taken similar steps, but these actions are not enough to force the Russian “bear” to quit.
In coming days, we will most likely to see rapid escalation of this conflict, including the use of force by the Russian side and provocateurs who are flooding in to Ukraine from Russia. As the former advisor to Russia’s President Putin Andrei Illarionov pointed out, only U.S. President Obama can stop Russia’s military machine from annexing Crimea from Ukraine. While Ukraine’s new government needs to offer Russian-speaking minority in eastern Ukraine and Crimea a road-map to protect their rights, the western powers have to find a way to push Russia back through diplomatic, economic and other means to prevent the breakup of Ukraine, which will have long-lasting affects on peace and security around the world.