By Volodymyr Kish
In my article last week, I came to the conclusion that the situation in Ukraine was rapidly accelerating into what constitutes the “End Game”. One way or another, we will know shortly what the end result will be.
Events of the past week have only served to reinforce my assessment. There were three key developments that lead me to this conclusion.
First, on January 30 an official press release came out that stated that President Yanukovych had taken indefinite sick leave because of a “respiratory ailment”, and since then he has become as scarce as integrity and honesty in the Party of Regions. Of course, few people seriously believe he is ailing, as just the day before, at a hastily arranged meeting of his Party caucus, he was in fine form, ranting, railing and twisting the arms of his Regionnaires in Parliament who were showing some reluctance to pass his cleverly contrived amnesty bill. This sham of a bill obviously passed but was rejected by all the opposition parties because of the totally unaccepted conditions attached to it.
I would speculate that Yanukovych has left the public scene to focus on putting together an emergency exit strategy that would allow him keep his skin intact as well as make off with as much of the ill gained loot as he can that he has managed to squirrel away these past few years. Joining his ex-Premier Azarov in exile in Austria might be a bit too much for the Austrians and the rest of Europe to swallow, so my bet is he will try and seek shelter in Russia, though I am sure that even Putin is not too thrilled with that prospect.
The second major development was the re-appearance of Dmytro Bulatov, a leader of the AutoMaidan initiative who was kidnapped over a week previous and presumed murdered by covert government forces. He showed up alive after being dumped by his captors in a remote village east of Kyiv. His account of being tortured, having one of his ears partly cut off, and crucified by an unknown gang of thugs who spoke Russian with the distinctive dialect of Russia proper, horrified and angered not only the protesters on the Maidan but much of Europe and the free world as well. No doubt whoever was behind this assumed his tale would terrify the protesters and lower their morale and will to continue. Unsurprisingly it has done just the opposite, and has further exposed the true nature of the Yanukovych government and the shadowy hand of Putin behind him.
The third major development was the annual meeting of key Foreign Ministers and International Policy experts in Munich over this past weekend. The EU in particular has been fairly divided over how to deal with the Ukrainian situation and Putin’s heavy handed manipulations intended to bring Ukraine back into Russia’s direct orbit. Well it seems that finally the political pendulum has begun to swing in favour of the Ukrainian people. Reports are coming out of Munich from trusted sources indicating that the U.S. and the EU are finally coming to agreement that more direct intervention is required and are willing to broker a deal that would see the departure of the current government in Ukraine, a return to the 2004 Ukrainian constitution that restricted Presidential powers, and early elections for both the Parliament and the President. They also indicated a willingness to provide financial aid that would match the current Putin plan, and help expedite a Ukraine EU association agreement. If true, this could provide the final impetus to break the current impasse and expedite Yanukovych’s departure.
Of course, the Ukrainian government is continuing to make ominous threats of suppressing the now widespread protests by force, however few people believe that Yanukovych has the necessary trusted and available forces to do that. He can and is fully capable however of precipitating further significant bloodshed that could lead to any number of unforeseen and tragic consequences, including the secession of certain parts of Ukraine in the east and the south to Russian control.
There are also alarming though highly unlikely rumours of direct Russian military intervention. In view of how much of his personal credibility and reputation Putin has invested in the Sochi Olympics, I highly doubt that he would do anything of this kind, at least until the Winter Olympics are over, and, if my assessment is right, by then Yanukovych will be gone through an EU/US negotiated exit plan and the situation in Ukraine will be well on the way to a positive resolution.
In the coming weeks I am looking forward to some serious initiatives from the western powers that will finally put an end to the current crisis in Ukraine. I suspect that they are finally ready to do the right thing.