The Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday stated Russia’s readiness to cooperate “without delay, on forming a multilateral mechanism to help resolve the Ukrainian crisis.” Amplifying what President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov have been saying in telephone diplomacy with Western officials in recent days, the Foreign Ministry said that the premise of such a Support Group cannot be the one demanded by the West, namely getting Moscow to have a dialogue with the forces who have seized power in Kiev. Rather, it outlined a set of principles and proposed steps for Constitutional reform and safety guarantees for all parts of Ukraine’s population; this package “of steps the Ukrainians themselves should take,” according to the Foreign Ministry, has been presented to the USA, European countries and others during the past week.
“As has been repeatedly explained by the Russian side,” the statement said, “the current situation in Ukraine was not created by us, but resulted from a deep crisis that gripped the Ukrainian state, polarized the Ukrainian society and aggravated the antagonistic differences between various parts of the country. Efforts by the international community should aim precisely at helping to overcome those differences.”
The Foreign Ministry statement, largely ignored or mocked in international media, states principles and lists goals. The principles include respect for the interests of Ukraine’s multi-ethnic population; support for the desire of people in all regions to live in safety, be able freely to use their native language and enjoy their own culture and ties with others; “the inadmissibility of a rebirth of neo-Nazi ideology and the need for Ukrainian politicians to distance themselves from the ultra-nationalists and stop the attempts of the latter to destabilize various regions of the country”; recognition of the importance of civil peace and accord in Ukraine for relations throughout the Euro-Atlantic region.
A Support Group should help Ukrainians achieve the following objectives, according to the Russian outline:
- 1. Return to the Feb. 21, 2014 agreement between the Parliamentary opposition and President Yanukovych on surrender of weapons, freeing of public buildings, and investigation of the violence of December 2013 – February 2014.
- 2. Convocation of a Constitutional Assembly with representation of all regions, to draft a new, federative Constitution that would ensure the rights of ethnic minorities, freedom of speech and of the media, to achieve a “democratic federative state” that will be sovereign, as well as militarily and politically neutral; would give Russian the status of a second official language, allowing other languages to have official regional status; allow the direct election in regions of executive and legislative branches of government with broad authority over domestic policy and foreign relations with countries in the region; would ban political interference in church affairs. This draft Constitution would be voted on in a nationwide referendum.
- 3. Adoption of the new Constitution should be followed by national elections and simultaneous legislative and executive branch elections in each constituent territory of the federation.
- 4. The right of Crimea to determine its own destiny, based on the March 16 referendum, should be recognized and respected.
- 5. Russia, the EU, and the USA, backed by a UNSC resolution, should act as guarantors of such principles in Ukraine and of the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and neutrality.