Russia doubts EU’s sincerity over truce in Ukraine!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Russia feels EU is not keen to hold the truce over eastern Ukraine agreed between Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and the Ukrainian government signed in the Belarussian capital Minsk on February 12 in order to end bloodshed, but it has failed to end all fighting and the Lithuanian president Ms. Dalia Grybauskaite said it was now all but dead. Most EU leaders say they hope the ceasefire can be shored up but Lithuanian President said: “The ceasefire no longer exists.”The situation is changing of course every day, but we are relying on NATO information that really the Minsk agreement is over,” she said in an interview in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused on 05th May “someone in the European Union” of trying to ensure a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine does not hold. Russia’s top diplomat gave no more details but also described what he called increased military activity by Ukrainian forces in recent weeks as an attempt to tear up the ceasefire accord. Lavrov deflected the blame on to Kiev at a news conference in Moscow and accused the EU of turning a blind eye to attacks which have killed civilians in rebel-held areas.”Judging by certain signs, someone in the European Union wants the EU to allow the Ukrainian government not to implement the Minsk agreements,” he said after talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz,
The EU was a partner in the Minsk cease-fire process, and successfully brokered a deal under which Russia has continued to supply natural gas to Ukraine throughout the crisis. The EU did not immediately respond to Lavrov’s remarks but has regularly urged all sides to implement the Minsk deal and underlined Moscow’s responsibilities in particular.
The tradition of consensus in EU decision-making made it very hard for dissenting countries to derail the policy of sanctioning Russia. A decision not to impose sanctions, therefore, would have been much more divisive for the Union of European nations. The same logic applies when it comes to prolonging the sanctions when they expire in July. Some core members of the EU even criticize for taking the military option off the table, thereby giving a green light to Russian “aggression” in Ukraine.
Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of sending arms and troops to help the separatists in fighting which has killed more than 6,100 people in just over a year. Russia denies the accusations and says the West instigated the overthrow of a Moscow-backed Ukrainian president last year as part of efforts to reduce Russian influence in the region.
The EU claims the sanctions slapped by it on Russia to cripple its economy, are a way of signaling the EU’s “political condemnation” and have had a profound “psychological effect” beyond the impact on the Russian economy.
Former head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso described President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex Crimea as “the most blatant violation of international law since the end of World War II.” Barroso noted that Russia had never raised the question of self-determination for Crimea with the international community in the previous two decades. He said that Putin suddenly adopted the language of national identity and religious difference was equally disturbing, cutting against the grain of European efforts to build ethnic and religious tolerance. Barroso suggested that the shift in Putin’s position was a response to the rising protest movement in Russia from 2011-12, though he insisted that the EU did not try to promote regime change in Russia. Barroso also argued that “Putin and the Russian leadership have not intellectually, emotionally and politically accepted the independence of Ukraine and the Baltic countries.” Actual membership in the EU has never been on the table for Ukraine, since the EU is suffering from “enlargement fatigue,” and “Ukraine is a systemically corrupt country.” Contrary to those who claim that Putin is irrational or “living in a different world,” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked in March 2014, Barroso said that “I understand Putin, but that does not mean I agree.” “Putin is a product of resentment at what happened to Russia and the Russian people in the 1990s.” But Putin “has been successful in convincing many of the Russian people that there is a conspiracy of the West to weaken Russia.” Barroso replied that the EU is an aggregation of democracies, none of which are prepared to start a war with nuclear-armed Russia.
Under the Minsk deal, weapons bigger than 100 mm calibre, including large artillery, heavy mortar and powerful rocket systems, should have been withdrawn from the frontline. In Kiev, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the separatists were building up military equipment for more attacks. A rebel leader, Andrei Purgin, said this was a “political declaration for the Western public.”
Ukrainian Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn said that Ukraine did not plan to make large pre-payments to Russia for gas supplies, Interfax news agency reported. Gazprom and Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz have accused each other of not sticking to agreements on gas supplies. Kiev has said it was unable to control gas flows to east Ukraine and pay for it. It has earlier accused Gazprom of reducing gas supplies to Ukraine.
Kremlin-controlled Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom said that Ukraine had paid for enough Russian gas to last until March 6. Gazprom said it would exempt gas supplies to rebel-held regions from its main contract with Ukrainian Naftogaz, days before Kiev uses up gas volumes it has already paid for.
The dispute flared up last week when Gazprom said it started direct gas supplies to the regions of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Moscow rebels. Gazprom said Naftogaz would have to pay for these supplies to the rebel-held areas. But Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said: “We are ready at the moment to exclude our gas supplies to Donbass from our discussions with Ukraine.” He also told the Rossiya-24 TV channel that Ukraine had prepaid for Russian gas until the end of the week.
When asked if Russia in theory would be ready to supply gas to east Ukraine free of charge, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “I cannot speak of supplies now. But of course, these issues would be urgently considered if needed.” President Vladimir Putin said this week that Russia would halt gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not receive advance payment, raising the possibility of onward deliveries to Europe being disrupted for the fourth time in a decade.
Europe received around 147 billion cubic metres of Russian gas last year – or around a third of its total needs – with roughly 40% shipped via Ukraine. The Gazprom spokesman said that Ukraine had only 206 million cubic metres left for which Kiev had already paid. “With the current level of supplies, prepayments will be enough only up till the end of the week. If Kiev doesn’t make new payments, we, naturally, won’t be able to continue supplying Ukraine with gas,” he said. Moscow cut off supplies to Kiev last June and restored them only in December, after a European-brokered deal secured supplies through the winter.
Under the deal, Ukraine is required to pay in advance for gas. The so-called winter gas deal is due to expire at the end of next month, with Kiev managing to reduce its dependence on direct Russian gas supplies over the last year.
The European Commission has invited the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers for further talks in Brussels to discuss gas supply problems. A Russian Energy Ministry official said she was not able to confirm whether Moscow has agreed to take part in the meeting yet. “We are talking by phone at the moment,” she said.
The European Union said it will implement a free-trade pact with Ukraine from next year despite Russian pressure for another delay, according to a draft statement prepared for a summit with six of the bloc’s eastern neighbors this month in Riga. The joint declaration, which is likely to antagonize Moscow, commits to the deal from Jan. 1, 2016, a date already a year later than planned as Russia seeks to oppose European efforts to integrate Ukraine and move it out of Moscow’s sphere of orbit.
The deal is at the heart of tensions that have grown from a tug-of-war over influence in Kiev to sanctions, the annexation of Crimea by Russia, armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, and concern among some in the West about a new Cold War. But aside from the EU’s show of support for Ukraine, the May 21-22 Eastern Partnership summit will offer little for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova, according to the draft, as EU governments lower their ambitions for fear of further provoking the Kremlin. Russia is pushing for the deal to be postponed by at least another year, according to a Ukrainian official, but the EU is insisting there can be no further delay.
Meanwhile, as a positive sign for Putin’s presidency, Russia’s ruble gained as oil climbed to its highest price this year and demand for foreign currency slackened after a four-day holiday weekend when Russian markets were closed. Oil, revenues like arms sales, provides major to the Kremlin. The ruble’s continued rise — it is up over 16 percent against the dollar in 2015 — threatens to inflate Russia’s budget deficit by reducing oil revenues in ruble terms. Policymakers including Finance Minister Anton Siluanov have warned that the ruble rally is overdone. Russian firms are typically most active on the forex market towards the end of each month, when large exporters convert foreign currency to meet tax payments. Russian shares also posted healthy gains on Tuesday, fed by the stronger ruble and jump in oil prices.
Both USA and EU eager to see a Arab spring style troubles in Russia too but so far not forthcoming. When the government’s popular support does start to wane, the Internet — beyond the control of the state — could well emerge as a vital platform for future opposition mobilization. But when? That is the trillion dollar question for those who want to end Puitnism and hope that Putin’s current sky-high approval rating will not last forever. At some point, Russians will stop believing what the television is telling them.
Russian opposition parties, pushed by media lords in Washington and European capitals are busy using the social media and internet to criticize Putin and his “authoritarian” government but without much effect.. A lively debate has been under way for several years about the impact of the Internet on political life around the world. Some argue that the web enables opposition movements to get around state-controlled mass media and organize protest movements — with the Arab Spring being a prime example. Remarkably, nine out of ten Russians, including 84 percent of heavy Internet users, trust the news on the central television channels. Pollsters like VTsIOM, make it clear that only a small minority of Russians — about 10 percent — rely on the Internet as their primary source of news information. It is hard to explain why ordinary Russians are so credulous of what the authorities are telling them. Whatever the explanation, it seems to be a fact of life that the spread of the Internet has done nothing to dent.
President Putin has been very cautiously watching the popular mood and his action of annexation of Crimea and support for Russian in Ukraine, notwithstanding slides of Russian economy, have kept him in good staid as his popularity is on the rise.
Moscow believes that the EU as well as USA wants the war in Ukraine on for more time so that it could keep Kiev, from where Russian empire originated, out of Russian orbit.