Both the NYT and Washington Post headline a deal that has been inked between Ukraine’s Maidan protesters and the government. The NYT notices that, at least as of press time, the Russians had not signed onto the deal. Given Russia’s role behind the scenes, its desire to build up the Eurasian Union, and the potential for it to move into Ukraine directly once the Olympics are over, that lack of ink may prove significant.
The agreement itself calls for early elections, the return of Ukraine’s 2004 constitution and the formation of a “unity government.” Russia won’t like any of that. Putin is likely to bide his time. Or maybe he’ll sign it and then break his word. The Sochi Olympics close on February 23.
Poland, an EU member since 2004, has played a major role in keeping the talks going. Which makes this Telegraph story both terrifying and significant.
The Polish foreign minister has been filmed telling a protest leader that if the opposition did not sign up to a deal offered by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych “you will all be dead”.
Radoslaw Sikorski, one of three European foreign ministers who brokered Friday’s agreement to end the bloody standoff, was emerging from talks with opposition leaders when he issued the stark warning.
“If you don’t support this [deal] you’ll have martial law, the army. You will all be dead,” he said, in comments that were captured on film by ITV News.
When asked if he had managed to convince the opposition, the minister, clearly frustrated, muttered: “I don’t know.”
After a break in talks, the ministers returned to the negotiating table, and shortly after announced that the opposition had agreed to sign the deal.
Sikoski later reiterated the martial law threat from Ukraine’s government, which has been spotted deploying snipers to fire on the Maidan protesters during the week.
“To my knowledge interior ministry troops were being readied,” he said according to the news channel.
Given that, what are we all to make of this deal?
It comes at a time when the government’s support has been crumbling, but that doesn’t always mean a whole lot. It doesn’t even mean a whole lot here in the US, where a majority never wanted Obamacare and wouldn’t support the FCC imposing itself on our newsrooms, yet the Obama administration made the first a law and has not yet backed down on the second. Here the government owns the media’s hearts and minds, removing one check on its power. There the government has Russia’s backing. Russia isn’t the beast it once was, but it is far from toothless.
Dictators tend not to give up their power unless they’re invaded, force to step down by their external patrons, or are snatched up by their domestic enemies and put up against a wall. Of those three alternatives, the second is the most likely scenario for Yanukovyc, but it also sets up the possibility of Putin just installing another of his allies.