The Kremlin never ceases to amaze with its heavy-handed tactics, as well as torpedo Western efforts to broker a compromise to Ukraine’s political crisis. Which side offers the more constructive approach? On the United States side, Vice President Joseph Biden has called President Viktor Yanukovych four times in the last month, asking him to pull back riot troops, release EuroMaidan detainees and prosecutor violent offenders as confidence-building measures. Good advice. U.S. President Barack Obama called on Yanukovych to enter into a real power-sharing agreement with the political opposition, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Munich that Yanukovych hadn’t compromised enough. We agree.
Now compare this intervention with the Kremlin’s hysterical warnings against U.S. interference while Russia’s leaders are working overtime to do just that – interfere – but in a way that destabilizes Ukraine and dilutes, if not destroys, its national sovereignty. Putin’s portrayal of his $15 billion bailout package/gas discount as simply that of a “Slavic big brother” helping the little one out is a myth that keeps getting punctured. This time, Putin’s mendacious intent became clear after Russian-friendly Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned on Jan. 28. Putin responded by holding up the loan (after an initial $3 billion tranche) and stopping Ukrainian goods on the Russian border.
Then Putin sends his propaganda warrior, Sergey Glazyev, on the PR offensive to call for a violent police crackdown on demonstrators. He also spread rumors that the United States is spending $20 million a week to fund Ukraine’s political opposition and the “rebels, including weapons.” Then, without any proof whatsoever, he goes on to make the ridiculous claim: “There is information that armed militants are trained on the territory of the U.S. Embassy.”
Glazyev goes on in the Kommersant interview to do what he’s done on previous occasions – suggest that Ukraine is breaking up as a nation, and that such an event would not be such a bad thing.
In many ways, the Kremlin propaganda machine is working in tandem with President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration in discrediting and smearing EuroMaidan protesters. Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara shot his credibility to shreds in Munich earlier this month by dismissing the kidnapped and tortured EuroMaidan activist Dmytro Bulatov’s injuries as a mere scratch on the cheek and doubting his story of being abducted. This is one of just dozens of lies, untruths and exaggerations government officials are engaged in to smear a genuine uprising by Ukrainians to fight for democracy and against corruption.
And now recordings are being leaked of high-ranking U.S. and European Union officials talking with each other, a black operation that has all the signs of a Russian KGB operation. Aside from undiplomatic language, the leaked excerpts of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt’s talk with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland show that both are trying to find a constructive solution to end Ukraine’s crisis, a contrast to the Kremlin’s approach.