The violent upsurge

THE OUTBREAK of ethnic violence in several cities of Ukraine is a grim reminder to Moscow that it is playing with fire. Clashes have been reported between Russian speaking people and those who are against Kremlin’s intervention inside Ukraine.

This is what Russia wanted to prevent as it swiftly moved its forces into Crimea, a major pro-Russian constituency in order to ward off such an unrest spilling over into the Russian mainland.

President Vladimir Putin while speaking for the rights of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine and elsewhere had little or no regard for the heterogeneous cosmopolitan that had been evolved with the passage of time in Europe and Asia. His mindset was apparently that of 1954 Crimea when it gifted over the peninsula to Ukraine keeping in view wider geopolitical connotations. But six decades down the line, Crimea and Ukraine have undercurrents that are difficult to be bifurcated, and that is why the move to conduct a pro-independence vote is being so highly contested. The pandemonium going on in the eastern city of Kharkiv bordering Russia is worrisome, and could ignite trouble elsewhere as well.

With the countdown done ahead of a secession referendum in Crimea, the crisis has deepened. The canvas is laden with high-profile diplomatic overtures, as after Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s visit to the United States, Washington has in principle opted for an offensive strategy in the region. US Vice-President Joe Biden plans to travel to Poland, Lithuania and several other Baltic States in order to resurrect a ring of pro-Nato states for defending Ukraine’s sovereignty. The roadmap is quite similar to the one during the days of Cold War when the West was busy in orchestrating a defence line against the Soviets.

The failure of talks in London between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the backdrop of rigid stance that both the countries had taken in the UN Security Council is disturbing. This in other words means beyond Sunday, both Kremlin and the White House will have to address new realities in the wake of vote on the peninsula. The locus standi would be different and there are going to more obstacles on the path of easing out tensions. This tedious process could have been easily shelved had both the US and Russia agreed on a minimum agenda and put off the vote in lieu for West coming up with concessions for the post-Viktor Yanukovych dispensation. But that is not the case, and warmongering seems to be the order of the day. The result is: Pentagon has made plans to station its vessels in the Mediterranean for long and Moscow likewise navigating in the Black Sea. This cannot go on like this, and de-escalation has to set in.

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