Civil war in Ukraine?

English translation done by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The tragic events which have unfolded in Eastern Ukraine on Friday May 2nd , clearly represent an acceleration in the process leading to civil war and, in time, to a partition of the country. As could be foreseen, the Geneva accord is foundering, and with it the future of an independent Ukraine. [1] Besides the « front » in Slaviansk, where forces of the provisory government have attempted to cut down the insurgents, not without losses on both sides (2 helicopters of the forces of Kiev downed, and a total of 5 dead) all eyes are turned towards Odessa. There clashes between partisans of the provisory government and insurgents have caused at least 3 dead, while a deadly fire, about which it is not yet known who provoked it, is said to have killed around 40 people[2]. Already each side shoves off to the other the responsibility for the victims.

Yet there are undisputable facts, which are recognized by most of the observers:

  1. The East of Ukraine is indeed in a state of insurrection. Militants who support joining Russia are joined by Ukrainians expressing their profound mistrust against the Kiev’s provisional government and its supporters. A sizeable part of the population has risen in defence of the partisans of joining Russia, while a more or less important fraction of the forces of law and order (police and army) has shifted in favour of these same militants, or refuses to intervene against them. The official discourse which we are hearing from Kiev, as well as from the European capitals, according to which these are only a few dozen agitators paid by Moscow, does not hold. It is morally disgraceful.
  2. Under such conditions, the will of the provisory government to proceed with what it calls an « anti-terrorist operation » has become the principal cause of the murderous violence. It is urgent that this government call back its forces because, not only will violence not resolve anything, but it makes the situation worse by the hour. Only an immediate pulling back of the forces of the provisory government is liable to bring back calm.
  3. This de facto government persists in a suicidal attitude: it purports to be alone to be able to decide over the constitutional compromise indispensable for a return to stability, but it behaves in such a manner that it is now rapidly losing its authority and legitimacy in the regions of the East of Ukraine. Who will want or accept to negotiate with a government which  now has blood on its hands? This will be possible only if the provisory government changes its attitude. But after what has happened today, it will find itself compelled to make important concessions.
  4.  The governments of the countries of the European Union, but also the United States and the IMF as well, are the prisoners of a denial of reality which is becoming more and more worrisome. They are concentrating their attention on Russia, which is not fitting with the situation. Let’s state it again: we are not in presence of “a few agitators” but of an insurrectional movement. The reality of this must be accepted. Further, they are busying themselves with the pie in the sky of a financial stabilization plan, when the country is sliding ever faster into civil war.

It is urgent therefore, in order to avoid the worst, and supposing that there is still time, which one is permitted to doubt after the events of today, to understand that there can be a solution to the dramatic situation in Ukraine only on three conditions:

  1. A common declaration by the United States, the principal countries of the European Union and Russia on a future independent Ukraine must stipulate that this country is in no way called to rejoin the European Union or NATO. As a corollary to such a declaration, it would be appropriate to put an end as soon as possible to the parade of sanctions taken against Russia.
  2. The institutional future of Ukraine must recognize the duality between the West and the East of the country. The precise form, whether federalism or confederation, must be decided by the Ukrainians alone, within the framework of an Assembly with Constitutional Powers or of a commission of national reconciliation.
  3. But, above all, it is important to bring an end to violence and for this to happen, the provisory government must imperatively call back all the forces, of the army and of the national guard, which are presently deployed in the East of the country. For its part, Russia must engage itself not to intervene, whether directly or indirectly.

It may be still possible to stop the infernal spiral into civil war. As of now, it is the responsibility of the countries of the European Union to act in this direction. The responsibility before History of the EU and of some of its member states in the destabilization of Ukraine gives them the moral obligation to act in order to avoid a catastrophe. But one must act fast. It could be already too late.

[1] Sapir J., « Ukraine, après Genève », note publiée sur Russeurope, le 19 avril 2014, URL :



Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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