Civil War in Ukraine

Kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The events in Eastern Ukraine since May 25th have sadly proven right those who predicted the unleashing of a civil war. Not a day goes by without very sad and disturbing news about events in these regions, without the news of deaths either among the insurgents and the civilian population – which is paying a heavy tribute – or among the Kiev government forces. The use by the Kiev government of important military means, of combat helicopters, of jets bombing the city of Slaviansk on June 2nd[1], as well as of artillery rocket launchers is particularly noteworthy. This had been confirmed by the OSCE[2]. Three years ago, Western governments – the French government among them – had shown dismay over the use of this type of weapons in the civil war in Syria. Somewhat earlier, during the civil war in Libya, the argument of the massacre of civilian populations had been used to justify what one cannot but call a military intervention. One is struck to note the deafening silence of these same governments when the Kiev government is using exactly the same military power against the insurgents. And one cannot help thinking that there exists indeed a double standard according to which the lives and the destinies of the ones are measured against the others. The hatred of all that is Russian and all that comes from Russia is sufficiently blinding part of the press and of French intellectuals, with the exception of Emmanuel Todd [3], that there is no need to wonder much about this deafening silence of the “beautiful souls.”

The Presidential election of May 25th, which has seen the election of Mr Porochenko in the first round, has not brought about, again according to expectations, any amelioration in the situation. Mr Porochenko has been elected in the West and in the central part of the country. His legitimacy is to remain questionable. He might be able to rebuild it if he decides to open an immediate dialogue with the insurgents and above all to put an immediate halt to military operations. For it must be pointed out that the insurgents have risen against the Kiev government but not necessarily against Ukraine. Discussions with people representing the “Republic of Donbass,” from Donetsk and Slaviansk, showed until these past two weeks the existence of a strong resentment against the provisory government, but also an acceptation in principle of a participation in Ukraine. The demands of the populations of Eastern Ukraine, be they linguistic or cultural, do not appear unreasonable [4]. Their demand for a « federalisation » of Ukraine should have been, and should still be listened to. But the violence of combats tearing up the regions of Donetsk and Slaviansk, the fear settling over Odessa, which is prey to the actions of militants of the extreme-right, are in the process of swinging over part of the inhabitants to real separatism, and to the idea that the only solution for them resides in union with Russia.

The readers of this carnet know that I have since the beginning of this crisis defended the thesis of the unity of Ukraine, because it was the solution, which appeared to me politically most adequate. A scission of the country would provoke chain reactions in the region as well as within the European Union, which would find itself saddled with the responsibility of managing a rump Ukraine, reduced to its Western and Central regions. It is also to be feared that, in such a situation, the inhabitants of Lviv (L’vov) would ask for their unification with Poland. Only a federalisation of Ukraine could keep such a process in check. But it requires that the arms go silent and that the Kiev government accept to negotiate with the insurgents. Such is the reality of History: one rarely negotiates with one’s friends! Otherwise, it’s the very existence of Ukraine, which risks to be called into question.


[2] Recknagel C., « What Are Eastern Ukraine’s (Legitimate) Grievances With Kyiv? », RFE/RL,


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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