Didn't Putin agree to end the pro-Russian rebellion in Eastern Ukraine?
On Thursday April 17, Russia in Geneva acquiesced to the demand of the United States, the EU, and Ukraine to end its support for the pro-Russian separatist rebellion in Eastern Ukraine.
In a joint statement, the four states agreed that:“All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions” and “All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated”.
Why the sudden turnaround by Putin?
Russia's ending of its support for the armed rebellion was probably due to a decision by the Party of Regions, the main political party in Eastern Ukraine. The day before the Geneva conference, the Party of Regions called for a united Ukraine and for all armed groups to disarm and to evacuate captured government buildings.
The Party of Regions has been Russia’s key ally in Ukraine. Its call for a united Ukraine would have undermined Russia’s occupation of Eastern Ukraine.
The decision to end the party's support for the rebellion came from its new party leader, member of parliament, Mykola Levchenko.
He should be credited for starting the rebellion. After President Yanukovych fled on February 22, Levchenko sponsored “Commander Pavel Gubaryov”, who proclaimed himself “people’s governor of Donetsk”, and began the occupation of government buildings, the raising of Russian flags and the calls to unite with Russia.
Levchenko has replaced Yanukovych as the political face of the Party of Regions. Like Yanukovych, he has the financial backing of Ukraine’s super oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov. While he and his sponsor must take the responsibility for initiating the uprising. Today, they both can take credit for having ended the rebellion.
The April 16 Donetsk congress of the Party of Regions opened with a minute of silence for the victims of the Skochinsky mine accident in Donetsk, and the playing of Ukraine’s national anthem. The emergency congress gathered more than 3,000 party members, including 21 members of parliament, 109 deputies from the Donetsk regional council and 1,498 deputies from the city councils in Donetsk region.
The ending of political support for the armed rebellion by the Party of Regions does not mean the conclusion of the insurgency. Not all the few thousand armed rebels, a combination of ultra-nationalist and gangsters, will surrender voluntarily, and will have to be forcibly disarmed by Ukrainian forces.
The sincerity of Russia’s decision to end support for the uprising will be tested on the ground. If the Russian special forces who command the armed rebels in Eastern Ukraine don’t return to Russia, then the Geneva agreement will become a sham and Putin's word will be another lie to cover a covert action.