Ukraine’s government bears more responsibility for ongoing conflict than the far-right

The question of autonomy in the Donbass has fractured the fragile coalition, but the government must start thinking of solutions – not point fingers at paramilitaries

The proposals, supported by the US and EU, form part of a promise made at the Minsk peace agreement to grant “special status” to the pro-Russian rebel-held regions to help end the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

But in reality, these constitutional changes are only a distant relation to the letter of the Minsk agreements. Poroshenko’s proposal is not approved by the separatists, nor by the Kremlin. It does not really give any “special status” to separatist areas, and any specific details on autonomous rule in Donbass may later be revised by a simple majority vote in Ukrainian parliament.

Moreover, the so-called “decentralisation” is accompanied by a strengthening of the presidential control over local self-government via centrally assigned “prefects” with broad powers.

The far-right party Svoboda, the Right Sector party and some of the current coalition government parties criticised the changes as a “capitulation” to Russia, and Monday’s protests turned bloody after a man – reportedly a member of a far-right battalion, called Sich – threw a hand grenade into a dense police line.

The government reported that more than 130 law enforcement officials had been injured, and three National Guard soldiers – all young draftees – died from injuries.

The Sich battalion, created with the support of Svoboda, is one of many formed in the past year to challenge separatist rebels supported by Russia in the east of the country.

However, in an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, Poroshenko claimed Russia was in fact responsible for the deaths. The president claimed the Kremlin’s ongoing “campaign of destabilisation” was to blame, despite clear indications that it was far-right nationalist supporters who were driving the clashes with the police.

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