“On Wednesday, Viktor Medvedchuk, political council chairman for the Ukrainian party Opposition Platform-For Life, announced that Ukraine’s constitution should be amended to transform the contested region of eastern Ukraine, known as the Donbas, into an “autonomous region.” The plan would see the Donbas forms its own parliament within Ukraine, according to local media reports,” reported Newsweek earlier in the week. Medvedchuk is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Medvedchuk’s Ukrainian critics label him the ‘Prince of Darkness’ due to his backroom dealings and shadowy persona. Vladimir Putin is the godfather to his child, and his ties to the Russian President’s subversion of Ukraine’s sovereignty and his dubious past landed him on the United States sanction list.
“Mr. Medvedchuk’s own views on the resolution of the conflict are reliably pro-Moscow and have broadly evolved in step with the Kremlin,” wrote The Independent after Medvedchuk granted them an interview in August of last year concerning the conflict between Russia and Ukraine centering around the Donbas region.
During the interview, Medvedchuk stated he ‘often’ discussed Ukraine with Vladimir Putin and that it was “more than once a year.” While the two have had a close friendship since 2003 Medvechuk would detail one main disagreement the two commonly have, “Putin thinks we [Russia and Ukraine] are one nation, but I think it’s not one nation, but two Slavic nations, with intertwined histories, religion. I tell him this all the time. I don’t think it’s one nation. You simply can’t say this.”
What Are Medvedchuk’s Goals?
“Medvedchuk argued that his party is the only one offering a viable peace plan to end the war in Ukraine, which has been ongoing ever since a pro-Western social movement ousted the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas have been fighting Ukraine’s troops in the years since, leading to an estimated 10,000 deaths,” the Newsweek article continued. The Russian and Ukraine war hasn’t been a focal point of international media in recent months with Brexit, the Mueller investigation, and now the political upheaval in Venezuela drawing most of the headlines.
With Putin seemingly focused on keeping Nicolas Maduro in power within Venezuela, Medvedchuk’s play could complicate an already volatile situation in Donbas. The likelihood of the Ukrainian government to accept such a proposal is almost non-existent. Putin and his political allies in Russia are also not likely to sign on to such an agreement since they feel the area belongs to Russia.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared martial law in Ukraine after tensions between Russian and Ukraine intensified after three Russian ships opened fire on Ukrainian vessels and took approximately twenty sailors captive. The actions led to Ukraine banning Russian males from entering the country. Value Walk reported on the issue in December.
The ban on Russian males from temporarily entering Ukraine may earn him favor among hardliners who want to see the Head of State exhibit strength when dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The action comes after President of the United States Donald Trump announced he was canceling a meeting with Putin on Saturday at the G20 summit in Argentina.
Recent leaks state United States President Donald Trump met with President Putin in private during the G20 in an unofficial capacity. Medvechuk’s proposal is likely to draw the ire of his political opponents in Ukraine. Poroshenko may play to his hardline base with Presidential elections occurring on March 31st. Recent opinion polls show Yulia Tymoshenko [Fatherland] and Volodymyr Zelensky [Servant of the People] currently slightly ahead of the incumbent President.
Could This Lead To Further Military Actions?
With Putin currently juggling conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela it’s unlikely he wants to escalate tensions in Ukraine at the present time. However, Medvechuk may be biding his ally time while the turmoil in Venezuela continues to play out.
The Russia and Ukrainian war doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. Both sides can ‘manage’ their situation if the conflict remains at its current state.
The conflict in Ukraine risks further deterioration of U.S.-Russia relations and greater escalation if Russia expands its presence in Ukraine or into NATO countries. Russia’s actions have raised wider concerns about its intentions elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and a Russian incursion into a NATO country would solicit a response from the United States as a NATO ally. The conflict has heightened tensions in Russia’s relations with both the United States and Europe, complicating the prospects for cooperation elsewhere including on issues of terrorism, arms control, and a political solution in Syria.