Nearly eight months after the revolution which saw the ouster of former President Victor Yanukovych, the overall situation in Ukraine is still deteriorating. In just the past week, multiple parliamentary election candidates have come under assault with one escaping death in what may have been a series of attempted political assassinations. When factored against a backdrop of alleged human rights abuses in the deployment of cluster bombs and a failed energy deal with Russia, the eastern European nation seems to have a bleak winter ahead of it.
The New York Times reports that Mark Gres, a candidate for Parliament with the Radical Party, and Oleksandr Gorin, running for the People’s Front Party, were both ambushed separately the night of Friday, Oct. 17 at or near their respective homes in different areas of the country. Additionally, Volodymyr Borysenko, also of the People’s Front Party, came under fire from small arms and a thrown explosive device while leaving his home in Boryspil, a suburb of Kiev, late Monday. An unnamed member of his party is reported to have credited Borysenko’s survival with his habit of wearing body armor since receiving prior threats against his life. Significantly, these attacks came in regions of the country well under Ukrainian control, away from the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, casting doubt on the security in any part in the country. The parliamentary elections are scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014.
The violent political situation comes before a generally deteriorating backdrop for embattled Ukraine. Human Rights Watch, an independent international organization, recently released a report stating that their investigation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine indicated that Ukrainian national forces had deployed cluster munitions in Donetsk at least twelve times since early October. Cluster weapons are banned by 113 of the world’s nations for their indiscriminate destruction resulting from the deployment of many bomblets, intended to cover a wide area and considered tactically unsuitable for urban environments. If the Human Rights Watch’ report is corroborated, it will spell difficulty for the Ukrainian government, potentially alienating them from broader western support and undercutting the moral voice of their narrative to the greater international audience. That is likely the case, as the organization claims to possess both photographic and physical evidence consisting of the actual shells of the munitions, discovered in buildings and bomb craters within Donetsk, and unexploded cluster ordinance retrieved from farms on the outskirts of the city.
Additionally, a proposal in which Russia would supply gas to Ukraine has foundered on the bargaining table, despite the European Union’s involvement in negotiations. Russia had cut off delivery of gas to Ukraine over the summer, in the early months of Ukraine’s current civil war, due to excessive unpaid bills. Despite having already agreed to a $14 billion aid package for Ukraine this year, it appears that the EU will be called upon again later this month. According to an Associated Press report, both Russia and Ukraine expect that the EU will provide a financing package to facilitate the transaction. With winter fast approaching and Ukraine’s pipeline providing a key energy source to Central and Western Europe, there is mounting pressure to resolve the situation in a manner timely enough to secure the energy for heating ahead of the cold weather. Negotiations are scheduled to resume on October 29, and a successful outcome could do much to mitigate the deteriorating situation in Ukraine.
By B. J. Whittemore