Ukraine’s military urges President to act to end crisis
Ukraine’s military urged President Viktor Yanukovych to take “urgent steps” to resolve the political crisis that “threatens territorial integrity” of the post-Soviet state.
“The servicemen and employees of the armed forces of Ukraine, who staff the Ministry of Defence, have called on the Commander-in-Chief to take urgent steps within the framework of existing legislation in order to stabilise the situation in the country and reach consent in society,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
The President in Ukraine is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
The Ministry of Defence blasted as “unacceptable” the seizure of government offices, and warned that “further escalation of the confrontation threatens the country’s territorial integrity.
However, the statement does not necessarily mean that Ukraine’s army is ready to intervene in the two-month-long crisis. Revealingly, the appeal to the President did not come from the Defence Minister or top military commanders, but was approved at a “general meeting of the staff of the Defence Ministry of Ukraine.”
In fact, Defence Minister Pavlo Lebedev earlier this week ruled out any military role in the standoff between the government and the opposition and denounced as “provocation” calls on the army to intervene.
The Defence Ministry statement amounts to little more than an attempt by Mr Yanukovych to bring pressure on opposition leaders as talks on ending the crisis have reached a deadlock.
The opposition has turned down Mr Yanukovych’s offer of the post of Prime Minister and demanded new elections and changes in the Constitution to curb sweeping presidential powers. However, the Parliament, dominated by the President’s loyalists, closed its three-day emergency session on Thursday without discussing the opposition demands, while Mr Yanukovych took a sick leave to ponder his next move.
Meanwhile, the United States is entering the fray in Ukraine in a big way.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talked with Ukrainian opposition leaders on telephone on Thursday and will meet them in person on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich this weekend in a major show of support for Ukrainian protesters.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who accompanies Mr. Kerry to Europe, will also visit Ukraine next week to push the government towards compromise with the opposition.
An unnamed State Department official told reporters on Thursday the U.S. hopes “a government of national unity” can be formed in Ukraine.