Article for The Huffington Post
In the next few months, there will be a window of opportunity open for my country to end the conflict and violence that have been tearing her apart during the last two years. But if Ukrainian politicians fail to act with determination, this window will be closed.
The non-binding vote in the National Assembly of France last week calling for the lifting of sanctions from Russia shows just how critical it is for Ukraine to use this time to achieve peace. Even though on April 27 there was not enough MPs for a quorum, the very fact that the majority of members present voted for the lifting of sanctions indicates that friends of Ukraine lose patience. However, in order to achieve peace Ukraine needs to have not only friends, but also political will.
The “Minsk-2” agreement signed in early February last year, however imperfect it may be, points the path to peace. Together with France and Germany, Ukraine and Russia agreed on a conditions, which include a set of commitments from Ukraine. Among them are the amendments to the Constitution and the holding of local elections in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in the east of the country.
Not all political forces in Ukraine support the implementation of the Minsk Accords. The current parliament was elected at the peak of hostilities, and the parties that formed the majority, used military language and tactical camouflage in their election rhetoric. Nevertheless, today we must refrain from criticism of the Minsk agreements and start working towards their implementation as peace is our absolute priority.
Each of the revolutions that took place in Ukraine over the past 12 years resulted from abuse of power by the the central government. However, despite opportunities to reform the system following the EuroMaidan events of 2013-2014, absolutely nothing has been done to lay the foundations of the constitutional balance of power, and most importantly, for a meaningful transfer of powers and resources from the central government to cities and regions. Ukraine needs reforms and peace for effective development.
Now the parties to the conflict – with the support of France and Germany – continue their efforts to achieve a lasting cease-fire and complete the exchange of prisoners.
The next important step in resolving the situation in the Donbas will be local elections, which should take place in accordance with the Ukrainian law and under OSCE monitoring. These elections will allow to form a legitimate government in Donetsk and Luhansk and transfer the decision-making controls from the military to civilians, whose goal should be the restoration of war-ravaged regions.
So now we have all the opportunities and tools to make necessary decisions for the fulfillment of the Minsk agreements so that our country finally achieves lasting peace. The last remaining component is political will.
The new government that was formed last month following the resignation of Arseniy Yatseniuk, has even less time than their predecessors to deliver results. Ukrainians have shown their willingness to fight, but now our citizens are demanding peace. Europe will begin to consider Ukraine as a constructive member of a large community, and not just as a permanent problem that demands attention, only after cannons have grown silent.
Our political force - the Opposition Bloc - is the only opposition party that was elected to parliament in the last election. Opposition Bloc supporters mostly live in South-Eastern Ukraine, close to the conflict area. Over the last few years we have felt pressure from the government, many members of our party suffered from threats, violence and libel. But time proves us right, especially on the issue of an immediate and non-military settlement of the Donbas conflict.
The Opposition Bloc understands how much depends on whether Ukraine can use the window of opportunity that will be open this summer. The lives of too many Ukrainians over the past two years have been a struggle for survival.
We will demand action from the new government, not an exchange of accusations; implementation of reforms, not devising pretexts to explain their failures. We hope that Ukraine’s friends will continue to persuade the official Kyiv of the need for urgent action.
In a few days Ukraine will celebrate the 71st anniversary of the Victory Day. On May 9, 1945, together with our allies, we defeated Nazism. Now, in the new century, the importance and sense of that victory seem distant. Now victory begins with a simple blessing of the world so that we may begin to restore our country again.