BRUSSELS, June 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --
French MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser has questioned how Europe can "tolerate" the current situation in Ukraine, particularly at a time when human rights and the rights of minorities are being abused in the country.
Speaking at a special hearing in Brussels on Wednesday, he said this especially applied to the rights of opposition forces in Ukraine.
He also said there were "huge problems" with implementation of the Minsk 2 Agreements, notably the lack of progress with constitutional reform and regional autonomy, or federalisation, in the country.
The deputy said, "During our previous missions to Donbass we have voiced strong support for the people of Donbass and we will keep doing this."
The Alsace deputy said people, such as himself, who had visited Donbass had been "horrified" by what they had seen. "The rights of minorities are not respected and indiscriminate violence is widespread. The only solution is autonomy, or decentralisation. Only then can we talk about rebuilding the East of Ukraine."
Schaffhauser, who was addressing a hearing, "The paradox of Ukrainian democracy", in the European Parliament, urged Ukraine to consider a "new form of state composition" such as exists in Germany where Bavaria enjoys a large degree of independence but Germany remains, nevertheless, a united country.
Another good example that might be used as a model for Ukraine is that of South Tyrol in Italy which has also enjoyed wide autonomy for many years.
Schaffhauser voiced particular concern that the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has "little interest" in discussing the further steps needed to implement the Minsk 2 agreements.
Speaking at the same hearing, John Laughland, director of studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, a leading French policy institute, expressed fears about the "growth of Neo-Nazism and fascism" in Ukraine, saying the presence of Far Right militia in Ukrainian armed forces was helping to drive the conflict in the east of the country.
The Paris-based Laughland also said the European Union and Nato both have an "ideological self-interest" in "perpetuating, aggravating and stimulating" the ongoing war in Ukraine's eastern regions.
The respected political scientist said Russia had become an "ideological enemy" and "existential threat" for the EU which sees Moscow as "standing for everything opposite" the EU values.
He voiced particular concern about the presence of "neo-Nazis" and "fascists" in Ukrainian forces, pointing out that this was the "first time" a Western institute had highlighted this issue.
One example cited is that of Andriy Parubiy, who resigned as head of Ukraine's National Security Council last August and was the self-proclaimed commander of the EuroMaidan demonstrations in Kiev that began in November 2013, calling for closer integration with the EU.
Parubiy is now deputy speaker of the Ukraine Parliament but, said Laughland, has an "extreme right wing" background and was recently photographed in paramilitary uniform. In 1991 he said he was seen in a Nazi uniform.
Further evidence of the current influence of the Far Right in Ukraine's militia, said Laughland, is the Azov Battalion, a 1,000-strong volunteer militia of Ukraine's National Guard which has been widely criticised for its Neo-Nazi links.
Laughland told the hearing, "Such influences are undeniably elements in driving the current conflict."
He said, "Violence is, in fact, a key word used by the various nationalistic parties which came to power in the February 2014 coup. This culture of violence has also been used by the authorities in Kiev to deal with the cessationist regions in the East."
Laughland believes the underlying rationale behind Western policy towards Ukraine was "reinforce Nato and the West as a political entity." (See video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbdyGUh3UM0 )
Further contribution came from Slobodan Despot, a Swiss writer and publisher, who in his presentation said the West was using the same strategy in Ukraine as it had implemented in the former Yugoslavia. "As a result," he noted, "an extreme nationalist ideology prevails among the rulers in Kiev. The current leaders in Kiev are glorifying in a nationalistic ideology and the West is supporting this ideology. If there is evidence of genuine fascism anywhere in the world at present it is in Ukraine where the ruling authorities seem to glory in a type of Nazi ideology."
He said that neo-Nazis and fascists were not marginal figures in Ukraine "but occupy key positions in the Ukraine government."
"All of this, let us recall, is supported by Ukraine's friends in the West," he noted.
He also reserved criticism for EU and Western powers for "using any available tools and means" to "isolate" Russia and "separate Ukraine from its common Russian tree."
Anatoly Tolstoukhov, a former MP and government minister in Ukraine, presented his views on the current situation in the country, pointing out that he represented neither the regime nor opposition but was merely preoccupied by the crisis.
He said, "Ukraine has and is experiencing a crisis of politics and has gone through a crisis of history. That is why it is now undergoing what I might call a crisis of perspective."
He said that the best way for the EU to support Ukraine and its people would be to convince the authorities in Kiev and all other parties involved in the conflict to fully implement the Minsk 2 agreements.
"The EU," he said, "Should encourage the authorities in Kiev to work together with the opposition forces. If the Ukraine government fails to engage in real dialogue with the opposition or to implement Minsk 2 the negative results will rebound on Europe."
Aleksei Glazov, a lawyer from Odessa, told a press briefing that followed the 90-minute hearing that the only reason he had travelled to Brussels was to raise public awareness of the "disturbing" violations of human rights, including restrictions on the freedom of the opposition and media in Ukraine.
He said he was currently defending the rights of a Ukrainian journalist, Artyom Buzila, who was arrested in April on trumped up charges of "separatism" and working against national security interests. He remains in custody in Ukraine with the authorities saying they do not intend to release him because he "poses a threat" to state security.
"As a lawyer, I see no legitimate grounds to keep this person in prison," said Buzila, who added, "His arrest and detention illustrates the fact that, currently, anyone who speak about federalism or anything relating to national or cultural autonomy is considered to be a separatist and liable for arrest and detention."
SOURCE The Office of Jean-Luc Schaffhauser MEP