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Opinion: Yanukovych a burden on the peace process

Bernd Johann / re, ecsFebruary 22, 2014

The Ukrainian president remains an obstacle to the peace process. Only a change in political leadership can provide a resolution to the political crisis, says DW's Bernd Johann.

Bernd Johann (Foto: Per Henriksen/DW)
Bernd Johann heads DW's Ukrainian sectionImage: DW/P. Henriksen

After the bloodshed and the civil-war-like scenes in the Ukrainian capital, a government of national unity with the involvement of all political forces must be formed quickly so that a power vacuum isn't created. Former Prime Minister and opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko may have been released from prison, but presidential elections must take place soon - and without Viktor Yanukovych. The danger of a civil war still looms. For the moment, the president still has some support in the East and South of the country.

Trust needs to be established

The deal, which was brokered by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland, between the opposition leaders and the discredited President Viktor Yanukovych, has the right objective: to end the violence and establish democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine. But the agreement was just the first step. The sorely-needed trust in the peace process can now only be established among the population if there is a change in leadership. And that won't be easy.

Positions can quickly harden again

The path to peace in Ukraine will need a great deal of patience. A new constitution and the election of a new president need preparation. But time is also a problem, as there is the risk that the positions in Kyiv could harden again at any time. The opposition in particular is under immense pressure. It needs to convince its supporters that the agreements are a step on the right path. It also has to ensure that any further violence is prevented. It now seems increasingly likely that Ukraine could be split into a western and an eastern part.

But danger possibly lurks from another direction, too: from Russia. Although there was a representative from Moscow at the negotiations in Kyiv, he did not sign the agreement. That is not a good sign. Russia pursues its own interests in Ukraine. Russia has always supported the Yanukovych regime. Until now it has rejected all efforts by the EU in the Ukraine and labeled them as interference. It would be naive to believe that Russia will stay out of Ukraine's internal politics now.

Violence needs to be investigated

Yanukovych has led his country to the brink of civil war with his cynical politics. He carries the main responsibility for the bloodshed in the last days and weeks, and therefore, he is also the biggest burden on the peace process. You can't trust him. The battlefield of Kyiv shows what criminal and inhuman acts Yanukovych has been willing to accept to secure his power.

His role in the escalation of the violence in Kyiv needs to be investigated - as does the role of the radical forces among the protesters. Therefore it is good that the timetable for the political solution includes investigations with the involvement of experts from the European Council. These crimes need to be solved and those responsible need to be called to account. And Yanukovych is one of them.