What U.S. and other western governments call a legitimate popular revolution in Ukraine, the Russians continue to assert was an orchestrated coup d'etat.
And on that basis the Kremlin has announced deep misgivings as it rejected the framework of a settlement deal put forward by the U.S. State Department and other western powers over the weekend. Instead, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has announced that Moscow is working on "counterproposals" that take into account what it calls the illegal ouster of President Vicktor Yanukovych last month.
"We have prepared our own proposals aimed at returning the situation into the framework of international law, to honor the interests of all Ukrainians, given the deep governmental crisis in Ukraine," Lavrov said.
According to the Associated Press:
Russia has said it is drafting counterproposals to a US plan for a negotiated solution to the Ukraine crisis. The Kremlin denounced the new western-backed government as an unacceptable “fait accompli” and claimed Russian-leaning parts of the country had been plunged into lawlessness.
The Kremlin moves came as Russian forces strengthened their control over Crimea, less than a week before the strategic region is to hold a contentious referendum on whether to split off and become part of Russia.
In a televised briefing with President Vladimir Putin, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said proposals made by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, were “not suitable” because they took the situation created by the coup as a starting point, referring to the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin president, Viktor Yanukovych.
Referring to a document he received from Kerry explaining the US view of the situation in Ukraine, Lavrov said: “To be frank it raises many questions on our side … Everything was stated in terms of allegedly having a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and in terms of accepting the fait accompli.”
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Yanukovych himself made public announcements concerning the tension on the peninsula as he condemned the interim government in Kiev that is made up of the opposition coalition that removed him from power.
As the New York Times reports:
Appearing in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don for the first time since the scale of Russia’s intervention in Crimea became evident, [Yanukovych] denounced the West for rushing to recognize and to provide financial assistance to a government he said was a junta.
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“You do not have any legal grounds to provide financial assistance to these bandits,” Mr. Yanukovych said, specifically questioning a $1 billion pledge from the United States to Ukraine. He cited an American law prohibiting aid to governments that take power in a coup.
The media framing around the Ukraine crisis has itself become a dominant part of the story, as Russia and the U.S. square off over their diametrically opposed narratives that are creating very real challenges when it comes to generating a workable settlement deal.
As the Moscow Times reports on Tuesday:
Less than a month after Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted amid mass discontent over his decision to move away from the European Union and toward Russia, the tug-of-war over Ukraine has now focused on Crimea, where experts say an information war has been launched after many Ukrainian news outlets were shut down and replaced by Russian state-owned ones.
Russian state media have been accused of resorting not only to half-truths and distortions but also to direct lies in their description of Ukrainian authorities and protesters.
The Kremlin, in turn, has accused Western and Ukrainian media of whitewashing the Ukrainian protest movement and the actions of the country’s current government.
Russia’s state-run media came under increased scrutiny after the pro-Russian Crimean administration took Ukrainian television off the air last week and replaced it with Russian broadcasts. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic spoke out and condemned the closure of television channels and attacks on journalists in Crimea, warning in a statement over the weekend that these actions paved the way to “the worst kind of propaganda.”
At times, it seems like Western media reports and Russian ones are describing completely different places and situations, with the latter portraying as a humanitarian crisis what the former describes as a Russian-manufactured provocation to justify military intervention.
Taking a hard stance against the U.S. government's frame on Tuesday, former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman says that the U.S. media is much too pliant when it comes to accepting the White House perspective while ignoring important historical context for the Ukraine crisis. Writing at Consortium News, Goodman explains why the U.S. position is so deeply flawed:
In the Crimean crisis, President Obama seems to be unnecessarily accommodating the right-wing criticism of his administration from politicians and pundits instead of finding a diplomatic solution to the current imbroglio. If the United States offered guarantees against the further expansion of NATO and invited Russia to take part in a multilateral economic aid program for beleaguered Ukraine, then it is possible that President Vladimir Putin would find a way to lower the Russian military presence in the Crimea.
In the meantime, the U.S. reliance on modest military steps, travel bans and economic sanctions will not bring any favorable change to the situation on the ground in Crimea. These steps will only worsen the crisis in the Ukraine and ensure that the United States and Russia cannot discuss important geopolitical matters on arms control and disarmament, nonproliferation and counter-terrorism, which finds them essentially in agreement.