Interfax: Russian MP denies talk of separatism at congress in southeast Ukraine

Alexei Pushkov file photo

(Interfax – February 22, 2014) The south and east of Ukraine are not seeking to break away but they reject “political diktat” from “extremists” in Kiev, a senior Russian MP warned in reports on 22 February.

Aleksey Pushkov, of the ruling One Russia party, chairs the State Duma’s international affairs committee. He was in Kharkiv to observe a congress of politicians from Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking southeastern regions.

These “are the bulwark of stability in Ukraine, unlike the western regions where buildings, weapons and armoured vehicles are being seized and the authorities are being destroyed”, Pushkov told Interfax news agency. “If government and stability exists anywhere in Ukraine today, it is in the regions represented at today’s congress.”

They are not calling for secession but they do want more respect for their contribution to the country, Pushkov continued. “The leaders of the regions who were there – Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Dnipropetrovsk Regions, Crimea and Sevastopol – said they want to retain a single Ukraine but not a Ukraine in which terms and policies are imposed on to them by extremist forces that recognize nothing other than the language of violence and diktat,” he told Interfax. “Kiev should heed their voice or a new and highly acute political phase will begin.”

It is wrong to call these regions separatist and there was no talk at the congress of breaking away, Pushkov continued. But he pointed out their importance to the national economy: these are “Ukraine’s main industrialized regions, the regions that pay in”.

The congress constantly stressed that the aim is not to break the country apart but to keep it together, but for that to happen their voice must be heard and there must be a political compromise between Kiev and the regions, he said, as summed up by Interfax.

Pushkov expanded on this in a separate report by RIA Novosti. “Nobody at the congress, for example, questioned bringing back the ! 2004 constitution, but they did say that it has to happen in a way that serves the interests of everyone in Ukraine and not just those who have seized power in Kiev,” he told the agency.

He also warned of trouble if the violence in Kiev spread. “The atmosphere at the congress showed, in my opinion, that these regions of Ukraine are seriously determined to resist any imposition of the radical methods that currently prevail in western Ukraine and to a large extent in Kiev,” he said. “They don’t want any Maidan-type violence being imported to Kharkiv or anywhere else here.”