Putin and Poroshenko Square Off Over Ukraine
Published: June 11, 2014 (Issue # 1815)
President Vladimir Putin has not shied away from expressing his preferences about the future of Ukraine, suggesting the country should refrain from federalization and joining Western political and military alliances in order to give more power to the Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine and normalize relations with Russia.
These hopes appear to have been quickly dispelled last week following inconclusive meetings with Western leaders in Normandy and a strongly worded inaugural address by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in which he rejected the Kremlin’s informal conditions for stabilizing relations with Kiev.
Poroshenko said on Saturday that Ukraine will not compromise on “Crimea, [the country’s] European choice and state structure,” expressing resistance on issues of importance to Moscow.
“Yesterday, in the course of our meeting in Normandy, I told President Putin, ‘Crimea is Ukrainian soil. Period!’” Poroshenko added.
Putin also came away empty-handed from his exchanges with U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande on June 6, having received no reassurances that Russia’s informal demands would be considered.
Meanwhile on Monday, Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russian separatists exchanged fire in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk, which has been at the heart of confrontations in the region. Russian media outlets reported that two civilians were killed on Monday morning by Ukrainian military strikes.
While Russian officials continue to vehemently deny involvement in the clashes in eastern Ukraine, Russian state-run television has unleashed a vilifying campaign against Poroshenko on its news and analytical programs.
Russia’s state-owned Channel One featured a physiognomist and psychologist on its Sunday broadcast who claimed Poroshenko’s facial expressions suggested he “becomes different when speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama” and that he is “selective, capricious and calculating.” A news report published on the channel’s website on Sunday said that “everyone knows Poroshenko is cynically lying.”
The views expressed on Russia’s state-owned television networks have seemingly taken hold of the population.
A poll published by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center on Monday found that 43 percent of Russians think Poroshenko represents the interests of the U.S. and the European Union. The survey, based on the opinions of a representative sample of 1,600 adults across 42 Russian regions, showed that one in every five Russians believes the new Ukrainian leader represents the interests of “fascists, nationalists and banderites.” A mere 6 percent said Poroshenko represented the interests of western and central Ukraine.
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