Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Ukraine peace hopes dwindle

By He Wei (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-31 07:33

China Forum | He Wei

The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 has dealt a severe blow to the prospects of a resolution to the worsening crisis

The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17 marked a new low in the Ukraine crisis, which started last year. Given the denials of responsibility for the tragedy made by Moscow, Kiev, and the pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, it will be difficult to hold any side accountable for the deaths of the 298 people onboard the aircraft. However, one thing is certain that the tensions in Ukraine will continue to escalate.

First of all, the downing of MH17 dealt a blow to the prospect of a lasting cease-fire in the restive eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian insurgents pose a grave challenge to Petro Poroshenko, the country's new president. In his inaugural address on June 7, Poroshenko stressed his resolve to peacefully defuse the tensions in eastern Ukraine, and two weeks later, he issued an executive order to cease fire against the insurgents until the end of June.

A temporary peace would probably have helped establish an environment conducive for negotiations between Kiev and pro-Russia insurgents, but Poroshenko called a sudden halt to the cease-fire on July 1. In addition to the resumption of hostilities, the downing of MH17 has further worsened the Ukraine crisis due to its unique complexity.

There remains little hope of peaceful talks in eastern Ukraine as the Poroshenko administration and pro-Russia insurgents keep accusing the other of bringing down the plane, and Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Western counterparts keep clashing over the subsequent investigation. Besides, the pro-Russia insurgents insist that negotiations will be only possible if Kiev recalls its troops and ends its "anti-terrorist" operation; indicating that bigger military conflicts are likely to emerge as both sides refuse to compromise.

Worse, the surprise resignation of Arseny Yatseniuk as Ukraine's prime minister last week reflects the wavering political situation in the country, which will deepen its enduring financial crisis as well. With the domestic economy sluggish, Ukraine has struggled to guarantee the well-being of its own people, and the potential rise of social unrest is bound to endanger political stability.

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