Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ukraine can find its way

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Russia, the United States and the European Union agree peace and stability in Ukraine are in their mutual interests. More important, they also say it's up to Ukrainians themselves to decide how to resolve their troubles.

"We want Ukraine to be part of the European family in every sense of the word," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says.

This is a remarkable turnaround for a country that manipulated Ukraine's internal affairs to ensure its so-called "privileged interests" were protected. Russia has also historically viewed Ukraine as essential to its national security and an integral part of its ambitions for empire.

Russian platitudes about the importance of recognizing Ukrainian sovereignty, however, come with an important caveat: It says it cannot allow "radicals" and "nationalists" to prevail.

These seemingly conflicting positions are worrisome, particularly as the turbulence and separatist rhetoric appear to be accelerating in the divided country.

Russia says it will follow a policy of "non-intervention," but it will be difficult for the Kremlin to remain neutral if it foresees the emergence of a hostile government on its border.

The West can help soothe Russian concerns by encouraging Ukraine's interim government to work with its neighbour to achieve stability.

The United States and the European Union can reinforce this point by linking substantial financial assistance to the formation of a credible interim government acceptable to parties including Russia.

The results of a national election to be held in May should be respected by Russia and the West, even though it is unlikely to resolve all the disputes.

Ultimately, the problems of Ukraine can only be solved -- must only be solved -- by Ukrainians themselves. Foreign interference would only prolong the process of allowing the people to figure out their future, on their terms.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2014 A10

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