Human rights on decline in Ukraine

By John J. Metzler

Describing the situation as a ��collapse of law and order�� on the territories controlled by the self-proclaimed rebel Republics, and amid on-going hostilities between the Ukrainian government troops and Russian backed separatists, a scathing new U.N. report overviews a fast deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine. The survey speaks of ��serious human rights abuses, intimidation and harassment of the local population perpetrated by armed groups�� as part of a larger plan to break away Russian-ethnic regions from the central government.��

The report comes amid flareups in fighting and warnings by Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko that his country should prepare for a possible ��full scale�� Russian invasion.

The Report by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights details a systematic plan of foreign fighters and supplies from the Russian Federation openly infiltrating Ukraine’s eastern frontier where armed groups from the ��so-called governance structure of the Donetsk people’s republic’ and the Luhansk people’s republic’ area (are) accountable for human rights abuses committed on territories under their control.��

The report states that since the beginning of hostilities in mid-April 2014, at least 6,362 people were killed and 16,000 wounded in Ukraine’s troubled eastern regions. And despite cease-fires, the indiscriminate shelling and shooting continues from both sides of the conflict. Tragically more than 1.2 million people have been internally displaced from their homes since the fighting started thus creating yet another humanitarian crisis, this time in Eastern Europe.

Much of the recent troubles stem from Ukraine’s own torn ethnicity in which a sizable minority along the eastern frontier bordering Russia favor some sort of association with Moscow. Yet, a larger majority in democratic Ukraine favors the West and would like to integrate closer into European institutions rather than with Russia.

Ukraine was a crucial economic and strategic region during the former Soviet Union, and there’s little question that President Vladimir Putin’s hyper-nationalist government wishes to bring Ukraine back into Moscow’s political orbit.

Since regaining its full sovereignty from the Soviet system in 1991, an independent Ukraine has never been far from Russia’s shadow. President Petro Poroshenko told parliament the ��Ukrainians were the first to feel the effects of two totalitarian systems, Nazi and communist.�� Since independence Ukraine has seen its freedoms challenged domestically by poor government, corruption and political infighting. Just last year the strategic Crimean Peninsula, home to a large and nostalgic Russian population, became the focus of Putin’s attention. Moscow engineered a ��referendum�� on the region’s political future, predictably won the vote, and ceremoniously annexed the region, allowing Putin a political propaganda victory. Crimea is home to large Russian naval facilities.