Solving Ukraine's 'political Chernobyl'

Flames light up Independence Square in Kiev during protests on 20 February , 2014. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The last time Kiev burned like this was during World War Two, write the editors of Ukrayina Moloda

Kiev's Independence Square has erupted in flames and bloodshed this week, as clashes between protesters and government forces escalate. One Russian columnist calls it a "political Chernobyl".

"The Ukrainian state is lying in ruin," writes Mikhail Rostovskiy in Moskovskiy Komsomolet. "And it is not some malicious external forces that have driven it into this condition. It is Ukrainians themselves who are destroying their motherland."

Ukrainian commentators are expressing shock and outrage over the violence and looking to assign blame.

"The last time so many people died was during World War Two," editorialises the pro-opposition Ukrayina Moloda. "Kiev was blazing like this only in the times of [Mongol] Khan Batu, Hitler and Yanukovych."

Oleksandr Sushko, director of the Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Institute director, says in Kiev's Den newspaper that Russian President Vladimir Putin is to blame for the crisis.

"Putin has bought civil war in Ukraine," he contends. "Specific prices and mechanisms of payments have been announced. The authorities do not want to recognise this, but without understanding this it is impossible to find out what originally caused violence and, correspondingly, to continue to view people's actions as evil plans by a group of radicals (which is not true)."

The editors of the pro-government Segodnya, on the other hand, urge Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to stand firm: "Autonomy of all regions, a strong prime minister, or concessions by the authorities and the people will lead us out of the crisis"

Meanwhile, in the United States, talk grows of a conflict between great powers and a renewed Cold War.

The editors of Bloomberg View call for the EU and US to call for Mr Yanukovych to resign and back their words up with sanctions on Ukrainian government officials, including "travel bans, financial investigations and asset freezes".

"Sanctions may work only at the margins, but they send a signal that Western leaders will press for political leadership needed to resolve the bitter divisions laid bare over the last few weeks," they write.

Syndicated columnist George Will describes the Ukrainian conflict as "the final episode of the Cold War", in which the Kiev protesters are repudiating the trans-national Marxism of the old Soviet Union. He calls Russian president Vladimir Putin "a little, strutting Mussolini".

"Ukrainians, whose hard history has immunized them against the folly of wishful thinking, see in Putin's ferret face the cold eyes of a prison warden," he writes.

Of course, it's not a Cold War without one more call for an Olympic boycott. Bernard-Henri Levy writes in the Wall Street Journal:

These Olympic Games will be over in a few days. Precious little time remains to stop collaborating in what now more than ever seems a grim masquerade.For those who care about democracy, can we, by pulling out of Sochi - or at least by boycotting the closing ceremony on Sunday - ensure that the XXII Winter Olympics will not go down in history as the Games that were the shame and defeat of Europe?

In order to adequately address the Ukrainian crisis, writes Peter Weber in the Week, Americans need to understand why the country is so important to Mr Putin.

"Imagine if Mexico decided to align itself economically and politically with, say, China," he writes. "It may be nice to think the U.S. would stand back and let Mexico decide what's best for its people, but that wouldn't be what history indicates would happen. Think Cuba - still a sore spot 25 years after the fall of the USSR - and Nicaragua, the focus of a U.S.-sponsored guerrilla war in the 1980s."

That "doesn't excuse Russia's hardball geopolitics", he continues, but it explains a great deal. "Keeping Ukraine in Russia's camp is apparently so important to Putin that he is fine with photos of Kiev burning and tales of dead protesters knocking his prized Sochi Olympics off the front page of newspapers," he concludes.

In the New York Times, former Italian Prime Minister and President of the European Commission Romano Pradi writes Ukraine is a bridge to Russia and should not be "the object of geopolitical games".

"European leaders should back down from their threats of sanctions against Ukraine and its embattled president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, which would only prolong the suffering of the Ukrainian people. But Russian interference in Ukraine's internal affairs must not be tolerated," he contends.

Vasiliy Kashin in the Russian paper Vedomosti warns Western nations not to get involved.

"Attempts to implement neo-imperialist plans in this strange country or, on the contrary, to show 'liberal solidarity' are extremely dangerous," he writes. "It is time for external players who are influencing the situation in Ukraine to understand that no one will win in the imminent catastrophe and there can only be talk of localization of losses."

The editors of Vedomosti express concern that winning in Ukraine will come with a cost. If the European Union imposes sanctions, Ukraine will have no choice but to turn to Russia, they write, but "Russian taxpayers will have to pay for everything".

(From information provided by BBC Monitoring.)