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LONDON, January 4. /TASS/. The expectations by Washington and London that pressure will make it possible to break Moscow regarding Ukraine will not be justified, former UK ambassador to Russia Tony Brenton (2004-2008) said as quoted by the British weekly Independent on Sunday.
“As with much Western policy towards Russia, this won't work. The economic pressures on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin may well intensify, but they won't bring him down,” Brenton said.
“In fact the expected hit to the Russian economy this year roughly matches that in the UK in 2009 - bad, but no apocalypse. Meanwhile, the Russian people are tough (they experienced much worse as recently as 1998),” he said.
Assessing the political consequences of the crisis in Ukraine, Brenton said “all the signs are that Russia wants to get the temperature down. For a nation obsessed with reciprocity their retaliation to sanctions has been strikingly limited.”
“They continue to cooperate closely with the West on a range of crucial international business from Iran to Islamic State. And they seem at last to be trying to make the Minsk agreement (intended to settle the conflict in east Ukraine) work. The ceasefire may finally be taking hold, and the prisoner exchanges of the past few days have been awaited for months,” he said.
“Russia has two key demands. First, Ukraine must not join NATO; a stance enragedly reiterated by the Kremlin last week in response to a pro-NATO vote in the Ukrainian Parliament. And second, power must be decentralized to the rebel provinces of east Ukraine. This is now enshrined in the Minsk agreement and so has notional Ukrainian acquiescence,” Brenton said, adding that Moscow “cannot back down on these points.”
“A solution is tantalizingly close. Ukraine, whatever its Parliament votes, is not going to join NATO anytime soon,” he said. “The principle of decentralizing power to east Ukraine has now been conceded. Negotiating the details will be difficult, but that is what diplomats are for.”
“The second thought is less optimistic. There is no sign, at least in London and Washington, that anyone is planning any negotiating at all. [US President Barack] Obama and [UK Prime Minister David] Cameron seem content to watch Russia's crisis take its course. There are real costs to this. Ukraine's agony continues, and probably gets worse as economic collapse looms,” Brenton said in his article.
He also said that “it must be of some concern that… Russia links itself more and more closely with China.”
The positions of Russia and Western nations and Kiev on the Ukrainian developments differ radically. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the intra-Ukrainian crisis, but the West and Kiev accuse Moscow of “annexing” Crimea and participation in clashes in Ukraine’s war-torn southeast. Western nations have subjected Russia to sanctions.
Russia has constantly dismissed accusations of “annexing” Crimea, because Crimea reunified with Russia voluntarily after a referendum in mid-March 2014, as well as allegations that Moscow could in any way be involved in hostilities in the southeast of Ukraine.
Kiev’s military operation designed to regain control over the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions in Ukraine’s southeast on the border with Russia, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People's republics, conducted since mid-April 2014, has left thousands of people dead, brought destruction and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.
The parties to the intra-Ukrainian conflict agreed on a ceasefire during talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on September 5, 2014 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.
Numerous violations of the ceasefire, which took effect the same day, have been reported since.
Russian officials and companies came under the first batch of Western sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Russia incorporated Crimea in mid-March 2014 after the February 2014 coup in Ukraine.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
The West announced new, sectoral, restrictions against Russia in late July 2014, in particular, for what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests in Ukraine’s southeast.
In response, Russia imposed on August 6, 2014 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Norway.
New punitive measures against Russia were imposed in September 2014.