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乌克兰:时不我待

执行摘要及建议

乌克兰临时政府需要克服极大困难,才能坚持到5月25日的总统大选。面对分离主义者的动乱与俄军陈兵边境的困扰,临时政府未能坚持立场,并失去了对东部顿涅茨克州与卢甘斯克州的控制——两州引发争议的公投支持从乌克兰独立。临时政府似乎无法维持东南部大部分地区的秩序,那里的分离主义者得到了莫斯科的支持与鼓励,威胁着乌克兰政权的存活与国家统一。基辅当局以及乌克兰总统候选人们应主动与东南部沟通,解释他们在地方自治与少数民族权利方面的计划,阐明要将乌克兰变为俄罗斯与欧洲之间的桥梁,而非地缘政治的战场。随着莫斯科与西方的关系遭遇严寒,美国与欧盟应当继续实施严厉的制裁,让俄罗斯明白自己将为动摇、分裂邻国的行为付出越来越高的代价;同时,美国与欧盟也应寻求与此对应的强力外交手段,以达成共识,避免最坏情况的发生,并尊重彼此利益。

将亚努科维奇政府赶下台的“迈丹”抗议给人带来的乐观情绪,随着2月以来不断恶化的局势烟消云散。俄罗斯吞并克里米亚之后,克里姆林宫派出的“志愿军”以及很有可能是俄罗斯特种部队(Spetsnaz)掌握了乌克兰东南部的主动权。分离主义者的目的似乎是煽动足够多的动荡与流血事件,令弗拉基米尔·普京总统得以维护他所说的莫斯科的权利,即莫斯科有权保护任何地方的俄语人口。最坏的情况是乌克兰国土的1/3变为新的自治实体,该区域拥有乌克兰许多最重要的经济资源,且最终可能并入俄罗斯联邦。这一切都加深了西方与俄罗斯之间的危机,令解决危机所需的友好和解更难实现。

乌克兰东南部的混乱严重威胁着总统大选。经过数月的街头示威与战斗,临时政府于2月成立,但几乎无法正常运转。大部分政府成员或是经验丰富,但来自名誉扫地的前政体,或是新面孔,没有或几乎没有政府工作经验。政府机构内部的沟通似乎很薄弱,政府与公众整体的沟通则几乎不存在。莫斯科将乌克兰描绘成一个被法西斯政变控制、由极右翼民兵组织主导的国家,俄罗斯公众对此深信不疑,而乌克兰部分地区由于缺乏其它信息也接受了这样的说法。

乌克兰政府必须即刻与人民对话,尤其是东南部地区的人民。东南部与克里米亚不同,俄罗斯人在当地并不占多数,就连亚努科维奇时代执政党的某些主要成员都在谴责分裂国家的言论。政府应当重视语言、自治及腐败问题(公众对最后一项尤为关切),并通过宣传表明自己对于这些问题的重视。另外,腐败与无能困扰了乌克兰20年,造成国家经济凋敝,要挽救经济必须进行深度改革,而改革必然引发阵痛。政府还应当让民众做好准备,迎接改革带来的痛苦。

恢复东南部秩序的军事行动暴露了政府的软弱,也说明乌克兰急需通过对话而非武力解决问题。各方对于乌克兰危机的解读大相迳庭,导致对话解决危机难上加难。在许多乌克兰人及西方看来,民众起义支持乌克兰转向欧洲,但却遭到俄罗斯复仇主义的阻挠;在俄罗斯看来,“迈丹”革命是苏联解体之后又一场精心策划的行动,旨在令邻国与俄罗斯反目,从而包围、威胁并羞辱俄罗斯。

普京总统似乎认为,诞生于群众抗议的亲西方乌克兰政府会为俄罗斯国内树立危险的先例,并阻碍他实现在前苏联共和国尽可能扩大俄罗斯主导地位的野心。俄罗斯正在经历快速的变化,吞并克里米亚之后,普京获得了强劲的民众支持,并正在迅速建立一种公然保守的意识形态,有意识地拒绝西方民主的许多原则与概念。然而,俄罗斯强迫乌克兰屈服,也可能导致俄罗斯在长期失去这个文化与政治上的盟友。

为缓和局势,俄罗斯、基辅、美国及欧盟于4月中旬在日内瓦签署四方协议,但分离主义势力对此置若罔闻,使之成为一纸空文。尽管如此,这一努力应当尽快重启。乌克兰领导人——尤其是总统候选人——应当承诺在大选过后组建一个包括东南部地区重要代表的国家统一政府,并强调希望让乌克兰成为连接俄欧的桥梁,而非分裂俄欧的沟壑,以此作为友好和解的指导原则。乌克兰领导人也应直截了当地表明乌克兰不希望加入北约,承诺保障俄罗斯与乌克兰东南部,乃至整个乌克兰的国防工业纽带及其它联系。

西方对于乌克兰局势的反应十分缓慢,而且往往协调不够,乌克兰临时政府内部的紊乱使得这一问题更为复杂。现在,美国及欧盟需要传达出一致、坚定、统一及慎重的信息,针对莫斯科对乌克兰危机起源的解读,美欧即使无法接受也不能对其置之不理。美国及欧盟应当表明自己对于基辅当局举行选举的政治支持,以及对于乌克兰建立国家统一政府、推行必要稳定措施的政治、资金及专业支持;改善乌克兰国内环境,使之有能力接纳外国投资;若俄罗斯拒不改选更张,则通过进一步制裁来加大对其经济的打击力度;与莫斯科展开秘密高层对话,协调基辅与莫斯科之间的对话,以缓和局势,让乌克兰的未来走向在今后数年内得以自然成型。

自从6年前出兵格鲁吉亚以来,俄罗斯已经习惯于利用武力重新划定边界。如今,这一问题无疑需要通过坚定的威慑措施加以应对,包括实施制裁,以及向北约成员重申履行集体安全义务的承诺。然而,与此同时还必须通过外交手段来减缓对抗。目前,俄罗斯在乌克兰境内占有优势,可随时令局势升级;随着时间的推移,西方可能会在经济及软实力方面占上风。如果乌克兰能够成为一个成功、民主的国家,在经济上大幅度融入西方,但并不加入军事同盟,同时又在文化、语言、贸易上保持与俄罗斯的紧密联系,注意考虑俄罗斯的利益,那么各方都会受益。最后,在基辅以及支持乌克兰当局的国际人士思考未来的时候,所有人都应铭记,乌克兰是一个饱受创伤的国家。创伤的成因远不止分离主义。过去20年的政府无能和腐败横行几乎完全摧毁了乌克兰,造成了今天伤痕累累的国家。

Ukraine's President Zelensky welcomes former prisoners as they disembark from a plane on September 7, 2019 at Boryspil international airport in Kiev after a long-awaited exchange of prisoners between Moscow and Kiev. AFP/Sergei Supinsky
Q&A / Europe & Central Asia

Ukraine-Russia Prisoner Swap: Necessary, Not Sufficient

A long-awaited prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia marks a positive development in their bilateral relationship. Both countries should now build on their recent progress to implement the 2014-2015 Minsk agreements, the surest path to ending the war in eastern Ukraine.

What happened?

After months of rumours and negotiations, Ukraine and Russia finally exchanged dozens of prisoners, all held in connection with the conflict that began when Russia annexed Crimea in early 2014, and which continues violently in Ukraine’s east.

Moscow released 35 Ukrainian citizens. They included four Crimeans arrested shortly after Russia’s February 2014 takeover of the peninsula, along with 24 sailors whom Russian security forces apprehended in the Black Sea last year. Russian courts had charged them with crimes including terrorism, espionage, conspiracy to violate state borders, and, most bizarrely, killing Russian troops in Chechnya in the mid-1990s. Human rights groups and governments decried these detentions, and viewed the sailors as prisoners of war.

Kyiv also released 35 detainees: 22 Ukrainian citizens, twelve Russian citizens and one Moldovan. Best known is Kirill Vyshynsky, who had directed the Ukrainian branch of Russian state news outlet RIA. Arrested on treason charges last year, he renounced his Ukrainian citizenship. According to Moscow and international human rights groups, his arrest and imprisonment were politically motivated. Other prisoners had been charged with fighting alongside Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine or aligning with Russian troops in Crimea. Most controversially, Kyiv freed Vladimir Tsemakh, a Ukrainian citizen and separatist air defence commander who may have helped conceal the missile that shot down flight MH-17 in July 2014, killing all aboard.

How are Ukrainian and Russian publics reacting?

As the 35 men stepped off the plane in Kyiv on Saturday, the runway erupted with cheers, family members sobbed with relief, and President Zelenskyy teared up. Ukrainian media reflected a celebratory public mood. In Moscow, reactions were more subdued. “Our people have been freed!” tweeted the Russian Embassy in Ukraine after the plane carrying the former prisoners left for Moscow. Yet just a handful of officials met them upon landing and only Vyshynsky has received substantial coverage in the Russian press.

Many in and outside of Ukraine were critical of Tsemakh’s release, arguing that he was needed to prove Russian responsibility for launching the missile that downed flight MH-17. But speaking on the runway Saturday, Zelenskyy told reporters that Dutch investigators had questioned Tsemakh prior to release, and the exchange had been delayed to ensure they and their Ukrainian counterparts had the information they needed from him. Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok told his own country’s parliament the same. But the exchange may well not have happened without Tsemakh.

Are any prisoners still being held?

Ukrainian officials say over 200 citizens, including journalists, are held by de facto authorities in the Russian-backed self-proclaimed republics in Ukraine’s east, known as the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. Some of Kyiv's critics say Ukraine holds thousands of political prisoners, a claim that prominent rights groups have not backed up. Ukrainian authorities have indeed arrested large numbers of people in relation to protests and violence linked to the conflict, but Russian officials generally do not champion these prisoners’ cases publicly. According to media reports, representatives of Kyiv and the breakaway regions may meet on 18 September to discuss a trade.

Separately, according to Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Lyudmila Denysova, 113 Ukrainian citizens are imprisoned in Crimea and Russia for political reasons. They include 89 Crimean Tatars accused of terrorism (critics of Russia say these are false charges premised on silencing opponents of annexation). On 10 September, Denysova said Kyiv was negotiating with Moscow for their release too.

What does this mean for prospects for peace?

The prisoner exchange is the latest and most notable in a series of recent positive steps. Kyiv and Russian-backed entities in eastern Ukraine recommitted to a ceasefire that has, over the past six weeks, brought civilian deaths down to zero. They further agreed to repair a long-destroyed bridge connecting the de facto Luhansk People’s Republic to government-held Ukraine. Kyiv has also spoken of reinstating trade across the front lines, which, apart from rebuilding commercial and social ties, could improve dire living conditions in separatist-held areas. In this context, the exchange signals Kyiv’s and Moscow’s willingness to make concessions. Moreover, the apparent public support for Saturday’s exchange strengthens Zelenskyy’s mandate to pursue compromise and defy hardline critics.

Still, no one should overstate the significance of this event: real progress in ending the conflict requires each side to implement the stalled 2014-2015 Minsk agreements. That means Russia must withdraw its forces from eastern Ukraine and suspend support to groups it backs in that region. Kyiv, for its part, needs to hold elections, implement an amnesty, permit some form of self-governance in these territories and fulfil its other obligations to enable reintegration. The two sides have yet to agree on the sequence of these steps.

What’s next?

Kyiv seeks a meeting of the Normandy quartet, which brings together Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany, to chart a way to peace. Should it take place soon and produce clear steps to advance the Minsk agreements or otherwise improve Russia-Ukraine relations, the meeting could be cause for optimism. Further prisoner exchanges, restoration of legal trade and eased travel restrictions between Ukraine and its breakaway regions (including by repairing the bridge mentioned above), or between Ukraine and Russia, would signal a continued thaw.

Much could derail progress; worst would be a recurrence of fighting in eastern Ukraine. How Zelenskyy responds to domestic pressure from those opposed to further concessions bears watching, as does rhetoric from both Moscow and Kyiv in the coming weeks and months. The EU and its member states, the U.S., and other interested parties can improve prospects for peace by welcoming the steps Ukraine and Russia have taken so far and facilitating further dialogue, including through the Normandy format.

Contributors

Senior Analyst, Ukraine
Program Director, Europe and Central Asia
OlyaOliker