Map of Ukraine showing Lviv Region (“Galicia”) in far west of Ukraine
Former Interior Minister and leading Maidan luminary reports spread of secessionist sentiments in Maidan’s political heartland as war weariness and disillusion grows
The following short piece that appeared on the Fort Russ website could represent a turning point in the Ukrainian conflict.
Western Ukraine (the region that was once known as Galicia) has borne a disproportionate share of the burden of the war.
This is because Western Ukraine is the heartland of the Ukrainian nationalist movement. Maidan oriented parties typically get around 90% of the votes in elections there.
Conscripts from Western Ukraine are therefore considered especially reliable, which is why they have been recruited into the Ukrainian army in disproportionate numbers.
This has been a heavy burden to bear for a region that accounts for less than a fifth of Ukraine’s population, and there have been increasing reports of anti-conscription protests, some of which appear to have taken a violent turn.
At the same time Western Ukraine has been caught up in the general disillusionment with the Maidan regime that has been spreading across Ukraine as the economy disintegrates and life for people becomes harsher.
In light of this it is not surprising if secessionist feelings are starting to spread in Western Ukraine.
The region has a distinct identity, having only been finally united with the rest of Ukraine following the Soviet conquest in 1944. Not only is Ukrainian rather than Russian the main spoken language but in contrast to eastern or central Ukraine the local religion is Uniate rather than Orthodox.
The region is large enough, and distinct enough, to form a viable independent state and it seems that option is becoming increasingly attractive.
The source for the claim that secessionist feeling is now spreading in Western Ukraine is an authoritative one.
Yury Lutsenko is not only a former Interior Minister and one of Tymoshenko’s closest associates, but was a key Maidan leader during the protests. Between 2010 and 2013, during Yanukovych’s Presidency, he was jailed on forgery and embezzlement charges. As was inevitably the case in the highly polarised conditions of Ukrainian politics, Lutsenko’s conviction and imprisonment was widely assumed to be a political act by Yanukovych to eliminate a rival. The result was that Lutsenko’s imprisonment elevated him to a status just behind Tymoshenko as Ukraine’s most celebrated prisoner.
Since his release Lutsenko’s political star has waned but he remains nonetheless an important player in Ukrainian politics. He has recently served as an adviser to Ukrainian President Poroshenko and he is now the parliamentary leader of Poroshenko’s faction in the Ukrainian parliament.
If someone as senior as Lutsenko says that secessionist sentiments are spreading in Western Ukraine, it is likely to be true.
In one respect however Lutsenko is wrong. He implies that secessionist sentiments are something new in Western Ukraine.
In fact Western Ukraine declared autonomy from the rest of Ukraine in February 2014 during the Maidan protests, when it still appeared as if Yanukovych might be able to ride them out.
That secessionist impulse was checked when Yanukovych’s fall appeared to render it superfluous. However the so-called “Self Reliance” party” of Lvov mayor Andriy Sadoviy, which came third in the November parliamentary elections with 11% of the vote, appears to have emerged out of it.
If a secessionist movement ever gains significant support in Western Ukraine, then it is difficult to see the present government in Kiev holding on. Western Ukraine is the heartland of its support. The option of using force to suppress “separatism” in Western Ukraine (as has been done in the Donbass) simply isn’t there.
If Western Ukraine secedes Ukraine will unravel and the Maidan revolution will be finished.
This article first appeared in the Fort Russ website.
Ordinary people living in Western Ukraine, are now seriously discussing the need to divide the country.
This was stated by the former head of the Interior Ministry of Ukraine, one of the closest associates of Yulia Tymoshenko, Yuriy Lutsenko.
“This weekend I was in Western Ukraine – in Ternopil, Lviv, in Lutsk, and Rivne. I saw the situation among the people. I was mostly in bookstores and talking with sellers. With intensity I heard the question numerous times: ‘Isn’t it time already to divide the country?’ – I’ve never heard of,” he said, according to “Regnum”.
“Today, they begin to say that the country they can not go on living together – or put up with each other, or resolve things. God forbid that politicians would talk about it, but it has begun to be spoken of among the common people “- also added Lutsenko.