EU disavowal of 21 February agreement

responsible for standoff between the West & Russia



On 21 February 2014, the day before President Yanukovych was overthrown, the EU brokered an agreement [1] that provided for the transfer within 48 hours of substantial presidential powers to the Ukranian parliament and the creation within 10 days of a “national unity government”, which would remain in place until presidential elections were held.


The agreement was signed by President Yanukovych and by the leaders of the three main opposition parties and was backed, verbally at least, by the EU and the US.  Russia also supported it.


Had the agreement been implemented, it is very likely that the present standoff between the West and Russia would never have happened – and it’s possible that, with the EU and Russia acting together, Ukraine could have been set on the road to a stable and inclusive form of government, the like of which it has never had as an independent state.


But the opposition leaders reneged on the deal and, the next day, backed the unconstitutional overthrow of Yanukovych, replacing him with an opposition figure, and established a “government” representative of the opposition and not a “national unity government” as provided for in the agreement.


The EU stood idly by while this was happening and blessed the illegitimate regime that came into being as a result, as did the US.  Its leaders have now been feted in Brussels and Washington.


It was the EU’s disavowal of this agreement that led to the standoff between the West and Russia.



Main points


The main points of the agreement were



The implementation of these arrangements would not have involved any action in breach of the Ukranian constitution, unlike the removal from power of the President that took place on 22 February.


The agreement was brokered by  the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland (Laurent Fabius, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Radoslaw Sikorski) acting on behalf of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (who was in Iran).


A Russian representative, Vladimir Lukin, was also present during the negotiations and, according to Sikorski, “made interventions during the marathon talks which eased the path towards an agreement” [2]. 


The agreement was signed by the leaders of the three main opposition parties, Arseniy Yatsenyuk (Fatherland) Vitali Klitschko (UDAR) and Oleh Tyahnybok (Freedom) and by President Yanukovich himself.  The European foreign ministers signed the document as witnesses, but the Russian representative did not.



Agreement welcomed by EU & US (and Russia)


The agreement was wholeheartedly endorsed by Catherine Ashton on behalf of the EU:


“I welcome the agreement reached today by the President and the opposition leaders. This agreement opens the way for a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine. A democratic and peaceful solution is the only way forward.  The EU has been very much engaged in all the efforts that led to this important breakthrough. I particularly commend the important work on my behalf of the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Poland who facilitated this agreement. Implementation is now key. I call upon all signatories to respect the agreement and recall full Ukrainian ownership and responsibility for its immediate implementation.” [3]


For the UK, David Cameron also welcomed the agreement, saying that “it should foster a lasting political solution to the crisis” [4].  He added:


“Over the last 24 hours, I have spoken to President Putin, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Tusk. We all support this deal and want to see it work. And working with other European partners and the United States, we will do all we can to ensure it succeeds.”


For the US, President Obama’s press secretary welcomed the agreement, saying that it “is consistent with what we have advocated in calling for a de-escalation of the violence, constitutional change, a coalition government, and early elections” [5], adding:


“Now, the focus must be on concrete action to implement this agreement, which we will be monitoring closely.”


Later, on 21 February, Obama talked to Putin by telephone and, according to a State department spokesman:


"They agreed that the agreement reached today needed to be implemented quickly, that it was very important to encourage all sides to refrain from violence, that there was a real opportunity here for a peaceful outcome.” [6]



EU backs illegitimate regime


So, on 21 February, an agreement with the potential for stabilising the political situation in Ukraine was apparently supported across the political spectrum in Ukraine and had got the backing not only of the EU and the US, but also of Russia.  All that was necessary was to implement it as quickly as possible.


But opposition signatories did not honour the agreement and proceed to its immediate implementation.  Instead, the day after they signed it, they reneged on it and backed the unconstitutional overthrow of the President and established a new regime, which is not representative of the east and south-east of Ukraine


And what did the EU do then?  It backed the new regime, as if the agreement on 21 February had never happened.


In a press conference, on a visit to Ukraine on 25 February, Catherine Ashton never mentioned the EU brokered deal of 4 days earlier in her opening statement, a deal which 4 days earlier she had said “opens the way for a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine” [7].


When she was asked about the deal, she muttered that “the situation has moved on”.  Indeed it had, a President had been overthrown by unconstitutional means, which had it happened in other parts of the world the EU would most likely have condemned it.  When asked if she agreed with the Russian government that “the situation in Ukraine is illegal”, she avoided answering the question.



Putin raises interesting questions


At his press conference on 4 March, President Putin queried why the 21 February agreement hadn’t been implemented:


 “I would like to draw your attention to the fact that President Yanukovych, through the mediation of the Foreign Ministers of three European countries – Poland, Germany and France – and in the presence of my representative (this was the Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin) signed an agreement with the opposition on February 21.


“I would like to stress that under that agreement (I am not saying this was good or bad, just stating the fact) Mr Yanukovych actually handed over power. He agreed to all the opposition’s demands: he agreed to early parliamentary elections, to early presidential elections, and to return to the 2004 Constitution, as demanded by the opposition. He gave a positive response to our request, the request of western countries and, first of all, of the opposition not to use force. He did not issue a single illegal order to shoot at the poor demonstrators. Moreover, he issued orders to withdraw all police forces from the capital, and they complied. He went to Kharkov to attend an event, and as soon as he left, instead of releasing the occupied administrative buildings, they immediately occupied the President’s residence and the Government building – all that instead of acting on the agreement.


“I ask myself, what was the purpose of all this? I want to understand why this was done. He had in fact given up his power already, and as I believe, as I told him, he had no chance of being re-elected. Everybody agrees on this, everyone I have been speaking to on the telephone these past few days. What was the purpose of all those illegal, unconstitutional actions, why did they have to create this chaos in the country? Armed and masked militants are still roaming the streets of Kiev. This is a question to which there is no answer. Did they wish to humiliate someone and show their power? I think these actions are absolutely foolish. The result is the absolute opposite of what they expected, because their actions have significantly destabilised the east and southeast of Ukraine.” [8]


President Putin raises interesting questions.



David Morrison

18 March 2014