Donbass and Swedish Ukrainian policy

The open letter from Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’e Republic (DPR and LPR) includes rather detailed information especially about the dangers caused by the violations of the Minsk II agreement due to bombardments along the contact line. Electricity, gas and water supplies which often serve both sides are destroyed. Hospitals, schools, kindergartens, houses and other buildings are also damaged and in part destroyed


Damage to Donetsk water filter station after shelling January, 29 2017.
Source: Social media online. 

If this happens to people on the Ukrainian side like in Avdeevka, a suburb of Donetsk, this is widely reported in Western media as if DPR has caused these problems when it is Ukrainian bombardment hitting the water treatment plant in Donetsk destroying the roof where the chemicals for cleaning the water are kept. Also, the electricity lines serving a coal plant for heating in Avdeevka, and other areas, have been hit. OSCE SMM reports about the course of events and the lack of unwillingness to solve the acute situation causing Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM, to make the following statement:

Once again, it is very important now that the root causes of the fighting that led to so much suffering are being removed. The humanitarian agenda in this respect should take the front seat. Any political agenda should come second.”

Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM,
February, 1 2017

OSCE and OHCHR reports make it clear that during a long time the situation in Donbass has been a humanitarian disaster. This year 2,3 million of people are in an urgent need of humanitarian relief and the same number are endangered due to water shortages with accompanying risk of outbreaks of water-related diseases. 70 percent are elderly, women and children. ccess to food is uncertain. Thousands of domestic houses and public services, as well as infrastructure, are damaged or destroyed.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that 60 percent of the population of DPR and LPR, rely on pensions and other social benefits as their main source of income while the Ukrainian government since a long period of time has suspended all payments. Only five border crossings are open and tens of thousands, at the risk to their lives, pass there every day. Humanitarian relief can go through only two border crossings.


Foreign policy statement made by the Swedish government February, 19 2014.
Source: Swedish government.

The foreign policy statement made by the Swedish government issued on February, 19 2014 denounced the use of violence and called for negotiations. It was issued the same day as the opposition stormed the Interior Ministry’s weapon stocks in Western Ukraine and this was followed by further escalation. The agreement made between the opposition and the government with mediation of ministers from the EU on February 21 requested a peaceful transition of power. This was presented as an international agreement and the opposition immediately broke it. The opposition chose to override the democratic constitutional order by using force to impose a new government. A complete change was made in three days.

Since then, the Swedish government have during the following three years not cared for the advice it gave in its 2014 foreign policy statement. Avoiding violence and calling for negotiations between opposition and government was no longer of importance to Sweden. Besides, the government of Sweden has shown itself to be indifferent to the humanitarian catastrophe which is caused by the refusal to negotiate in combination with the military action taken against the opposition in Donbass. Despite this, the Swedish government has often portrayed itself as giving importance to humanitarian issues.

A shift in the Swedish foreign policy lacking interest in dialogue about solutions to the current Ukrainian crisis and the humanitarian situation in Donbass may now be on its way.

So far, Sweden has aggressively been attacking Russia for all conflicts in the former Soviet Union space after its dissolution. The former foreign minister Carl Bildt even compared Putin with Hitler after the Georgian attack on the capital of South Ossetia – an attack which was repelled by Russia in 2008. Sweden has, among the Western European countries, continued to be a main agitator for EU’s eastward expansion. Together with Poland, Sweden headed EU’s Eastern partnership project in the same way as Sweden was the driving force in expansion of Swedish and Western financial capital into the Baltic States and other former Soviet republics.

Thus, Sweden has consistently refused to show any interest in listening to other views than that of the Ukrainian government. For a long time, the Swedish government refused any direct dialogue with the Russian government. This is contrary to neighboring Finland who regularly meet at top level with Russia. Not to mention that Sweden does not show any interest for the concerns of the people of Donbass who have been reduced to pawns in the interest of Swedish policy for EU’s eastward expansion at all costs.

The Swedish policy has been consistent regardless of the shift in government during the autumn of 2014 from right wing to red green party politics. In the European Council, the whole Swedish delegation voted by a majority to take away the votes of the Russian parliamentary delegation. This is in sharp contrast to the rest of the delegation from the Nordic countries where a majority either abstained or voted against excluding Russians from voting. There has been almost no possibility too small or too big where Sweden has not used the opportunity to damage dialogue and/or trade relations with Russia.


Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström and Russian foreign minister Sergej Lavrov in Moscow, February, 21 2017.
Photo: Mikhail Japaridze/TASS

When the Swedish foreign minster Margot Wallström finally travelled to Moscow to meet her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on February, 21 it is thus a welcome shift in the Swedish foreign policy of avoiding direct dialogue with Russia. We hope that this move was done in good faith and with substantial interest in solving the Ukrainian crisis.

We call upon our government to follow the advice put forward by Holger Nielsen from the Socialist People party in the Danish parliamentarian foreign policy committee. This party that supports the EU, sees it necessary not only to put pressure on Russia to fulfill the Minsk  II agreement, but also on the Ukrainian government. It should be of utmost importance to any political party and government claiming interest in ending human suffering and promoting conflict resolution to end the war.

Whether the shift in Swedish foreign policy towards dialogue with Russia is based on humanitarian and peace concerns remains to be seen. Sweden was heading the United Nations (UN) Security Council in January 2017 and used this as an argument for visiting countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. Our country has argued for a need to foster dialogue due to its position at the UN while representatives also promoted Swedish trade interests.

We argue that it is of historical importance for Europe to solve the humanitarian crisis in the Donbass region. We will judge our government as well as all Swedish political parties in accordance with their willingness to put human security above politics in order to immediately put an end to human suffering. And Sweden has a leverage to do this.

Sweden has, like many other Western countries, contributed millions of Euros to the Ukrainian government and has a wide range of tools available to ask all relevant actors to fulfil the Minsk II agreement. The responsibility of Sweden’s lack of fulfilling this so far has been manifested in the human suffering in Donbass. It is a disgrace to efforts done by both the Swedish governments and Swedish citizens in the past to stop human crises and support peace initiatives.


Commemoration of the Odessa massacre, Stockholm, May, 2 2015.
Source: Goran B.

We will welcome a change in the Swedish foreign policy if it has substance. Until then we will denounce the lack of interest in peaceful conflict resolution and lack of concern for the largest humanitarian catastrophe in Europe. We will collect money, clothing, shoes and other basic necessities to support civilian victims in Donbass. We will challenge the lack of interest for the systematic violations of human rights in Ukraine. On May, 2 2017, we will commemorate the Odessa massacre where 42 people were killed in the trade union house which three years ago, was attacked by a right wing extremist mob. We will also initiate a broader discussion about peace in Europe and the need to view the Ukrainian conflict in a wider social, ecological, economical and international policy context.

To support the campaign, we have thoroughly been reading the reports from OSCE, OHCHR and other sources about the humanitarian and military situation in Donbass including political statements. On our Swedish blog, we have published a general description about the humanitarian situation, a detailed analysis of border crossings along the contact line and a walkthrough of the escalation at the turn of January and February where special focus is given to the Avdeevka-Donetsk-Yasinovataya area.

During October 2016, we participated at a peace gathering in Berlin. This was organized by the International Peace Bureau and did not only call to an end to militarism, but also called for a just ecological transition to address the global threat of climate change – a transition needed also due to other environmental concerns.

We do hope to cooperate with others for peace and a solution to the humanitarian crisis in Donbass. Together with other peace movements, trade unions, peasant organisations, environmental organisations we want to contribute to a future for Ukraine and the rest of the world built on the common concern not only to promote peace on earth but also for peace with earth.


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