The pot continues to boil in Ukraine. There have been continuing pro-Russian demonstrations in the predominantly Russian speaking southeastern section of the country. Now the situation has moved to a formal declaration of separation from the government in Kiev.
Pro-Russian activists occupying a government building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk have proclaimed the creation of a sovereign "people's republic" independent of the capital, Kiev.There continue to be large numbers of Russian troops massed near the Ukrainian border. Putin's claim that some of them were being moved back appears to have been at best a token gesture. What is happening in Donetsk appears to be following a similar pattern to the events in Crimea. People who present themselves as local activists are pushing for incorporation into the Russian Federation. It seems decidedly plausible that they are getting support from the Russian government.
The announcement, which was posted on YouTube, was delivered by a protest spokesperson outside a building currently occupied by several thousand Russia supporters, some of them armed.
"Seeking to create a popular, legitimate, sovereign state, I proclaim the creation for the sovereign state of the People's Republic of Donetsk," the spokesperson said to cheers from the gathered crowd.
The Interfax news agency reported that the self-proclaimed leaders of Donetsk had vowed to hold a referendum on regional sovereignty no later than 11 May. Ukrainian presidential elections have been set for 25 May.
The regional news website Ostrov said the activists wanted to join the Russian Federation in a similar way to the Crimean peninsula.
There is little doubt that there are significant numbers of people in that region who have stronger cultural and economic connections to Russia than they do to the west, while the situation in western Ukraine is the reverse. This cultural divide has created chronic political instability since the dissolution of the USSR. It is a pattern that occurs in many places where people who do not have a close identity with each other find themselves lumped together in an arbitrary geographic boundary that has been recognized as a nation state.
The problem that arises is the lack of functional international organization with the capacity for resolving such conflicts in an orderly and non-violent manner. It seems probable that this new separatist movement will raise the tensions in the continuing security confrontation between the west and Russia.