Guldimann says eastern Ukraine not like Crimea

Ukrainians demonstrate near the Russian embassy in Kiev Keystone

A scenario such as that in Crimea is unlikely in eastern Ukraine, according to Tim Guldimann, the Swiss diplomat serving as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) personal envoy to Ukraine.

This content was published on March 20, 2014 - 21:40 and agencies

With a view to launching a new observer mission, Guldimann visited three cities in eastern Ukraine on Thursday: Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luganska. There he met politicians as well as representatives of NGOs.

“Despite intensive negotiations, we have yet to reach an agreement on dispatching a mission,” Guldimann said. The people he has spoken with have stressed the importance of integration in the Ukraine in order to continue their political work, the diplomat said. They also highlighted their close economic and family ties with Russia. What’s more, Guldimann’s sources have said that only a small part of the population would perhaps favour annexation to Russia.

On Thursday, the OSCE launched a “national dialogue” project.

“We must do everything to maintain the dialogue among the parties so that a solution can be found,” Guldimann said. In addition, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has opened an election observation mission for the May 25 early presidential election in Ukraine. There will be 18 election experts based in Kiev and 100 long-term observers all over the country. On election day, 900 short-term observers will monitor the proceedings.

Also on Thursday, Defence Minister Ueli Maurer expressed his regrets over some comments he made in an interview with the weekly news magazine Weltwoche. In the article, which was published on Thursday, Maurer spoke critically of Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter’s role as OSCE chairman.

“With its exposed leadership position in the OSCE, there’s a risk that Switzerland will not be perceived as neutral,” as Maurer told the magazine. He also criticised Burkhalter’s appointment of Guldimann without informing the rest of the cabinet.

Later, in a short statement on the defence ministry's homepage, Maurer apologised for giving the impression that any cabinet member would fail to act in Switzerland’s best interests – also in terms of preserving Swiss neutrality.

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