Five years since the referenda in Donetsk and Lugansk about joining the Russian Federation.
By early February 2014, numerous regional administrative offices (OGAs) had been seized by Maidan forces in Far West Ukraine, with attempts at storming them elsewhere in the West and Center. Some city and regional councils made autonomy- or even independence-sounding proclamations.
Now suppose that instead of wavering and signing an agreement with the opposition that they almost immediately turned their backs on, Yanukovych had ordered a truly forceful clearing of the Maidan, with the security services given carte blanche to use live arms and guaranteed total immunity from prosecution if or – let’s be honest, when – they came under armed attack.
Suppose that over a period of several weeks the Ukraine would have succeeded in restoring Constitutional order everywhere except for the far western provinces of Galicia, Rivne, and Ivano-Frankovsk (the historical and political heartlands of Ukrainian nationalism). By February 20 (in the real timeline), some bands in the far west had already begun to arm themselves, including with heavy weaponry from local storage sites – much as was happening in places like Lugansk and Slavyansk come March-April. Image that instead of going back under government control, the OGA seizures in the far west metastasize (lots of ammo dumps there given Ukraine’s Soviet-era military posture, plus a couple of military units might have defected), reject the government’s authority, and start incubating their own state structures.
Suppose then that Yanukovych had launched an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” against the West Ukrainian militants. Throughout all this, suppose that Russia has negligible or minimal involvement, apart from – obviously – rhetorical support for Yanukovych, and strong statements in support of Ukraine’s stability and territorial integrity. Suppose this ATO has lukewarm support in the East and South, but is opposed in the Center and universally hated in the Far West.
How would you have reacted to this scenario? What about Western politicians? As the Ukrainian Army shelled Lvov, would it be a case of Yanukovych “killing his own people” and calls for intervention? Or at least furbishing supply and training to the rebels/terrorists? Peacekeepers? Sanctions? Against just Ukraine, or Russia as well, if Russia refused to join the West in condemning the Yanukovych regime? To what extent would they support the right of the Ruthenian Neo-Habsburg Republic to autonomy, to independence, etc.? Or would they support Yanukovych, the alt-ATO, and preserving Ukraine’s unity and territorial integrity?