April 20, 2015
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
On April 18, 2015, Sergey Brilyov, the anchor of the News on
Saturday TV show, conducted an interview with President Vladimir Putin, during
which he clarified a few of the answers he game during the Q&A sessions.
The clarifications concerned the question posed by Academician Torkunov
concerning supplying S-300 weapon systems to Iran, and the matter of
recognizing DPR and LPR. Both questions directly concerned the events in
Brilyov: The Israelis responded to the idea of supplying
S-300s to Iran as follows: well, in that case we’ll supply weapons to
Ukrainians. Academician Torkunov, incidentally, asked about that, but you did
not give him a full answer.
Putin: I simply forgot to.
Brilyov: So what will you say to the Israelis?
Putin: It’s the choice for the Israeli leaders to make. They
should act as they feel appropriate. I think it would be counterproductive if
they have lethal weapons in mind. It will only lead to a new round of confrontation, to
greater loss of life, but the outcome will be the same. Concerning our arms
supplies to Iran, those are exclusively defensive weapons, and they in no way
harm Israel’s ability to defend itself.
Brilyov: Could you imagine a situation in which you might
consider the possibility of recognizing DPR and LPR?
Putin: Right now I’d prefer not to discuss that, because
whatever I say, it will be counterproductive. We will work in accordance with
facts on the ground.
When it comes to the possible Israeli arms supplies to
Ukraine, Putin’s answer probably does not require further comment. It’s meaning
is perfectly understandable. But when it comes to recognizing the Donbass,
there is some ambiguity.
There are reasons to believe that the Russian leadership has
changed its approach somewhat to the Donbass problem. Especially when one considers
the answer he gave to Brilyov above with the answer he gave on February 24 to
Solovyov: In the event of military escalation by Ukraine and
the national battalions, is it possible to establish Minsk-3, or to hold a
Minsk-3 conference, or for Russia to adopt extreme diplomatic measures, up to
and including the recognition of LPR and DPR?
Putin: There is no necessity in that right now—in any
extreme measures. These Minsk agreements are not simply a document that was
developed by the participants of the Minsk process (I mean Ukraine, Russia,
France, and Germany), they were also confirmed by a UNSC resolution and have
acquired the form of an international legal act, de facto supported by the
entire international community. So that’s a whole different story, as they say.
And we are counting on their implementation. And if they are implemented, they
will serve as the pathway toward regulating the situation in that part of the
As we can see, less than two months ago Putin felt that
there is no necessity to recognize DPR and LPR, and said that rather openly.
But today he answered the same question differently: “we will act on the basis
of facts on the ground.”
J.Hawk’s Comment: But the facts on the ground are that the Donbass is becoming a ruble zone, with increasing integration into the Russian economy and a near-total collapse of its economic contacts with Ukraine, with possible exceptions of coal supplies, but even those seem to be traveling from the Donbass to Ukraine via Russia. It still doesn’t seem likely Russia wants to create another Ossetia-like situation on its border, therefore it will avoid official recognition. In practical terms, however, it’s clear the Russian government has decided to integrate the Donbass into the RF in every other way.
Moreover, the “facts on the ground” statement by Putin can also be interpreted as a green light to Zakharchenko and Plotnitskiy to, well, create a fact or two on the ground in their spare time, now that the Russian government appears to be open not only to Minsk-2 implementation, but also a variety of other options.