Round table discussion in Moscow over Donbass

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Poroshenko heads for Berlin, Brussels, Minsk…

Екатерина Чалова, in ФАН (Federal News Agency)
August 20, 2015

August 22, 2015
Translated from Russian by Tom Winter


Leaders of an incomplete “Normandy Quartet,” consisting of France, Germany and Ukraine, are to meet August 24 in Berlin. Ukrainian constitutional reform will be on the agenda. Participation by Russia and the People’s Republics of Donbass is not in view. This has caused confusion among the Russian experts who met in Moscow on August 20 at a round table to share their expectations about the agenda of the Berlin meeting and the fate of the Minsk Agreement.

The head of the OSCE special monitoring mission, Ertugrul Apakan, in his report to the special meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine, noted that the situation in the Donbass is deteriorating. Shortly before that, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also expressed concern because of the events of recent days in Ukraine, stressing that the behavior of Kiev is very suggestive of preparations for more combat. 

Against the background of such news, roundtable participants shared their views on the situation in the neighboring country.

Ukraine is ready to break into pieces
Director of the International Institute of the newest states Alexey Martynov drew his colleagues’ attention to the fact that recently a US analytical center published a study which shows that the division of Ukraine is being discussed in Kiev. “I think that the meeting of August 24 will be devoted to this issue,” -suggested Martynov.  “Then there is a lot of interest among neighboring European countries: Poland, Germany. These are direct historical interests. No one can ignore the signals from Washington.”

According to experts, the European powers categorically do not want to pass the point of no return in relations with Russia, while, for Russia itself, there is no place to retreat from the position of “Minsk-2”. “I think, come August 24 they will put a choice on Kiev either stick to Minsk II or split up the country. Europe can no longer sustain the crisis on its own. The US forced the EU to pay the costs of the current situation in Ukraine “, – said Martynov.

Europe will push Kiev toward peace.
Germany and France have an interest in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, said Bogdan Bezpalko, the deputy head of the Center for Ukrainian and Belarusian Studies at Moscow State University. 

He suggested that at the meeting in Berlin there would be Western guarantees to try to put pressure on Ukraine in this regard. The expert noted that in the Donetsk Basin, along the line dividing warring parties, Kiev has put together a powerful grouping of troops.

“But after an open declaration of war conducting any talks about peace will not be possible. OSCE and Amnesty International have repeatedly acknowledged the facts of numerous violations on the Kiev side. You have to be schizophrenic to believe, that the militiamen themselves destroyed 6,500 people and their own homes. A large-scale aggression will make it impossible to hide it anymore,” offered Bezpalko.

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Karabakh scenario
By and large, no one can fully satisfy the 13 points of the Minsk Agreement, said the deputy director of the Institute of CIS Vladimir Zharikhin. This means that the maximum possible compromise has been reached and the key object of bargaining between the leaders of the “Normandy Four” in Minsk was the Crimea, the expert is convinced. “Some hypothetical Ukraine in the form of a federation will not get into either NATO or the EU – this is a compromise for Ukraine. But the US is not reconciled to this compromise “- said Zharikhin.

The expert considers possible developments along the lines of Karabakh “Lugansk and Donetsk will be displaced from the political and economic space of Ukraine, given the status of unrecognized states, but in the failure of Minsk II the Russian side will be blamed. Some peacekeepers will be introduced along the line of demarcation and the situation will be frozen for years to come. “

On this subject Zharikhin believes that there are forces interested in a sharp aggravation of the situation in the Donbass. In his opinion, this would be th best way to put off compaining over the inefficient management and economic decline. “So that when when they ask Yatsenyuk ‘What about the economy?’ he’ll always be able to answer: What can you expect? We’ve got a war to fight!'” – said the expert.

However, in case of an exit of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics from Ukraine, they will not be able to accept the borders as they are now, said Zharikhin. Pushing the republics out of Ukraine [with the borders as they are now] will provoke a new military escalation, but this time from the Novorossia side.

Kiev will have to fight against the will of Ukrainians
Konstantin Sivkov, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences, agreed: “The current regime in Ukraine can not manage any economic progress, so their only way out is to wage a war that would justify the society’s economic hardships”, – said the military analyst. However, he notes that without the Donbass, economic survival will be problematic for Kiev.

Sivkov is confident that under the Minsk Agreement the contradictions between Kiev and Donbass are unsolvable. They can be resolved in just two ways: Kiev leaves off from the war, or the current regime in Ukraine collapses.

“Now there is a situation where the fighting capacity of the Ukrainian forces is not fully restored, but supporting peace is politically impossible in the conditions of deepening economic crisis. So there’s a likelihood of an increase in the intensity of the APU shelling, local offensive battles, with attempts to intensify subversive activities in the country. It will be presented as if in response to actions of the militia“- suggested Sivkov.

At the same time, according to experts, the militias do not have enough offensive potential. “In order to carry out offensive actions, it is necessary to create a unified army and strike forces from the two Republics. But so far neither there is neither the one nor the other. It is clear that the Republics’ focus is on defense,” – Sivkov.

According to the experts, the US would wish to defeat Donetsk and Lugansk, to have them for a buffer between Russia and a Ukrainian springboard opposed to Moscow, but Washington won’t be fighting with its own hands, otherwise it would put the situation in an altogether different plane – the plane of a direct military confrontation between the US and Russia. But relying on the Ukrainian army is not in the cards for the US: Ukrainians do not really want to fight. “This is confirmed by an official report of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine: 8,000 Ukrainian troops have defected to the Donetsk and Lugansk militia,” said Sivkov. – For comparison, the total number of the LNR and DNR forces is somewhere between 30-40 thousand.”

The expert also noted that on the side of the people’s republics Ukrainian defectors are fighting “like the Red Army against the Germans”, whereas the national Ukrainian battalions succeeded only “in the rape of women and shooting new recruits in the back.”

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