Peacekeeping efforts in Donbass collapse as Ukraine intensifies bombardments


December 21, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov, translated by Jafe Arnold – 

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The withdrawal of Russian officers from the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the Ceasefire in Donbass (JCCC) in Ukrainian-occupied Soledar has now officially been followed by a Ukrainian withdrawal from the JCCC. The OSCE mission in Donbass is now threatened with collapse as its essential participants – Russian and Ukrainian JCCC collaborators – have abandoned their posts. 

The center could resume work, as Russia’s Ministry of Defense has laid out its terms for Russian officers returning to work for the JCCC, but in order for this to happen, Ukraine would have to guarantee the smooth implementation of Russian observatory missions and agree to guarantee the security of Russian officers. For now, at least, there is reason to hope that Kiev will capitulate and fulfill these reasonable demands, but not out of good will – but because, in my opinion, a deterioration of the situation in Donbass over the next few weeks is not part of the Ukrainian leadership’s plan.

This view seems to be supported by the ceasefire resolution adopted on December 20th at a session of the Contact Group in Minsk, in which the parties to the conflict in Donbass agreed on a truce for the Christmas and New Year holidays, set to enter into force on December 23rd. While the experience of the “bread truce” and “school truce” do not inspire any optimism (Ukrainian forces broke the school truce literally half an hour into it), it is still very doubtful that Ukraine will risk so daringly violating another agreement. This is why a new, big war in at least the coming days is unlikely.

However, there are also arguments and evidence that contradict this opinion. Over the past several days, the intensity of Ukrainian bombardments has increased. Especially hard hit has been the mining town of Gorlovka located right at the junction of the DPR and LPR’s lines of defense. On December 20th, right after Russia’s officers withdrew from the JCCC, Ukrainian troops shelled 16 residential areas outside of Donetsk. The OSCE itself has since reported that the situation is indeed sharply deteriorating.

On December 20th, I managed to get on the phone my friends from the editorial board of the Cossack Herald newspaper and New Channel of Novorossiya online TV channel based out of Stakhanov in the Lugansk People’s Republic. I can now share with Fort Russ readers the latest news from on the ground. According to my colleagues, on both December 19th and the night of December 20th Stakhanov and Pervomaysk were subjected to serious shelling from large-caliber mortars, the results of which you can see in their footage: 

According to them, unfortunately, there were casualties – an elderly woman was killed by an exploding mortar.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian media reported on December 20th with reference to unidentified Donetsk residents that the military leadership of the DPR has announced mobilization for combat readiness. According to this unverified information, the New Year holidays of DPR People’s Militia servicemen have been cancelled. We are checking this report with our sources in Donetsk and will keep Fort Russ readers up to date.

Overall, we can say that the situation in Donbass does not inspire any optimism. Not only soldiers, but also politicians on both sides of the front are speaking of the possibility of a new big war. The only question seems to be when the conflict will break out again, and it cannot be ruled out that the outbreak of a new war could be accelerated by the political front, as the tense political situation ongoing in Kiev and the threat posed to President Poroshenko’s authority could lead to the unleashing of a Ukrainian blitzkrieg. 

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We have more than once expressed our opinion that the Ukrainian leadership has attentively studied Lenin’s tactics in the run up to the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power, namely, the tactic of turning an imperialist, external war into a civil war. Poroshenko is currently working in the opposite direction to turn the internal civil war – which will inevitably take his authority, savings, and probably life – into an external war, even at the cost of the full and final defeat of the Ukrainian Army. The oligarch president’s interests are being put above the interests of the whole country, or what is left of it. 

Eduard Popov is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia, and from 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don and actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass. In addition to being Fort Russ’ guest analyst since June, 2016, Popov is currently the leading research fellow of the Institute of the Russian Abroad and the founding director of the Europe Center for Public Initiatives. 

Jafe Arnold is Special Editor of Fort Russ, Special Projects Director of the Center for Syncretic Studies, and the founding Editor-in-Chief of Eurasianist Internet Archive. Holding a Bachelors in European Cultures from the University of Wroclaw (Poland), Arnold is currently undertaking his Masters in Western Esotericism at the University of Amsterdam. 

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