Ukraine’s General Staff announces imminent war with Russia

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February 26, 2018 – Fort Russ –

By Eduard Popov, translated by Jafe Arnold –

On February 24th, the Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ General Staff, Viktor Muzhenko, announced that the country is preparing to repel impending aggression from Russia. According to journalists’ accounts, Ukrainian military experts are currently assessing Russia’s combat capacity for a full-scale war within the next three years.

Muzhenko stated: “We should be ready now, tomorrow, in a week, in a year, and in three years, until the very moment that such a threat to Ukraine disappears.”

Muzhenko also claimed that Ukraine has worked out plans for several possible war scenarios.

These words of Ukraine’s General Staff Chief were uttered shortly after President Poroshenko signed the “Reintegration Law” on February 20th. This document, let us recall from our analysis, shifts the main emphasis of Ukrainian policy from a “fight against separatists” to a “fight against foreign aggression”, of which Russia is accused. Just the other day, Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) was discontinued and “United Forces Operation” announced as commenced. As follows, leadership of Ukraine’s punitive operations in Donbass has been handed over from the Security Service (SBU) to the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF).

“Operation United Forces” is none other than a guise for declaring martial law on the territories of the Donbass People’s Republics and the frontline areas of Donbass controlled by Ukraine. The open declaration of martial law would have faced Kiev with a number of serious internal and eternal problems. In particular, such would make it more difficult to obtain the international loans which Ukraine so direly needs. Hence why a masked terminology – “Operation United Forces” – was chosen.

Nonetheless, Muzhenko’s statement openly demonstrates the prevailing mood in Kiev, or at least the attitude of part of the Ukrainian military leadership.

In our first articles on the “Reintegration of Donbass” bill, we defined this document as a law essentially entailing war with Russia. The recent statement by the Chief of the UAF General Staff is not so much a forecast of potential war as it is an effort to accelerate such.

The Verkhovna Rada’s adoption of this legislation and its signing by President Poroshenko, the Ukrainian command’s orders to concentrate military vehicles and manpower near the contact line in Donbass, and the preparation of rear forces all suggest that Ukraine is forcibly preparing for war with its eastern neighbor.

Just last week, a rather favorable proposal for Ukraine entailing the deployment of UN peacekeepers from Belarus (the host country of the Minsk Agreements) was rejected, which further confirms Kiev’s intention to resolve the conflict in Donbass by force – with the military and diplomatic support of the West.

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On last Friday and Saturday, I talked with my friends in Donbass military circles and made a short day trip to the Donetsk People’s Republic. As I saw there, the Donbass republics are expecting a Ukrainian offensive, but no one dares suggest an approximate date.

Without a doubt, Ukraine is currently seeking a suitable occasion to launch an attack and accuse the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics of violating the Minsk Agreements. Any counterattack by the Donbass republics would be heralded to the international community as proof of an offensive by the Donbass republics or Russia. Here we can recall how the West convinced everyone that it was not Georgia, but Russia that invaded South Ossetia. I believe that something similar will happen with Donbass.

Some Russian media are suggesting that the likely occasion for a UAF offensive will be the DPR and LPR parliamentary and leader elections set for autumn. But Kiev hardly has so much patience, much less strategic thinking.

It is more likely that a Ukrainian blitzkrieg will begin earlier – much earlier, such as this spring or summer. As we have argued, weather permitting, such will be timed to greet the Russian presidential elections or the World cup. In fact, let us recall, the World Cup will be held in Rostov-on-Don, which in 2014 literally became a frontline city.

Does Ukraine understand the disparity between its own military and Russia’s? It sure does, as its own Chief of General Staff’s announcement revealed. Therefore, in my opinion, Kiev is hedging its calculations not on military but political factors which would allow the Kiev regime to obtain a lasting, successful outcome of even a failed offensive operation. Just what this might be will be the subject of our next article.


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 and Information Cooperation.  
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