March 9, 2018 – Fort Russ –
By Eduard Popov, translated by Jafe Arnold –
Breaking news has come in today, March 9th, from Kiev and Donbass. Ukraine’s Deputy Minister for Temporarily Occupied Territories, Georgiy Tuka, announced on his Facebook yesterday evening that the leader of the Ukrainian Center for Releasing Prisoners of War, Vladimir Ruban, has been arrested at a checkpoint in Donbass with a whole stash of weapons, which the Ukrainian newspaper Korrespondent has since confirmed. The publication includes the following photo of a rather impressive arsenal of weapons allegedly found with Ruban.
A number of Ukrainian media are reporting on the intriguing details of Ruban’s arrest. The newspaper Strana edited by the Igor Guzvha, who is currently being pursued by the SBU and has requested political asylum in Austria, has published a rather suspicious text claiming that Ruban was planning assassination attempts on President Petro Poroshenko, security officials, and other government officials. In particular, it is alleged that Ruban not only planned to shell the Verkhovna Rada, the Presidential Administration, and residential buildings in Kiev with grenade launchers, mortars, and small arms, but also to blow up grenades inside the parliament and kill all the state officials and deputies inside.
In my articles for Fort Russ and Russian media, I have repeatedly covered the growing discontent with the Kiev regime within the Ukrainian Army’s ranks, and drawn attention to the likelihood of a contingent of Ukrainian troops turning their weapons on Kiev. Here we can recall our sensational publication in The Greanville Post on the seething moods in the “Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone.” Our sources included not only Ukrainian media and testimonies from my colleagues in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, but also eyewitness reports from my numerous contacts behind Ukrainian lines and throughout the country, from Donbass to Transcarpathia – even including Ukrainian soldiers and officers serving in the ATO. To recall, the Ukrainian Gestapo, the SBU, is exceedingly cruel, and for this reason I not only could not name my sources, but also the cities and Ukrainian units and security departments where they find themselves. Be that as it may, our analyses are bearing fruit.
Allow me to present a quote from my interview which was first published by Svobodnaya Pressa and then Donbass media before breaking into the mainstream and being quoted by central Russian television, such as NTV Channel’s famous Mesto vstrechi show: “For now Poroshenko is managing to direct security forces’ anger towards Donbass. This state of affairs might persist for a long time, but not forever. Moreover, a revolt against the president is brewing in Kiev. In Popov’s opinion, the country is nearing a [new] Maidan. If a revolt breaks out, then it wouldn’t be a mere local one, but a countrywide one and, according to the political analyst [Popoov], an deep-seated ideological one. And this means that UAF units would join in too.”
Further: “The expert [Popov] remarked that the mood in the national battalions and regular units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine cannot be called optimistic, as security forces in the Donbass territories controlled by Kiev openly admit that they do not like Poroshenko, and that they have an even worse attitude towards the government in the capital than towards the DPR and LPR militias.”
On February 23-24, I visited the Donetsk People’s Republic once again and had the opportunity to discuss the prospects of a military coup in Kiev with old colleagues. My contacts, with whom I have been in touch since the outbreak of the war in spring 2014, are no longer skeptical as to my forecast that UAF troops could march on Kiev. Their change of mind is due to the fresh events in the ATO that can be observed even with the naked eye, such as how irritation with the Kiev authorities is seething in the Ukrainian Army over talk of preparing the army to go on a suicidal blitzkrieg against Donbass.
If earlier the idea of a march on Kiev had few believers – after all, the UAF and national battalions are ruled by the principle of ‘defeat the external enemy first’ (i.e., the DPR and LPR) then the ‘internal one’ (i.e., the Poroshenko gang) – then this idea has gained many new believers ahead of a possible Ukrainian blitzkrieg.
The Ukrainian Army and national battalions perfectly understand how a blitzkrieg would end not only for tens of thousands of people in Donbass, but also for themselves. A more than 100,000 strong UAF group and other security forces and volunteers would be literally wiped off of the face of the earth. One only needs to recall the Izvarino, Ilovaysk, and Debaltsevo cauldrons.
My friends in both Donbass republics regularly report on the order and mores prevailing in the UAF on the frontline. The army is simply decomposing. While the army may now have a very efficient core still motivated for punitive war thanks to training by NATO specialists, this does not change the overall picture. The majority of Ukrainian soldiers and officers do not want to fight – not only for sake of self-preservation, but also out of disagreement with the aims of this war.
Indirect confirmation of this opinion of my DPR and LPR contacts can be found in Donbass media reports on a sharp increase in resignations in UAF units fighting in Donbass. One can look elsewhere, too, such as to the far from clueless Ukrainian Nazi #1, Andrey Biletsky, who explained in an interview just why a mass of ATO officers are leaving for “other reasons.”
It is difficult to say how much these considerations and forecasts are related to the Ruban case. This retired Ukrainian officer was famous for his activism for getting prisoners released. While being a Ukrainian patriot, he nevertheless evoked respect for the enemy, thanks to which he succeeded in his efforts.
Ruban, as far as one can tell, belongs to that numerous layer of Ukrainian officers, including those both actively serving and veterans, who believe that the war in Donbass is criminal and not in Ukraine’s interests. This fact is, in my opinion, undeniable.
It is doubtful, however, that Ruban was really trying to smuggle weapons from the ATO to Kiev. A considerable batch of weapons has already accumulated among ex-soldiers and radicals in Kiev, and it is hardly believable that Ruban really needed to embark on such a complex and dangerous scheme to transport weapons all the way from Donbass. A bit later, the SBU will probably say that Ruban was given these weapons by “separatists” or even Russian intelligence.
I’ll repeat: in this whole story, only one thing seems to me to be an undeniable and firmly established fact: there is mass and intense discontent with the Poroshenko regime within Ukrainian military circles. That this milieu is currently embarking on an adventurous, violent overthrow of the illegitimate and criminal Kiev government is, in my point of view, doubtful and quite possibly an SBU invention.
It is also undoubtable, however, that Kiev’s continuation of the militaristic line which has killed thousands of people in Donbass and tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers is really capable of leading to a military coup in Kiev and assassination attempts on Poroshenko. When the time comes, such will by no means be so half-baked and strange like the Ruban case, but swift and effective.
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.