Kiev reorganises in Donbass – is a new offensive coming?

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President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko has signed a decree on “the end of the anti-terrorist operation in the Donbass”, which has lasted more than four years. Instead, the operation of the United forces of Ukraine begins its work in the region.

By changing the format of the military operation in the east of Ukraine, Kiev has legalized the use of armed forces in resolving the conflict in the region in peacetime. At the same time, the leadership of the security forces involved in the Donbass are now moving from the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) to the Ukrainian military.

According to political scientists, to establish peace in the region it is necessary to introduce a UN peacekeeping mission.

Presidential Decision

The change in the format of the operation was previously announced by Poroshenko on April 30, before that, the necessary preparatory work was underway. On Monday, as expected, the head of state announced the signing of the appropriate decree.

“Today, April 30, the format of the ATO has changed to the operation of the United forces. Thus, the ATO regime, which began in April 2014, has been completed,”Poroshenko said.

Change of format

Acting President of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov on April 14, 2014 issued a decree on the beginning of ATO in the east of Ukraine. This decision was a response to theself-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics, which Kiev declared terrorist organizations.

At the same time, the operation  was entrusted to the SBU, whose powers, according to Ukrainian laws, include the fight against terrorism. However, in addition to the special services, from the very beginning, the National Guard and the regular army were involved in the operation.

Later, the Kiev authorities blamed the events in Donbass on Russia. Moscow, for its part, has repeatedly stated that it is not a party to the intra-Ukrainian conflict and is not involved in the events in the southeast, and is interested in Ukraine overcoming the political and economic crisis.

In late 2017, Poroshenko proposed a mechanism for using the army in the east of Ukraine without declaring martial law, by submitting to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine a draft law on the ‘reintegration of Donbass’, which was adopted earlier this year.

The bill gives the President of Ukraine the right to use the army in the Donbass without parliamentary approval, for “implementing measures to ensure the sovereignty of the country,” and calls Russia an “aggressor country”, since Kiev believes that Russia interferes and is a party to the conflict in the Donbass.

Thus, Kiev legalized the use of armed forces in the east without having to declare war.

The new leadership

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Starting from 2014 to the present day, the leadership of the military operation in the Donbass was in the hands of the operational headquarters of the Anti-Terrorist Center under the Security Service of Ukraine.

Starting from 2015 to the present day, this post is occupied by Colonel-General Vitaly Malikov, the first deputy head of the SBU.

Under the new rules, the operation is transferred to the joint operational headquarters, which is headed by the commander of the United forces. On March 16, Poroshenko appointed Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Lieutenant-General Sergey Nayev to this post.

Nayev will manage not only units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Donbass, but also units of the Security Service, the police, national guard and border guards.

Announcing the appointment of the commander of the United forces, Poroshenko noted that the operation that Kiev has been carrying out in the Donbass since the spring of 2014 has fulfilled its tasks. “Undoubtedly, the antiterrorist operation played an extremely important role in the first stage of repelling aggression, and more than two-thirds of the occupied Donbass was liberated because of the anti-terrorist operation,” the president said.

He stated that he had set before the new commanders the task of strengthening the armed forces to such an extent that “they were not only defensive, but capable of liberating the occupied territories.”

A new offensive?

According to Viktor Muzhenko, the head of the Ukrainian General Staff,  the transition to the operation of the United forces in the first place means the centralization of management, which will allow the Ukrainian military to react more quickly to the challenges that will arise.

At the same time, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine denies the accusations of the self-proclaimed republics that after changing the format of the operation, Kiev is about to launch a large-scale offensive in the Donbass. “The enemy continues to intimidate the local population with unreliable information about large-scale offensive operations and about the activities of Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups,” said Dmitry Gutsulyak, the official spokesman of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

The Donbass has a different story to tell and has revealed their intel info on the beginning of a new Kiev offensive operation shortly.

Poroshenko did say that the Ukrainian forces should be sufficiently prepared to “liberate the Donbass,” but after changing the format of the operation, the political and diplomatic way of resolving the conflict remains a priority.




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