Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Putin pushing for Minsk-2?

Independent journalists confirm large quantities of heavy military hardware have entered, and have been brazenly moving around separatist controlled areas of Eastern Ukraine. This new-stock equipment is undoubtedly Russian in origin.

As Kyiv newspaper 'Delovaya Stolitsa' explains, the new round of escalation in the Donbas region is merely an attempt to repeat of the events of last August when Russia also hugely ramped up military presence to force Kyiv to negotiate with militant separatists.

As a result, after Ukrainian forces' heavy losses in Ilovaisk, the loss of Novoazovsk, and the shelling of Mariupol, on September 5 a ceasefire agreement was signed in Minsk. But neither the separatists nor Russia had any intention to adhere to their side of the deal, and have not done so.

The current escalation is similar to these events at the end of August and beginning of September, the difference being the separatist signatories of the Minsk agreement, Zaharchenko and Plotnitsky, had no formal status at that time. Today Russia is forcing Kyiv to negotiate with leaders supposedly "elected by the voters of Novorossiya".

In September this ruse worked, so why not repeat the same stunt and so achieve the legalisation of "DNR" and "LNR"?

The Ukrainian side has not recognised the pseudo-elections held recently in the occupied enclaves, and neither has any one else of significance, but if former president Kuchma or any other authorised person sits at the table with so-called "DNR and LNR negotiators" this would would legalise their status.

The Kremlin needs to show Russians, and the rest of outside world, that Kyiv ostensibly agrees the conflict in eastern Ukraine is of a purely domestic nature; and that after the armed conflict one side is negotiating with the other on equal terms.

One DNR leader claims such a Minsk-2 meeting could take place in a couple of weeks, but there has not been any hint of any such meeting being arranged by the Ukrainian side.

'Delovaya Stolitsa' suggests that if president Poroshenko and the Ukrainian MFA is indeed conducting such secret deals on a possible Minsk-2, many Ukrainians will be shocked by such a back-down.

Minsk-1 was seen by many as a humiliation and was, perhaps, the main reason Poroshenko's Bloc fared worse than expected in the parliamentary elections three weeks ago.

A freshly-elected parliament is due to start work at the start of December; any cave-in by Poroshenko will result in major ructions in the new Verkhovna Rada. Similarly, any more military pressure from the separatist/Russian side will also reduce the likelihood of any Minsk 2 meeting.

LEvko thinks Putin is deliberately and arrogantly sending unmarked heavy military equipment into eastern Ukraine in order to humiliate Ukraine and the Western community who desperately want a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Such moves merely generate even more distrust and anger because all know it was Putin who triggered this completely avoidable and tragic conflict, and it is Putin who continues to fan its flames.

ps Also well worth reading: "Putin Wants Total Victory In Eastern Ukraine — Not A 'Frozen Conflict". Any Minsk 2 would be a sham, just like Minsk 1.

The article concludes:

The Kremlin may be settling in for a very long geopolitical struggle with the West, with plans to apply maximum pressure not just on Kiev but on the West, including military pressure (short of war, in the coming months and years. The goal would be to use support of the separatists in eastern Ukraine, and military and political brinksmanship elsewhere, to divide the West politically, weaken the EU, and weaken NATO.

What makes this possibility so dangerous is that, while the effort is unlikely to succeed, it raises the risks of a military clash between Russia and the West, with all the attendant risks of escalation

The West have no choice but prepare for such a probable scenario.

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