Separatist rally in Kharkiv on 20 March 2014
Article by: Paul Goble
Having been slowed by Ukrainian resistance and hope to use the Minsk Accords to avoid new sanctions, Moscow is planning to spark uprisings in major Ukrainian cities in March and April before beginning a major military attack on the country in May, according to Yuri Lutsenko, head of the Poroshenko fraction in the Verkhovna Rada.
He says that the operations up to now were Plan A, the risings Moscow is seeking to organize in Ukrainian cities is Plan B, and a major new Russian aggression against Ukraine is Plan C, and he suggests that Plan B has a real chance because of the unhappiness of some in Ukraine with Kyiv’s policies.
Some may be inclined to dismiss this as nothing more than a reflection of Ukrainian fears and part of an effort to get the West to provide additional support, including defensive arms, but there are there important reasons why that would be a mistake.
First, as the “Novaya gazeta” document highlights, Moscow has been making plans about Ukraine for years, and consequently, it is almost certain that Russian officials or those like Malofeyev near the Kremlin have come up with plans like Lutsenko describes and that Ukrainians have learned about them.
Second, using urban revolts as a means of undermining the power of Kyiv and allowing Moscow to expand its influence in Ukraine is absolutely consistent not only with the ideas of hybrid war but reflects something else: taking any Ukrainian city, even Mariupol, would be extremely difficult by military means alone.
Such actions would likely require the use of massive artillery shelling or bombing, with the resulting massive loss of life that would have the effect of attracting the world’s attention to the brutality of the Russian advance and the heroism of Ukrainian defenders. Organizing a fifth column within cities is thus an attractive option for Russian military planners.
And third, and perhaps most compelling is the fact that the most horrific means Moscow has been willing to employ – such as state terrorism against the civilian population in Kharkiv – have been signaled well in advance to all who have paid even the most cursory attention to Russian news outlets.
As Kseniya Kirillova points out in NR2.com this week, “Putin’s supporters threatened terrorist actions in Ukraine already last fall.” Now, one can see that those were not idle threats however often many dismissed them.
The journalist reports that in September, pro-Moscow opponents of a Ukrainian-American march in Seattle in support of Ukraine, said that the West should not be supporting “terrorists” in Ukraine but that if it continued to do so, then “terrorist actions” will be directed against Ukraine.
Specifically, the pro-Moscow activist said: “If Luhansk and Donetsk aren’t enough for you, then we will also organize terrorist acts in Ukraine against you.”