Putin can’t annex Donbas, two Russian analysts say

Russian mercenary at the devasted Donetsk airport in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)

Devastation at Donetsk airport caused by the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua) 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia, War in the Donbas

Vladimir Putin not only doesn’t want to annex the Donbas but can’t do so, according to Yevgeny Ikhlov; and that means the region will become another edition of Transdniestria, creating ongoing problems for both Russian and Ukraine but opening the possibility Kyiv will be able to follow the Baltic path to the West, according to Dmitry Oreshkin.

One of the groups of Russian special forces and mercenaries that started the war in Donbas, Ukraine

One of the groups of Russian special forces and mercenaries that started the war in Donbas, Ukraine

Ikhlov points out today that Putin faces a very different situation in the Donbas than he did in Crimea. Crimea was annexed as a whole, but the Moscow-controlled forces of the “DNR” and “LNR” do not control all the Ukrainian oblasts of which they form a part, thus leaving the Kremlin with no good choices.

If Moscow simply annexed what the “DNR” and “LNR” now control, “for the first time, the Russian border would become undefined for hundreds of kilometers,” creating a bureaucratic, political and security nightmare for the Russian state, Ikhlov suggests.

He argues that Moscow would in fact have to do one of two things if it wanted to pursue Putin’s original policy of “reuniting the Russian world with Holy Rus.” Either it would “have to consider both oblasts entirely the subjects of the Old Russian Federation which would mean the official lodging of territorial demands against Ukraine.”

Or, he continues, it would have to “take a decision about the voluntary reducing the territory of these ‘peoples’ republics’ in half and about giving February 12, 2015 ceasefire line the status of a state border, which would mean not only Russia’s withdrawal from the Minsk accords but also the complete destruction of the mythology about ‘supporters of federalization’” in Ukraine.

Doing either would undercut Russian policy in Ukraine, exacerbate relations between Moscow and the West which would beyond any doubt impose even more serious sanctions, and create problems at home not only among Russian nationalists who would feel betrayed but also among those who have been fighting in the Donbas and would not return home.

Meanwhile, Oreshkin points out that because Putin cannot either force Kyiv to take the territories of the “DNR” and the “LNR” back into Ukraine in a way allowing Moscow to have an effective veto over Kyiv or annex them, his only alternative is “a second Transdniestria.”

“Russia does not have real political, diplomatic or economic resources to annex these territories,” the Russian analyst continues. “The naïve peasants in the Donbas supposed that first in Russia everything is good and it will be glad to take them in and second that Vladimir Putin is a real guy and will not surrender them.”

“But it has turned out,” Oreshkin says, that “in Russia everything is bad and there is no money, and that Vladimir Putin is indifferent to the fate of the Donbas peasants: he needs an instrument to influence Kyiv, and the ideal instrument [or at least the best available to him] is a constantly smoldering conflict like those in the style of the Karabakh or Transdniestria.”

Putin in no case “will take the Donbas into the Russian Federation.” He can’t afford it at home or in terms of his policies toward Ukraine. Thus, the Kremlin leader will continue to try to force Kyiv to take responsibility for them and to get Western governments to support him in that in the name of territorial integrity.

That is because, Oreshkin argues, “the worst nightmare of Russia is a Ukraine” will be able to form a normal economy and a democratic state as the three Baltic countries and thus become part of the West.

Of course, he says, “it is possible to continue to tell lies about the Baltic countries being a fascist nest; but the people living there, including the [ethnic] Russians understand very well that they live better than their counterparts in Moscow. The average monthly pay in the Baltic countries is approximately 1,000 euros.” In Russia, it is just over a third of that.

And that situation exists, Oreshkin continues, despite the fact that “in Russia, there is gas, oil, gold, timber, diamonds and other things, and in the Baltic countries, there are not any of these things.”

“If something similar occurs in Ukraine, that would be a catastrophe for the Kremlin because while one can still tell lies about the Baltics and their oppression of [ethnic] Russians, it is far more difficult to lie about Ukraine – there are too many links and it is too close a country.” And that is yet another reason Moscow is trapped and cannot annex the Donbas.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Lev Havryliv

    As a Russian chauvinist and imperialist to the core, Putin denies the existence of Ukrainians as a separate entity.

    Putin’s aim was and is to subjugate all of Ukraine to Russian imperial rule.

    He is finding out however, that Ukraine is not for the taking.

  • Dagwood Bumstead

    The demented dwarf has nothing to fear from the west. Whatever he does, there will be no further sanctions. Merkel and Hollande will do everything they can to prevent REAL sanctions being introduced and they will be supported by Greece, Italy and most other EU countries. Only the Baltics, Poland and Sweden will support more- and tougher- sanctions.
    The dwarf can annex the so-called LNR and DNR and claim the free parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, even send his army in to “liberate” all of so-called Novorossiya and neither Merkelain nor Hollandier wil lift a finger.

    • Greg

      Very true, that is why I believe Merkel has a secret agreement with Putin to allow him to take more land. It would not be the first time that Germany and Russia agreed to divide Europe!

  • Being

    Exactly Merkel+Junker and Hollande and 8000 dead Ukraine patriots, only the counted ones with IDs, of course otherwise the number is surelly bigger.
    Sanctions “against” RUS, financing by billions trilions Greece and welcoming 7bil of desperate people from all over the world to Germany and Austria is their Top.

    I am so sorry for so many dead Ukraine people (+their foreign brothers in arm) and all the atrocities.

  • Randolph Carter

    So if I interpreted the article correctly, it sounds like the dwarf is suggesting to Kiev that the throw Donbas under the bus (i.e. make it another Transdniestria, whose legal implications I have no idea), whereas Kiev and the rest of Ukraine could move to the West and unification with the EU. The midget will raise the tired idea of Novorussia again, but will argue that support is the responsibility of Ukraine, not Russia. Kiev will argue back that the Donbas is no longer part of Ukraine therefore it is Russia’s problem. Both sides will argue endlessly and the people of the Donbas will go without food (unless they grow it themselves), medical care, transportation, energy, etc. Moscow and Kiev will keep finger pointing (I’ve got a finger for them) and nothing will be done to help the people of the Donbas. Great – Kiev and Moscow, you’ve succeeded in screwing 4.8 million people (sorry, that’s the best population I could find for the Donbas – corrections welcomed). Damn, I thought Obama was bad – you guys make him look like an amateur.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Under international law Dwarfstan, as occupying power, is responsible for EVERYTHING. So Moscow should cough up, not Kyiv. The Norwegian, Dutch and Belgian governments in exile didn’t send any aid or money to occupied Norway, the Netherlands or Belgium during WW2 either- the responsibility was Germany’s as occupying power.
      As for screwing 4.8 million people, the number is probably far lower than that.

      • Randolph Carter

        Yes, but will the midget respect international law? He has just about spit in the face of the rest of the world (except maybe Germany and France – not sure about them). I thought Transdniestria was pretty much autonomous and given the midget’s money problems, he’ll do anything to avoid spending more money.

        Yeah, I knew the 4.8M people was wrong, but couldn’t find a better number.

        • Brent

          Then maybe you should educate yourself before spouting incorrect information and blaming Ukraine for Russia’s destruction of the Donbass.

          • Randolph Carter

            First of all, where the hell did I say that it’s Ukraine’s fault for Russia’s destruction? Do you make a hobby of shoving words into other people’s mouths? Did you even read what I said or were you too busy spewing your infantile rant? I said: “IF I interpreted the article correctly… Transdniestria, whose legal implications I have NO IDEA… that’s the best population I could find for the Donbas – corrections WELCOMED”.

            I left myself open to corrections in every part of my post for the reason that I ADMIT that I do NOT know everything about Ukraine, Russia, Donbass, etc. Unlike yourself, I did not jump on the board spewing venom, I left myself open for CIVIL correction from people who know more and are willing to SHARE information and understanding, not just work out their monthly menstrual cramps. I scanned your general replies in your profile – you really should try some Valium or Xanax. Granted, they aren’t anti-psychotics but your general attitude towards people seems to be reminiscent of the guy who peddled the Zyklon B – y’know, funny little guy with a mustache…

            If you know so goddamn much, then do me a favor – enlighten me, minus the venom if you can separate the two. Share some facts. Show me how much you know. Tell me where I said it was Ukraine’s fault. I notice that despite your apparent psychotic episode, you didn’t post ONE SINGLE FACT. Tell me the current population of the Donbass. Tell me if you think Putin will raise the idea of Novorossia. Tell me your opinion on what will happen to the Donbass if Novorossia becomes a reality. Tell me something that shows that you’re not just another troll with a stick shoved so far up his ass it’s coming out of his forehead. If you aren’t going to contribute anything but foaming-at-the-mouth ranting, then I’ll just ignore you. I already have to deal with enough dolts in my life that I don’t need one more.

            Add one iota of information to the board instead of stopping your apparent hobby of collecting anal pornography and bitching about someone else’s supposed lack of knowledge. Enlighten us, if the light’s still on. The only thing you’ve contributed here is bigotry, snottiness, condescension, pretense of having any sort of knowledge, lack of proof of that knowledge and a desire to find a mirror site for goatse.

          • Brent

            “Moscow and Kiev will keep finger pointing (I’ve got a finger for them) and nothing will be done to help the people of the Donbas. Great – Kiev and Moscow, you’ve succeeded in screwing 4.8 million people (sorry, that’s the best population I could find for the Donbas – corrections welcomed). Damn, I thought Obama was bad – you guys make him look like an amateur.”

            You explicitly blamed Kiev along with Moscow for what has happened in Donbas. THOSE ARE YOUR WORDS. If you didn’t mean that, why do you “have a finger for them”?

            Ukraine was invaded. TWICE. Once in Crimea where they chose not to try to fight Russia’s invading soldiers and not have a bloodbath on their hands, and a 2nd time in Donbas, when they knew they could not repeat their passive stance in Crimea because they had already had that stolen from them.

            I see many trolls blame Ukraine for some fictional invasion of its own territory. You specifically blamed Kiev for screwing 4.8 million people. FOR WHAT ARE THEY TO BLAME FOR? Clarify that. Ukraine is fighting Russia on many fronts, economically, on energy, on the $3 billion “loan” Russia gave to Yanukovych that no one can find, and to keep its territory together. Have they been perfect in their actions? No. But they certainly should not be blamed for the current state of what is left of the Donbas. They’re trying to liberate it, not destroy it. Yet Russia’s terrorists are the ones blowing up buildings, power plants, towns, and stealing industrial equipment and sending it back to Russia.

            You asked if Putin will raise the issue of “Novorossiya” again? Absolutely, if he is given the chance to do so. He’s not just interested in the Donbas, but the concept of “Novorossiya” extends to Odessa and up to Kharkiv. Too bad he forgot to ask the citizens of the region if they want any part of Russian occupation. They’ve seen what it has done to occupied Donbas

            As for the “4.8 million” that you claim Kiev has had a “hand in screwing”, both oblasts combined had a pre-invasion population of around 6.9 million people. Of that, the latest figures are at least 2.2 million are refugees, of which 1.5 million chose “free” Ukraine. Yes, that’s close to your 4.8 million, BUT DON’T FORGET, Russia’s terrorists only occupy about 40% of the Donbass area. The largest city they don’t occupy is Mariupol which is around 500,000 people, and there are several others in the 50,000+ range. I don’t know the exact population of the region still under Ukraine’s control, but expect it’s around 1 million or more. So that leaves at most around 3.7 residents still in Donbas.

            I will apologize for the photo I posted, but your initial posting clearly was blaming Ukraine, at least in my opinion (but I’ve cited what you said). I am not going to claim Ukraine has done everything correctly, but considering the multi level attack Russia has waged on them, I think they’ve done better than many people ever thought the could. BUT, blaming them for the current plight of those still left in Donbas is blatantly wrong. The trolls do that.

            I don’t like Russia’s mafia regime, and I am disgusted with how little Obama has actually done to honor the U.S. signed Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing Ukraine’s sovereign territory. I’m not saying they should have invaded, but they could have imposed much stronger sanctions on Russia and curbed their invasion much earlier before the death toll reached the levels it currently is at.

            Russia is the one primarily to blame. Not Kiev.

          • Randolph Carter

            First of all, Dagwood Bumstead AND Brent, thank you for the information. I live in the USA, where coverage of Ukraine is placed between stories about Kim Kardashian and Rhianna, and whatever perky Debbie has cooked up in our kitchen. The networks make their decisions by what sells advertising space/time, not by importance. When Crimea fell, most people had to have it shown to them on a map. It was that chunk of land “right here”. There were lots of Ukrainians on it. Now on to sports and weather. There are no more Edward R Murrow’s – it would mess up their hair (although I’ll give credit to the war correspondents that are still out there).

            Am I ignorant? You bet. I’m not proud of it, but I won’t pretend I’m not. Brent, I apologize for shooting my mouth off. There’s still a HELL of a lot that I don’t understand/know about the entire area, people, history, etc. But when I post here, I hope that I can learn.

            Quick note – I viewed (again, my ignorance) the taking of Crimea as part of the overall effort by Russia to take Ukraine. So I viewed the combined efforts one invasion, just into two areas. Thank you for correcting me.

            Let me make this statement: I love Ukraine dearly, especially since I have loved ones there (Lugansk). I have told them that all I own is theirs, no matter the cost. I even spoke to the American Embassy in Kiev in desperation to bring them here, out of harm’s way. I quickly learned a lesson in the idea of ‘homeland’, and explained that it was not an attempt to force anything, but that I was desperate for their safety. My girlfriend tended to the wounded in a hospital in Lugansk. I shudder to think of the things she saw, but she never spoke of them. Her heart is braver than any I have ever met, and I would stand with her to the end. It is better to die for something than live for nothing, and I would gladly put myself in harm’s way for her.

            She also told me that I couldn’t understand what life was/is like in Lugansk. I told her she was right – the last battle in on USA territory was 150 years ago and it has passed out of the minds of most people here, other than as an abstract history lesson. Most people believe Lincoln fought the war to free the slaves. I have no concept of being in a war; of looking out your window at a firefight or having to turn your lights off to avoid snipers. Now, she has to get water before it is turned off at night. I would give my immortal soul to bring her to safety.

            The reason I mentioned Kiev was due to the stories I read about Russian troops handing out tinned beef, rice and water. I heard nothing about any assistance from Kiev and none of my friends said anything about it. When a vote was held in Ukraine in (I believe) 2014, I asked if they voted. They responded bitterly that they had – a week after the election was over. Many of my friends feel that Kiev sees the Donbas as a necessary evil instead of citizens of Ukraine. All just want peace and their lives back.

            My fear of Novorossia stems from reading parts of their Constitution. It followed the tenets of Communism far enough to conjure images of the Berlin Wall. Back in ’89, I had a Russian math teacher who put his life on the line by becoming a ‘refusenik’ and wanting to emigrate here. He lost his apartment and job (he was a brilliant theorist in the mathematics of languages) and became eligible for duty in the army. Luckily, he was able to get here before being drafted.

            I am afraid that if it comes into being, that I will never see my friends again. I don’t really give a damn about whether someone would shoot me or not for being with them. I care about them more, and life without them would not be a life. I would use any means possible to be with them and (if I could) bring them to safety.

            As far as Obama goes, he’s a clown. Most people here would like to see the door hit him in the ass as he leaves. Unfortunately, we’ve been stuck with him for eight years. God help us with the next batch of candidates; most of them are either very similar, or so diametrically opposed that I question their sanity. Obama has no intent of helping Ukraine – he’s a lame duck president who really doesn’t care about anything except playing golf, going on vacation, shoveling money to Africa or Syria or (now) boating around the Arctic whining about global warming while Ukraine fights for its life and ISIS builds power and becomes more dangerous by the day.

            Brent, I hope I explained/answered your objections. My hope here is that I can learn more about the situation so that I can talk to my friends here and give a cogent explanation of what is happening and the extent of corruption in Russia. No offense was intended and if I misspoke, it was out of ignorance not bigotry. Peace?

          • Brent

            Thank you for posting that. I really hope your girlfriend and her family will be safe, and eventually you can get them out. You are correct that neither of us know what they’ve really going through as we’re both thousands of miles away and live in safety. I’m sure they never thought they’d have to live through what they’ve experienced the last year and a half.

            I’ve followed the situation in Ukraine for years, and daily from the time Yanukovych was supposed to sign the EU Association agreement in November of 2013, through Maidan, through the invasion of Crimea, and now the war in Donbass. I don’t know everything about it, but I think I have a good understanding and still learn something new all the time. What most people have forgotten is that prior to Putin’s decree that he had to ‘protect Russian speakers’, there was very little if any ethnic conflict in Ukraine. There still isn’t in most oblasts, and it’s not a country divided into “Eastern Ukraine” and “Western Ukraine” like many Putinpologists try to claim. It is not run by a fascist junta and not full of neo-Nazi’s. It’s a peaceful country that has been dominated by Russia for centuries. It is a country that has tried to gain it independence several times, but always falls back under Muscovy control.

            The reason I disagreed that Ukraine and Kyiv have abandoned the people of Donbass is they are still sending their troops to Donbass to stop Russia’s invasion. They haven’t capitulated to Russia. Ukraine doesn’t want to abandon Donbass or its people, it wants them back home. Yes, there is a percentage of the residents of Donbass who do not want to remain part of Ukraine, bu they’re the minority supported by Russia’s army. However, if Donbass returns to Ukrainian control, those who don’t want to be part of Ukraine still have the choice to move to Russia instead of forcing their will on the rest of their neighbors. The majority of refugees from Donbass chose to move to free Ukraine, and I think that is very telling of the sentiments. Yes, the majority speak Russian as their first language, but 58% of both oblasts are ethnic Ukrainians.

            Ukraine was actually close to routing the terrorists in control of Donbass last August until Russia’s military fully entered the conflict. That was the point at which the West, including Obama, Merkl and Hollande, failed Ukraine. There was clear evidence and first hand testimony, but the West let Putin lie his way into another invasion of Ukraine, just like they did with Crimea. At least over two thousand of Ukraine’s sons gave their lives to try to liberate Donbass. They are not there to harm the locals as many ‘trolls’ try to claim, but they are there to try to liberate them. The sad state of Ukraine’s army and its command and control were its downfall, but it has improved since then. Is it strong enough to stop a full fledged Russian invasion? Likely not. But it’s outperformed what most expected it was capable. They are fighting for their homeland, and I admire them for trying to stop the invaders. Can Russia be defeated? Absolutely. They are an invading army who really is not as welcome as it thinks, and the longer the conflict continues, the stronger and more unified Ukraine becomes.

            You are right about Obama too. He has been Ukraine’s biggest disappointment as he thinks he can negotiate with Putin. You don’t negotiate with the mafia. Obama thinks he needs Putin to negotiate the end to other conflicts in the Middle East and I think Obama will sell out Ukraine to gain the legacy of peace in the Middle East. The sad thing is that Putin wants unrest elsewhere so that it takes people’s attention off of what he wants to do in Ukraine and the Baltic countries, and eventually, in Europe. Ukraine is just the beginning of his end goal which is a Eurasian Union stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. This is based on the philosophy of one of his advisors, Alexander Dugin, who has called for the genocide of Ukrainians and is chummy with David Duke. Yes, the Russian government and its inner core are the real fascists. They are everything they accuse others, especially Ukraine, of being. If you want some links on Dugin or other issues, I would be glad to send them to you.

            I think now that Putin is putting Russian troops into Syria, Obama may finally realize the folly of his ways of thinking he can negoiate with Putin as a partner, but I think he’s too proud to admit he was wrong. I for one, am very happy to see Putin putting Russian troops into Syria. Let the Russian terrorists (and yes, for the atrocities they have committedin Donbass, they are terrorists) fight the ISIS terrorists and kill each other instead of innocent people.

            The Donbass is a mess. Every time the fighting against Ukraine subsides the thugs in control turn on each other. Many of them are scum and career criminals and they care nothing about the people they are supposedly protecting and only about building their own empires….just like Putin and his regime have done in Russia.

            Again, if you want some really good links on those in charge, I have collected many.

            Again, I wish you and your girlfriend a happy future and hope you can get her out soon. I also wish to apologize for my earlier comments but am tired of seeing Kyiv being blamed when they were the country that was invaded.

            Peace to you, your family, and Ukraine.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Brent, while I agree with most of what you wrote I’d say that Merkel is the biggest disappointment for Kyiv, not Obama. She and Hollande well and truly screwed Kyiv at Minsk; they gave the dwarf almost everything he wanted with Minsk II. They both want to restore relations with the dwarf and get the sanctions lifted so they can sell Camembert, champagne, Riesling and Audis to Dwarfstan again. With friends like that, who needs an enemy?
            Forget Obama, he’s irrelevant and will be gone in 16 months. None of the most likely candidates for President will be as soft on Moscow. John McCain unfortunately chose airhead Sarah Palin as his runing mate in 2008 and that cost him the Presidency. Obama’s weakness is that he isn’t really interested in foreign affairs.
            In Europe, on the other hand, things are looking pretty grim. Hollande is unlikely to be elected a second time, but his potential successors won’t be an improvement. Sarkozy and Le Pen are both in the dwarf’s pocket with Le Pen being at least partly funded by Moscow. Ditto for Germany where nearly every politician is a Putinversteher or Putinknutschler. Right now I can’t think of any leading German politician who sees the dwarf for what he really is. In the UK, Jeremy Corbin looks like Labour’s new leader and he is definitely pro-dwarf. Fortunately his Loony Left policies will make Labour unelectable, just as they did in the 1980s. But the Conservatives have no leader like Maggie Thatcher was.
            The EU is on its last legs thanks to its idiotic policies during the last two decades, the introduction of the euro being the best example of the collective lunacy at the top.
            All we concerned individuals can do is donate as much as we can afford to one of the organisations that actually help the Ukrainians, whether strengthening the Ukrainian armed forces, helping refugees or helping in any other way, and vote for politicians who have openly expressed their support for Kyiv. Our current governments sure as hell won’t help.

          • Quartermaster

            McCain cost McCain the presidency. The reason he came as close as he did was Palin. Without her the defeat would have been far more crushing. The wacko bird got what he deserved. Everyone else, less so.

          • Randolph Carter

            You guys have probably seen this by now, but it’s gratifying to see a gang of Russian thugs get their asses handed to them by picking the wrong guy (Nicolai Vlasenko, a professional boxer and martial arts expert):


            I think I’m going to go watch a Chuck Norris movie)

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          The best figures I’ve found suggest a pre-war population of about 2.5 million for Luhansk oblast and 4.5 million for Donetsk oblast, making a total of about 7 million. The two major cities Donetsk and Luhansk are in the occupied territory, though the third city Mariupol is not.
          From this number one must deduct the number of refugees, whether they fled to Dwarfstan or free Ukraine, about 1.5 million, most of which came from the occupied territory. Donetsk had about 1 million inhabitants pre-war, but that numer is considerably less now. Basically the only people left are those that support the so-called LNR and DNR, or those that are too old or too poor to move. Pre-war a considerable proportion of the Donbas population was pensioners.
          At “best” I’d guess about 2.5 million are in the occupied territory, no more- but I emphasise it’s a guesstimate.

    • Brent

      So it’s Ukraine’s fault for being invaded by Russia?!?!?!? Just how far up your rectum is your cranium buried? You probably blame those pesky Jews for Hitler having to exhaust his supply of Zyklon B…..

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  • Vol Ya

    We can not talk about Ukraine’s independence without talking about energy. Ukraine will never be independent as long it is tied to Russia for natural gas supplies. It is crazy for Europe and Ukraine to be buying oil and natural gas from Russia when there are plenty of other sources that are cheaper and more reliable. Buying energy from russia amounts to feeding the enemy with hard currency. This must stop now. And it can be done. It just required the political will. Lithuania has totally rid itself of russian energy imports.