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The Minsk ceasefire in Donbas: traps, risks and possible turns of events

Andriy Kokotiukha

So far there are thee possible options for how events will unfold… 

So, at 6 p.m. on September 5, a ceasefire was declared in Donbas. Skeptics immediately remember the end of June, when the President of Ukraine, having spoken about his peace plan, ordered a unilateral ceasefire. Of course, the mercenaries did not adhere to it. Ukrainian servicemen fired in response, and when the term ran out, they started actively advancing.

So actively, that the success of the eight following weeks forced Putin to resort to open invasion. The regular Russian army came to the terrorists’ aid, our army suffered severe losses and was forced to retreat. It is thought that this way the Kremlin reinforced its positions, and the next meeting of the contact group in Minsk was held in the context of a new distribution of force, which was not very beneficial for the Ukrainian army.

Meanwhile, at the NATO summit, Ukraine received unforeseen and unanimous support on part of the alliance. Amongst other things, Petro Poroshenko received a promise of close military cooperation. In particular, this includes the possibility of supplying high-precision lethal weaponry to Ukraine. This made Russian indignant – the head of the Russian MFA Sergey Lavrov express deep concern and condemnation of the however informal, but factual spread of the NATO’s influence in the East. At the same time the West unanimously and seriously started discussing further sanctions against Russia, which will be irreversible this time.

Which means that the Ukrainian positions are not as weak as they thought. It is most likely that Putin gave the order to cease fire temporarily in order to buy some amount of time to evaluate the situation and make another maneuver. In any case, the document signed in Minsk, even though it involved representatives of the fake ‘republics,’ might have absolutely non-fake significance. As such, the ceasefire will be bilateral.

But the logical question is: what next? Skeptics immediately started talking about the betrayal of Ukraine’s national interests. Our country get its own Transnistria, a ‘Bosnian scenario’ is launched etc. The hotheads cannot be placated neither by the President’s statement regarding the unacceptability of such a development and violation of territorial integrity nor by the statement made by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk that peace is only possible under the conditions offered by Mr. Poroshenko: a ceasefire, removal of foreign troops, a lockdown of the borders.

So far there are three possible options for how events will develop. Each of them has risks. And one is an obvious trap.

The first thing experts agree on is that the terrorists won’t cease fire for long, they will be the first to violate the treaty. Therefore everything might start anew. Besides, the long-forgotten Viktor Yanukovych may reenter the game: he will start paying the mercenaries to begin the war. And even if him and Mr Putin himself don’t force the events, a significant number of local separatists have already tasted blood, have been seduced by lack of punishment and unlimited power that crashed onto their heads. Therefore, having stepped outside of the control of those in power, they will start fighting according to their own judgement.

Option number two: only the active phase of the conflict will subside. Having reinforced their positions at the front line which has been created as of this moment, the Ukrainian troops will prepare for exhausting positional war. The situation is slightly reminiscent of the condition of the eastern front in World War I after the end of 2015. Speaking of which, Petro Poroshenko’s statement included words about the necessity of longevity of the ceasefire. Therefore, we cannot talk about any kind of peace, especially with terrorist organizations. Just like the possibility of some version of Transnistria on Donbas territory which is under the control of a foreign army.

And, finally, option number three, which includes the aforementioned trap. It is known that the representatives of the so-called DNR and LNR declared a sure course towards separation from Ukraine. They possibly received such orders from the Kremlin. Therefore none of the President’s promises to give special status to individual regions of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts regarding their economic freedom and guarantees of the usage of any language on their territories would placate them. As well as the retention of cultural traditions (possibly he meant the celebration of Soviet holidays or Russia’s Independence Day). The trap does not only consist of the fact that the Kremlin will not only talk about Transnistria 2.0 but Kosovo 2.0, so the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics will become part of some quasi-political process in some form or other. It consists in Putin’s stubborn denial of the presence of regular Russian troops on the other side of the front.

Russia will insist: all of these people are armed units of the “DNR-LNR rebellion.” So Donbas citizens, the native population. The demands to remove the troops from this territory are “unacceptable,” as it is “genocide”: people are being kicked out of their own territories. Which makes the third point in Poroshenko’s peace plan impossible to execute: the closure of the borders.

Which means that in the nearest future we will have fruitless, until next Spring, talks with pro-Russian terrorists regarding cessation from Ukraine, which is impossible a priori, or a shake ceasefire which will be violated before our army receives the assistance the NATO countries had promised. And the Kremlin will do everything possibly for the blame for this violation, at least in their interpretation, to lie on the ATO commandment.


Source:  GlavRed

Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina

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