Ukraine should aim to make occupation of Donbas as painful as possible – expert

James Sherr. Photo: 


Russia has moved to the next stage of hybrid war, James Sherr, Associate Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Chatham House think tank, told at the 10th Kyiv Security Forum, which was held during 6-7 April.

According to him, the first stage was Novorossiya, which ended in 2014. Its assumption, however, still survives.

The second strategy, which is coming to an end now, was the Minsk agreements. In them, the Kremlin’s goal was to force Ukraine with the help of Germany and France to reintegrate the occupied territories on terms inconsistent with Ukraine’s sovereignty. It has now concluded that this is not the be achieved.

Mr. Sherr emphasized that Ukraine’s Normandy partners, France and Germany, had been criticized for not being enough robust, but they had nonetheless not given in to Russian pressure and not accepted the Russian blueprint for Donbas.

According to him, now is the beginning of a new strategy – the strategy of separation, and it has already started in the separation of enterprises and economies which were related in the sphere of energy – a consequence of the improvised trade blockade which was run by Ukrainian activists for over a month until it led to the Russian proxy “republics” in Donbas announcing a “nationalization” of Ukrainian factories, and Ukraine announcing an official blockade in return. The whole incident raised many ethical issues related to Ukraine’s trade with Russia’s proxy states  which were de facto in a state of war with it, and revealed that oligarchs profited from the status quo.

Read more: Donbas “republics” seize Ukrainian assets blaming blockade

Ukraine would have had less problems had it pursued a strategy of energy and economy, replacing a clan-based system on a rules based system, Mr.Sherr says. If Ukraine had imposed a blockade first, it would have the upper hand, as it would have taken the initiative. Now Russia still retains its strategic patience that Ukraine will give in and fall apart.

There will be no return of these territories on goals that Ukraine can accept, Mr.Sherr is convinced. Therefore, Ukraine’s aim is to make the occupation of these territories as painful as possible for Russia.

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