As winter time is round the corner, the authorities in Kiev need a surge in tensions in the southeast of Ukraine as an excuse for their belt tightening policies, polled experts have told TASS in the wake of reports Ukrainian weapons were being moved closer to the disengagement line in Donbas.
At last Friday’s foreign minister level Normandy Quartet meeting in Berlin the negotiators discussed the pullback of weapons from the front line in the southeast of Ukraine. The foreign ministers stated that the pullback of weapons with calibers under 100 mm and tanks was proceeding in accordance with the timetable by and large. “This process is to be over by November 12,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the media.
However, on Saturday the spokesman for the Defense Ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Eduard Basurin, said the reconnaissance units had identified the arrival of a group of Ukrainian self-propelled artillery pieces and tanks at the engagement line in Donbas. “Last Saturday’s strike against Donetsk confirmed that in the Ukrainian armed forces there are certain people and units who are against peace and who have been trying to provoke us into hostilities by hook or by crook,” Basurin said.
Analysts have emphasized the fact that the redeployment of Ukrainian artillery and tanks towards Donbas is underway on the eve of the November 15 local runoff elections. In the first round on October 25 the ruling coalition failed to score victories in one-third of the country’s regions and cities. In several major localities the elections were disrupted altogether.
The president of the Geopolitical Problems Academy, Konstantin Sivkov, believes that on the eve of the elections runoff, when the winter is about to set in with all the ensuing problems in the housing and utilities sector, Kiev is desperate to find an external enemy.
“The internal political strife in Kiev is gaining momentum. The split in the ruling coalition is getting wider. The Petro Poroshenko Bloc does not rule out it may vote for a motion of no confidence in the Arseny Yatsenyuk government. In the meantime, ever more people tend to take to the streets to press for political demands. Naturally, a surge in tensions in Donbas would provide the authorities in Kiev with an excuse for going ahead with austerity measures,” Sivkov told TASS.
The deputy director of the CIS Studies Institute, Vladimir Zharikhin, believes that the current situation on the line of disengagement in Donbas is not so much a military aggravation as a propagandistic one. “When military people stay idle for too long, they tend to relax. In order to keep them on the alert both the Donetsk Republic and Kiev have been exchanging counter-accusations of violating the weapons pullback regime. There is no smoke without fire, though,” Zharikhin told TASS.
According to his sources, Donetsk last weekend must have come under a fire attack by volunteer squads beyond Kiev’s control. On November 8 the residents of a village in the Kiev-controlled part of the Donetsk Region complained to the authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic about rampaging marauders from the volunteer battalion Aidar. “Last weekend’s bombardments may have been due to the same sort of outbreaks of arbitrariness locally. The very presence of uncontrolled forces in the zone of the conflict in the southeast of Ukraine shows how weak the vertical chain of command in Kiev is. The authorities in Kiev should be aware that full compliance with the Minsk Accords will be impossible without the establishment of full control of the volunteer squads of the Aidar type. But President Petro Poroshenko is mostly busy with the struggle against the oligarchs, such as Igor Kolomoisky and with bolstering his personal power,” Zharikhin believes.
And the director of the Globalization Problems Institute, Mikhail Delyagin, sees certain risks the armed standoff in the southeast of Ukraine may resume. “The Ukrainian regime is unable to carry on without war. While Russia as a member of the Normandy Quartet has been exerting every effort to ensure the physical survival of people in the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, West-leaning Kiev has been trying to strengthen its armed forces and subdue the self-proclaimed republics. To the accompaniment of speculations about compliance with the Minsk Accords the West has all the way put all the blame on Russia and prolonged sanctions against it again and again.”