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9 May, 2014  ▪  Bohdan Butkevych

The Force of Hope. Who Is to Stop Separatism?

While new authorities are set to play by the old rules, the country is veering further out of control. All hopes are on the army

News of once unimaginable bloodshed in Ukraine is quickly turning into a steady stream of daily headlines. If that wasn't bad enough, now reports of casualties are coming not just from the East, but from Odesa too. Worse still, there's a divide in the society, the ever-deepening schism between "us" and "them". In the meantime authorities seem to continue with the old under-the-table political games in hope that everything can be bought and sold. At this point all Ukrainians can really count on in the East is the security forces. And even those have their hands virtually tied with instructions not to shoot the local population. Yet, with a few hiccups, they began real counter-terrorist activity.

It’s time for Ukraine to make up its mind with regards to strategic plans and true allies. Judging by the latest developments, a full-on Russian military invasion is looking less and less likely, which has been acknowledged not only by domestic experts but the NATO leadership as well. Not to say that Russia is to withdraw troops away from Ukrainian borders. It surely will continue flexing its muscles. And although on the surface it may seem that Kremlin has succeeded in destabilizing the situation in the East of Ukraine, in reality things didn’t quite shape the way that fits into Moscow’s plans. The Russian leadership would be content with a Crimea-like scenario where at least close to a half of local population would welcome the big neighbor’s troops with flowers. Kremlin would be equally happy with completely loyal local elites ready to execute all the separatist plans.

RELATED ARTICLE: Who's Behind Separatism in the Donbas?

Yet, the situation in Donbas turned out to be rather different: local pro-Russian elites appear too weak and cowardly. There’s really nobody for Kremlin to rely on, apart from complete outcasts and own embedded intelligence agents, while the population itself doesn’t seem to be striving for anything other than peace and order. Even the local branches of Ukrainian security services, apart from the police corrupt through and through, didn’t turn out to be as inept as Russia hoped they would. The end result is for the whole world to see: instead of an uprising of the oppressed Russian population, there's an insurgence of thugs that raid office buildings and stop at nothing including street robberies, carjacking and even kidnappings. With the absence of a single standout figure to rely on, Moscow resorted to stirring all the filth of the society’s underbelly: members of criminal and marginal political circles as well as lumpenproletariat. Needless to say, the results are far from aesthetically pleasing.

However, there’s a more significant reason why Putin has no need to launch an all-out invasion. Why would Russia plunge into direct military confrontation with practically the entire world, when even in the current situation Ukrainian authorities are struggling to keep things under control and, frankly, seem to be putting out fire with gasoline half of the time? Doing so they nicely help Moscow implement plan B, according to which, Donetsk and Luhansk regions are to be turned into a Ukrainian version of Chechnya, an uncontrollable grey zone where militias reign. Meanwhile, according to Ukrainian Week's sources, not so long ago an idea of bribing the so-called "people’s governors" effectively buying their loyalty has been seriously considered deep inside the ruling circles as a way of fighting separatism. This speaks volumes about the doctrine that a certain category of people within the new-old government lives by.

Evidently, individuals with this kind of thinking are exactly what Putin needs. The turmoil is now spreading beyond eastern Ukraine: the nightmarish events of May the 2nd in Odesa* made it painfully obvious how firmly in the old paradigm of buy and sell the interim authorities are stuck and how lacking is the realization that the country is indeed staring into the abyss. The result of their utterly inadequate policy with regards to appointments in law-enforcement was that Odesa policemen actually assisted Russian diversionists and their local minions to set up this bloodbath, ultimately to their own peril. The majority of the five dozen victims were indeed from the pro-Russian camp. Yet, mere two days later the policemen allowed the pro-Russian crowd into their station and on their demand released more than half of the arrested participants of the riot. Including those that openly used automatic firearms against Ukrainian activists.

Unclear as it may be as to how exactly this can guarantee peace for the once fairly safe city, Odesa became inundated with PR visits of all kinds of domestic politicians. The appointment of Ihor Kolomoyskyi's man as the head of Odesa Regional State Administration may perhaps be a sound decision, considering the aforementioned oligarch's success in keeping the Dnipropetrovsk region under control and away from separatism's reach. It, however, does nothing to solve the more general problem of mentality. We are yet to see a hint of understanding from the elites that the time of political games in the dark and under-the-table arrangements has long gone. This time it's do or die. And allowing any delays, let alone the "arrangements" much beloved in Ukrainian politics, is a crime. A crime for which the punishment is as imminent as it is severe.

RELATED ARTICLE: Serhiy Kunitsyn: “The only thing that forced Crimean elite to support Moscow was the presence of 20,000 Russian troops”

In view of the approaching WWII Victory Day on the 9th of May and the presidential elections, which seem to have completely taken over the hearts and minds many politicians, and with both events presenting an alarming potential for all kinds of attacks and provocations, the above explains quite well why the active phase of the counter-terrorist operation began one month too late. Why on earth the terrorists weren't smoked out of the buildings of the Security Service (SBU) in Luhansk and the Regional State Administration in Donetsk early on while there were just a handful of them inside? The answer to this question brings us back to the inept practices of authorities in Kyiv that seemed to maintain hope to "arrange" things until the last moment. And only after foreign allies hinted that they were not giving any money unless the government quits beating the air, it finally squeaked into action. Except now every meter of liberated territory is paid for with the lives of the patriotic Ukrainian military.

Belatedly, through much pain and bloodshed Ukrainians begin to realize that our security forces is all we have to defend ourselves. The very security forces in which very recently, back at Maidan, we quite justifiably saw our enemy. However, right now when things got ugly they are the people upon whom we rest our hopes. If they manage to thwart separatism in Slovyansk, the entire house of cards called the Donetsk People's Republic will crumble in no time. In fact, according to SBU sources, the numerous robberies of financial institutions in the East indicate that separatists are already busy preparing escape plans in case the counter-terrorist operation succeeds.

Thus the reality turned out to be remarkably straightforward: only our own patriotic army can protect the country, an army capable of fighting-off the insolent invading aggressor using the power of weaponry. And it is the support and the development of potent security forces that should be the primary focus for the Ukrainian society today.

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