Donbas: The new repertoire

28 September 2019, 08:31

Since the beginning events in the occupied Donbas would outrage with its absurdity, but recently, on the six year of war, the insanity has reached a new level. While at the beginning there was at least some logic in this nonsensical scenario, at the present moment there is literally nobody who could explain what is going on in Luhansk and Donetsk and where is everything heading. Even the people, who live in the occupied areas, fail to understand the logic behind Moscow policy towards occupied territories. Nearly every day leaders of the terrorist groups are announcing entirely contradicting statements and promises, so at this point it is seemingly impossible to dig deep and figure out what is the terrorists’ political strategy and what is the game plan outlined to them by Moscow. 


After five years of the lengthy fighting and continuous bloodshed, it was suddenly announced that, apparently, all these years the so-called “republics of Donbas” have not been fighting to separate themselves from the “much hated Ukraine” and “return into the welcoming arms of mother-Russia”, but – please do hold your excitement right there – to return back into Ukraine (!). So, supposedly they separated in order to join Ukraine. Logic? There is none. This is not a joke and not even an excerpt from Catch-22, a satirical novel by Joseph Heller. This is present-day reality. These days militants from “LDPR” are almost threatening Ukraine with “severe” consequences if it refuses to take those occupied territories back – at least this is the vibe one is getting from the “official media outlets” of “LPR” and “DPR”.


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In 2014 nobody would have believed this could happen. Leaders of the militants and the so-called “republics” suddenly declared their “pro-Ukrainian” stance, and never failed to mention the need to return Luhansk and Donetsk into Ukraine. They are even forcing the local population to record video appeals to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, asking him to take back the occupied territories and grant them a special administrative status. Those, who still insist that return should not be even considered and, like in 2014, insist that Donbas should join Russia, became marginalised – not without consequences. Because in the ‘russkiy mir’, or the Russian world, every opponent is automatically branded as a traitor, American or Ukrainian spy, a destroyer. Therefore, at present, those who were at the centre of anti-Ukrainian unrest, ironically turned into “ukrop’s accomplices”, who are “ruining stability of the republics”. That’s the term mainstream militants are now calling anyone who disagrees with Pushylin and Pasichnyk.


Naive opponents of the “new strategy” attempted to stage a massive protest in Donetsk aimed against reintegration of the occupied territories to Ukraine, however the protest has been quickly shut down by the “DPR authorities”. Pro-Russia supporters decided to organise their protest action under the slogans “Putin, accept the true choice of Donbas” and it was designed to be an answer to an earlier flashmob asking Zelenskiy to grant Donbas a special status. However, soon after it became clear that the times have changed and as opposed to 2014, addressing Putin directly is not even worth considering. On 27 July few dozens of people gathered in the centre of Donetsk to protest again reintegration with Ukraine, however their protest did not last long. At first they had people in plain clothes (potentially officers of the so called “MGB”, the local authorities’ “state and security office”) arriving to the place where the action has been held and prohibiting them to film or photograph the event, impertinently demanding that the people leave immediately. Afterwards, plainclothes police announced that the “square of Lenin has had a bomb reported on it”, so all the protesters were asked to leave.


There were explicitly freakish, bizarre and marginalised people participating in the protest action: maniac and deranged grandmas or even Beness Aijo, a citizen of Latvia of Russian-Ugandan descent, an activist of the National Bolshevik Party, whose delirious, hysterical speech about the urgent need to restore USSR became a social media hit. This way, pro-Russian movement of Donbas was taken back to its earlier, pre-war stage and was openly marginalised. A bunch of freaks, who were known in their region for their fanaticism and insanity, were skilfully used by the Russians in 2014 in order to cover up Russian military intervention. Back then with the Russian help many local lunatics and madmen, participants of the so called “Russian marches” suddenly imagined themselves MPs, ministers and political administrators of the non-existent state. They lived their roles so vividly, they must have believed it was real. However, soon after Russians decided they won’t need those people anymore and all the fanatics astonishingly discovered that all of a sudden they were marginalised and pushed at the backstage of political theatre and backyard of the modern history.  This time, however, they ended up not even in Ukraine, where they had the luxury to use the rights and privileges as the citizens of the democratic state – now they were living in an isolated, impoverished ghetto that has not been recognised by anyone. Moreover, “authorities” of the “republic” now treated them as dangerous and unwanted elements, just the way they were seen by Ukrainian authorities in 2014. For example, the chief propagandist of “DPR”, Maya Pirogova called Roman Manekin and Andriy Purgin, veterans of pro-Russian movement in Donbas, who criticised potential reintegration with Ukraine, “maidauns” – a derogatory term Russians use for Ukrainians, who support pro-EU and pro-Western choice for Ukraine. It’s highly doubtful those people could have imagined in 2014 they would end up where they are right now.


Nevertheless, official policy of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” “authorities” (and Kremlin’s, for that matter) cannot be easily explained by the simple wish to reintegrate temporarily occupied territories into Ukraine. It is not easily to see the logic behind those demands. On one hand, those people are demanding a special status within Ukraine and are even threatening Kyiv with “serious consequences”, should it refuse to take them back. On the other hand – the same authorities are shelling Ukrainian military positions and killing Ukrainian soldiers. For example, on August 6 four Ukrainian soldiers have been killed. There are many other, indirect signs indicating that Russia is not willing to stop the war and leave Donbas. Earlier this summer, representatives of the “DPR” began rebuilding and refurbishing checkpoint on the border between Ukraine-controlled and occupied territories – in fact, it looks like instead of the checkpoints, “DPR” is aiming to erect a regular border. On one hand, it possibly means that Russians are not prepared to advance further into Ukrainian territory, on the other hand – they clearly do not even consider to hand back the control over Donbas to Ukraine any time soon. By now militants have already built nearly 10km of the border near Olenivka and they aim to build identical border checkpoints near Gorlivka and Oleksandrivka. The “DPR” media feed this information to the local population under disguise of “caring about the people”, who have to cross the border between Ukraine-controlled and occupied territories. This, however, has little in common with reality – over the past five year long queues at the checkpoint and people’s suffering have rarely interested “authorities”. 


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One could not fail to notice, that the new checkpoints were built immediately following the announcement of the presidential elections’ results in Ukraine. Therefore, we are talking about certain political decision – and it clearly contradicts Moscow’s earlier manouvres. It seems that, while in Moscow’s eyes Ukraine had been governed by the “fascist junta”, they did not rush to build a border. Now, when there is a new government, that Moscow apparently wanted to negotiate, they suddenly rushed to build checkpoints in order to “ease the pain for ordinary citizens”. All this is coupled with viral videos sent to Zelenskiy by Donbas residents demanding to take them back and grant them a special status. What is the reason for this absurdity? 


It seems like authorities of LDPR are not able to explain their actions themselves. They are trying to find clumsy and farcical explanations for the sudden change in the strategy. “You must understand, a special status is not an autonomy. It does not mean, that we will return back into Ukraine. This is the only way to stop this madness, this war. You should understand that we, as a sovereign state will be a state within the state – that will be out special status” – has recently announced one of the militants’ leaders, Leonid Pasichnyk while meeting residents in the occupied territory. There is no legal framework for such thing, however, as a “state within the state”, so either Pasichnyk is just feeding lies to Donbas residents, or he himself does not really know what is going to happen. It is also unclear, why would he think that Ukraine would agree for a “state within the state” and why would Ukraine benefit from such thing in the first place. 


Anyhow, considering those statements and further shelling of Ukrainian military positions in the East, it is rather clear now that Russia is not going to stop the war. Ukraine has no choice, but to fight for its territorial integrity. 


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