Resignation of Mikhail Zurabov from the post of the Russian ambassador to Ukraine will not lead to any drastic changes in Russia’s policy towards Ukraine and Donbass, at least in the short run. However, that resignation showed that the Kremlin’s tactics has changed, specifically, it has abandoned the idea of establishing a dialogue with Petro Poroshenko behind the scenes, expert say.
Military expert, blogger and publicist Boris Rozhin has told EADaily it is too early to make any long-term forecasts so far and much will depend on who will replace Zurabov and how the staff of Russia’s diplomatic mission will change. The expert anticipates no drastic changes in Russia’s line towards Ukraine and Novorossiya following the ambassador’s resignation. The general commitment to implementation of the Minsk Agreements will be left unchanged too, he said.
“Everything will continue the way it is now, unless the military conflict in Donbass escalates. Regular bombardments with casualties and destructions amid ongoing talks at the Minsk subgroups,” Rozhin said. On the other hand, he said, Zurabov’s signature was under the Minsk Agreements of 2014 and his resignation may be symbolic.
Anyway, Rozhin thinks that Zurabov’s resignation was a right though belated step, as his activity in Ukraine cannot be called successful. “I assess the results of his work in Ukraine as extremely negative. Comparing them with the activity of U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, he (from the viewpoint of U.S. interests) worked ‘brilliantly.’ As for Zurabov, he, to put it mildly, has made no visible achievements on that position,” Rozhin said.
Sergey Markov, a political analyst, member of the Public Chamber of Russia, believes too that Zurabov’s resignation will not change Moscow’s strategic policy towards Novorossiya and Ukraine. He linked the resignation to Moscow’s decision to abandon efforts to establish relations with Petro Poroshenko.
The relations with the government agencies are almost paralyzed and blocked by Kiev, Markov said adding that the relations between business circles are paralyzed too. “Considering the old friendly relations of Zurabov and Poroshenko, there was an opportunity to use that resource as a channel of interaction,” Markov said.
In his words, Zurabov’s resignation can be viewed as “Moscow’s disappointment at the opportunity to have any relations with Petro Poroshenko due to his evident extremist activity.”
Yevgeny Tinyansky, a militiaman, the head of the Southeastern Initiative NGO, welcomes Zurabov’s resignation. “I am one of those pro-Russian activists who tried to meet with the ambassador in autumn of 2013 and show the real state of affairs and what everything might grow into. I couldn’t do it. Inherently, Zurabov let Maidan happen, closed eyes on it, and tens of thousands of the Russian people were killed. Eventually, Russia suffers financial and reputation losses being not even in a stalemate. A few days ago, I told online via Facebook about the destructive role of Zurabov and his biased, pro-Ukrainian stance,” Tinyansky said.
Like other experts, he does not believe that Zurabov’s resignation will change Russia’s line on Novorossiya and Ukraine. “Although he was dismissed (and it is good), I am afraid that the measures will end here. Meantime, I’d like to see a tougher work on the mistakes and serious investigation. Without such steps, Russia’s vector in the conflict in Donbass will not change. Otherwise, they will have to investigate a series of anti-Russian sabotages at many departments. This requires a strong political will of the Russian president. This is what the patriotic community is waiting for. So far, we see just small steps, overture, and caution, which is not appropriate in the given case,” he said.
As for the “Minsk process,” the expert recalled, Zurabov’s positions on it shattered in yet in April 2015, when he was left out of the negotiations. That is why his resignation will hardly influence the “Minsk process” either. “Zurabov is not a member of the Contact Group. He was withdrawn from it yet in April 2015. It is symbolical that in December of the same year, Poroshenko tried to promote Zurabov back to the Contact Group. It is no secret that Zurabov and Poroshenko have friendly relations and Zurabov has quite profitable pharmacy business in Ukraine. I think it is too early to expect any changes in the Minsk process. On the other hand, there are no prospects. The Minsk process has been inherently feeble. The sooner they understand this and start operating toughly and unequivocally, the better it is for Russia,” Tinyansky said for conclusion.
As EADaily reported, on July 28, the president dismissed Mikhail Zurabov from his post of the Russian ambassador to Ukraine. Zurabov was appointed to that post in August 2009. A new ambassador will be appointed within the coming days, after the necessary procedures and decree, according to Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson of the Russian president. The Kremlin highly appreciates Zurabov’s activity saying he had repeatedly asked for resignation.