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Experts: Russia does not abandon Minsk agreements, but seeks more favorable terms at negotiations

Parties in the Minsk 2 talks on conflict settlement in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin’s statements on senselessness of having a meeting in the Normandy Four format at the sidelines of the coming G20 summit on the background of another deterioration of the situation in Donbass should not be considered in the context of Russia’s refusal from the negotiations and its withdrawal from the Minsk process in the Donbass conflict settlement. Most probably, such response means paving the way for strengthening Russia’s negotiations positions and is aimed at pressing Ukraine and Western countries who are undermining key articles of the Minsk agreements, believe experts questioned by EADaily.

To remind, on August 10, while commenting on reports on terror attacks in Crimea plotted by Ukraine, Vladimir Putin called senseless having a Normandy Format meeting in the sidelines of G20. According to the Russian president, “those people who seized power in Kiev and continue retaining it instead of searching for compromises and ways for peaceful settlement have switched to the practice of terror.”

One should not expect a sudden change in the Russian strategy in Donbass after the provocations in Crimea and accusations of Kiev in the terror attacks voiced by the Russian president; at the same time, it has proven methods that can be used in case of necessity or are already used in some places, says military expert Boris Rozhin.

“The intensity of shelling and military clashes have increased last week, making the number of victims grow from both sides. The DPR army is less than the Ukrainian troops and can only defend. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have had offensive plans since 2014. Russia cannot penetrate Ukraine, as it will be proclaimed an aggressor then and it doing the utmost not to be. It is more probable that Ukraine will launch an offensive and then Russia can use its troops to support the republics,” Rozhin supposes.

In general, the question of a great war depends, according to him, on whether Ukraine resorts to it. “Up to date, Russia, judging by words and deeds, prefers to take moderate measures connected with possible lift of limits for use of artillery. The matter is that DPR forces need to coordinate shelling as response to Ukrainian attacks with higher command. So, their response is limited. If the limits are lifted, the field commanders will have an opportunity to respond in accordance with the situation. In this case the amount of responsive shelling and intensity of shelling will increase in some sectors, which will result in more losses from the Ukrainian side that are already significant. Ukraine will pay a serious price for those killed in Perekop. Thus, Russia has options for response even without direct participation. But I do not see premises for direct invasion in Ukraine,” Rozhin says.

He also believes one should not treat Vladimir Putin’s statement on senselessness of the Normandy Four talks as a sign of “breakaway from Minsk.” He thinks it to be a diplomatic maneuver aimed at making Ukraine and the Western partners more negotiable on Donbass issues.

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“Within a year and a half, the Minsk process has been accompanied by meeting in the Normandy format. As we can see, it has not resulted in implementation of the Minsk agreements. Vladimir Putin’s statement most probably is a diplomatic maneuver targeted towards the West to make it influence Ukraine somehow. It is a political gesture, because the planned meeting could have changed nothing in implementation of the Minsk agreements. By refusing to take part in the meeting, Russia shows its discontent with Ukraine’s actions. The United States does not show willingness to make Ukraine compromise, because the status quo satisfies it. I think, the U.S. is interested in the status quo till the election. Because a war on the eve of election looks a risky adventure for it. Though, there certain radical circles in the Pentagon who insist upon raising tension in Ukraine, but until now it has not looked like they can push it through,” Rozhin concludes.

President of the National Strategy Institute Mikhail Remizov believes that Vladimir Putin’s tough statements are signals for Kiev about Russia’s readiness to provide a response to renewal of military actions in Donbass by more active military assistance to Novorossiya.

“The signals are sent in order to prevent from a forceful revenge in the near future,” he notes.

He says there can be various explanations why Moscow would want escape escalation of tensions. He does not rule out that Russia hopes to evade a new escalation of tension in the relations with the West or at least hopes to postpone the escalation. “It is unknown till what time (Moscow wants to postpone the escalation). Probably, until the election in the U.S., when something can change. Anyway, I have a feeling that Moscow is sending signals to Kiev just to prevent from the escalation,” Remizov says.

He thinks Moscow will manage to achieve this goal. “Even taking into account that Ukraine’s Armed Forces have gathered strength within the year and a half, the self-defense forces will be able to use the tactics of mousetraps again if Russia supports them, of course in case the support is enough. Kiev is concerned with such perspective. Some experts think that the Democrats in the United States would want to show Russia’s threat through a military escalation, if they feel insecure before the election. So, there is some possibility that a war can start, but I do not think it is higher than several months ago,” Remizov notes.

Earlier, a member of the self-defense forces Alexander Zhuchkovsky wrote in his social network account that measures taken by Russia are first of all of political nature. He thinks it is zero chance that Russia may wage a war against Ukraine and launch an offensive, and the biggest thing one can expect is offensive from the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics with support of Russian troopers “on vacations” as response to increased number of provocations from Ukraine.

“Undoubtedly, a forceful solution for this situation which is too prolonged and deadlocked would be the most effective and mostly wanted by all of us. But until now, we can only hope for local activities in Donbass (like in winter of 2015) and some serious political consequences of the Crimean incident,” Zhuchkovsky forecasts.

The best thing, as he thinks, would be recognition of the Lugansk and Donetsk republics’ independence which would finally bury the Minsk process and free hands for further, more decisive actions. As he states, for the first time since mid-2014 the situation is suitable for implementation of any tough actions against Ukraine.

Meanwhile, as DPR Deputy Operations Commander Eduard Basurin reports, the situation in the Donetsk People’s Republic has not changed and remains tense. Within last 24 hours, the Ukrainian armed forces, according to him, violated the ceasefire regime 578 times.

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