Although the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics (DPR and LPR) announced unilateral cessation of fire, the military actions in Donbass continue, though with lower intensity. War correspondents and representatives of the DPR Defense Ministry say the adversary is taking advantage of the pause to escalate the situation on the front line with renewed vigor. As for the political effect of such statements, military experts say they are equal to naught.
As EADaily reported earlier, the heads of the DPR and LPR, Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, announced one-sided ceasefire on September 14-15 ordering the armed forces of the republics not to retaliate against provocations by the Kiev military.
“I have data that the military actions continue, though with lower intensity. Fires, bombardments are observed from both the sides. Simply, they have become less intensive than before. Nothing else has changed. Hence, all these heart-breaking statements mean nothing,” said Igor Strelkov, the ex-minister of defense of DPR, the head of the All-Russian National Movement. He links the one-sided cessation of fire by the people’s republics to the West’s pressure on Moscow. At the same time, Strelkov thinks Ukraine will make no concessions.
He commented on Petro Poroshenko’s annual address to the Supreme Rada saying that Kiev will pursue its “own logic” when interpreting the Minsk Agreements.
“Any political settlement must be preceded by apparent and undeniable progress in security issues: sustainable ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops and equipment from the occupied territories, disarmament of militants and finally, restoration of control over our border,” Poroshenko said then.
According to Strelkov, Poroshenko feels the real support of the West and understands that Russia has yielded to the West’s pressure. “Otherwise, why should it change its positions and retreat?” he said. “As long as there were bombardments, Lavrov did not even express “deep concerns” as he used to do. He expressed ‘deep concern’ over Syria. Meantime, he did not even notice that on September 14, before the ceasefire, Donetsk and Lugansk suburbs were attacked,” Strelkov said.
Military analyst Boris Rozhin thinks the decision on the one-sided ceasefire was an element of information war and propaganda, because the sides continue to suffer casualties. At the same time, he said, despite the decision, the Novorossiya units retaliate though not intensively.
“The one-sided ceasefire was a wrong move in the information war. Such PR-steps harm rather than help. Ukraine does not respond to such statements, as Kiev does not consider DPR and LPR as independent subjects. Kiev demands implementation of the ceasefire by Russia, while the statements of Donetsk and Lugansk matter nothing to Ukraine, as it does not consider them as an equal side to the talks. Actually, such steps in the information war do not achieve their purpose,” Rozhin said.
He is sure that this hampers the Minsk process. “There are provisions in the Minsk process which Kiev interprets in its own way and sequence, while DPR and LPR interpret them differently. The sides perceive differently the same provisions. During the past two years, consultations were held at various subgroups of the Minsk process and the Normandy Formats, but the positions of the conflicting sides have not become closer. Nor had they implemented any of the provisions. The major reason is that Kiev refuses to recognize the DPR and LPR as subjects of the civil war in Ukraine and try to include them in the reformed Ukraine the way Moscow wants it to do. Kiev looks to include them on its own terms i.e. to reform it on the model of the incumbent political regime through propaganda of Banderites, de-russification and de-sovietization. As a result, the sides are making endless circles. There is a factor of Europe too. It is trying to press Poroshenko to make him bring his positions closer to what Russia seeks. However, Poroshenko depends on Washington rather than Brussels, and Europe will hardly manage to change his stance significantly,” Rozhin said. He anticipates talks to prolong the Minsk Agreements until 2017, since the sides will hardly manage to implement any of provisions, including elections in Donbass, this year.
Meantime, there is temporary peace on the frontline, which means that a new escalation will occur soon. “Ukraine’s Armed Forces use the reduction of the military actions in the front to pull more ammunition and other war materials to the engagement line as well as to rotate the contingents involved in ATO,” war correspondent Marina Kharkova posted on Facebook.
Deputy Commander of the operational command of the DPR Eduard Basurin reported on September 19 that Ukraine’s armed forces pulled armament, military hardware and manpower to the engagement line, which means that they are going to “break the Minsk Agreements.” Basurin explains the relative peace with the presence of Alexander Hug, Deputy Head of the OSCE Mission.