August 15, 2016

Week's News Express Analysis № 11/08

 

LAST WEEK'S KEY FACTORS AND MAIN TRENDS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SITUATION AROUND UKRAINE

(August 08-14, 2016)

 

I. The Highest-Profile Events in the Development of the Situation around Ukraine

Last week's main event in the development of the situation around Ukraine was Russia's large-scale information provocation against our Country with the use of the factor of the world community's increased attention to resonant events associated with the intensification of terrorism and extremism.

August 10, 2016 Russia accused Ukraine of attempting to conduct a terrorist act in the Crimea, and informed about the detention of the “subversive group leader” — a citizen of Ukraine, a former participant of ATO, public activist from Energodar E. Panov. Within the framework of aggravating the situation, they also reported about the “prevention of the two attempts to break through into the Crimean Peninsula by sabotage and terrorist groups of special task units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine”, as a result of which two Russian servicemen were killed.

These “facts” were immediately commented on by Russian President V. Putin, who pointed out “Ukraine's turning to the practice of state terrorism” and canceled the Russian proposal to hold a meeting of the “Normandy Format” during the summit of “Big Twenty” (G-20) in the PRC at the beginning of September, 2016. Besides, August 10, 2016 V. Putin held an urgent meeting of the RF Security Council, during which it was decided to strengthen measures to ensure the security of citizens and vital facilities in the Crimea.

Putin's statement was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, which tied up “Ukraine's terrorist actions in the Crimea” to the intensification of fighting in the Donbas (of which again Ukraine was accused), the murder of journalist S. Sheremet and the attempted assassination of the so-called leader of the “LPR” I. Plotnitskiy. Hiding behind this, the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation “confirmed” the thesis of “Ukraine's state terrorism”.

Even a more “hysterical” reaction was demonstrated by the occupying authorities of the Crimea, who called “to exclude Ukraine from the UN and the OSCE”. In their turn, the “law enforcement agencies” of the Crimea opened a criminal case on “the fact of an extremely serious crime”.

Leading experts and analysts believe that in the nearest future Russia's “terrorist” provocation will be actively used by Moscow at all levels to undermine Ukraine's international position, to shift the responsibility for aggravation of the situation in the Donbas onto our Country, and to justify Russia's actions against our State.

We should not exclude a possibility of Russia's armed provocations on the border with Kherson region of Ukraine. The responsibility for such provocations would be put on Ukraine and Russia could use them for large-scale military actions against our Country from the territory of the Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions (ORDLO). Evidence of Moscow's preparations for the implementation of such plans is its building up of the Group of Russian Forces in the north of the Crimea under the guise of rotation of the RF Armed Forces units on the border with mainland Ukraine and the massive strengthening of the Russian-terrorist terrorist troops in the Donbas.

As at the beginning of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine in April 2014, a number of deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation have already urged the Russian leadership to provide “an adequate response to Ukraine's terrorist actions in the Crimea” and “to take measures for the protection of the Russian and Russian-speaking population in the Ukrainian territory”.

Similar actions of Moscow were the prologue of Russia's armed aggression against Georgia in August 2008. Russia's attack on Georgia was the first case of Russia's direct use of military force against countries of former Soviet Union and showed Moscow's turning to practical implementation of its neo-imperialist policy to restore the Russian Federation as a global center of power.

The beginning of such a policy was declared by V. Putin during the Munich Conference on International Security in 2007. He expressed Russia's intention to firmly defend its interests from the West, and actually included post-soviet territories into the sphere of Moscow's exclusive influence.

In this context, Russia's attack on Georgia was Moscow's response to NATO's principle decision regarding the openness of the Alliance to new members, including the countries of the former USSR, a demonstration of Moscow's resolute position to achieve its goals by all available means, including the use of military force, and also a test of the West's reaction and possible actions.

Unfortunately, the real assistance to Georgia, apart from political declarations and demonstrations, was provided only by Ukraine, which gave the Georgian side the arms and military equipment, including modern means of air defense. Those were the Ukrainian air defense systems that allowed to destroy the aggressor's 12 warplanes (including strategic bomber Tu-22M3), which largely contributed to the cessation of Russia's attack on Georgia.

At that time the Western countries and international organizations took a passive position, having confined themselves only to attempts of political and diplomatic pressure on Russia. All this was seen by Moscow as the West's weakness and its being unable to take any real steps against the Russian Federation.

For example, the leaders of the Russian Federation pointedly refused to fulfill the main provisions of the “Medvedev-Sarkozy” peace plan for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the occupied territories of Georgia, which caused only moral condemnation from the USA and the EU.

In general, the above-mentioned circumstances in fact created conditions for intensification of Russia's aggressive foreign policy, which felt the impunity and began its open expansion both, in the territory of the former Soviet Union, and towards the European Union.

This is what allowed V. Putin to carry out in 2014 the armed aggression against Ukraine, which has undermined the whole system of European security, and in fact has led to the “cold war” between Russia and the West.

 

II. Russia's Armed Aggression against Ukraine

2.1. The East of Ukraine (The ATO Zone)

Confirmation of Russia's aggressive intentions towards Ukraine is the highly tense situation in the Donbas. The enemy continues shelling the positions of Ukrainian troops on the frontline with a peak intensity of 60-70 attacks per day. The most problematic directions are Donetsk (Avdiivka, Luhanske and the southern flank of Svetlodarsk arc), Luhansk (Zhovtneve, Novooleksandrivka, Novozvanivka, Popasna) and Mariupol (Shyrokino, Vodyane and Pavlopil).

Building up the Russian-terrorist troops' fighting potential in the occupied territories of Ukraine continued. Thus, last week the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” received a new set of arms for the new battalion tactical force which will be deployed near Debaltsevo.

Besides, hospital funds and medical personnel have been prepared for receiving the wounded. As during the active phase of the ATO, released and reoriented under the surgical direction the majority of hospitals in the breakaway republics. As part of these activities, the surgical medical personnel, living in the occupied territories, has been put on military records. Against this background, both Russia and the leaders of the “DPR” and “LPR” have intensified information activities accusing Ukraine of preparing an offensive against the breakaway republics. Under the pretext of this, Russian-terrorist forces are being placed on highest alert and concentrated at the forefront near Horlivka (western flank of the Svetlodarsk arc), south-western suburbs of Donetsk (Pisky), Avdiivka (Industrial Area) and on the eastern outskirts of Mariupol (Shyrokino). Under the same pretext, into the above-mentioned places there have been returned heavy weapons prohibited by the Minsk Agreements.

In general, these circumstances prompt the conclusion about Russia's complete readiness for an offensive operation against Ukraine, which may begin at any time and on any direction.

 

2.2. Other Aspects of the Russian Federation's Action against Ukraine and the West

Russia's preparing to scale up its military aggression against our Country is accompanied by Moscow's activities to demonstrate its military power to NATO and Ukraine. To this end, a series of maneuvers and exercises are taking place in western Russia and Belarus near the border with Poland, the Baltic countries and Ukraine.

On August 13, 2016 at training fields in Leningrad and Pskov regions of the Russian Federation, Command Post exercises (CPE) of the Collective Rapid Response Forces (CRRF) of the Collective Security Treaty (CSTO) “Cooperation-2016” began. About 6 thousand military servicemen and 1 thousand pieces of military equipment from the airborne troops of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are involved in the exercises. They are mastering interaction of multi-arms and multi-national group of troops during an operation to respond to a worsening conflict in one of the border regions of the CSTO member states.

A feature of this year's exercises is three times as large number of troops and military equipment of participants, as well as greater involvement of tactical and army aviation, missile troops and artillery. This is openly called Russia's response to the strengthening of NATO's military presence in Central and Eastern Europe.

In turn, on August 23, 2016 in Belarus, near the borders on Poland and Ukraine (on the training field Obuz-Lesnovskiy near Baranovichi), they plan to hold Russian-Belarusian peacekeeping exercises “Enduring Brotherhood-2016”. The plan of the exercises is aimed at practicing the peacekeeping units' actions to force warring parties to ceasefire.

At the same time, Russia is taking steps to strengthen the blockade of Ukraine's transport connections with Central Asian countries. August 8, 2016 Moscow blocked on the border the transit of Ukrainian railway route: the port of Ilyichevsk (Ukraine) — the ports of Poti and Batumi (Georgia) and further via Georgia, Azerbaijan and Russia into the Central Asian region.

This again confirms V. Putin's regime's putting all possible pressure on Ukraine to implement the Kremlin's neo-imperial interests in relation to our State.

 

III. Ukraine, International Organizations and Leading Western Countries

Russia's provocations in the Crimea and intensification of fighting in the Donbas cause negative reaction of international organizations and Western countries, which increase their pressure on Russia in order to force it to stop its armed aggression against Ukraine.

3.1. International Organizations

NATO. Against the background of Russia's using new forms and methods of actions against the NATO countries and their allies and partners, the leadership of the Alliance is developing its own concept of responses to the threats of “hybrid wars”. According to the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General D. Mercier, this concept will be based on methods of analysis of the signs of hidden threats to member countries in the political, economic, security, special and informational spheres.

For this purpose, analysts will use a wide range of data from military intelligence agencies, diplomatic sources, analytical centers, research institutions and the media. According to some NATO experts, within the framework of practical implementation of this concept, they can decide on deployment in Kyiv of a training centre to prepare the Alliance to counteract “hybrid wars”.

 

3.2. Leading Western Countries

The USA. US President B. Obama has condemned Moscow's provocations in the Crimea and confirmed Washington's intention to maintain the sanctions against Russia until it begins to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk Agreements. Besides, the United States called on Russia to allow international observers to the military exercises, which are held near the borders of NATO member countries and Ukraine.

Germany. A similar statement has been made by the German Government Commissioner for Cooperation with the Russian Federation G. Erler, who has denied the possibility of lifting sanctions against Russia in the foreseeable future. The reason for this was called the daily violation of the truce and ceasefire in the conflict zone in the east of Ukraine, which lead to numerous casualties. Besides, G. Erler emphasized the unity of the positions of all 28 EU member states on the issue of possibility of lifting the sanctions against Russia only after its fulfillment of the requirements of the Minsk Agreements.

At the same time, Germany does not give up dialogue with Russia on the “Ukrainian issue”. Thus, on August 9, 2016, at the initiative of the German side, the situation around Ukraine was discussed during a telephone conversation between Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany F. Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov. The parties agreed on the need to synchronize the steps for a political settlement of the conflict with resolving security problems. Against this background, Russia's provocative actions in the Crimea caused unambiguous negative assessment by the US and EU as Moscow's attempts to divert attention from V. Putin's regime's armed aggression against Ukraine.

 

IV. Other Important Trends and Developments Relating to Ukraine's National Interests

Russia — Caspian-Black Sea region. In the context of continuing tensions with the West, the Russian Federation's leadership is making efforts to strengthen bilateral and multilateral relations with the satellite countries of the Caspian and Black Sea regions which have their own disagreements with the USA and EU.

August 8, 2016 Baku hosted a meeting of Presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, where they discussed prospects for development of cooperation between the parties in the political, economic, transport and energy spheres. At the initiative of Russian President V. Putin, they discussed the issue of creating a “North-South” transport corridor from Europe to India via Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. According to Russian experts, implementation of this project would facilitate the transportation of goods between Europe and Southeast Asia, give impetus to the economic development of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, and deepen ties between the countries of these regions.

At the same time, Moscow's deeper (hidden) goals are seizing the initiative from the United States, the EU and China to establish the functioning of transport corridors on similar routes, as well as preventing Ukraine's using the Azerbaijani transport infrastructure to get to the countries of Central, East-Central Asia and China.

In this connection, an alarming signal for Ukraine is strengthening of pro-Russian positions of the Azerbaijani leadership that were demonstrated by the Azerbaijani side during the meetings in Baku. Thus, the President of Azerbaijan I. Aliyev spoke against sanctions against Russia and regarded them as undermining international stability.

The meeting of Russian President V. Putin and Turkish President R. Erdogan on August 9, 2016 in St. Petersburg added to the development of this trend. The meeting had a significant character in terms of the resumption of relations between the parties after their aggravation due to the destruction by the Turkish Air Force of the Russian Su-24 in November 2015.

The main political reason for Moscow and Ankara's rapprochement was worsening of problems in bilateral relations with the USA and EU. Thus, against the background of the Russian-Turkish negotiations, Turkey put forward sharp demands to the EU and the USA to cancel the quotas for accepting refugees in the European Union countries, and that Washington should extradite all those involved in the military coup in Turkey.

However, during V. Putin's talks with R. Erdogan, mainly economic issues were discussed — namely, resumption of the implementation of the projects the “Turkish Stream” and of Russia's construction of “Akkuyu” NPP, as well as cooperation of the parties in trade and tourism spheres. According to preliminary information, the parties did not raise the most problematic for them question regarding the prospects for the B. Assad’s regime in Syria.

Despite this, restoration of relations between Russia and Turkey will have negative consequences for both Ukraine and the unity of NATO and the EU. Thus, Turkey will most likely reduce the level of support for our State in the confrontation with Russia, as well as assisting the Crimean Tatars, as the main factor of countering Putin's regime in the Crimean Peninsula.

 

Terrorism and Extremism. Despite the international community's efforts to combat terrorism and extremism, this problem preserves its high level of relevance.

August 8, 2016, as a result of a suicide bombing at a hospital in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta (Baluchistan Province) 93 people were killed and over 120 were injured, including lawyers and journalists.

Responsibility for the attack was taken by IS militants and “Taliban” radical movement. The attack was carried out immediately after China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan had signed an Agreement on the Establishment of Anti-Terrorist Alliance “Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism” (August 4, 2016), which actually was a direct challenge to these countries.

August 11, 2016, as a result of a new bomb explosion in the Pakistani city of Quetta, 13 people were injured. The improvised explosive device struck a car of the Pakistani security forces.

Besides, Islamic extremists carried out a series of other terrorist attacks, including the undermining of the two explosive devices in southern Turkey (8 people were killed and 13 were injured).

 

V. Main Trends in the Development of the Situation around Ukraine in the Future

5.1. Key Events and Trends that Will Be Most Important for Ukrain

In the nearest future the determinant factor of impact on the interests and safety of Ukraine will be events associated with the reaction to the 25th anniversary of Independence of our State. This is due to the extraordinary nature of the jubilee, which has shown Ukraine's viability, despite all the problems that have arisen in its path.

The quarter-century of the existence of Ukraine as an independent and sovereign state, is a direct challenge to neo-imperial ambitions of Russia, which has failed to implement its geopolitical plans to restore control over Ukraine. And this has actually thwarted Moscow's intentions to restore the Russian Federation's role as a great world power, which, according to leading experts and analysts' accurate estimates, has remained “a part of the Asian tyranny”.

It is reasonably believed that Putin's regime “will not forgive” Ukraine for this and will do everything possible to disrupt the main celebration of our State. To this end, the closer the jubilee Independence Day of Ukraine is, the more Moscow will intensity the fighting in the Donbas. Besides, it may also resort all sorts of provocations and large-scale terrorist attacks on the eve of and during the festive events all over Ukraine.

That is exactly how in 2014, on the eve of our Independence Day, Russia directly brought its troops into our State, which led to the tragedy at Ilovaisk known as “Ilovajskyi pot” (August 10 — September 3, 2014).

 

5.2. Prospects for the Development of Events in the Conflict Zones of Ukraine

In order to disrupt the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Independence of Ukraine, Russia will carry out provocative actions to increase tensions in the Donbas and around the Crimea. In this regard, we should expect the next surge of activity of hostilities in the conflict zone in the East of Ukraine and provocations on the administrative border of the Crimean Peninsula with Kherson region. Besides, before and during the festive events, there can be a number of terrorist attacks to intimidate the Ukrainian people.

At the same time Russia intensifies measures to demonstrate force on the borders of Ukraine. Thus, it is in the third decade of August this year that the RF and its allies' Armed Forces in the course of joint military exercises will be practicing issues of logistics of the Russian troops during an offensive in the South-West direction (Southern Military District of the RF Armed Forces) and the Russian-Belarusian exercises “Enduring Brotherhood-2016” will be held.


 

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