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Russian Occupation of Donbass Fabricated

The new Ukranian president must overcome the simplification that the Eastern Ukranian revolt was merely caused by Russia

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For the International Crisis Group to consider the revolt of eastern Ukraine as a mere external interference of Moscow was a grossly erroneous simplification on the part of the West and of Kiev: the new president of Ukraine Zelensky must overcome it, if he wants to settle the conflict .

report by the International Crisis Group  (based in Brussels and funded, among others,  by the Open Society ), was released on 16 July. The report said Moscow would be distancing itself from the Donbass rebels, because the Kremlin would have abandoned the idea to annex the separatist republics or to recognize their independence.

According to analysts ( here is the complete report ), this would offer the new Ukrainian president Zelensky the opportunity to mend relations with the people of eastern Ukraine and even loosen the trade embargo. Russia could agree, if the autonomy of the territories of Russian ethnicity was guaranteed.

The document acknowledges that the Eastern Ukranian Protests were spontaneous

The document is still interesting, because it acknowledges how the protests in East Ukraine after the Euromaidan were spontaneous. That they were a reaction to the aggressive moves of the new unelected government of Kiev (like the threatened mass announcement of the Russian language). Even the military breakthrough was inspired by Moscow’s moves in the crisis of 2014, but it is acknowledged in the report that it had not been organized by the Kremlin nor by “Russian troops”.

Support (albeit informal) was later given at a time when a “counter-terrorism operation” was launched by Kiev to take back the territories of the east. It was about to destroy the civilians of those areas: a bloodbath against Russians that would have been politically intolerable for Moscow (the Ukrainians lined up far-right militias). In any case, despite the influx of volunteers from Russia, the majority of separatist fighters have always been from Donbass natives, who have taken up arms to defend their city. 

Autonomy should be given to the entire Ukranian East

The report does not hide, in fact, that the Kiev policies have continued to aim at a “collective punishment” on the inhabitants of the East, not only with military operations and giving free rein to irregular battalions, but also severing them further with economic sanctions . Over the years pensions to the inhabitants of the Donbass have been blocked (“if they stayed there, let them pay pensions from Russia”, said a minister of Poroshenko), and any economic transaction between the two sides of the conflict was forbidden.

The Crisis Group report sees in the new Ukrainian presidency an opportunity to reconcile the situation:  if Moscow is not interested in territorial expansions, it might be ok with a Ukranian reabsorption of territories. Russia may not want the extra political and economic burden, in the impossibility of infrastructure investments. On the part of Kiev, however, true autonomy and federalism should be granted to the entire Ukrainian East, behind a separatist ceasefire. A maneuver that, on the basis of what is stated in the report, could never go through without a mending of the relations between the Ukrainian state and its citizens in the rebel areas.

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