It’s difficult to see the loss of the Luhansk Border Guard HQ as anything other than a disaster. The building is on the edge of the city of Luhansk, rather than right on the border; but was a command post for the entire oblast. The border has always been full of holes – due to its length, security weaknesses, and corruption. But there was always a chance of asserting control; and this chance now looks lost – at least in that area.
The separatists were using their normal urban warfare strategy, of taking up positions in residential buildings. However, I saw little evidence (from army command) of a determined effort to repulse them or reinforce the base – at least you could expect an attempt to destroy the base (with its weapons, munitions and vehicles) after it was evacuated.
However, more generally, a few days ago I wrote that I expected an upsurge in efforts by the Ukrainian state, followed by a possible greater response from across the Russian border, followed by the West – or at least the Americans – making more forceful moves. If you are following the news, you’ll know that this does seem to be playing out now.
Many international leaders (Czechs, Poles, Americans) have been telling the Ukrainian government this: that unless it looks like the Ukrainian side is itself making every effort, it would be unlikely for others to step in and start playing a more concrete role. Ukroboronprom (state-owned military equipment maker) stopped doing business with Russia some time ago (though some private military contractors continue to trade); and the Ukrainian military’s own abilities can be evaluated more clearly, now that it has been tested. Some volunteer formations (the National Guards and Donbas Battalion) give the impression of being among the most capable formations.
On the basis of Ukraine getting more proactive, plus increased Ukraine government legitimacy from the Presidential election, my hope is that the “Western” world (I include Japan, South Korea, etc. in this) will now step up its efforts. The G7 have given Russia a month to ‘de-escalate’ (the month-long warning looks a bit funny; but may be the result of internal bargaining, within the G7). I wonder what will happen if Russia just continues with its current course – supporting insurgents and probably directly using proxy forces. I hope this would be seen as ‘continued destabilization’.
It should by now be obvious to Ukrainians how run-down and inept most or all organs of the state are; and how strong the need for reform. Yatsenyuk’s new initiative, to set up an anti-corruption commission, sends the right signal; but let’s not forget that Ukraine already has one (which has never had any positive effect).
Again, the West has a role to play by bringing gentle pressure to bear (any more than gentle will be resented, preventing bills being enacted in the old-new Rada), on its new Ukrainian allies; though I think responsibility for this rests mainly with Ukrainian citizens. It would be nice to see removal of immunity from prosecution for Rada Deputies, as a first step; plus penalties for brawling in the Rada.
I also think it’s well past the time for a State of Emergency in the East – allowing the armed forces greater power to operate.
One other thing I keep thinking about. Russia’s UN envoy, Chirkin, keeps bringing up the idea of ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the east under a UN Resolution. This idea is widely rebutted – Russia’s intention obviously being to freeze the status quo in the East; which could then lead into federalization. I may have misunderstood the way the UN Security Council operates: but wouldn’t it be a good idea if Ukraine and the West ran with this idea and tried to push it through the UN (of course, at this point the Russians would start disagreeing with the idea of an intervention and attempt to block it)? Eastern Ukraine under the control of international UN peacekeeping troops (not Russian or Ukrainian, as they are the affected parties) looks like a pretty good idea to me: and of course they might be able to help with escorting Russian citizens to the border. Otherwise, we might soon reach a point where a federalized Donbas starts to look like the only alternative.
On a more personal level, the civilizational conflict in the East continues to be mirrored within some families and among friends – especially in the belt of territory between Donbas and Kyiv. I know several people who no longer speak to their parents, have lost lifelong friends etc. I myself have more or less stopped communicating with two people who used to be close colleagues.
Source: Brit on the Barricades
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