News from the Donbass
Kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia
For the past several days, the atmosphere has become ever more tense in Kiev, and in the propaganda backrooms which are busily conveying the moods of the government and by extension those of NATO. In truth, the situation is deteriorating on the military plane, as well as on the political one.
The operations of recent days
The Kiev army is experiencing setbacks in the “cauldron” of Debaltsevo. This « cauldron » (a term which is a translation from the German « Kessel ») corresponds to the pocket still held by the Kiev troops inside the territory held by the insurgents (map 1).
Very heavy fighting is taking place there, with the use of tanks and artillery, and the losses of Kiev have been heavy. The Kiev artillery has hit civilian targets in Donetsk provoking a number of deaths, but doesn’t seem to be able to efficiently confront the insurgents. The latter are trying to close the pocket in two places. But combats are concentrating around Gorlovka (map 2).
We are dealing with street by street combat, in which the determination of the insurgents allows them to take the upper hand. As a matter of fact, it seems that since Sunday evening they are holding under their fire the road connecting the pocket with the main of the Ukrainians troops, thus preventing the arrival of reinforcements.
This battle has provoked strong political tensions among the Kiev forces. The “general mobilization” decreed by the Kiev government has had, according to the words of its own Minister of Defence, only a very limited effect, as only 20% of the young who were called up have shown up. The protest movement against conscription is amplifying in Ukraine (for instance in Kramatorsk and in Odessa) and in 3 days, almost 7,500 young men have fled to Russia in order to escape conscription. To give an order of scale, this is as if 45,000 young Americans had fled to Canada in three days at the time of the Vietnam War. Confronted with such failures, military as well as political, the Kiev government has nothing else in mind but a new escalation and is asking NATO for weapons. It is a senseless logic, alas supported by NATO and which risks leading, by little steps, to a generalized war. There are plenty of reasons to be worried indeed, as the negotiations at the end of last week in Minsk have failed. But there is a light of hope in this picture.
What political solution ?
The negotiations for a cease-fire which had started again in Minsk have been interrupted. Actually, it is not easy to figure out how they could have brought about an accord which could be respected.
One must have the guts at this time to state that a limited victory of the Donbass insurgents offers in reality the best perspectives for leading, finally, to an enduring cease-fire. Once the « pocket » of Debaltsevo passes under the control of the insurgents, it will become possible to consider an uninterrupted line of cease-fire. Which is why the implementing of a real cease-fire, which Mrs Merkel and François Hollande are calling for, in reality implies that one first go through a defeat of the Kiev forces. Once an uninterrupted line is constituted, an agreement about the forces of interposition will have to be found. One reason for the failure of the various cease-fires which have been negotiated up to now is that the adversaries are directly in contact. This situation is propitious to provocations from both sides. It is necessary therefore that under the aegis of the UN a force of interposition, possibly constituted by forces from the BRICS, be put in place along the line of the cease-fire. Beyond, one must reflect over a political solution to this conflict in which 5,000 civilians already have perished and which has caused hundreds of thousands of refugees, mainly to Russia.
On the basis of a cease-fire which would be truly respected, one will then be able to build a true political solution, as a prelude to a reconstruction of the Donbass where the Kiev forces have systematically destroyed all infrastructures. If the notion of a “federalisation” of Ukraine is dead, one can imagine that a statute of autonomy of the regions of the East of Ukraine within the country, but on the model of the autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq, might be possible. But this solution will require much effort from both sides.