The reasons for the resumption of shelling in Donbas

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In recent days, attacks has renewed on the line of demarcation. In fact, the truce was thwarted November 3, 2015, when the first time during few weeks were used 82 mm. mortars, which has to been withdrawn by the Minsk agreements. Geography of attacks in this month, which at first were carried out only on the outskirts of Donetsk, in particular, in the area of the airport and the settlement Spartacus, has expanded considerably. According to the latest data, attacks were strengthened in all sectors of the front – from Mariupol to the village Luhansk – but especially in the area of Gorlovka and Donetsk.

The current escalation has its own specifics. On the one hand, the Ukrainian military have orders not to return fire to separatists. But come into clashes with subversive groups, when they are selected for distances up to 50 meters. Trying to take advantage of the weakness, separatists coming close to the positions using the element of surprise. On the other hand, the leaders of “Republic”, in particular, Alexander Zakharchenko, increasingly accused of provocative shelling is Ukraine. November 7, 2015, from a homemade rocket launcher was fired elite area in the vicinity of the residence in the center of Donetsk Zakharchenko. According to the head “DPR” it was a provocation on the part of the volunteer battalion of Ukrainian Nationalists beyond the control of the command of the armed forces of Ukraine.

On the other hand, Zakharchenko and Plotnytskiy carpentry newly announced plans to expand the territory of “republics” to include all areas of the Donetsk region. The fact that all Minsk process is considered in Russia as a chance for legalization of separatists within the legal framework of the Ukrainian legislation, which should contribute to the election (like the ones that have already been held in the Ukrainian part of the Donetsk region, and the coming in some areas outside the control of Kiev). The results of these elections are predictable, because even in the liberated territory – in Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, Krashyi Lyman – most received representatives of the “opposition bloc”. Some newly elected mayors, such as the new head of the Krasniy Lyman Peter Tsimidan, last year did not interfere with the activities of separists. So, in 2014, near the suburban entertainment complex Tsimidana “Tsaritsyno” in Krasnolimanskiy area near the Seversky Donets River has a large outpost in the area of the separatists. Finally, in May 2014, along with the checkpoint entertainment complex were destroyed by air attack aircraft UAF. So when Zakharchenko says about the political possibilities of a peaceful settlement, he did not have the aim of reintegration of the occupied parts of the Donetsk region of the Ukraine on the terms of Kiev, as some dream. Moscow’s objective in respect of Ukraine remains the same – to give the Ukrainians enough reasons for internal strife, that they destroyed the country apart.

In this context one should treated pre-election escalation in Donbas. It will certainly be limited (even if now the number of attacks is up to 30 per day) for several reasons. The first is to strengthen Moscow’s unwillingness to open armed conflict against the backdrop of the upcoming summit of EU sanctions against Russia, scheduled for December 2015. The Kremlin will try to maximize this time to distance themselves from the events in Donbass, posing a policy of “republics” as independent. The second factor is related to the inability of active offensive operations at this time of year in this theater of operations. Despite the incredibly dry autumn, the end of November and December is projected of weather conditions deteriorating. Renewed hostilities will be possible only in January, when soils will freeze enough to withstand heavy machinery. Third, Russia is completely absorbed by the campaign in Syria, where the projection is fulfilled forces in remote theaters of operations with the use of combat aircraft. In addition, a regular call to the Russian army should be completed in February 2016. Fourth, after the terrorist attacks in Paris November 13, 2015 for the Russian Foreign Ministry’s moment of truth regarding the possibility of a resumption of dialogue with the West on the background of the need to join efforts in the fight against international terrorism. Therefore, to predict the far-reaching consequences of the current escalation is not necessary.

Thus, the new attacks is a tool of political pressure to Kiev made great concessions, particularly in the context of current political negotiations subgroups in Minsk on the organization of elections in Donbass. Ukraine pushed, including through international mediation, to the quick and easy solution that would satisfy all parties. Given the continuation of the agreement in Minsk in 2016, prior to the local elections, Moscow and the separatists under its control will continue to be used as a coercive situational attacks and provocations to which the population of both Ukrainian and “republican” Donbass should be prepared.

Valery Kravchenko, Center for International Security

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