The Russian scenario for the Donbass: from the second Transnistria to the slow annexation

Moscow implements in the Donbas the so-called Transnistrian scenario, said in an interview with “Today” said the Deputy head of the presidential administration of Ukraine Konstantin Eliseev. According to him, this confirms the introduction of the ruble zone, recognition of documents “DNR”/”LNR”, the expropriation of Ukrainian enterprises, etc. added to this is the decision of the state Duma: on 22 March the second reading, it adopted a law allowing the companies that came under sanctions in the West, not to pay taxes in Russia. While Russian lawmakers did not specify which companies it is. But it is easy to assume that in this way the Kremlin is preparing to support ORDO captured in the enterprise with raw materials, redirecting them to the Russian markets. And given the approaching date of the presidential elections in Russia, the AP do not exclude the fake elections and referendums in the Donbass, to whet degree in Russian society, as it was with the annexed Crimea. But the annexation ORDO the Kremlin hardly will go, as interested in the existence of a smoldering military conflict in Ukraine. This convinced the Ukrainian authorities. The experts opinions were divided: some believe that before the presidential election, Putin needs to show the role of “collector of Russian lands”, after annexing Crimea, the Donbass, other that the annexation ORDO not profitable for the current Russian leadership because of the expansion of sanctions and huge financial expenses on the maintenance of quasi-States.

Big difference. On the implementation by the Kremlin of Transnistrian scenario in the Donbas in the past year, said the adviser of the President of Ukraine, Director of the National Institute for strategic studies of NAS of Ukraine Vladimir Gorbulin. Only, unlike Transnistria, the Kremlin is not interested in a full cessation of hostilities in the Donbass. According to the Deputy head of AP Konstantin Yeliseyev, using a constant escalation of hostilities, Russia is trying to destabilize the political and economic situation, to create a so-called “controlled instability” not to give Ukraine to create a positive background for the active and successful reform.

The conflict in Moldova with the collapse of the Soviet Union broke out after the calls to unite with Romania, but also on the basis of the language issue. People who did not know Moldovan (essentially Romanian) in favour of bilingualism: an introduction at the state level for two languages – Moldovan and Russian. It finally split the society, which resulted in the conflict. The role of Russia is more than obvious: during active combat operations, the Kremlin has supported pridnestrovskuyu side arms, and now in the “TMR” is still stationed Russian military base.

To solve the conflict in Transnistria and the Donbas, also tried using peace plans. As already I wrote “Today” in the article “a Report from Transnistria, Donbass and how to prepare for “presidential election”, in 2005 Moldova, Transnistria, Russia, Ukraine, OSCE, the United States (and the EU as observers) launched the format “5+2”.

Immediately after this, the Parliament of Moldova adopts the law on basic provisions of special legal status of Transnistria. The document is one to one similar to the law on the special status of Donbass, which the Verkhovna Rada adopted in the fall of 2014. As Donbass Transnistria is guaranteed the free use of Russian, Moldovan and Ukrainian languages, the right to establish external contacts with Russia in economic, scientific-technical and humanitarian spheres. The law on the special status of Transnistria was a “Plan of Yushchenko” peace plan for the settlement of the conflict which encouraged the Ukrainian side. But it was never implemented and in September 2006 on the referendum in “MRT” over 97% of residents voted for independence and joining Russia. But the Kremlin, much to the dismay of residents “PMR”, has been unrecognized Republic with open arms.

In the Donbas, especially on the eve of the presidential election in March 2018 (both times in March, three years have passed since the annexation of Crimea), according to Konstantin Eliseev is also possible to carry out “any referendums or local elections, even fake, from which Russia dissociate themselves, but in fact de facto will do its utmost to support and promote”. But, according to Deputy head of the AP, open the annexation ORDO the Kremlin unlikely, implementing “creeping transformation of the situation in the Transnistrian scenario.”

This is evidenced by at least five factors:

1. The establishment in the Donbass ruble zone
2. The creation of a single tax system, “DNR”/”LC”
3. Appearance in “DNR”/”LNR” their offer for the car
4. The recognition by Russia of passports “DNR”/”LC”
5. Expropriation of Ukrainian enterprises

All this was carried out in ARDLA year and a half, not to fall under even greater sanctions and not to be accused of disrupting the peace agreements. So, immediately after the capture of Ukrainian enterprises in the Russian press appeared information that the Russian holding company “Metalinvest” and “Severstal” is ready to supply iron ore. And the leaders of the militants “DNR”/”LNR” of Zakharchenko and Carpenter said about the direction in Russia, the first 95 cars of coal and two-year contract with the Crimea for the supply of 3.5 million tons of coal.

“According to our information ahead of the presidential elections Russia has cut funding for “DNR”/”LNR”. So they went on seizing Ukrainian companies to force them to pay taxes to their so-called local budgets”, – told the “Today” source in the Ukrainian dipkrugah.

“Moscow is not willing to assume the economic burden to rebuild the region (Crimea proved more expensive than expected Russian), said, “Today,” former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer. – Strategy of Russia for almost three years, is to use “boiling” the conflict in the Donbas to exert pressure, to distract and destabilize the Ukrainian government. This makes it difficult for Kiev, the necessary reforms and the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU. Apparently, maintaining the “boiling” of the conflict is consistent with the purposes of the Kremlin; we have not seen serious Russian efforts to implement the second Minsk agreement”.

Soft annexation or freeze? But the truth is that such an important step as the seizure of enterprises, the leaders of the militants without the consent of Moscow would not have gone. Interestingly, immediately after Vladimir Putin signed the decree about recognition of documents “DNR”/”LNR” in early March, a member of the Federation Council from the annexed by Russia Crimea Olga Cowicide said that “today the most important factor is to assist in the recognition of “DNR”/ “LNR” – giving them international status.” In addition, it proposed to adopt in Russia, including military schools boys-entrants “LC”/”DNR” to “contribute to the training of soldiers in the fight against fascism of the 21st century”.

“The statement of a member of the Federation Council Olga Cowicide about the need to recognize “DNR” and “LNR” once again confirms that the Kremlin has resisted international agreements in the format “Minsk” and “Normandy” in the Donbass. Increasingly, political circles in Russia demonstrate a desire for conservation of the situation and application of the Transnistrian scenario,” – wrote in his Facebook the people’s Deputy from BPP, member of the parliamentary Committee on national security Irene Frieze.

But in Transnistria, unlike Donbass, there is no common border with Russia. The fighting there ended in 1992, and the conflict is still considered frozen. In the case of the Donbas, on the one hand, the Kremlin is interested in the ever-smoldering armed conflict in Ukraine to undermine the progress of our reform and integration into the European Union and NATO. On the other hand, knowing the unpredictability and impulsivity of Vladimir Putin, to the end to avoid possible annexation ORDO too, especially on the eve of presidential elections in Russia in March next year.

So, on 17 March this year at the Livadia Palace in Yalta, the first meeting of the integration Committee “Russia-Donbass” with the participation of leaders of insurgents “DNR”/”LNR”. “Enunciated a clear policy of integration ORDA in Russia, proposed a “special project” cooperation between Moscow and Donetsk and Lugansk in all spheres – economic, social, cultural, humanitarian and so on. Voiced the idea of creating in the East of Ukraine “Grossregion” and leaders “DNR”/”LNR” announced the transition to Russian legislation and the intent to hold in the “Republic” referendum on joining Russia. What is also unlikely is their personal initiative,” writes in his blog for “Today” program co-Director of foreign policy and international security of the Razumkov Center Mykhailo Pashkov.

However, according to him, the most actual for today is “Ossetian-Abkhazian” scenario September 2008, Russia’s recognition of the “DNR””LPR” and signing agreements with them on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance. The signal will be a referendum in “DNR”/”LNR”. In electoral terms, according to Mikhail Pashkov, for the leadership of the Russian Federation is more preferable, but the transit option that further steps for the reunification of “Russian Donbass” with Russia.

Professor of political science at Rutgers University in Newark (new Jersey) Alexander Motyl believes that Putin can do whatever he wants, as the US and Europe are now busy with their own Affairs. “On the other hand, annexation would be a very risky proposition, because that would mean: 1) breaking the Minsk agreements; 2) a further violation of international norms and agreements; 3) strengthening and extension of sanctions; 4) consolidation of the West and the full implementation of the “cold war” – said “Today,” American scientist.

On the other hand, the Transnistrian scenario is bad for Russia, as it will be forced to go through the whole responsibility for this politically and socio-economically hopeless district. “Then it is better to annexation, which will completely remove the rebels from power and to stabilize the territory. At the same time ORDO does not have the Patriotic resonance among Russians, like the Crimea. Who is ready for a further decline in living standards for Donetsk? Russia found itself in an impasse from which there’s no good way. There remains the factor of Putin. He is unpredictable, not fully rational, impulsive, incompetent. Clever Putin is needs to be against the annexation. Foolish Putin is ready even the biggest nonsense,” – summed up Alexander Motyl.

So far, it seems, the Kremlin is not considering the option of annexation of the Donbass. “I can say one thing: according to the Constitution the foreign policy of the Russian state is determined by the head of state, namely the President of the Russian Federation”, – said the press Secretary of the President Dmitry Peskov, answering the question of the possible annexation ORDO.

At the same time experts notice that on March 4, 2014, responding in the residence of Novo-Ogaryovo on a question of journalists, does not consider whether Moscow’s accession of Crimea to Russia, Vladimir Putin replied: “No, do not consider”. And this is considering the fact that then Crimea is already being wielded “little green men”.

Kiev’s position remains unchanged: as repeatedly stated by President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko until you have met all the conditions of security in the context of the settlement of the situation in the Donbass, the elections in this region impossible. As noted by Deputy head of the AP Sergey Yeliseyev, the Minsk agreements remain the basis for settlement of the situation in the Donbas and the restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The main thing – to comply with the first paragraph of the Minsk agreements is to provide a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, to do everything possible to not killed and did not suffer the Ukrainians. However, if there is the political will from the Russian side to implement the agreement, any format of talks will not help, but this will not.