The 7 August skirmish on the Crimean peninsula has ratcheted tensions between Ukraine and Russia, calling into question Kyiv’s legitimacy and claims to the territory. Currently, both nations are on high alert as they boost their military defences following a terrorist plot sanctioned by the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF).
“[The] FSB received a warning from Armyansk locals, who had reported on some suspicious people in military uniforms in their town,” and “detected some 20 people in the area, who were loading explosives and weapons from their hideout. Once the suspects noticed the Russian security forces, they immediately opened fire, shooting to kill,” RT reports.
Acting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s immediate, scripted reaction was to deny involvement. “Russian accusations that Ukraine has launched terror attacks in occupied Crimea are as cynical and insane as its claims that there are no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. These fantasies have only one goal: a pretext for more military threats against Ukraine,” UNIAN reports.
Nevertheless, Poroshenko’s statements are at cross purposes with Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who chauvinistically asserted the opposite just months before.
“We have nothing. We need a new army, a new National Guard, a new police force. This is what the government of Ukraine is working on right now. We must restore all of this, and then, with enough will, Crimea will be ours,” Avakov mentioned. Continuing, he noted that “Kiev is currently training a separate special force within the Ukrainian National Guard,” Press TV stated.
These contradictions elucidate that Kyiv authorities are simply losing control of their defence forces. The UAF—a loose confederation of over 50 volunteer batallions—simply lack the skills and coordination to best the Russian FSB and infiltrate the Crimean peninsula.
This became evident on 8 Sept. 2014, during the onset of hostilities, after Amnesty International released a scathing report documenting the lawlessness of the Aidar Battalion and other Ukrainian paramilitary groups’, as they committed increasingly brutal human rights violations in the Russian-speaking Donbas region in a manner compared to Islamic State.
“Our findings indicate that, while formally operating under the command of the Ukrainian security forces combined headquarters in the region members of the Aidar battalion act with virtually no oversight or control, and local police are either unwilling or unable to address the abuses,” Amnesty International remarked.
Ironically, Marcin Mamon of The Intercept wrote a groundbreaking series of articles on how the Kyiv government began overlooking Ukrainian collaborations with Islamic State.
“Ostensibly state-sanctioned, but not necessarily state-controlled, some have been supported by Ukrainian oligarchs, and others by private citizens. Less talked about, however, is the Dudayev battalion, named after the first president of Chechnya, Dzhokhar Dudayev, and founded by Isa Munayev, a Chechen commander who fought in two wars against Russia,” Mamon highlighted.
Due to a long list of violations, Russian-Ukrainian relations remains in utter disarray and has come to a volatile showdown as the UAF advances southward to the Isthmus of Perekop, violating the Minsk agreements along with the self-determination of Crimean citizens.
We have the honor of interviewing First Deputy Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Mikhail Mhukhin. He speaks to us about the ongoing crisis in the DPR, the history of Donbass and its relationship to Ukraine, and initiatives currently being implemented to end the conflict. For further correspondence, you can visit the official MOFA DPR
website at mid-dnr.ru/en/.
HANEUL: One year
after the US-backed Euromaidan coup, Ukraine is still engaged in a long and
bloody civil war. What progress have you made in the fight against the fascist
Ukranian military, Svoboda, and Right Sector?
First and most importantly, we have built an independent state. Even though some
parts of our territory are still controlled by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the
state system of the DPR is fully functional and controls all vital operations.
We can pay salaries and social dowries, form state budgets, and arrange foreign
At present, the DPR has legitimately elected
authorities: the Head of the Republic, [Prime Minister] Alexander Zakharchenko,
and the supreme legislative body, the People`s Council. The elections for local
Councils will take place soon.
It should be stressed that we have achieved all these goals
during unceasing hostilities and blockades made by the Ukrainian authorities,
in addition to the critical humanitarian situation in the region. In our
opinion, all of these problems are the main arguments in the fight against our
enemy. We managed not only to survive, but also to develop a full-fledged
Militarily, the DPR Army has demonstrated to the whole
world its ability to act effectively, and the number of magnificent victories
over Ukrainian troops vindicates this. One should note that the number of UAF
soldiers exceeds ours, as does their military equipment.
Nevertheless, we will always insist on and continue to
desire a peaceful resolution to the conflict. We have never sought to annihilate
Ukraine and the Ukrainians; however, our key issue is to provide the security
of our people and to create the conditions for a normal, peaceful life. We are
always ready for dialogue, even with Kiev.
HANEUL: After the
May 11th referendum, the DPR declared itself independent from Ukraine, yet the
international community has denounced your right to do so. Can you tell me what
this signifies about democracy building?
issue of DPR recognition remains urgent, indeed. This is the main priority for
our Ministry`s work today, and we make progress gradually in this direction.
The Republic of South Ossetia has officially recognized the DPR, and we are
establishing diplomatic contacts now. The Republic of Abkhazia also announced
its readiness to recognize the DPR.
we work in other areas of cooperation and with all countries on any continent.
Some of them are officially recognized and some are not. Additionally, we are now
actively promoting cooperation with other social and political movements to
support the self-determination of their territories. This process is rather
long and complex.
for the position of a number of Western countries towards us, we understand
extremely well the reasons of it. One should decide whether or not to recognize
our Republic; it does not depend on us. From our side, we can ensure this
process by proving our consistency as a full-fledged member of the
international community. It is paradoxical that, even though the citizens of
our state are similar to those in the USA, Britain, or Japan, we still have to
prove our right to exist. In this regard, we have huge expectations of the
public’s opinion, especially in western countries, as it starts to change.
People from all over the world are getting to learn more truths about us, and
we hope that your authorities will take an objective stance towards the DPR.
HANEUL: Can you
give us a history of the Donetsk Oblast and its history in relation to Russia?
Why did the DPR decide to remain autonomous instead of integrating into the
Russian Federation like Crimea?
was always a place of enormous accumulated human resources’—the place where
people of all nationalities united in order to labor together and use Russian
as their common language. As a result, a unique political platform has arisen
in Donbas; the consequences of which we can observe today. All this explains
why Donbas has always strived for autonomy and independence.
has made its own long journey and has finally returned to Russia. However, we
are two distinct regions and have formed differently. We do not have the goal
to join Russia as a priority now, but instead follow our path to forming an
independent state. We have resolved the social and economic problems brought
about by Ukraine’s military aggression and complete transport and economic
blockade of our land.
Ukrainians experienced the 1941 pogroms in Lyiv in which the Ukrainian
Insurgent Army worked with the Nazis to murder thousands of Polish and
Ukrainian citizens. Do you believe that you are reliving this nightmare? Who
should be held accountable for this?
stress that the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA or UPA) did not act alone during
World War II. With the support of foreign states, the UIA successfully existed
in some regions from 1946 until 1948 as a local instrument of the Cold War.
However, the ideologies of Ukrainian nationalists have not changed; just their
is a peculiar feature of history. The tragedy in Odessa—the repression of
dissidents and multiple war crimes—proves this fact. The above-mentioned
organizations and people unfortunately follow the examples of their historical
leaders and idols. However, they should remember the fate of the UIA and its
leaders, which will partially help them to predict their own.
can see throughout history the actions of the UIA and other nationalist groups,
which were directed not only against Poles but also Russians, Jews and representatives
of other ethnicities. Those who support neo-Nazism in Ukraine should think about
where the Nazis would turn their weapons tomorrow.
international organizations are working with your government to provide
humanitarian aid to your citizens, and how long do you estimate this crisis to
last? How can people around the world become involved in reporting, assisting,
or donating to your cause?
are open to dialogue and are always ready to accept help from all organizations
and private persons. There are a number of organizations operating in the DPR,
such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (Russian Federation ICRC), Medicines Sans Frontiers, and dozens of
other charity funds and communities.
experiences have shown that we are not alone—that many people from numerous
countries are ready to help us sincerely and freely. For example, we have received
a few trucks with medicaments from all over Germany, collected with the
assistance of some Bundestag MPs.
that Donetsk currently has a full economic blockade. The direct deliveries of
financial assets, food products, and other goods to the DPR are impossible now,
but we are trying to solve this problem everyday. We are very pleased and
appreciate the desire of people from the entire world to help us.
HANEUL: Do you
believe that PM Alexander Zakharchenko should have taken part in the second Minsk
agreement in Belarus? Why didn’t the Normandy Four (Russia, Ukraine, Germany,
and France) include Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea into the peace talks? How have
the peace talks helped ease tensions in Donbass, and do you believe that there
should be separate talks between the DPR and other groups?
situation surrounding the DPR, the LPR and Crimea cannot be combined in the
negotiation process, as Crimea is already a part of Russia.
Donetsk People`s Republic is one of several parties in the conflict, so without
Alexander Zakharchenko`s participation, a negotiated resolution is impossible. However,
we can explain Kiev’s harsh stance and attempts to ignore the DPR and LPR in
the Normandy Four negotiations. Ukraine considers the truce as a period to
accumulate military forces and prepare for further hostilities, and Kiev has
never shown its full readiness for a lasting peace.
real conflict is between the people of the southeast and Ukrainian government,
whom should actually negotiate. Apart from that, the DPR’s entrance into the
negotiation process means that it will achieve its new status, which Ukraine is
trying to prevent. Alongside this, Ukraine is trying to expand the number of
participants involved in the conflict, such as Germany and France, in order to
supply them weapons. We hope this will not happen.
satisfied with Germany and France’s viewpoint; they have started to change
their positions on events happening in Donbass. We expect that, instead of more
sanctions, they will initiate humanitarian missions here in order to stop the
catastrophe, not deteriorate it.
We are sure
that peace will finally come, but we cannot achieve it with regular concessions
from one side and continuous breaches from the other. Peace is always a
compromise and we are ready for it, but only after ensuring the safety of our
HANEUL: The UAE
has already committed weapons to the Ukrainian military, and the United States
has considered arming the junta directly. If this occurs, how will this affect
the current situation? Will this escalate to a large conflict between
present information, the weapons contracts made between Ukraine and the UAE are
not a significant concern, and we personally believe those contracts were made
just for PR. We doubt Kiev managed to convince its partners to supply weapons
on credit, and it does not have enough money to buy them. Another issue is the
USA’s weaponry. According to confirmed information, they never stopped
supplying weapons to Ukraine. Along the whole frontline, after each Ukrainian
force’s retreat, one can easily find weapons made in America, including heavy artillery.
Besides, the large amount of American personnel training Ukrainian soldiers
invokes serious concern. In what way should we estimate [the outcome]? Exposing
Washington`s participation in the Donbass conflict is difficult, but direct
interventions take place and grow with every passing month, so it is very difficult
to predict such consequences.
To resolve the conflict in Ukraine, it is highly important to resume the dialogue between Moscow and Washington, as “their role and responsibility is special,” first president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev believes. Earlier, Gorbachev stated that Europe may face “terrifying massacre” because of the current crisis in Ukraine. According to him, “too much is at stake; dangers and risks are too high.”
Mikhail Gorbachev has recently finished working on a new book, which is going to be published soon. The book, titled “After the Kremlin,” is devoted to events in Russia and the world over the past two decades. In the epilogue to the book, Gorbachev wrote that the deep cause of what is currently happening in Ukraine was the failure of perestroika and “opportunistic dissolution of the USSR.” Gorbachev blamed the then Russian administration for that.
“At the same time, I must remind you, the Ukrainian leadership sabotaged the process of transformation of the Union – both before the August 1991 coup and after it, despite the fact that the majority of republics had coordinated the text of the Union Treaty,” said Gorbachev.
He was fighting to preserve the unified state with all available political tools and offered Kiev to discuss opportunities of creating an economic union, the former Soviet president said. During those talks, he added, one could solve all problems, including the ones on the status of the city of Sevastopol and the Crimean Peninsula.
“They did not listen to suggestions and warnings. Having forgotten the fact that one should exercise as much caution as possible in the relations between nations and think through consequences of each step, the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation approved the destruction of the Union to applause. Some would say: "That’s a matter of the past.” No – the past is through many threads related to present, and it reminds of politicians’ mistakes again and again,“ the first president of the USSR wrote.
According to Gorbachev, the only way to solve the Ukrainian crisis is to conduct a constructive dialogue both on the international level and among Ukrainian political forces. "I still believe that for peace in Ukraine, in Europe and in the world, it is vitally important to resume dialogue between Russia and the United States. Their role and responsibility is special,” said Gorbachev.
According to him, representatives of Moscow and Washington, as well as other members of the UN Security Council, should prepare a joint draft resolution, which would break the negative course of events.
In late August, the UN reported that the armed conflict in Ukraine claimed the lives of more than 2,500 people. The military operation against Ukrainian citizens that Kiev calls “anti-terrorist” and Moscow “punitive” was launched in April 2014.
On September 4, at the NATO summit in Wales, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said that he was ready to cease fire in the south-east of the country should the meeting in Minsk take place. Later, representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics also declared their readiness to cease fire.
Officials at the US State Department said that Kiev should negotiate cease fire agreement with Moscow, rather than with representatives of breakaway republics. However, Russia insists that the crisis in Ukraine is an internal conflict, in which Russia does not interfere. Moreover, Russia and Ukraine are not at war with each other.
Mikhail Gorbachev earlier said that Europe may eventually face “terrifying massacre,” should the conflict in Ukraine spread to Europe. Gorbachev supports the policy of the Russian administration as far as the Ukrainian crisis is concerned.
In an interview with the Russian News Service, Gorbachev stressed out that the Russian Federation must not interfere in the conflict in Ukraine, “If our country interferes, it may trigger the fire that the whole world will not be able to extinguish,” he said.
“One should do everything to stop killings. This is one nation. If other countries get involved, and the scale of it grows, we can come to the worst massacre in Europe. This must not be allowed,” said the ex-president.
“Our offer was to open passages and take people out of those mousetraps. Someone sit in warm offices and does the talking. Look at what happens to people, children and women at the same time. They shell maternity hospitals, schools, destroy hospitals,” said Gorbachev.
As for Russia’s move to reunite with the Crimea, Mikhail Gorbachev said that it was a move “to correct the mistake of the USSR.”
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