Russia’s hybrid policy in eastern Ukraine is trying to increase the degree of escalation in new forms. წ. In the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. If in April Russia tried to provoke Kiev by concentrating additional military force near separatist enclaves, the Kremlin has now ruled that hundreds of thousands of people with Russian passports living in separatist Donetsk and Luhansk will be eligible to vote in the Duma.
Moreover, if last summer the residents of the temporarily occupied Donbass territories with Russian passports were transported to the Rostov region of Russia by special registration buses to vote on Putin’s constitutional amendments, this time the Kremlin has further refined the voting benefits for Donbass residents.
According to the decision of the Russian Central Election Commission, persons with Russian citizenship will be able to do so remotely, in the form of online voting, and they will no longer have to pre-register on Russian territory.
Kiev met this news quite calmly.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that neither Ukraine nor the international community would recognize the results of such a vote.
However, in addition to the sharp response with the involvement of the international community, Kiev lacks the ability to prevent the process of mass distribution of Russian passports in the territory of the temporarily occupied Donbass, which Russia started in June 2019.
Earlier, on April 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree facilitating the granting of Russian citizenship to residents of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.
Moreover, Russia tried to package this lawlessness with humanitarian intentions.
According to the official position of the Kremlin, which was reiterated two days ago by the Special Representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, passports were issued in eastern Ukraine for humanitarian purposes and to protect human rights.
Agreement doomed to non-performance
Moscow has not said anything about the mass issuance of Russian passports in Donbas, which is in stark contrast to the Minsk Peace Accords, but the Ukrainian government’s attitude towards the international document itself is so critical that Kiev has recently tried to ignore it.
“Russia escalated the escalation when it started distributing passports. Now we see, simply, the continuation of this process. Raki to give passports as Russian citizens, they can vote. An additional escalation would be to open polling stations directly in unrecognized republics, which, fortunately, does not happen. “In any case, this fact is certainly perceived negatively as an attempt by Russia to pressure Ukraine to force Kiev to agree to the Minsk agreement in a way that is as favorable as possible for Moscow and as unfavorable as possible for Ukraine,” said Yuri Panchenko, news portal. Europeska Pravda International Reviewer.
The Minsk peace agreement signed in February 2015 called for an immediate ceasefire in Donbas, a separation of forces, the deployment of an OSCE peacekeeping mission on the dividing lines and the search for political ways to resolve the conflict. It was specified in “Steinmeier’s formula”.
But if the Minsk agreement largely achieved its short-term goal of halting the raging fighting 6 years ago and avoiding heavy casualties, it is believed that its political component was doomed to pre-emptive failure.
The formula proposed by the former German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for the participants of the meeting of the “Normandy Four” in Paris in 2015, provided the following compromise conditions for the conflicting parties:
- Holding local elections in separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts beyond the control of Kiev in accordance with a special law of Ukraine;
- At 20:00 local time, after the announcement of the election results, Donetsk and Lugansk will be granted “special status” within Ukraine;
- In agreement with the separatist authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk, the disarmament of illegal armed formations begins;
- And finally, Ukrainian border guards are beginning to take control of the area bordering Russia.
President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky initially strongly supported resolving the conflict through Steinmeier’s formula, but after facing a harsh criticism from the opposition over the succession agreement, the Ukrainian president changed his position.
On October 2, 2020, Volodymyr Zelensky even promised that the elections in eastern Ukraine would not be “held under a machine gun” and would not allow the “red lines” to be crossed and “capitulated”, which was accused by his opponents.
But what does not like Kiev fully supports the Kremlin, which is said to be defending the spirit of the Minsk 2015 agreement and calling on Ukraine to fulfill its commitments made by then-President Petro Poroshenko six years ago.
And not only calls, but also uses “soft power” to try to force Kiev to fulfill the conditions unacceptable to it.
Putin’s article, which was called “Special Operation”
Although Moscow is in no hurry to mention Donetsk and Lugansk, a recent publicist-historical essay by Russian President Vladimir Putin (On the Unity of Russians and Ukrainians) shows that the Russian leader considers these lands in eastern Ukraine to be part of historic Russia.
Putin’s article has already been compared to a “special operation” in which a separate phase can be considered the support of the separatists in Donbas or the mass transfer of the remaining population to Russian citizenship.
After that, the special operation may lead to real military development, as it happened in the case of Georgia in its time.
It is worth noting that in the 2000s, Moscow also began illegally passporting Georgia’s autonomous regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, which preceded the August 2008 war, the military annexation of Georgia’s two breakaway regions, and the Kremlin’s illegal recognition of their independence.
It is noteworthy that the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, who was invited to the Batumi International Conference as a guest on July 19, left for Georgia on the territory of Khurcha, arrived at the Enguri Bridge and got acquainted with the situation near the occupation line.
What the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, was thinking when he saw the Russian occupation checkpoint erected across the Enguri Bridge in military Chogriti should not be difficult to guess.
As in the separatist regions of Georgia at the time, the issuance of Russian passports to the people of the Donbas temporarily occupied territories and the manipulation of the votes of the Donbass electorate in the Duma elections are part of Moscow’s plan.
“There is a consensus in Ukrainian society that the existence of a frozen state of conflict, which precludes the immediate restoration of Ukrainian control over these territories, is certainly a bad option. “But fulfilling the Minsk agreement in the way that Russia wants is simply a catastrophe, because it threatens the existence of an independent Ukrainian state,” said Yuri Panchenko.
Consensus by consensus, but until the conflict in the Donbas is frozen, the accelerated passportization of the local population is gaining signs of a demographic catastrophe.
If 12,000 people living in eastern Ukraine in 2019 in an accelerated and preferential manner obtained Russian passports, that number would have at least doubled in exactly two years, and if the passportization process proceeded at that rate, Kiev fears it will not remain in eastern Ukraine for several years. Citizen with a passport.
“According to my information, the goal is to have no more Ukrainian passport holders there by 2025 … The Russian Federation is deliberately isolating this territory from Ukraine,” Sergei Garmash, a member of the Ukrainian delegation to the Minsk talks, said in an interview with Ukrinform.
In such a situation, according to Garmash, persons with Russian citizenship will no longer be able to cross the territory of Ukraine smoothly through the checkpoints and will lose all the rights that Ukraine offers to its citizens.
In 2018, 3.8 million people lived in the separatist-controlled Donbass region of eastern Ukraine (there were 2.3 million in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and 1.4 million in the Luhansk People’s Republic). About 600,000 of them in Donetsk and Lugansk already hold Russian passports.