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Partisans

August 29, 2014

Today, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic, begins a visit to Ukraine that is due to last until 3rd September.

Tomorrow, whilst in Kyiv he is due to introduce the fifth human rights report regarding Ukraine.  If the MSM is to be believed, the report will be critical of both sides – albeit the quotes in the link appear particularly onerous for those fighting against Kyiv and their sponsors.

That the government in Kyiv be criticised for human rights abuses by those forces under its control is only right.  It took the decision to incorporate and assimilate the volunteer battalions into the Ministry of Interior in order to bring about not only some form of official command and control, but to legalise otherwise unlawful groups regarding combatants.  In doing so it was well aware that any overzealous, disproportionate, criminal and otherwise inhumane acts by such volunteer battalions would ultimately and unambiguously be laid at its door.  However, better that than to have an anti-terrorist operation (ATO) comprised not only of the Ukrainian military and Ministry of Interior personnel, but also illegal volunteer battalions that could and would otherwise be framed as no different to the terrorists Kyiv’s operation was fighting against by some on-lookers.

That said, things have progressed.  The ATO continues and engages with those it was designed to.  The Russian Army however, is now unambiguously involved on both sides of the Ukrainian border.  That the conflict has not been recognised officially as the war it actually is, is because both politically and legally, it suits nobody to do so – for the time being.

Meanwhile, Russian troops and proxies resupply and reinforce positions in eastern Ukraine, and indeed expand south toward the strategically important coastal city of Mariupol – strategically important both for the realisation of any “People’s Republics” and also for struggling supply routes to the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula.   Thus Kremlin options to create a frozen conflict increase should it choose to, or to recognise and annex the People’s Republics in order to secure land based supply routes to Crimea, or simply to enter the next round of negotiations in a position so strong that it need not move from its demands of Ukraine at all.

That the Ukrainian leadership cannot and will not meet all of those demands is entirely understood by The Kremlin – and also by the vast majority of the Ukrainian public, who have little desire (currently) to cast aside the values they fought for to bring down Yanukovych, simply to be subjected to equally corrupted Kremlin values.  Thus the impasse is not only governmental – it is societal.

It is this societal issue, one that fought for the values it believed in at Maidan, and again fights in volunteer battalions, that should be cause for concern for not only the Ukrainian government, but also The Kremlin – and indeed the UN human rights bodies – as swathes of Ukrainian sovereign territory change hands time and again.

There can be no accurate account of the weaponry and munitions in eastern Ukraine – indeed there is no accurate account of the small arms and munitions (in particular) leaving Ukraine and entering the Russian Federation either as volunteers/adventurers return.

When the territory temporarily – or otherwise – changes hands in eastern Ukraine, left behind advancing or retreating lines are now armed people/groups that are beginning to  form outside of Kyiv’s previous attempts to control and legalise the volunteer battalions.

Across Facebook, VK and other social platforms, some accounts are beginning to create secret “admin” controlled partisan pages.  Tweets are beginning to appear from well-followed accounts, not only suggesting partisan activity, but that such activity be taken into Russia, targeting Russian infrastructure – telecommunications etc.

(Readers do note that links to such accounts and related embedded tweets are deliberately not included so as not to promulgate them, but seek in Russian or Ukrainian and ye shall find.)

Should that begin to occur, how can either governments of Russia or Ukraine guarantee gas transit to Europe, and should the gas infrastructure be hit, would it occur in Russia or Ukraine?  Pipe or pumping station?  Which pipeline?  As the undeclared war between both nations spills into other areas, it will become increasing difficult to make such assurances with regular troops and incorporated volunteer battalions, let alone partisans.

For all there may be concerns over the ideologies held by some members of some volunteer battalions, all of which were deliberately assimilated into the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior for clearly identifiable legal and control reasons – notwithstanding the distorted ideologies of some of those they fight against too – Kyiv has at least made the effort to assume legal responsibility for the actions of those volunteer battalions.

It would seem an almost impossible task to do so over secretive partisan groups should they actually form, who by their nature will take matters into their own hands by making decisions unilaterally when opportunity presents itself.

Perhaps they will not form.  Perhaps if they do they will not become active.  Perhaps they have already formed.

However, given the fact that such calls already exist, it would be foolish to ignore what is becoming a distinct extralegal possibility, and that may lead – or not – to a very dark and/or difficult place indeed.

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