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Back to the occupied Donbas

January 25, 2016

Kremlin assassinations/wet work/мокрое дело – permanent solutions to irksome people – being international headline news with the publishing of Sir Robert Owen’s Litvinenko Inquiry this week, it is perhaps within the boundaries of a thought exercise to ponder current rhetoric in the occupied Donbas and the options ahead.

Let us suppose that due to the chronic economic situation facing a 2017 Kremlin, that it indeed complies with Minsk II – salvaging as much retained influence within the occupied Donbas as possible in doing so.

Regardless of whether any “elections”, or indeed genuine elections under Ukrainian law occur, there will be no genuine reintegration either physically or just as importantly psychologically, of the occupied Donbas with Messrs Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky remaining in any political office.  It is without question that the “Donetsk People’s Republic” currently under the leadership of Zakharchenko, nor the “Luhansk People’s Republic” currently under the leadership of Plotnitsky, would and could be acceptable to the Ukrainian State or the Ukrainian people in any reintegration.  Far too much has occurred under their “leadership” to facilitate any reintegration with them holding any political office.

A little bit more “мокрое дело” for the Kremlin security services – or can any unfortunate incidents that may permanently affect their health be misdirected before any return to Ukrainian control?  How to frame such events if so?

Claiming a Ukrainian operation removed both men deep in the heart of the “People’s Republics” would not be believed either within, nor without the “Republics”.  All within the “Republics” are well aware the recent assassinations of  militant leaders such as Bednov, Ishchenko, Mozgovoy and most recently Dremov are the work of internal actors and not that of Ukraine.  Thus any claims of a covert Ukrainian action neutralising Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky would be dismissed as fantasy too.

How else to frame it?

Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky

Perhaps promulgate a story of a feud between the two men, with million dollar contracts on offer to eliminate each other?  A story planted in and promulgated by the Ukrainian media?  A story that allies Plotnitsky with the GRU, and Zakharchencko with the FSB, both allegedly having offered their allied Russian security service $1 million for the elimination of the other?  After all, it doesn’t matter if the story is complete nonsense, it only matters that the story “is” as a preparatory frame for what is to come.

Should one or other come to an abrupt and violent end, the survivor is blamed – and perhaps removed by supporters of the deceased in revenge?  Neither Ukraine nor Russia involved the official story goes.

Are either man worth the determined effort to keep in place at any cost for the Kremlin?  It seems highly unlikely.  Will they simply be told they are moving permanently to Russia, their “political career” and life in Ukraine now over?  As neither man are the sharpest tools in the tool box, and thus are unlikely to say and do as they are told forever more, is it perhaps more expedient to simply bump them off from a Kremlin point of view?

Perhaps they will simply find themselves mysteriously conveyed to the Ukrainian side of the contact line, left to the Ukrainian authorities?  These things happen after all – as Nadiya Savchenko and Eston Kohver can testify to.

There will be less odious, less infamous, and less known alternatives that all sides may agree upon in any “elections” to bring matters to a “close” as far as Minsk II is concerned.  There is an ever-growing number of “political parties” within the “People’s Republics” among which there will be somebody.

Currently in the “Luhansk People’s Republic” there are the “Lugansk Economic Union”, the “People’s Union”, the “Lugansky District Don Cossacks”, the “Liberation Front”, the “United Russian land”, “The Military Community of Lugansk Region”, the “Union Lugansk Communists”, the “Lugansk Guard” and two “Communist Parties”.

The “Donetsk People’s Republic” is far less congested, with the “Republican Party of Donbass”, the “Union of Left Forces of Donbas”and the “Volunteer Union of Donbas”.

These number of “Republic” parties will surely grow if “elections”, or genuine elections with established Ukrainian parties contesting, become probable.

Whatever the case, if the Kremlin really does want out – or at least wants to be seen to be out – of the occupied Donbas, no reintegration will occur under its currently appointed mandarins in the “Republics”.  The Kremlin is no doubt aware of this – even if its less than bright “chosen men” aren’t.  There will be suitable alternatives.

Naturally if the Kremlin does want out – or to be seen to be out – of the occupied Donbas, with Kyiv and The Kremlin having diametrically opposed visions of the Ukrainian future, war will continue, and perhaps intensify, by other means across an array of other fronts.

Kremlin actions however, are yet to match its latest rhetoric – and actions have plainly failed to match its previous rhetoric.  Nevertheless, a reader may wonder whether any of the above possibilities are even remotely entertained by Messrs Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky every now and again – for they too will hear the Kremlin rhetoric.

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