- Ukrainian President Poroshenko, thinking about his own future, may seek secret support from the Kremlin. In the conflict between Poroshenko’s team and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), the West’s support of the anti-corruption body has put pressure on the President. As a result, he may turn to Moscow for support. Such a move will foreseeably lead to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements favorable to Moscow’s terms. It will also escalate the internal political situation in which opposition, provoked by political repression, is intensifying. Sweeping protests in Kyiv are possible.
- Moscow announced the withdrawal of Russian representatives from the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the Ceasefire (JCCC), created by the signing of the first Minsk agreements in September 2014. As a result, Russia’s policy of awarding subjectivity to the puppet "republics" of Donbass and pressuring Ukraine to negotiate with them directly continues.
Ukrainian domestic political factor. NABU conflict
A serious conflict arose between the presidential team and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) in the first half of December. The NABU was established in Ukraine on the "request" of funding by the USA. Importantly, its existence and unhindered work are pre-conditions for financial and other assistance to Ukraine from the USA.
The conflict was caused by the fact that Poroshenko, via his faction, blocked the enactment into law the NABU’s right, and opportunity, to employ its own technical capabilities for the secret extraction of information from communication channels (telephone, computer, etc.). Currently, the NABU must employ the services of the SBU for this purpose. When the activities of the NABU began to threaten Poroshenko's entourage and, possible schemes involving his personal interests, the General Prosecutor's Office and the Security Service tried to block the NABU's work. Shockingly, and in gross violation of the law, members of the SBUs leadership informed the subjects of NABU’s criminal investigations that they were under investigation.
Several employees of the NABU were detained by the General Prosecutor's Office and the pro-presidential coalition tried to pass a law which would enable parliament to remove the director of the NABU without external or international audit. Moreover, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, one of Poroshenko's most trusted persons, exposed a number of under-cover NABU agents and accused the American FBI of carrying out illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine. After a sharp response from the FBI, USA, the EU and IMF, the presidential coalition withdrew the controversial bill.
The authorities' aforementioned panicked reactions indicate that the NABU, together with FBI, came very close to Poroshenko himself, jeopardizing his "schemes", and delivering a real prospect of president's future incrimination. Poroshenko appears to be facing a choice of either leaving the political framework (and possible imprisonment) or, like his predecessor, starting a slow integration with the Russian Federation. His recent actions, in the persecution of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, are indicative of his authoritarian tendencies. In turn, they are complicating cooperation with the West and moving Ukraine towards possible "secret" and not fully reasonable alliance with the Russian Federation.
In this context, information that the SBU allegedly withdrew numbered bills allegedly handed over by former Ukrainian oligarch Kurchenko (hiding in Moscow) to someone from Saakashvili's entourage to organize a coup d'etat in Ukraine, is of particular interest. It is indicative of cooperation between the SBU and the FSB without which the SBU could not have known the banknote numbers.
Losing support of the West and realizing that he will be brought to justice after losing power, Poroshenko may try to gain Putin's support, foreseeably implementing the Minsk agreements on Russian terms in 2018.
The political repressions started by Poroshenko's team against Saakashvili and other opposition representatives, are weakening the president and fueling the protest moods in Ukraine. Growing authoritarianism and political repression rally the opposition, which already contests the implementation of the Minsk agreements' political part. These factors not only complicate the implementation of the Minsk agreements, they escalate political confrontation in Ukraine, raise the danger of bloodshed, and, create fertile grounds for subversive acts of provocation of such bloodshed by Russian agents in Kyiv.
The Kremlin’s information policy toward Ukraine, albeit through (fully/partially) controlled Ukrainian media, its "speakers" among Ukrainian politicians or “civil-activists” indicates that for Moscow, the main scenario for the development of "Russian-Ukrainian relations" is "peace" on Russia’s terms, i.e. the implementation of the Minsk agreements to control Kyiv through CDDLO and prevention of Ukraine's European and Euro-Atlantic integration. To this end, Moscow shows itself ready to instigate military escalation in the Donbass. This is its main instrument of pressure on Kyiv and belongs to its usual tactics: the creation of military conflicts in order to receive political expediency in exchange for their weakening.
The exchange of Ukrainian hostages being held in CDDLO for arrested separatists and collaborators is another instrument of pressure. The threats of disrupting such an exchange led to the exclusion by Ukraine’s parliament of a bill declaring Russia an aggressor and the territories controlled by it in the Donbas as occupied.
Concurrently, Moscow continues the process of de facto recognition of the "DNR" and the "LNR" as state formations. In Ukraine (and possibly, in other countries), the Russian MFA took upon itself part of functions to “protect the interests of the "D/LNR" in the field of consular ties”. In particular, the Russian embassy in Kyiv is violating international customary law and diplomatic conventions by issuing Power of Attorney for real estate and other property, located in the occupied territory.
According to insider information from the "DNR law-enforcement agencies”, starting from January 1, 2018, they will be sending reports on the vehicle registration to Rostov (Russia). Further, the Russian Federation continues the policy of awarding subjectivity to the puppet "republics" of Donbass and compelling Ukraine to hold direct negotiations with them. Moscow announced the withdrawal of Russian representatives from the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the Ceasefire (JCCC), created as a result of signing of the first Minsk agreements in September 2014. This center provided contacts between the AFU and pro-Russian militants regarding infrastructure repair, security and return of corpses. After the withdrawal of the Russians, Ukraine is put in the conditions when it will have to communicate directly with the "DNR-LNR", which it does not consider a party to the conflict. In fact, this will de facto force Kyiv's partial recognition of subjectivity of the "republics" affording Moscow grounds to declare its nonparticipation in the "civil" war in Ukraine.
Russia does not reject the possibility of further military invasion into Ukraine, rather, it continues to prepare conditions for it. In particular, the Russians made all their railway trains to bypass Ukraine this year. Now they will focus their efforts on the maximum reduction of the amount of gas, supplied to the EU through the territory of Ukraine until its complete cessation. These measures are primarily of military nature and are considered by military experts as preparations of the territory for possible military action.
Situation in the "DNR-LNR"
The military and political situation in the so-called "DNR" and "LNR" is a direct reflection of Moscow's policy of settling the Donbass conflict on its own terms and with the aim of subordinating Ukraine. One of the ways it continues to impose the subjectivity of its puppet formations upon Kyiv and the entire world community is though preparing for “elections” of "heads of the republics" and their "parliaments" - the People's Councils - in Moscow-controlled territories. Moscow is trying to legitimize the controlled puppet "authorities" of the "republics" by imitating the democratic process in the territories it had occupied. It is noteworthy that initially, they announced their intention to hold such elections not in Donetsk or Luhansk, but in Moscow. Such elections are not regulated by the Minsk agreements, but their very fact completely contradicts the spirit of Minsk, which provides that "certain districts" of Donbass are the territory of Ukraine.
Undoubtedly, Russia's withdrawal from the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the Ceasefire (JCCC) will lead to a deterioration in the operating conditions of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and humanitarian situation in the front-line districts on both sides of the demarcation line. This move can also be considered another element of pressure; not only on Kyiv, but also on the West, with the aim of forcing the Russian option of deployment of the UN peacekeeping mission. That is, one that will provide Russia control over 400 kilometers of the state border of Ukraine.
Alarmingly, the humanitarian situation is threatening further demise as the United Nations World Food Program has announced that due to a lack of financing, it will no longer be able to supply food aid to the victims of war in Ukraine. Deliveries are scheduled to end in February of 2018, a bitterly cold winter month in Ukraine’s east. Earlier this year the UN reported that the conflict has left over 1.5 million Ukrainians people facing hunger due to Donbas conflict, including almost 300000 people who are severely food insecure and in need of immediate food assistance.
Centre for research of Donbass social perspectives
The review was prepared with the support of GPD Charitable Trust