The "Russian Donbass" integration forum, held yesterday in Russian-occupied Donetsk, outlined two clear trends. The first one – Russia does not intend to annex this region de jure. The second one – the Kremlin has chosen the Abkhazian version of the conflict in Donbas, that is, its integration de facto and the preservation of the conflict as an instrument of pressure on Ukraine. In practice, this will be expressed in the universal issuance of the "DNR"-"LNR" passports, and then Russian passports; severing of all ties of the local population with Ukraine; population reduction (here COVID also came in handy); displacement of all politically suspects and artificial creation of "the Russian people of Donbass", monolithic ideologically and ethnically.
That is, if today the Kremlin's theses about the "internal Ukrainian conflict" raised only a smile, since there is no national, religious, or any other ground for an internal conflict, now a "scientific" and factual basis is being created for this thesis – the population of the region is positioned as a kind of separate from the Ukrainian, "Russian people of Donbass". For this, quite a recent history is also falsified.
For example, speaking about the "Russian Donbass" doctrine, leader of the occupation administration of the Russian Federation in Donetsk Pushilin stated yesterday: "The purpose of the doctrine is to express our inner feelings in the document, the impulse that united us when we rebelled against injustice and duplicity, against persecution of everything Russian in order to return to its historical roots and rekindle the glory of Donbass!"
That is, the cause of the "uprising" is struggle for "everything Russian". But in fact, the object of manipulation by the Russian and provincial media in 2014 were the ideas of Anti-Maidan, the fight against the demolition of monuments to Lenin, and already somewhere in the 5th place, – the fears for restrictions on the functioning of the Russian language.
The main theses of the leaflets that were distributed in Donetsk in March 2014 were social (the fight against oligarchs), "autonomy", and not separation from Ukraine, was meant under "independence".
The moral of all this: the Kremlin is still not interested in ending the conflict. It is beneficial for it to maintain the military status quo in the Donbas as a safeguard against Ukraine's entry into the NATO and the EU, as a factor distracting from the fight against the occupation of Crimea and as a tool to popularize pro-Russian political forces in Ukraine…
By the way, I would like to remind the adherents of the "Russian" Donbas: according to the 2001 census, 56.87% of Ukrainians lived in the Donetsk oblast and only 38.22 identified themselves as Russians by nationality. This is just 10 years after Ukraine declared independence. After that, a whole generation that could no longer associate themselves with Russians had grown up by 2014, that is, the number of "Russians" in the Donbas in 2014 was even smaller…
Serhiy Harmash, Center for Research on Donbas Social Perspectives, for OstroV