The assassinated "DPR chief," Alexander Zakharchenko, was a criminal who was not the first and, unfortunately or fortunately, not the last one in the long a chain of witnesses of Russia's crimes who have been "removed." Well, if you play alongside Moscow, you have to accept the rules. They don't like living witnesses. Therefore, from Moscow's perspective, nothing extraordinary happened – someone was terminated, who knew too much and who could at any moment, in case of a successful raid by Joint Forces, find himself in a government-controlled territory, and then act in a familiar and understandable scheme... From Moscow's perspective, it is better to immediately purge them so that such things don't suddenly happen.
The story of Zakharchenko's murder can also be actively used with propaganda purposes against Ukraine. This is what Moscow is actually doing now, trying to blame Ukraine for the assassination of the "DPR leader" and to slow down the process of Donbas settlement.
The questions is what their actual goal is: who benefits from a slow-down in the process Donbas settlement talks? Is it Ukraine, the country suffering from everyday hostilities? Or is it Russia, the country profiting from the fact that Ukraine is constantly bleeding? So yes, of course, it's Russia.
Therefore, any accusations against Ukraine, alleging that its spec-op forces assassinated Zakharchenko, are for ignorant amateurs.
I think that Russia will simply use this whole story for the sole purpose of launching a propaganda campaign against Ukraine, blaming it unreasonably for this murder, and thus, delaying for as long as possible any concrete steps to resolve the conflict, pointing fingers at Kyiv's "bad policies."
If we analyze the statements voiced by the Kremlin following the assassination, it becomes apparent that all of them fit within this logic very clearly.
After Zakharchenko's killing, Russian FM Lavrov hastened to declare that now the Normandy Four talks were off the agenda. But this does not mean that the format has exhausted itself. This only means that Russia has found it very convenient to claim that "under such circumstances, we will do nothing."
Actually, this is the key objective of all this special operation of Russian intelligence. That is, Russia definitely needed an excuse not to listen to Kyiv, instead saying: "What agenda? What talks? See, they're killing civilians in Donbas!"
So, I don't believe that now it is about reviewing the "Minsk format" or "Normandy format." This is about a tactic of rejecting real practical steps under fictitious pretexts, to which Moscow resorted.
In addition, it should not be suggested at all that the killing of Zakharchenko may in some way facilitate the process of returning the "DPR" and "LPR" to Ukraine on Russia's conditions, in particular, exploiting the upcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine. It's not worth even talking about. After all, any Ukrainian politicians who will accept Russia's terms (perhaps except for a few known ones) will become "dead meat" in politics
So, there is no way Donbas could be returned to Ukraine on Russia's conditions. That's because it would be a "Trojan horse" in the body of Ukrainian statehood, which will not allow the country moving anywhere. Therefore, such scenario should be off the agenda.
Volodymyr Ohryzko is a Ukrainian diplomat, head of the Russia Research Center, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine