Wednesday,
20 September 2017
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Ukraine is ready. Now what?

President Poroshenko has grabbed the headlines with another bit of breaking news – Ukraine is ready to convene the Minsk contact group and to immediately hold Normandy-format talks between Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France to agree a schedule for implementing the Minsk peace arrangements. 

If I remember correctly, Ukraine has been ready to hold meetings of the Minsk contact group since September of the last year. However, it has benefitted little from this state of readiness.

Most Ukrainians are not privy to diplomatic secrets, and have little understanding of many things that are going on. What is clear to them is that there is war in Ukraine, and that men and women have been going to war, leaving their homes and families behind. Since the outbreak of war, they have been sending millions of hryvnias via text messages to the accounts of the Ministry of Defense. After all, they were asked to do, and how can they do otherwise? They have been supporting the ATO forces with tonnes of various assistance that could be anything from dry borsch to old combat vehicles that were brought back to life at private vehicle service stations and farms. They have been sending to war their nearest and dearest people – their fathers and children, many of whom will come back crippled, dead, or will not come back at all. Ukraine’s Security Service and other authorities will be looking for their remains for a long time so that their old mothers have something to bury.

Because this is war. Or maybe it is an anti-terrorist operation, or a peace settlement and a unilateral ceasefire that has been declared yet again.

In 2015, three new mobilizations waves will be launched. The General Headquarters have again talked about criminal responsibility for mobilization evasion. Failing to “evade” a shell means death. Laying your life down for your homeland is OK. Whether dying for a unilateral ceasefire is OK, is questionable.

As early as December 5, when speaking to the “cyborgs” (as the defenders of Donetsk airport were nicknamed), Poroshenko said that if the enemy got the airport the terrorists could go as far as Lviv.

“I am convinced that by fighting for the airport, we’re fighting for the whole of Ukraine. If we surrender the airport, the enemy will go as far as Boryspil, Gostomel, or Lviv,” Poroshenko said.

For some inexplicable reason, however, enemy, rather than Ukrainian checkpoints “spawned” in new places during each ceasefire, and troops that go to the airport to relieve the “cyborgs” even had to undergo checks there.

When giving a speech on the Maidan during an anti-terror march, Poroshenko said: “We will not cede an inch of Ukrainian land to the enemy. We will return the Donbass to Ukraine. We will restore the Ukrainian culture there and show that our unity is another important ingredient for our victory. Today Ukraine is united as never before.”

Yes. Ukraine is united against the enemy. Is Ukraine also united with the higher military authorities? Where were the boundaries of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and Russian troops in August? Where are they now? How many civilians and troops do they kill every day during this proverbial ceasefire? How much longer will television appeals to patriotism and diplomatic talk that we need to achieve a peaceful settlement of the conflict be able to sustain the spirits of the soldiers who have to be victorious in the front line?

When meeting with the Polish prime minister, Poroshenko said “Yesterday I told the Foreign Ministry to make public the announcement that Ukraine is ready to sign a ceasefire deal any time, provided the Minsk peace arrangements are kept in full.”

In response he heard, in particular from the so called New Russia press center, quoting Pushilin that “the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics require additional guarantees.”

“We need guarantees and confirmation that the meeting will actually take place. We returned from our last visit to Minsk empty-handed. This shows that the Ukrainians are not to be trusted. Before we agree to go again, we need an official invitation from a more reliable authority, such as, for instance, the OSCE.”

He also said that “the DPR and LPR leaders will only agree to meet to sign a document that has already been drawn up by the contact group, and will not participate in the drawing-up process.” In this light it is unclear what exactly Ukraine is ready to sign any moment.

That very day, the Luhansk People’s Republic announced that it had set up its own air force. Andriy Lysenko, the spokesperson for the National Security and Defense Council, said that this could be a start of an information campaign to mask the use of Russian military aircraft against the ATO forces.

That very day two Russian battalion task groups crossed the Ukrainian border.

Also that very day the Ukrainian president said that Ukrainian troops had opened fire at Donetsk airport only once, and that in response to the militants violating the ceasefire with impunity.

“I gave an order to open fire on a single occasion so we could evacuate the wounded and the dead from the airport.”

The grass roots simply can’t figure out what’s going on – are we at war or at peace? How can you make peace arrangements with those who are deliberately escalating unrest when war is in full swing? What peace can there be, and at what cost? Armed forces use weapons, while diplomats use words. The president is both a commander-in-chief and a diplomat-in-chief. Then how much longer will Ukrainian troops be shelled with Grad multiple rocket launchers, unable to respond because of another unilateral ceasefire?

They, of course, could say that it’s none of their business: while advancing you run, and while retreating you also run. And don’t ask questions. However, most Ukrainian solders are responsible and patriotic. Maybe it’s time for change? Otherwise it might be as it was in that film in which troops that had been sent to the Izyum Trail rebelled, saying the tsar was a fake.

Elena Miloserdova

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