Ex-head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, Army General Mykola Malomuzh expressed the opinion that the situation in the conflict-affected regions of Ukraine in 2019 will change if Ukrainians elect new leadership in the upcoming polls.

"Therefore, 2019 can be a year of dramatic changes in terms of peace, stabilization, the return of people in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the restoration of Donbas, and later – the return of Crimea," Malomuzh told Glavred.

According to Malomuzh, who headed Ukraine's intelligence agency in the times of Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych, the second scenario is where "the same people remain in power, or if certain forces come to power that are interested in continuing the conflict (these are forces are either Russia-oriented or focused on clan interests)."

"In this case, the conflict will remain in place,” said the analyst.

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The former intelligence official suggests that the smoldering nature of conflict is beneficial to certain business groups for whom military operations are of certain financial interest.

“Having failed to gain advantages at the front and the Sea of Azov, Russia is hoping for a change in the structure of Ukraine's political elite. This is the strategy of the Russian Federation today. It doesn't involve new offensive campaigns, but provides for the promotion to leading posts in Ukraine of forces and persons who defended the pro-Russian stance, shifted away from the European and Euro-Atlantic vector, and went for the pro-Russian line," he said.

The military expert added that Russia is preparing for various scenarios for the Ukraine developments in 2019. However, the Kremlin hopes to see a puppet government coming to power after the upcoming elections.

"Russia is preparing for different scenarios, ranging from the most radical (military operations), local invasions of regions or directions, to economic and political ones, which allow solving the problem comprehensively. That is, if Russia gains control over Ukraine economically and politically, they will not need war as they will achieve their goal anyway," the expert concludes.