Russia does not want Donbas. It wants Ukraine.
It’s no secret that the Kremlin has one owner, but there are several towers whispering in his ear. Each of these "towers," or interest groups, is responsible for certain tasks. A whole team emerged that distributes the funds to the occupied Donbas. And these people are perfectly comfortable: they bring the "Russian world" and feed from the pork barrel. In this situation, the Kremlin hustlers can present themselves to the “tzar” as valuable aides and count on his mercy.
However, the "eminence grises" closer to the very top understand that, having stopped at the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the Russian Federation has gained nothing, globally Russia gained nothing. Indeed, it has grown an atavistic part to its body: a subsidized region, which Russia had itself destroyed. But the rest of Ukraine today is only ready to look at its neighbors, who cynically speak of some kind of ‘brotherhood,’ through the sight of a gun.
The appointment to the Contact Group of Boris Gryzlov, one of Putin’s closest confidants, aims to try once again to force the official Kyiv to agree with Russia on the elections in the occupied Donbas. This man, as a permanent member of the Russian Security Council, took a direct part in developing the plans of seizing Ukraine’s south-eastern regions.
Kremlin is satisfied with its current puppets in Donbas, as the extermination of the too-independent local leaders is complete.
Thus, the Kremlin’s perception of the electoral process in Donbas is very peculiar, but yet it’s clear: the votes should be counted by some apprentice of Churov [Head of the Russian Central Elections Commission], while only the separatist clones of "United Russia" should campaign, with the participation of pan-Ukrainian parties being highly undesirable. No one intends to change or remove the leaders of the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. So far, the Kremlin is satisfied with its current puppets in Donbas, as the extermination of the too-independent local leaders is complete.
At the same time representatives of Moscow will continue declaring at all levels their implementation of Minsk-2 [ceasefire agreements], thereby prolonging the negotiating process. The calculation is simple: to freeze the status quo in Donbas until the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine. The Kremlin’s strategists hope that by playing, as usual, on Ukraine’s inner controversies, they can push back Donbas in its present shape into the Ukraine, providing for a “special status” for the region, without actual subordination to Kyiv. The minimum task is to deprive of power President Poroshenko and PM Yatsenyuk. Snap elections to the Ukrainian parliament can speed this process up. If the revenge-seekers come to power, then the situation will be frozen permanently by the Transnistrian scenario.
Kyiv’s desire to fulfill the political part of the Minsk agreements will only be used for the implementation of Moscow’s vision of the structure of Ukraine.
The Minsk process for the Kremlin is just a curtain. Behind this curtain goes the work on gradual absorption of the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. No one in the Kremlin is going to return the occupied territories. Moreover, if Kyiv wishes to fulfill the political part of the Minsk agreements, it will only be used for the implementation of Moscow’s vision of the structure of Ukraine. The Moscow-orchestrated militants will be endlessly agreeing stuff with the Kyiv authorities and voicing the Kremlin’s older demands: federalization, Russian language as a second state language, and Ukraine’s non-aligned status.
Moscow is not planning to give up on Donbas, because it needs to keep focus on the whole of Ukraine. At least, that's how the Kremlin’s officials perceived Putin's words that Russia can’t "give up on the Russians of Donbas to the nationalists to “eat them up.” The occupier is set to gain a firm foothold. As they say in Moscow, the "nation-building" is in full gear in the occupied parts of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. That is the Kremlin’s logic of a suitcase without a handle. They will keep the seized territory, although it’s lifeless. Today, no one in the Kremlin wishes to “hear the Donbas.” No one listens to the locals which once chanted “Putin! Bring in the troops!” This is the senseless and the merciless "Russian world." So, we can hardly hope that this world will be destroyed by the plunging oil prices or Putin’s sudden flight to Mars.