No Christmas lull in Donbas to be expectedMykola Malomuzh
When it comes to the proclamation of yet another "silent mode" starting December 24, it should be noted that all previous attempts to cease fire in Donbas brought no result, and those "silence modes" has been violated despite all agreements and promises. So now there are no prerequisites for the latest "silence mode", announced by OSCE Special Representative to the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk Martin Sajdik, to be maintained on New Year's Eve for any significant period. Therefore, the announcement is rather a wish.
In general, these purely political statements on a Donbas lull voiced by the Contact Group members actually mean little. The thing is that the Minsk format today has ceased to be effective. To some extent, it does restrain the enemy but at the same time, it fails to offers any options for settlement.
Thus, Russia continues to implement its own plan – it is forcing Ukraine to make concessions: recognize militants, hold elections in Donbas under Russia’s supervision of, and "freeze" the now-occupied territories along with the "local authorities" that will supposedly be elected. Russia has been trying to reach its objectives through the escalation in eastern Ukraine and pressure from our Normandy Four partners. Moscow will be implementing this scenario until the end.
These purely political statements on a Donbas lull voiced by the Contact Group members actually mean little
Therefore, despite the fact that both Christmas and the New Year – are Ukraine’s major holidays, the Russian-backed militants couldn’t care less as they don’t aim at preserving the "silence mode". Instead, the militants seek to prove that Ukraine is disrupting the accords and it’s the Ukrainian military who resume the shelling. In order to show such "facts", the enemy will keep resorting to provocations during holidays.
Of course, we can assume that from December 24, the number of attacks will decrease from 35-50 per day to some 15-20. However, provocations will not go anywhere, and in certain areas even the escalation is possible. This might happen near Debaltseve, Mariupol, Avdiyivka, Pisky, Stanytsia Luhanska, Maiorsk, etc...
But what is Ukraine going to do about it? In extremely difficult situations, Ukrainian troops will have to respond – no one will simply watch their position positions being shelled or ambushed.
While the attacks continue, political tensions will, too. We will see more agreements reached and more recriminations to follow. And this will be dragging for as long as the deal on Donbas settlement isn’t reached at the highest level. Of course, this would require an expanded format (with the participation of the U.S. and EU Member States), along with the Minsk line. But this is the format of negotiations, which, I believe, will force Russia to fulfill the agreements.
Army Gen. Mykola Malomuzh is an ex-Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine