If Ukraine starts military operations in Donbas, Russia will not leave Donbas residents without help and will send in Russian troops. This harsh statement was made by Deputy Head of the Administration of the President of Russia Dmitry Kozak.
What really stands behind this statement?
This is not the first statement of this kind. Over the past week, the Russians have been ramping up tensions and stirring up the situation. At first, State Duma deputy Andrey Kozenko said that Russian passports had been issued in Donbas so those people could not be left without help. Later, Dmitry Peskov spoke quite evasively on this matter. He was asked a specific question on this topic, and it should be understood that the questions are asked for some reason at briefings in the Kremlin. Finally, Kozak’s statement appeared.
First of all, we must say that Putin will make his annual address to the nation on 21 April. This address will mark the start of the election campaign as Russia will hold the State Duma elections this autumn. Therefore, Russians need the current escalation as a publicity move, in order heighten people’s interest in the president’s address and make the start of the election campaign as pompous as possible.
The election campaign in Russia will build on two main points.
First, due to the fact that current state of the Russian economy is quite stable, certain preferences will obviously be made for the groups of the population who are the most active voters.
The second aspect concerns Ukraine, namely spotlighting the topic of Donbas as much as possible, as well as shifting Russians’ attention to “bad” Ukrainians who envenom their life and with whom “something needs to be done.” Therefore, as of today, Kozak’s statement is one of several statements about escalating the situation on the eve of President Putin’s address.
Speaking of the medium term, the possibility of aggravation of hostilities in Donbas is quite serious, unfortunately. As for future developments, there are three main scenarios:
The first is a large-scale war on all fronts. I hope this will not happen and this scenario is the least realistic and plausible indeed.
The second one is a certain escalation in Donbas with a possible target of the North Crimean Canal dam. For Russians, water in Crimea is a very critical story. After that, one can expect a quick enough blitzkrieg from Russia to then sit down at the negotiating table.
However, it will not be so easy because Ukrainians are quite well armed on this front. Therefore, if we talk about the likelihood of Russian’s “wicked walk,” it is definitely impossible. However, it is worth noting that the Russians will use the tactic of “lengthening-out of forces.”
Finally, the third scenario is a very exacerbated hybrid diplomacy with the escalation of the conflict directly in Donbas in order to make Ukraine open the North Crimean Canal before the elections.
However, Ukraine must already think about what to do with a possible blockade of the Sea of Azov. One of the hybrid diplomacy options is to block this sea to put further pressure on Ukraine by closing the entire Mariupol area with its metallurgy, grain and other shipments.
Vadym Denysenko, UIF Executive Director
The author’s opinion does not always coincide with the opinion of the editorial staff