Unilateral Truce: Ukraine Does Not Respond to Shelling in Donbas Due to Political Ambitions of Government

Avdiivka was fired upon again. Like in February 2017. Then, the Ukrainian delegation rubbed the nose of Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin in the photograph of the destroyed Avdiivka and the deceased captain, Andriy Kyzyl. I have never seen Churkin as nervous as at that meeting. Usually arrogant and defiant, he was red as a lobster and fidgeted in his chair as if he was burning from below. And at the front, the Armed Forces of Ukraine gave such a rebuff to the invaders that they were afraid to look in the direction of Avdiivka for those four years.

Now, they become brave. Eight servicemen were wounded and civilian objects were damaged during the recent shelling. Ukraine has so far limited itself to a strange statement by the Ukrainian delegation to the TCG, written in the typical style of Arestovych. According to the statement, “an adequate response to the shelling was provided by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” It is not specified what the “adequate response” was, but other sources report that the Armed Forces did not open fire in response.

The Ukrainian authorities believe that “the enemy’s task is to provoke us to an inadequate response” and to disrupt Zelensky’s talks with the U.S. president on further ways to resolve the conflict. Serhiy Harmash, a member of the Ukrainian delegation, says that “the expediency and scale of fire from our side in the next two days should be carefully measured and compared with the political goals of our country.” In Avdiivka, it was inexpedient to shoot, because there, they say, there were no civilian casualties. For Harmash, the eight wounded are not victims. He should go to the hospital and look at them … The Russians and their mercenaries received a clear signal from the Ukrainian representatives in the TCG that they can shoot with impunity in the coming days – no one would respond. The Ukrainian authorities are well aware that this is exactly what will happen, and, therefore, they warn the citizens of Ukraine that they “need to be situationally and morally ready” for a further increase in combat activity on the part of the enemy. In fact, the authorities openly declare that they will not defend their citizens, civilian and military, for the sake of ‘political goals.’ For the sake of such ‘goals’ Sergeant Zhuravel was turned adrift and the failure to capture the Wagner group members was justified. But this time, the authorities clearly articulated their priorities – for the success of Zelensky’s visit to the United States, the population and the military should be patient, and those who are unlucky will suffer a little.

The point here is not only in the blatant immorality of such a position, but also in its weakness. In the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, the United States, unlike Germany and France, is not a mediator, but first and foremost an ally of Ukraine. That is why, they do not need the success of negotiations and peace at any cost; they advocate for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. So, Washington will understand the fact that Ukraine responds toughly to Russian provocations. Moreover, Ukraine’s ability to resist the enemy and effectively defend itself prompted the United States to start providing us with military assistance more actively. And after the fiasco in Afghanistan, where the Western-led army fled in a matter of days, the readiness of the Ukrainian army to defend itself and give the enemy a tough response will be an important factor for the United States when it comes to allied relations and further assistance. Demonstrating such readiness will help Washington perceive Kyiv as a true partner capable of standing up for itself.

Oleksandr Matsuka, diplomat, former member of the UN Secretariat, head of the UN Security Council Secretariat (2012-2016)

The author’s opinion does not always coincide with the editorial position

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