The situation in eastern Ukraine depends on the global external processes, "victories" of Russia in the Middle East and economic situation in Russia itself. This year active hostilities are not expected.
"Russia is trying to frozen the situation and to “clean” the aggressive and rebel commanders. Some provocative raids, shelling and incandescence of the situation might take place in this year, but the likelihood of a full-scale offensive this year is quite low," said political analyst Oleh Vostryh.
He stressed that the process of reintegrating Donbas and its occupation regime back into the political system of Ukraine would continue. Minsk negotiations have not lead to into some desired results, and in 2016 there would be a new attempt to change the format. If these changes would not be consistent with the objectives of Moscow, Russia make the situation in the frontline more and more tensed.
"Sabotage, attacks, shelling, demonstrations and other attributes of the pressure... This year will be easy one. The economy will continue to collapse. Life will last in the mode “from one loan to another loan," highlighted the expert.
On the other hand, the implementation of the Minsk agreements will cause negative reaction among the patriots. It will not help stabilize the situation in Ukraine itself. The government will have to seek some special forms of implementation of these agreements and conduct explanatory work on the causes and consequences of their actions to convince the public of the correctness and necessity of such a path. But attempts to sway the situation in certain regions will still take place in this year. Decentralization initiated in 2015 will continue, and the regions might begin to demand more powers and greater revenues in their budgets.
Minsk agreements will define the main tendencies of 2016
According to political analyst Mykola Spyrydonov, a crucial event of international importance took place at the end of December 2015 - the Minsk agreements were extended for a year. Before that, there were some fears that their validity will expire and the hostilities will resume. Now it is decided that the agreements, which were reached in the course of telephone conversations of the Norman Quartet leaders (Hollande, Merkel, Putin and Poroshenko) to be followed throughout 2016.
"The press office of Vladimir Putin almost immediately reported about the Minsk agreements. It is interesting that there were no official statements by Petero Poroshenko on this occasion. Maybe Poroshenko believes that Minsk agreements are not to his advantage in the electoral sense," said Spyrydonov.
Despite all the criticism of the Minsk agreements, they had great importance for the settlement of the military and political situation. After signing of the second agreement in Minsk full-scale battles have stopped soon. Frosting the conflict at this stage, probably, is the best option, because it is not hardly possible to end the war in the short term.
Spyrydonov noted that in the situation that took place in February 2015 Minsk agreements became unconditional breakthrough of the conflict, and it is good that they are prolonged.
Ukraine’s blockade of Donbas will weaken
According to political scientist Mykhailo Pavliv, the unrecognized republics have no sustainability. The survival of these separate territories is a question of goodwill either of Ukraine, or of the Russian Federation.
"Given Ukraine’s extremely difficult situation, no one should wait for help from the state. And the lack of help and a responsibility for the Donbas would be hidden behind the absurd pathos and pseudo-patriotic rhetoric," says Pavliv. He stressed that in 2016 the blockade might ease and the purely commercial relations might improve.
Ukraine needs the economy of Donbas like the air. This is the turnover of GRP and GDP, and energy markets. Therefore, the Ukrainian government will be forced to go on this liberalization," notes the expert. In his opinion, Russia, despite the rapidly deteriorating socio-economic indicators, will be ready to support the unrecognized republics, because of the image considerations.
Ukraine is losing large industrial regions without any chance for having them back
The State Statistics Service of Ukraine informed that real GDP of Ukraine in 2014 decreased by 6.8%. Primarily due to the loss of the Crimea and a significant reduction in the level of industrial production in Donbas. According to official data, the share of GRP in Crimea was 3.7%at the end of 2013, while in Donbas it was 14.4%. The other regions of Ukraine accounted for about 80% of the total GDP. The importance of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine's economy is connected with their high industrial potential. About 25-30% of the industrial output of the country belonged to Donbas during the peacetime. In 2015, because of the occupation, hostilities and the economic blockade, the proportion of the Donetsk region in total industrial production of the country was only 11.4%, in Luhansk it barely exceeded 1.0%.
The decrease of industrial production in Donbas has already triggered a deep economic crisis in Ukraine. Cooperative ties of production cycles, including the international and inter-regional commodity chains, are ruined. Moreover, during the past year, export rates of Ukraine has declined by more than a third due to the hostilities in Donbas. This situation will continue in 2016.
Unrecognized republics will seek for grants
"Transnistria and Abkhazia, despite good domestic resources still are in terrible condition, they need external financing. The same scenario would repeat in the unrecognized republics," says Pavlo Kuchta. He notes that the financial blockade against so called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in 2016 will not be completely ended. The budget of unrecognized republics was formed mainly due to illegal subsidies from Russia.
If Ukraine directs money to the territory of the unrecognized republics, it would be interpreted as helping the bandits," supposed the expert. He noted that the budget for 2016 provided the checking of the pensioners from the ATO area. Some people are getting social payments on the territory of Ukraine, meanwhile, they live in the occupied territories. If the Ukrainian authorities this year have plans to allocate money for pensions in the ATO zone, the order of these payments may be substantially revised.