Peaceful war: How Poroshenko and Turchynov plan to return Donbas

Author : Roman Romaniuk Roman Kravets

Source :

Anti-terrorist operation in Eastern Ukraine will be over soon. But this does not mean that Donbas will return to Ukraine, and Ukrainian troops will return to their bases. Just at the fourth year of the operation, the authorities decided to "change format."
21:51, 26 June 2017

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112 Agency

Over the past few days, the whole political elite of the country behind closed doors have been discussed a bill that should start a new page in the history of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the Donbas.

In the near future, parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are not controlled by Kyiv may be declared occupied territories. But those who search for the names of the occupying country are just wasting their time. Ukrainian authorities have moved to the stage of "hybrid" responses to "hybrid" challenges, which should be understood also as occupation without an invader.

In addition, the new concept of response to aggression involves the possibility of not weakening but increasing the involvement of the Armed Forces in the conflict in the East. In fact, the president wants to give the right to declare a martial law without a declaration of martial law.

Running race

Like many other recent resonance initiatives, the new anti-terrorist operation concept is born in collaboration with President Petro Poroshenko and NSDC secretary Oleksandr Turchynov.

This tandem, for example, was engaged in the start of the official blockade of the occupied Donbas and the prohibition of Russian social networks.

However, nowadays we are talking not only about cooperation, but also about the desire of different centers of influence to impose one another their vision of Donbas return strategy. Conditionally we see the opposition "reintegration" - "rebound".

The president and his team from the beginning are staying at the positions of peaceful "reintegration". As Artur Gerasimov, leader of the presidential faction explained, we are talking about the emphasis on diplomatic methods of returning control over Donbas.

"The key issue here is that you cannot build a wall and forget about these territories. Donbas is Ukraine," Gerasimov said.

At the same time, the NSDC Secretary has a more militant position. As stated the interlocutors in the People's Front political party, Turchynov defends the need to foresee the possibility of actually forcible liberation of occupied territories.

"Poroshenko is constantly talking about reintegration, the restoration of control. Then Turchynov says: "Ok, but maybe we'll conquer them?" That's why he came first to talk to the press to "stimulate" Poroshenko, "explains one of the deputies of the party on anonymity conditions.

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Under "stimulation" it means that the first person publicly talked about the new concept of anti-terrorist operation and management in Donbas was Turchinov, immediately declaring rather tough positions. After this speech, the president had to make a snap statement by the secretary and entrust the NSDC secretary the elaboration of the relevant law.

Conflict without conflict, occupation without invader

However, two political camps quickly found an understanding. Already on Monday, June 19, Speaker of Parliament Andriy Parubiy assured that the bill would be a compromise.

"This bill actually describes a compromise variant, which can unite supporters and opponents of martial law, when there are no restrictions on democratic procedures, and at the same time the use of all military units is legally allowed and regulated," said the speaker.

The essence of the compromise between "reintegrators" and "conquerors" is as follows.

On the one hand, the law will clearly state that Ukraine remains within the framework of the Minsk format and advocates, first of all, the peaceful restoration of control over its territories. This position was fundamental to Poroshenko, who did not want to give Russia a reason to blame Ukraine for leaving Minsk format.

Moreover, this bill will be the first one, in which the Minsk Agreements will be mentioned in general.

"This draft law will include the Minsk Agreements as the basis, and it will indicate that the OSCE monitoring mission continues its activities in Donbas," speaker explains.

On the other hand, under the "peaceful" wrapper of the new strategy, there will be an opportunity for the actual introduction of martial law in those areas where the anti-terrorist operation is currently underway. This will significantly increase the opportunities for engagement of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the conflict, which will be entitled to act as at a real war.

"Remember, when the ATO was announced, only the administrative buildings, police departments and Security Service administration were seized at Donbas, and then it was an adequate response. At the moment, the situation is quite different, and, accordingly, another reaction is needed, "explains MP Victoria Siumar.

And another MP from her faction adds that these changes should be a signal for Russia.

"We stand for peace, for Minsk and so on, but if necessary, then we are ready to regain our territory. This is a hybrid law for a hybrid war," he said.

The "hybridity" of the bill, which is now being developed by the National Security and Defense Council, is also seen in the issue of the territories which are uncontrolled by Kyiv - temporarily occupied. Although these parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions will be recognized as occupied, the invader himself will not be named in the law.

"You understand that if we write in the law that the invader is Russia, and then we will declare a martial law there, then we will actually declare war with the Russian Federation. And this is what we have nothing to do with. Officially, there is no regular Russian army, but simply" invaders ", from whom we will be able to liberate our territory," explains one of the deputies involved in the drafting of the law.

He also adds that the opportunity to declare a martial law only within the borders of Donbas is necessary in order to negotiate the delivery of lethal weapons.

"Now we actually agreed with the States, they are, in principle, ready to give us lethal weapons. But they say: “Listen, how could we supply Javelins to you, if you are conducting anti-terrorist operation?",  said the interlocutor in the political faction of Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Related: Poroshenko invites French senators to Donbas

Symbolically, public activity around the change of ATO format appeared during President Poroshenko's visit to Washington, where he met with President Trump and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. As Iryna Herashchenko, a member of the Ukrainian delegation wrote in Facebook, the security issues in Donbas were raised at both meetings.

Whether sides considered the change of ATO format in Washington, Herashchenko did not report. But our interlocutors unanimously state that Poroshenko intended to settle these positions both with Washington and with other Western partners.

Operational headquarters

Another important factor in this concept of Donbas law is the establishment of a single operational headquarters institute.

In fact, it is a large operational center for managing the occupied territories, which will be assigned to embody all military and political and economic power in the region.

In the case of the martial law introduction, military-civilian administrations will be replaced by the military ones, which will be directly subordinated to the established operational headquarters.

In addition, this body that will simultaneously manage all power agencies, including the Army, the National Guard, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Security Service and border guards.

"We were recently in Donbas, and saw that all these power agencies do not have coordination. They are all guided by different centers, sometimes not letting each other know about their actions, and moreover, they are sometimes openly hostile," says Siymar.

According to her, exactly for the creation of a single management center authorities established the single operational headquarters.

"It will allow operative management of all structures, of their paralleled work, and it will enable them to achieve their goals and objectives much more effectively", explains Ukrainian MP.

The operational headquarters will be fully under the control of the president, who will appoint and dismiss its chief.

But we can say, this scenario is still far away from today. Although several days on the sidelines of Ukrainian politics MPs are talking only about this bill, but the text itself has not yet been seen by anyone.

The head of the Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc MP Gerasymov assured journalists that the document is in the stage of final approvals, and the deputy head of the Narodnyi Front faction Andriy Teteruk promised that the bill will in Verkhovna Rada before the end of this week.

True, their colleagues in private conversations are far more skeptical in assessing situations, convincing us that the text "can not be read" - because nobody has written it yet.

In the media only the general concept of the bill was made public. The document that was published by Hromadske TV website, actually describes the provisions discussed above. The text of the draft itself could not be found in any publication.

But now one thing is clear: it will be completely different from the project of Samopomich and Batkivshchyna factions, where the invader was called an invader, and the war was a war.

As one of the interlocutors of Narodnyi Front faction explained, "there is nothing unrealistic here, simply the text will not contain the words" ATO "or" war, "instead the word" aggression "will appear.

It seems that the current government prefers to play "hybrid" games.

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