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Consequences of Zakharchenko's murder for Ukraine: Three scenarios

Author : Mykyta Sinitsyn

As the practice of recent years shows, it seems that some evil fate or somebody's evil will reigns around people associated with the occupation of Crimea or the creation of "People's Republics" in Donbas
20:22, 4 September 2018

Open source

After 4 years of heading the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, on August 31 its "leader" Alexander Zakharchenko was killed as a result of an explosion near the cafe "Separ".

This death immediately raised two questions:from which side did the death of the main "militant" come and what will it change in the part of Donbas not controlled by Ukraine.

As the practice of recent years shows, it seems that some evil fate or somebody's evil will reigns around people associated with the occupation of Crimea or the creation of "People's Republics" in Donbas. So, we observed the murders of the field commanders Dremov, Motorola, Givi and the founder of the Oplot organization Yevgeny Zhilin; deaths of the founder and the first head of LNR Valery Bolotov, the parents of the second head of the LNR Igor Plotnitsky (they were poisoned by mushrooms), and the death of the Russia’s permanent representative in the UN, Vitaly Churkin.

This trend demonstrates that the post of head of the "Donetsk People's Republic" means if not the execution, but at least extreme danger. In this situation, it was difficult to predict from which side the struck came.

DNR head was killed after the explosion in the cafe "Separ", his favorite vacation spot, which belonged to one of the "DNR parliament deputies," who had previously been the guard of the head of the separatists.

Less than an hour after the explosion, at the "official" level they reported the death of Alexander Zakharchenko and the severe wounding of another odious leader - Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Taxes and Duties of the DNR Alexander Timofeev.

The guilty persons were found with astonishing speed, a statement was made that the saboteurs were detained, and the organizer of the attempt is Ukraine. The latter statement was also supported in the Russian Foreign Ministry, which representative Maria Zakharova stated that "there is every reason to believe that the murder is made the Kyiv regime, which has repeatedly used similar methods to eliminate dissenters and dislikers."

Ukraine made another assumption: the Security Service, through the press secretary Olena Gitlianska, rejected its involvement, naming problems inside the DNR the main reasons. A number of experts directly blamed the Kremlin for the murder. In general, there are enough grounds for such a statement:

1) According to the official version, the security guard of Zakharchenko, who most likely laid the explosives, escaped from the scene of the assassination attempt. According to other sources, three guards disappeared from the personal guard. To recruit so many traitors seems a difficult task for the SBU, it is much easier for local criminal elements.

2) Since the beginning of the summer, Zakharchenko and his right hand Alexander Timofeev have been subjected to considerable criticism; there have been numerous talks about plans to replace the "head of the republic." That is, in Russia they were clearly dissatisfied with such candidatures.

3) The problem of changing power could be solved in several ways - from a quiet resignation due to health reasons to a forcible shift of power, as it was in Luhansk. The first option was the most acceptable, although not everyone would have believed in it. But the variant with heroic death had an indisputable advantage: it was possible, having accused Ukraine, to give a heroic halo to the "resignation" of Zakharchenko, who had previously been accused of bringing the uncontrolled part of Donbas to impoverishment.

4) The coincidence was suspiciously successful, in which both odious leaders, who were attacked by the criticism in the summer, were in one place and were eliminated.

However, like in many other murders, there are many versions of its consequences. They can be divided conditionally into bad, good and neutral.

The conventionally bad consequences include the intensification of military operations on the front line, caused both by a certain desire to avenge the death of Zakharchenko, and, in the opinion of the Russian Federation, the desire of Ukraine to terminate the Minsk agreements.

Indirect confirmation of a bad scenario was the introduction of a state of emergency in the "DNR", the closing of "borders" of the "DNR" with the Russian Federation, the "LNR" and Ukraine, the plan "Interception" to search for murderers. Finally, the movement of military equipment, recorded after the murder.


The good consequences of Alexander Zakharchenko's death for Ukraine could be linked to his successor.

In self-proclaimed "DNR" surprisingly quickly - in just 3 hours and in accordance with the "legislation of the republic" – was decided the question of the successor. According to Article 62 of the "Constitution of the People's Republic ", in the event of early termination of the powers of the "head of the People's Democratic Republic", they are temporarily executed by "the first deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Donetsk People's Republic." As a result of Alexander Timofeev's wounding, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Trapeznikov became the head. The latter is a non-public person, and therefore not as odious as Alexander Zakharchenko, although in the republic he also has a very bad reputation.

Of course, there can be no question of the return of uncontrolled territories. According to experts, the option of entering peacekeepers is more likely, as they have been saying since August 2017, and then - the gradual integration of "people's republics" into Ukraine.

For the latter, it was not at all necessary to deal so radically with the head of DNR, since his position on the issue of entering peacekeepers completely coincided with the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin: a negative reaction in 2015, up to the threat of starting military operations against peacekeepers, and agreement with their introduction on the terms of the Russian Federation in the fall of 2017.

In fact, good or bad scenarios depend only on one thing: whether the leaders of Ukraine and Russia agreed on key issues relating to Donbas, for example, about the special status, that is, the broad autonomy of the now uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions upon their return to Ukraine. It is hardly worth doubting that the Russian Federation, which did not include it and did not recognize LDNR as an independent state for 4 years, eventually plans to return Donbas to Ukraine on its own terms or continue to support the self-proclaimed "people's republics" until it achieved a satisfying Kremlin result.

Judging by the fact that for the "DNR" it took only 3 hours to approve the new temporary head of the "republic", all actions of the local elite are still absolutely under the control of the Kremlin and it is up to it to choose the future scenario.

However, there are no preconditions yet to expect anything too good or too bad from the death of Alexander Zakharchenko, because a little time has passed.

In a word, so far we have a third version of the consequences of this assassination - neutral. According to it, the parties can choose: either to begin the return of Donbas to Ukraine, or to start military operations (they, however, unlikely could change anything globally), or leave it as it is.

It seems that the preservation of the status quo is most siutable now due to the absence of any serious signals to change the situation for better or worse.

Related: Norway closely follows Russia's actions in Baltic Sea, - Soreide

Related: Norwegian foreign minister to visit Donbas conflict zone on September 5

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