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March of 2017 will become a marker of the key directions of the Donbas conflict for the coming months.
Worsening of the situation at the front, which we have been witnessing since the end of January, is quite untypical phenomenon for the winter months. Given the improvement of the natural conditions for the conflict, the conflict might erupt with the new force in the second half of spring. The problem is what would be the intensity of the shelling. In January, we witnessed 50 ceasefire violations (on average) per day. In February, this figure grew to 75.
International swamp. The further development of the conflict will be greatly influenced by the lack of a clear position of the US regarding Russia and Ukraine. And EU's focus on its domestic problems. Trump, in some sense, remains an unpredictable politician. Or even a reactive politician - from the word ‘reaction,’ output, kickback. Changes, observed in the White House during February, mean an increase in the influence of military generals on foreign policy decisions and an increase in US military spending. And then the American voter will think about rationality of need of such expenses if America is not involved in the war. In addition, the risks of new military campaigns of the United States are rapidly growing. Including those areas, where American and Russian interests intersect. But is would be in the future. And now we see just a reaction. And this reaction is directed to the aggravation of the situation in Donbas. It could be called “reconnaissance by battle.” It does not mean observing the position of the enemy, but the reaction of the reactive US president.
Absence of a legal authority. Both sides do not have a legal body, which would decide on a ceasefire. The intervals between the decision taken on the next ceasefire and subsequent escalation are becoming shorter and shorter. Therefore, the decision to conduct ceasefire should be taken not by a trilateral group, but by an organization that has a higher level of legitimacy. For example, the UN Security Council. But even here this decision might be vetoed. Since the Russian side may not be ready for compromise.
Solution of Russian financing issue. The blockade led to the fact that part of the inhabitants of some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions would be left without a job, and the "republic" would not get its income. And this is against the backdrop of a general reduction of Kremlin's spending on the financial maintenance of LPR/DPR. But the war seems to be the only thing, for which Moscow spares no expense on. Consequently, the leaders of quasi-republics are interested in further military escalation. They are literally doing business on the blood. And while they are not removed from their current positions, the threat will remain.
Therefore, in any case we would suffer from a creeping escalation of the conflict in March and in the first decade of April. Unfortunately, not only militants’ leaders Zakharchenko or Plotnitsky are interested in it.