Tuesday, October 1, 2019

All Three Moscow Proposals for Donbass Seek to Maintain Russian Influence and Keep Ukraine Neutral, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 28 – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the future status of Ukraine’s Donbass should be like what Moscow has proposed for Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestria, Vitaly Portnikov says. That would mean the permanent federalization and neutralization of Ukraine ensured by the continued presence of Russian troops.

            The author of this plan, Andrey Yermak, a deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, has been in active contact with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, the Ukrainian commentator says (radiosvoboda.org/a/30187796.html in Ukrainian; charter97.org/ru/news/2019/9/28/349998/ in Russian).

            This idea is now in active competition with two others: the first is that Vladislav Surkov, a Putin aide, has long been associated with, “the preservation of ‘the peoples republics’ as quasi-states, as levers on Ukraine and an instrument for the profit of the Russian political elite; and the second, that of Dmitry Kozak, who wants “the incorporation” of these republics into Ukraine but with “the preservation of their ‘state infrastructure’ and of course the Russian military presence.”  

            Such a plan would also allow Russian elites to profit and ensure the neutralization of Ukraine, Portnikov says. And in this regard, he continues, Zelensky’s constant talk about a referendum on Euro-Atlantic integration is a means by which Ukrainians could give up any drive to join NATO and thus represents “preparation for ‘a quiet capitulation’” to Moscow.

            In his statement, Lavrov declared that “the law is the law but the opinion of the self-proclaimed republics must be considered,” words that gut the Minsk Agreements and mean that mean what the chief goal of Moscow is “the preservation of ‘peoples republics’ and of Russian forces on Ukrainian territory” to ensure Ukraine remains neutral.

            The same goal animates the proposals of Surkov and Kozak with only this difference: In Surkov’s mind, the peoples republic would remain “puppet ‘states’ under the Kremlin’s protectorate, while in Kozak’s, they would be that “but with their formal return into the composition of Ukraine.”

            Zelensky must reject “the dangerous illusion” that it is possible to achieve an agreement with the Kremlin “on Russian conditions,” Portnikov says. Instead, “Kyiv’s goal must be the restoration of the territorial integrity of the country and the real re-integration of the Donbass,” not its return as a cancerous and potentially fate tumor within Ukraine.

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