Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Kremlin Urged to Follow Orel and Recognize Donbass ‘Now that World Cup is Over’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 17 – Now that the World Cup and the Helsinki Summit is over, Moscow analysts say, the Russian government should immediately recognize the independence of the Ukraine’s Donbass and then integrate it with Russia in the ways the governor of Orel Oblast has already taken steps to do. 

            “Before the World Cup,” Aleksey Polubota of Svobodnaya pressa says today, “many political analysts in Moscow said that Russia’s hands were tied lest it disturb relations on the eve of sports event so important for us.” But now, he and many of them say, it is time to go ahead without regard to the West (svpressa.ru/war21/article/205448/).

            The governor of Orel Oblast has shown the way by setting up a joint commission to integrate the two Donbass republics into Russia, the Svobodnaya pressa analyst says. (For a discussion of his actions last week, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/07/russia-has-begun-integration-of-donbass.html.)

            Aleksey Kochetkov, the president of the Russian Foundation for Civil Society Development, says that he personally believes Moscow should have recognized the DNR and the LNR “already four years ago.” Had it done so, he continues, many lives would have been saved. But even now, taking that step would be a good one.

            “In general,” Kochetkov says, “it is necessary to put the question more broadly: does a Nazi regime, which has destroyed peaceful residents, have the right to exist in the center of Europe?” And that question must be raised, he says, because those under the protection of the Ukrainian powers that be represent a threat not only for Russia but also for other countries.”

            Having analyzed the problems of the so-called “unrecognized states on the post-Soviet space” for many years, he says he believes that the process of Russian recognition has gone too slowly both elsewhere and in the case of the Donbass, but despite its slow pace, Moscow is moving toward recognition of two Donbass republics as it did Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

            Aleksey Anpilogov, head of the Osnovanye Historical Research Foundation, stresses that each unrecognized republic is slightly different; and he points to the situation in Cyprus where the Turks have controlled the north but the south has been able to become a member of the European Union.

            “Apparently,” he continues, “the Kyiv regime hopes that approximately the same story will be repeated with Ukraine; that is, despite the unresolved territorial disputes, the country will be taken into the EU and NATO.” But however that may be, the peoples of the Donbass are moving toward Russia even though Russia is not moving fast enough to recognize them.

            The Donbass and Ukraine are growing apart, Anpilogov says, and soon no one will be talking about their coming back together just as no one talks about reuniting Austria and Hungary even though they were part of one country just over a century ago. Unfortunately, not everyone in Moscow appears to understand this.

            He gives as an example of this failure the demand by Russian officials that “residents of the Donbass renew their Ukrainian passports in a timely fashion lest they cease to be recognized on Russian territory.”  Anpilogov says he has been assured that Russian officials are addressing this problem right now.

            According to the analyst, “Russia missed the first moment when it could have proceeded along this path, the fall of 2014. Now, however, for the recognition of the DNR and LNR, the Kremlin doesn’t see a basis and is waiting for the next crisis” when it can act. For the time being, he says, “a situation of ‘no war, no peace’ continues.”

            Some Russian officials appear to fear that giving Donbass residents Russian passports will upset the West. Of course, it will, Anpilogov says; but the West was “far more unhappy about the inclusion of Crimea into Russia. And despite that, the sky has not yet fallen.” It wouldn’t in this case either.

            “I think,” he concludes, “what is involved are the phantom concerns of the Muscovite ruling class. Namely the Muscovite and not the Russian because the main part of the ordinary citizens of Russia and even regional elites would entirely support not only handing out Russian passports to the residents of the Donbass but the inclusion of the DNR and LNR into Russia.”

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