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    July 6, 2016

    Putin calls Obama, cancels region visits amidst Donbass escalation

    July 6, 2016 - 
    By Eduard Popov 
    Translated by J. Arnoldski 

    On July 6th, two alarming events took place which leave one worrying about the fate of Donbass.

    The first event was a meeting held between the State Secretary and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Grigory Kasarin, and the German ambassador Rüdiger von Fritsch and French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert in which Russia’s concern over Ukraine’s actions was expressed. The official report of the Foreign Ministry published after the meeting noted the activation of Ukrainian armed forces and so-called volunteer battalions in Donbass. Such military activity was also recorded by observers from the OSCE mission. The conclusion drawn by Russian diplomats: “We are faced with the symptoms of a military operation being prepared by the Ukrainian military.” 

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we should recall, is a very conservative agency which does not draw hasty conclusions. The concentration of manpower and equipment in the ATO zone and numerous bombardments of the republics’ cities by the UAF (several hundred artillery rounds every day) have long since been recorded by observers of the DPR and LPR. But only now has the foreign policy department of Russia stated that the situation could escalate to a qualitatively different state. In other words, Ukraine could transition from the tactic of provocations and destroying infrastructure and the civilian population to a fully-fledged military aggression. Karasin’s statement and the official foreign ministry report are a very worrying sign.

    The second event was the telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama on the evening of July 6th. Among the topics discussed were the situation in Donbass. As the report published on the Kremlin’s website says, “The President of Russia reiterated the importance of Kiev strictly complying with the Minsk Agreements” and stated the necessity of “a full implementation of the agreement on withdrawing the conflicting parties’ heavy weapons and intelligence units.” 

    It is unlikely that these two events are unrelated. The concern over the situation in Donbass expressed by President Putin in conversation with his American counterpart elevates the significance of Karasin’s statement. I believe that the Russian leader and Russian diplomats have reasons (or knowledge of classified information?) to believe that a UAF offensive in Donbass is likely. 

    Yet another took place wihich, at first glance, might appear to be unrelated to the previous two. On July 6th, a report was published that President Putin had cancelled all trips to Russia’s regions planned for next week. This event can be explained in different ways, but one possible explanation is that the Kremlin is expecting some kind of large international event. I’ll emphasize right away that I have no facts to support this theory which is based on mere logical reasoning and assumptions. 

    But the fact that the Deputy Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the President of Russia on the same day expressed concern over shelling of the territories of the unrecognized Donbass republics cannot be interpreted otherwise than a recognition of a threat to the lives and safety of the region’s population. And, perhaps, this means that an outbreak of war is highly likely. 

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