March 11, 2018 – Fort Russ –
By Eduard Popov, translated by Jafe Arnold –
On March 9th, NATO’s website announced that Ukraine has been granted the status of a candidate country for joining the alliance. On March 10th, this news became the center of attention in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada. Related to this, and by no means less “breaking”, is the news that has come out of Donbass in recent days. On March 6th, the official spokesman of the Donetsk People’s Republic’s military command, Eduard Basurin, reported that CIA Director Mike Pompeo and other representatives of US intelligence departments have arrived in Avdeevka in Ukrainian-occupied Donbass. According to Basurin, President Poroshenko is set to meet with Pompeo by March 10th to receive the green light to prepare some provocations on the contact line in Donbass.
It is difficult to confirm or deny these reports, of which I personally am somewhat skeptical. Avdeevka – I know this city very well, I’ve been there personally many times – is very vulnerable to saboteur and sniper operations. The city is a compact residential complex with multi-storey homes and the old part consisting of private homes has been virtually destroyed. Perhaps the only more or less safe space for these high-ranking leaders to meet would be the Avdeevka Coke-Chemical Plant, which does not stop operations even during intense shelling. It is highly unlikely that senior representatives of the American intelligence community would agree to risk their lives for the sake of a visit to Avdeevka. Moreover, the very need for such a visit is questionable.
Meanwhile, another piece of news leaves no doubt as to escalating signs of war to come in Donbass with foreign involvement. On March 8th, a video appeared on YouTube showing a Ukrainian soldier captured by the DPR People’s Militia. In the words of the prisoner, who spoke Surzhik (a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian), American and Polish instructors are training Ukrainian troops at the Yavoriv polygon in the Lvov region and special housing has been prepared for foreigners. Later, the captured UAF soldier said that his unit in the “Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone” near the village of Peski was visited by a group consisting of Americans and Poles. What’s more, his unit’s positions were recently visited by an ATO headquarters commission including generals and colonels in addition to, once again, Polish and American “visitors.” These instructors, according to the captured soldier, walked the area’s grounds and checked Ukrainian soldiers’ readiness for an offensive.
The captive soldier spoke sincerely and convincingly and did not show any trace of fear – unlike the Ukrainian side, the DPR and LPR do not torture prisoners of war. The soldier cogently explained that the Ukrainian Army is being readied to execute orders, but does not want to fight. The majority of Ukrainian troops are waiting for rotation and want to resign from the army.
The most important revelation of this prisoner’s testimony, however, is that NATO military instructors are once again at large in Ukraine and Donbass and are preparing the Ukrainian Army for an offensive. If we combine this information with reports on the concentration of UAF military vehicles and manpower on the contact line, then the likelihood of full-scale battles breaking out in Donbass in the near future skyrockets. In the very least, all the military prerequisite conditions for this have been prepared.
My friends and colleagues from the Lugansk People’s Republic have repeatedly taken note of the presence of Polish soldiers in the combat zone. According to them, there was even one case of a whole group of Polish troops being eliminated in a school in the area of Stakhanov by thermobaric shells. My sources told me that they expect a large-scale offensive in the near future – not on DPR positions, but on the LPR’s line of defense. In their opinion, a Ukrainian blitzkrieg may very well begin in mid March, as I have predicted, on the eve of Russia’s presidential elections or right afterwards – or later. But the very fact that a Ukrainian offensive is seen as inevitable leaves no doubt.
If or when this offensive begins, Russia would be drawn into the fight. This is the Kiev regime and Washington’s main goal. Russia, being compelled to join the fight to protect the civilian population of Donbass, would destroy not only the Ukrainian Army, but also the numerous mercenaries and regular US, Polish, Canadian, and other NATO countries’ troops. Thus, a restart of the war between Ukraine and the DPR and LPR risks escalating into a local armed conflict between Russia and NATO. Nor can we exclude the opening of a “second front” in the north-west, from the former Baltic republics.
Be that as it may, if things do not reach the point of exchanging nuclear strikes (a possibility which I do not rule out), then Russia stands to claim an undoubtable victory for a number of reasons. Eastern European countries like Poland and the Baltics would find themselves in the most unfavorable situation, having been provoked by their American “ally” to go to war against the Eurasian giant, Russia. Ukraine would be turned into a huge testing site for a new European war, and I have no doubt that the country would be partitioned approximately down the Dnieper. Of course, one can hope that this split would occur without large bloodshed, but such is the obvious result of Euromaidan from the very beginning.
Eduard Popov is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia, and from 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don and actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass. In addition to being Fort Russ’ guest analyst since June, 2016, Popov is currently the leading research fellow of the Institute of the Russian Abroad and the founding director of the Europe Center for Public and Information Cooperation.