by Gilbert Doctorow at Consortium News
A new draft law adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament and awaiting Petro Poroshenko’s signature threatens to escalate the Ukrainian conflict into a full-blown war, pitting nuclear-armed Russia against the United States and NATO
While much of America’s – and the world’s – attention focused this weekend reflecting on Donald Trump’s first year in the Oval Office, holding one-year anniversary events for the historic Women’s March and drawing up balance sheets of his promises and achievements, Russia has had a rather different issue on the front-burner: a possible war with Ukraine.
The situation in the Donbass region of south-eastern Ukraine has been a feature of Russia’s political talk shows for the past couple years, along with the military campaign in Syria and more recently the stages in the preparation for presidential elections on March 18.
Focus on the Donbass conflict increased in the closing weeks of 2017 as military action on the front lines separating the forces of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk enjoying Russian support from Ukrainian militias and armed forces reached an intensity not seen for more than a year. This is despite the heralded exchange of military prisoners by both sides before New Year’s under talks supervised by the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill.
Then, this past Thursday, came a wholly new development – a draft law passed by the Ukrainian Parliament that could effectively end Kiev’s participation in the conflict resolution process known as the Minsk Accords. Although observers in the United States and Western Europe may have missed it, many Russians believe this development amounts to a declaration of war.
Dmitri Kiselyov, head of all Russian television and radio news services, offered a sober analysis of the emotionally charged development on his Sunday evening news wrap-up today.
According to Kiselyov, the new law, which awaits Poroshenko’s signature, makes preparations for war and includes language indicating a bellicose new approach to the conflict. The mission in Donbass is no longer described as an “anti-terrorist operation.” Rather, the mission now is to send armed forces against “military formations of the Russian Federation” in Donbass.
Military headquarters are established to coordinate the operation to be waged in Donbass. While up until now the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Lugansk were considered under the Minsk Accords as negotiating parties, now there are only “occupation administrations” of the Russian Federation on these territories, with Russia identified as an “aggressor.”
“This makes it all the more convenient for Ukraine to start a war,” Kiselyov says, noting that it could have the added benefit of enabling Ukraine not to pay its foreign debts and to ensure Poroshenko’s continued grip on power.