IWEP expert comments on the development of the situation in eastern Ukraine

Since the beginning of military activity in the east of Ukraine, the situation around the so-called DNR and LNR has developed so far that it looks much like that of the formation of Transnistria. Russia did not intend to return Crimea to Ukraine in any case, but the DNR and the LNR still looked like bargaining chips in the negotiations between the West and Russia.

In the West and in Ukraine, it is believed that the DNR and the LNR are backed by the Kremlin, and governed by it. Therefore, representatives of these regions have been ignored by the West during the negotiations. Russia, in turn, resolutely denies any assistance to separatist regions in Ukraine, except for humanitarian, and all its  activities are being considered as actions of one of the sides of the civil war, that is, in the Russian interpretation, a purely intra-Ukrainian process. If we look at the position of the DNR and the LNR, their strategy was to show that they are an independent and self-sufficient force which should be considered by Kiev as a party in the negotiations about the future of the Ukrainian state. Initially, Moscow's goal was to consolidate the federal structure of Ukraine, assure its non-inclusion in NATO and the EU, the granting these territories a special status with expanded rights, including rights to determine the status of the Russian language and culture. But as relations crisis between Russia and the West escalated, and the West introduced additional anti-Russian sanctions, despite the fact that no one was going to back down on the Ukrainian question, Russia was toughening its position of and, accordingly, that of the DNR and LNR.

The declaration of the head of the DNR on  the creation of Malorossia is contrary to  the Minsk agreements. In addition, this is beyond the framework of the strategy of forcing Kiev and the West to negotiate on the conditions of the special status the DNR and LNR within Ukraine. Moreover, it is a separatist claim to create a new statehood named “Malorossia” and present an alternative to Ukraine as a carrier of the current form of Ukrainian statehood.

Russia did not support this position at the official level back then, and does not support it now. Therefore, the statement about the creation of Malorossia is interpreted by official Moscow as Zakharchenko's personal initiative. On the one hand, this is a continuation of the trend of  raising the stakes in the game, to force Kiev and the West to compromise. And on the other hand, the tightening of negotiating positions and the seizure of new bases for negotiating from a more convenient position with the new presidential administration in the US, a response by force to the power position of President P. Poroshenko and the forces supporting him in the West.

Such a position is unlikely to affect the US and EU, but one of the likely objectives may be to discredit the current elite groups in the Ukrainian government and their ability to resolve the situation in the eyes of the Ukrainian population and in the eyes of the West.

It is clear that the actions of the initiators of the creation of Malorossia will not be supported in Kazakhstan, since Astana is a supporter of the solution of the crisis at the negotiating table and does not approve unilateral steps that could escalate and disrupt the Minsk agreements.