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War in Ukraine, Part 4: The War in Donbas, Eastern Ukraine



Russian backed separatist forces on the frontline with Ukraine from the new [unrecognized] break-away Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.



2014:


2014, April 07: Around 1,500 pro-Russian rebels attend a rally in Donetsk pushing for a Crimean-style referendum on independence from Ukraine. After the rally, separatists stormed the Regional State Administration (RSA) building, demanding a referendum to be incorporated into Russia.

2014, May 12: Donetsk People’s Republic declares its independence from Ukraine.

2014, May 16: (1) Alexander Borodai, a Russian national and member of the Russian State Duma (2021 to present), is appointed as the Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic by the Supreme Council after a declaration of independence from Ukraine. Borodai also claimed to be involved with the Russian annexation of Crimea where he served as a “political strategist”. (2) In another part of the world, the Second Libyan Civil War commences after relations between the UN recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and the House of Representatives (HOR) deteriorate. The powerful Libyan National Army (LNA) under the leadership of Khalifa Haftar, supports the belligerent HOR. Russia provides military support to the LNA in the form of ground-based air defense systems, up to 14 Mig fighter jets, and ground forces under the guise of Wagner Group, a Russian PMC. Other nations that supported the Libyan National Army include Egypt, Israel, the UAE, and France who conducted air strikes against Chadian opponents of the LNA until Italy protested the French activities. Italy, who was heavily invested in Libya’s oil and gas industry since the Gaddafi era, supported the UN recognized Government of National Accord which was also supported by the United States.


The significance of Russia supporting the belligerent Libyan National Army (LNA) during the Second Libyan Civil War is the creation of Wagner Group, a pseudo private military company manned with retired- and serving members of Russian Special Operations Forces to establish a form of plausible deniability about Russia providing ground troops to a belligerent group in Libya. Wagner Group had its origins in Ukraine during the Russian annexation of Crimea, and immediately thereafter Wagner Group ‘military advisors’ appeared in Luhansk supporting pro-Russian separatist Ukrainian forces. The group was founded by Dmitryi Valeryevich Utkin, who had the callsign “Wagner” during his service as a Special Forces commander in the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, GRU, based on his fascination with the German Third Reich, and the music from that era composed by German Richard Wagner. Utkin is often reported as a follower of neo-Nazism and also considered a controversial figure by some in Moscow. Russia’s presence in Libya shortly after it deployed its forces to support Syria was an attempt to promote itself as a ‘maker of peace’ against the West in countries suffering from conflict which Russia conveniently blamed on the West, whereas the West had no party to the main causes for internal conflict.


2014, May 26: Based on the provisional election results, it was clear that Petro Poroshenko was the President-elect, and that he would win the vote. In response he stated that he would continue using the Ukraine armed forces to end the insurgency in eastern Ukraine. He also called for negotiations with Russia in the presence of intermediaries, to which Russia responded that they do not require intermediaries to negotiate a peace plan. As President-elect, he also vowed to return Crimea back to Ukraine.

2014, May 29: Petro Poroshenko is announced as the winner of the post-Ukrainian revolution Presidential elections held after former President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia.


Petro Poroshenko is a wealthy Ukrainian businessman and loyal supporter of former President Viktor Yanukovych, the latter also being the godfather of his two daughters. Poroshenko was also a founding member of Partiia Rehioniv (Party of Regions) alongside Viktor Yanukovych. During his 2014 Presidential election campaign, Poroshenko publicly claimed to be one of the organizers of the Euromaidan protests that occurred between November 2013 to February 2014, having confirmed that he supported the events actively and financially. He also stated that he used the influence of his popular 5 Kanal (Channel 5) television station to facilitate participation in the protests. However, as we study the events that followed since the protests started during November 2013, and we take into consideration Petro Poroshenko’s eventual election as President of Ukraine and how his administration failed to address the continuing Russian expansionism agenda and political interference in Ukraine, we see various indicators that the Euromaidan protests were in fact a product of Russian covert activities for the purpose of creating a public revolt against the Kyiv government which would ‘justify’ Russian forces entering Ukrainian sovereign territory acting as a ‘peacekeeping’ mission with Ukrainian Presidential approval at the time (which Russia obtained when President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Moscow). This aspect about Russian covert operations are also commonly misunderstood (mainly due to the majority Western thinkers being extremely naïve about Russia’s willingness to achieve its strategic objectives at whatever cost), in that any asset in service of the Russian system is in fact just a tool, and also expendable for that purpose. Former President Viktor Yanukovych may have been a loyal Russia supporter, but what he most probably failed to realize was that he was from a Kremlin perspective only as useful for as long as Russia could benefit from his political control (determined by the extent of political control that Russia could exercise through his influence). Would Russia have sacrificed their loyal supporter as head of the Ukraine government by inciting civil unrest? Definitely, for Yanukovych was only of value to Russia until a better opportunity presents itself. Individual sacrifice has always been a major characteristic of the Soviet Union, and still very much relevant in the current Russian political system that still operates along the same principles, but just with different (and somewhat conflicting) terminologies. From an [Russian] strategic-opportunistic perspective, Poroshenko became a means of achieving a strategic objective (political instability) to the benefit of Russia in Ukraine. Poroshenko might not have been as great a Russian asset as was the case with his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, but Russia definitely utilized the opportunity to exploit his influence within the much fragile [anti-Russian] Ukrainian political environment to remain relevant within Ukrainian society. This is the reason why Russia is in fact much more dangerous to the global society than currently perceived, and why current Western politics are within its most fragile state ever.


2014, June 07: Petro Poroshenko is inaugurated by the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) as the President of Ukraine, resuming duties from former President Viktor Yanukovych who was hiding in Russia. During his inauguration speech Poroshenko stated his intent to resolve the situation in eastern Ukraine by calling for earlier elections. He also wished to return Crimea back to Ukraine. He further stated that although he was open to negotiations, he would not be negotiating with “gangsters and killers”. He also stated that he would sign the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement as first step to enabling Ukraine to become an EU member. He also confirmed that he considered Ukrainian as the only state language, but he would also allow for the unhindered development of Russian and all other languages spoken in Ukraine. Immediately after his speech, Poroshenko launched a peace plan for the conflict in eastern Ukraine with the aim of garnering Presidential recognition from Russia, requesting a ceasefire and humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave the area. He warned that he had a “plan B” if the plan was rejected.

2014, June 10: ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), launches its offensive in Mosul, Iraq. This becomes the starting point for ISIS to expanding its caliphate within the region and joining it with its existing caliphate in Syria. As a common strategy, ISIS targets oil production facilities first.

2014, June 15: The United States launched Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria following the Islamic State offensive in Iraq. In addition to sending in combat units into Syrian territory, the US also arms select militant groups in Syria (predominantly Kurdish), to counter the Islamic State expansion in Syria.


Since Turkiye was engaged in an insurgency with Kurdish militants in Turkish territory, the Turkish government opposed the US arming of Kurdish militants in Syria with more advanced weaponry fearing that those weapons would find its way to the Kurdish militants fighting in Turkiye, to include anti-tank weapons. The purpose of the US led multinational force in Syria was to initiate a territorial defeat of the Islamic State in Syria. As US led forces gained Syrian territory from the Islamic State, the Syrian government feared US military expansion to overthrow the al-Assad regime in Damascus, which prompted Bashar al-Assad to request official military assistance from Russia. Russian forces arrived in Damascus on September 30, 2015, under the guise of 'fighting the Islamic State' as not to escalate tensions with the US, considering that the actual reason why Russian forces deployed to Syria was to protect the al-Assad Syrian regime from a possible (and feared) NATO inspired government overthrow.


2014, June 16: Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko starts with the implementation of his ‘administrative decentralization’ plan for Ukraine. His plan was to divide Ukraine into regions with greater authority to manage their own affairs, especially relating to spending of tax revenues. This plan would eventually allow partial self-rule to the separatist regions of the Donbas for 3 years (which worked well in favor of enabling Russian expansionism as a next step within territories they already [illegally] controlled).

2014, June 21: Viktor Medvedchuk is present at the negotiations with the armed separatists of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces to discuss Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko’s proposed peace plan, although no-one was aware on whose behalf he attended. He first claimed to be appointed by acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, which Turchynov immediately denied. He later stated he attended upon request from Petro Poroshenko.

2014, June 24: Both Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) confirm to the OSCE that Viktor Medvedchuk will be their official representative in all negotiations with the Ukraine government.

2014, July 08: Viktor Medvedchuk is withdrawn from further representing the DPR/LPR in peace negotiations.

2014, July 17: Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew members is shot down by surface-to-air missiles over Hrabove, Donetsk Oblast, eastern Ukraine, 40 km from the Russian border. All people on board were killed. The airliner was shot down by a ground-based BUK surface-to-air missile system in service with the Russian backed separatist forces in Donetsk, having originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the Russian Federation.


On the day of the incident, the missile system was transported from Russian territory to a field in the rebel controlled Donetsk region where it targeted the civilian airliner, and immediately after the incident, the launcher system returned to Russia. Based on the investigation conclusion by the Dutch Aviation Safety Board, Russia was responsible for the incident. In Russia, state media outlet RT initially reported the Russian government [disinformation] narrative that the airliner was shot down by Ukraine in an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s. The Russian media outlets later changed its narrative towards blaming the ‘incompetence’ of the separatist forces it supported in Donetsk, although the commanding officer of the unit at the time was in fact a Russian service member, and not a Ukrainian separatist. On November 17, 2022, a Dutch court found Russians Igor Girkin and Sergei Dubinsky guilty of murder and shooting down a plane. Ukrainian separatist, Leonid Kharchenko, from Donetsk was also found guilty. All three men were sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia.

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



Bodies being recovered from the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. Body recovery operations were initially delayed due to obstructions caused by the Russian sponsored separatist forces in control of the area. Initial reports by observers implicated separatist forces engaged in the removal of valuable items from bodies and wreckage as one of the causes for the delays.



2014, July 23: Two Ukraine Air Force fighters are engaged by surface-to-air missiles at an altitude of 17,000 ft close to the area where Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crashed after being hit by a Russian surface-to-air missile a week prior on July 17, 2014. The two Ukrainian Air Force fighters were engaged by ground-based SAM’s from within Russian territory.

2014, July 24: Coalition government of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk collapses after the parliament failed to pass legislation to increase military spending, and to regulate energy matters . Yatsenyuk resigns as Prime Minister after the collapse of the coalition.

2014, July 31: Verkhovna Rada declines Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s resignation after only 16 out of 450 MP’s voted in favor of his resignation.

2014, August 07: Alexander Borodai announces his resignation as Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic. He was replaced as Prime Minister by Ukrainian-born Alexander Zacharchenko as an attempt by Moscow to suppress growing foreign criticism by implying that the Donetsk People’s Republic declaration of independence was in fact a Ukrainian decision, and not a Russian enabled event.

2014, August 25: Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko holds snap elections in the Verhovna Rada (Ukraine Parliament) “to purify the Rada of the mainstay of Viktor Yanukovych]. He further stated that the current MP’s were “direct sponsors and accomplices or at least sympathizers of militant-separatists”.

2014, September 01: American political consultant, Paul Manafort, along with Russian GRU agent, Konstantin Kilimnik, is hired by the Ukrainian oligarchs responsible for financing the Party of Regions (and supporting the Viktor Yanukovych political career), to rebrand the party to Opposition Bloc as a means of gaining entry into government political affairs after former President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia, and his Party of Regions basically became undesirable due to bad publicity and public perceptions.

2014, September 05: The Minsk Protocol, based on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s “15-Point Peace Plan” proposed on June 20, 2014, is signed into effect by all attending parties, including Russia, in Minsk, Belarus.


Vladimir Putin, as President of the Russian Federation, often refers to Ukraine’s failure to abide by the agreed peace plan that constitutes the “Minsk Protocol”. The final text of the protocol adopted by Ukraine, Russia, and the break-away Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, stipulated the following twelve conditions for peace:


1. To ensure an immediate bilateral ceasefire.

2. To ensure the monitoring and verification of the ceasefire by the OSCE.

3. Decentralization of power, including through the adoption of the Ukrainian law "On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts".

4. To ensure the permanent monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian border and verification by the OSCE with the creation of security zones in the border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

5. Immediate release of all hostages and illegally detained persons.

6. A law preventing the prosecution and punishment of people in connection with the events that have taken place in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.

7. To continue the inclusive national dialogue.

8. To take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Donbas.

9. To ensure early local elections in accordance with the Ukrainian law "On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts".

10. To withdraw illegal armed groups and military equipment as well as fighters and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine.

11. To adopt a program of economic recovery and reconstruction for the Donbas region.

12. To provide personal security for participants in the consultations.


However, up until February 24, 2022, Ukraine (much against its will), did abide to these conditions, and the Kyiv government even downplayed much of the growing concerns based on intelligence confirming Russia’s intent to invade Ukraine since January 2022. This is supported by the fact that Russia’s main objective was to occupy Kyiv within 3 days, and then bring in former President (and pro-Russian) Viktor Yanukovych who was already waiting in Minsk, Belarus, when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Within a week after Russia failed to occupy Kyiv, and after suffering heavy combat losses, Vladimir Putin realized that his plan was much unlikely to happen why Russia commenced with a major disinformation campaign blaming a passive NATO for provoking Russia to invade Ukraine. The reality was that Ukraine, who was not prepared for the Russia invasion on February 24, 2022, was in fact more prepared to resist the Russian forces than the whole of NATO combined. The US was well informed of Russia’s intentions, why they warned Kyiv in advance, but in reality all the NATO member nations expected Russia to be successful in its occupation of Ukraine with minimum force. But, much to everyone’s surprise, Ukraine persevered.


2014, September 14: The Party of Regions in Ukraine chooses not to participate in the Ukrainian elections protesting the Donbas’ exclusion from the elections. They do however decide to participate in the parliamentary elections under their new name Opposition Bloc.

2014, September 19: After multiple ceasefire violations by all sides of the original Minsk Protocol, the following additional measures were added to the Minsk Protocol:


1. To ban flights by combat aircraft over the security zone.

2. To withdraw all foreign mercenaries from the conflict zone.

3. To ban offensive operations.

4. To pull heavy weaponry 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) back on each side of the line of contact, creating a 30 kilometer (19 mi) buffer zone.

5. To task the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine with monitoring implementation of Minsk Protocol.


2014, September 30: The Prosecutor General of Ukraine files corruption charges against exiled President Viktor Yanukovych for the use of US$ 22 million of government funds to establish a private telecommunications company.

2014, October 03: Exiled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is granted Russian citizenship by Presidential decree authorized by Vladimir Putin.

2014, October 16: An ammunition depot near the eastern Czech town of Vrbetice explodes under mysterious circumstances. Russian GRU Unit 29155 is implicated for being responsible for the event. The ammunition stockpile belonged to Bulgarian arms dealer Emirian Gebrev, who unit 29155 tried to poison during April and May 2014. The stockpile was suspected by Russia as being destined for Ukraine to counter the rising Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Since Unit 29155 failed to kill Gebrev during May 2014, the operation was changed to target the ammunition depot in October 2014.

2014, November 08: Opposition Bloc (ex-Party of Regions) wins 29 seats in the Ukrainian parliamentary elections.

2014, November 27: Opposition Bloc reaches 40 parliamentary seats in its faction.


2015:


2015, January 21: The Minsk Protocol collapses after irreconcilable ceasefire violations by all sides, following the separatist victory at Donetsk International Airport in defiance of the Minsk Protocol. Both the DPR and LPR breakaway Republics denounced their acceptance of the original protocol, and confirmed that they would not be interested in further ceasefire negotiations. Up until this point, Ukraine was losing more territory to the break-away Republics.

2015, February 12: France and Germany develops a revived peace plan referred to as “Minsk II”. The Franko-German plan was drafted after talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin to counter US efforts to send weapons to Ukraine to counter further Russian aggression. Both France (Hollande) and Germany (Merkel) did not want the US to supply arms to Ukraine. The plan was signed between all parties present, the text of the agreement as follows:


1. Immediate and full ceasefire in particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine and it's strict fulfillment as of 00:00 midnight EET on 15 February 2015.


2. Pull-back of all heavy weapons by both sides to equal distance with the aim of creating a security zone minimum 50 kilometers (31 mi) apart for artillery of 100mm calibre or more, and a security zone of 70 kilometers (43 mi) for multiple rocket launchers (MRLS) and 140 kilometers (87 mi) for MLRS Tornado-S, Uragan, Smerch, and Tochka U tactical missile systems:


for Ukrainian troops, from actual line of contact;

for armed formations of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, from the contact line

in accordance with the Minsk Memorandum as of 19 September 2014


The pull-back of the above-mentioned heavy weapons must start no later than the second day after the start of the ceasefire and finish within 14 days. This process will be assisted by OSCE with the support of the Trilateral Contact Group.


3. Effective monitoring and verification of ceasefire regime and pullout of heavy weapons by OSCE will be provided from the first day of pullout, using all necessary technical means such as satellites, drones, radio-location systems etc.


4. On the first day after the pullout a dialogue is to start on modalities of conducting local elections in accordance with the Ukrainian legislation and the Law of Ukraine "On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts," and also about the future of these districts based on the above-mentioned law. Without delays, but no later than 30 days from the date of signing of this document, a resolution has to be approved by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, indicating the territory which falls under the special regime in accordance with the law "On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts," based in the line set up by the Minsk Memorandum as of 19 September 2014.


5. Provide pardon and amnesty by way of enacting a law that forbids persecution and punishment of persons in relation to events that took place in particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine.


6. Provide release and exchange of all hostages and illegally held persons, based on the principle of "all for all". This process has to end – at the latest – on the fifth day after the pullout (of weapons).


7. Provide safe access, delivery, storage and distribution of humanitarian aid to the needy, based on an international mechanism.


8. Define the modalities of a full restoration of social and economic connections, including social transfers, such as payments of pensions and other payments (income and revenue, timely payment of communal bills, restoration of tax payments within the framework of Ukrainian legal field). With this aim, Ukraine will restore management over the segment of its banking system in the districts affected by the conflict, and possibly, an international mechanism will be established to ease such transactions.


9. Restore control of the state border to the Ukrainian government in the whole conflict zone, which has to start on the first day after the local election and end after the full political regulation (local elections in particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts based on the law of Ukraine and Constitutional reform) by the end of 2015, on the condition of fulfillment of Point 11 – in consultations and in agreement with representatives of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts within the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group.


10. Pullout of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, and also mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under OSCE supervision. Disarmament of all illegal groups.


11. Constitutional reform in Ukraine, with a new constitution to come into effect by the end of 2015, the key element of which is decentralization (taking into account peculiarities of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, agreed with representatives of these districts), and also approval of permanent legislation on the special status of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in accordance with the measures spelt out in the attached footnote, by the end of 2015.


12. Based on the Law of Ukraine "On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts", questions related to local elections will be discussed and agreed upon with representatives of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group. Elections will be held in accordance with relevant OSCE standards and monitored by OSCE/ODIHR.


13. Intensify the work of the Trilateral Contact Group including through the establishment of working groups on the implementation of relevant aspects of the Minsk agreements. They will reflect the composition of the Trilateral Contact Group.


Upon implementation of this revived “Minsk II” agreement, the US criticized the agreement for containing unnecessary complications which in fact only served for Russia’s benefit, and not of equal benefit to Ukraine. The agreement was labelled as an attempt to enable Russia to convert both Donetsk and Luhansk into Russian Republics as a means of influencing Ukrainian national politics to Russia’s favor in the event of reincorporation into a ‘united’ Ukraine. The US also highlighted the fact that Russian Forces were already present on Ukrainian soil, but that fact was not addressed by the new agreement. Up until the February 24, 2022, invasion, Russia maintained military operations in support of the remaining DPR and LPR territories without any repercussions via the OSCE ‘observer group’. During December 2021, Russia actively started its ‘Kyiv violating the Minsk Agreement’ narrative via its network of Western influenced mainstream media outlets. By this time the US also realized that Russia was committed to invading Ukraine and replacing the Kyiv government under leadership of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and consequently the US provided Ukraine with limited arms in the form of man-portable Javelin anti-tank missiles.


2015, April 30: Ukrainian oligarch, Dmytro Firtash, gives evidence at a court session relating to extradition to the United States on bribery and racketeering charges, that he funded Petro Poroshenko’s Presidential election campaign. Firtash was connected to the Kremlin in Russia, and acted as the middleman between Russia and pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. He also acted on behalf of Russian gas company Gazprom. He allegedly obtained this position with the agreement of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian organized crime head Semion Mogilevich.

2015, May 15: Ukraine Petro Poroshenko signs a bill into power starting a 6 months process of removing all symbols resembling any past connections with Communism, to include statues and renaming of streets. Poroshenko states that he considered communist repression and the Holodomor of the Soviet era comparative to “Nazi crimes”.

2015, May 29: Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko invites is friend and former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, to Ukraine to assist with the implementation of reforms. Saakashvili receives Ukrainian citizenship.

2015, May 30: Mikheil Saakashvili, former President of Georgia, is appointed as the Governor of Odessa Regional State Administration a day after receiving Ukraine citizenship from Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko.

2015, May 30: Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko states that he wishes to implement a plan for “de-oligarchization” to rid Ukraine from the influence of oligarchs.

2015, June 05: Viktor Medvedchuk is appointed as the official representative of Ukraine in the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine (Ukraine, Russia, OSCE). As confirmed later during an interview with [former President] Petro Poroshenko during June 2021, Medvedchuk’s appointment occurred upon insistence by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

2015, June 18: Exiled President Viktor Yanukovych is officially removed from his title as President of Ukraine.




To be continued / ...

Last Updated: 28 1200Z January 2023



 

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