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MOSCOW, January 19. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s inability to make up his mind whether to opt for an escalation of combat operations in the south-east of the country or the search for settling the crisis by peaceful means is a sure sign of how dependent he is and how strong the external pressures on him are, the president of the International Centre for Geopolitical Problems, Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, retired, has told TASS in an interview.
Last weekend Kiev launched a massive offensive against the positions under the control of the Donetsk People’s Republic militias. The Donetsk Republic’s Defense Ministry says the Ukrainian military carried out 50 massive artillery bombardments of Donetsk. Fierce fighting for the militias-controlled Donetsk airport lasted throughout January 18.
According to Russian presidential press-secretary Dmitry Peskov Kiev on January 15 dismissed President Vladimir Putin’s proposal addressed to both parties involved in the conflict - the Ukrainian forces and Donbas militias - for taking urgent steps to put an end to mutual bombardments and immediately withdraw heavy armaments in compliance with the Minsk Memorandum. On Monday, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry came out for signing a timetable for the implementation of the Minsk Accords and for enforcing ceasefire as of January 19.
“The inconsistency displayed by the Kiev authorities and Petro Poroshenko in person is a sure sign the Ukrainian president is a dependent figure. He is exposed to heavy pressure from the US Administration, to which he has promised to clear the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of militias. It is not accidental that the United States had plans for shale gas development in the territory of Donbas, and son of US Vice-President Joe Biden was going to start his own company there,” Ivashov said.
“Under Washington’s scheme by launching another Ukrainian army offensive against militias in Donbas Poroshenko was expected to provoke Kremlin to retaliate, to lure Russia into a war with the European Union. Besides, there is the so-called 'party of war' that has been pushing the Ukrainian president towards an escalation of combat operations - the head of the National Security and Defense Council, Oleksandr Turchynov, the Dnepropetrovsk Region’s governor, Igor Kolomoisky, Right Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh, chairman of the Radical Party Oleg Lyashko and others. None of them is eager to fight a war, but all have been pushing the supreme commander-in-chief towards a continuation of hostilities,” Ivashov said.
“The two weeks of truce have changed the balance of force between Donbas and Ukraine in Kiev’s favor. Poroshenko used the January 13 provocation that looked like an artillery attack against a passenger bus near the town of Volnovakha and the death of twelve civilians there to accuse the militias of a terrorist attack against civilians and on that pretext to try to regain control of the Donetsk Airport. But the January 18 attempt to storm the airport ended in failure, and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry came out with a proposal for a ceasefire starting from January 19.
“The air gate of the Donetsk airport is currently useless. The fighting has razed it to the ground, and its restoration will require years and hundreds of millions of dollars. But at the same time it is a strategic stronghold, from where the Ukrainian military can shell Donetsk and nearby communities. As for the Donetsk Republic’s militias, they can use the airport for offensive operations to defend Donetsk, force the Ukrainian artillery pieces and rocket launchers leave their positions close to the residential areas, and to straighten the frontline. This explains the ferocity of the fighting for the airport,” Ivashov believes.
“I believe that the yet another ‘peace initiative’ the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry came up with on January 19 indicates Kiev was able to see for itself the operation to storm the Donetsk airport had been poorly prepared, so it decided to backtrack to take a pause. It is merely one in a series of ploys to build up forces to keep fighting,” the analyst said.
“Poroshenko feels that the European Union is in no hurry to provide financial assistance, let alone military support. On the other hand, the fourth wave of mobilization the Ukrainian president declared just recently has drawn protests from the population and triggered the exodus of draft-age men. Poroshenko is in no mood of being dragged into a full-scale war, because the Ukrainian army would surely sustain heavy losses,” Ivashov said.
“The Ukrainian president's chair is wobbly. Poroshenko’s steps are very inconsistent. He has alternately tried to deal with the situation from position of strength and by political means. All of Kiev’s previous attempts at a military solution have failed,” the military analyst said.
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