Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 25.01.2018
Putin turns on and off the war in Donbas like flipping a light switch. The Russian Federation completely controls soldiers in eastern Ukraine who are fighting against the Ukrainian armed forces. Russia is invading Ukraine, and command and control of the invasion army is in Moscow.
When the world is not paying attention – which is most of the time – Russian occupation forces in eastern Ukraine shell defenders and civilians relentlessly. Russia violates the ceasefires of the Minsk Agreements all the time. But when prominent international visitors come to Ukraine, Putin is able to stop the shelling and the shooting on command.
United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, Kurt Volker, made a brief visit to Ukraine. On January 23 he met with President Petro Poroshenko and with other officials. In comments to the press afterwards, Mr. Volker stated that a lack of political will in Moscow was thwarting peace in Ukraine. The US Special Representative was in Kyiv in advance of an upcoming meeting between Volker and Vladislav Surkov in Dubai. Surkov is a Russian individual sanctioned by the United States, the European Union, Canada, and other countries for his involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and for actions which constitute a grave threat to international peace and security. Putin uses Surkov as a liaison to the Russian occupation administration in Donbas.
When Volker arrived in Kyiv the shooting in Donbas stopped. In its daily briefing to the press, the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine reported no ceasefire violates on January 23 – “for the first time in a long time.” The last previously recorded ceasefire violation by Russia was an attack on Ukrainian defensive positions near the village of Troitske in Luhansk region on the night of January 22. Russian occupation forces fired 12 times from 120 millimetre mortars (a proscribed weapon by the terms of the Minsk ceasefire).
“Russian ceasefire” is an oxymoron, so of course the pause in attacks by Russian occupation forces did not last. The evening of January 24 brought the usual shelling. Reports came in on social media of heavy artillery firing to the north-west of occupied Donetsk city, in the direction of the village of Pisky in free Ukraine.
There is only war in eastern Ukraine when Russia wants there to be war. A Russian army is in the part of Donbas not controlled by the Ukrainian government. That army does not consist of ‘separatists’ or ‘rebels’ and it never did. The Russian army is commanded and controlled by Putin from Moscow. Putin did not want there to be fighting in Donbas while Special Representative Volker was in Kyiv, when there would be some international press attention. When the things returned to the normalcy of the international press completely ignoring Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine, Putin resumed shelling.
Kurt Volker retweeted a tweet, the content of which noted there was no fighting in eastern Ukraine on January 23, and suggested that the presence of the US Special Representative in Kyiv was the reason for it. By retweeting, Mr. Volker is tacitly acknowledging the truth of this suggestion, and sending a diplomatic message to Putin that he knows what is going on.
Also on Twitter, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Mariana Betsa, wrote: “No ceasefire violations in Donbas on 23.01 while K. Volker is in Ukraine. Every step in Donbas is controlled by Ru[ssia], who wants to fool everyone.”
Putin commands the shelling to start and commands the shelling to stop. Moscow has complete control. War in Ukraine is merely an effect. Russia invading Ukraine is the cause. The temporary silence on the battlefront on January 23 proves that this is Putin’s War.