Article by: Oleksandr Lashchenko
Interview with Mykhailo Samus, military expert, Oleh Zhdanov, military analyst, and Yuriy Kasianov, volunteer and blogger.
Despite the so-called “harvest truce”, there has not been a single day without attacks, gunfire and shelling… The war in the Donbas is ongoing. Four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and one wounded by enemy shelling near Pavlopil on August 6, 2019. Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy replaced the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (Ruslan Khomchak takes over from Viktor Muzhenko-Ed). But, as President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy remains the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. So, how is Zelenskyy “waging war” against Russia in the Donbas?
Oleksandr Lashchenko: Mykhailo Samus, here we have another truce, the so-called “harvest ceasefire”. There have already been over a dozen ceasefires… First, there’s been a withdrawal of troops on both sides in Stanytsia Luhanska. Some success, but minimal. However, bridge reconstruction cannot be started due to enemy shelling, as reported by OSCE observers. And now, four of our soldiers killed in one day! Is there any chance of restoring this truce?
Mykhailo Samus: Ukraine didn’t start this war.Today, Russia continues to dictate conditions on the front lines. Whenever President Zelensky talks about peace, the Kremlin uses it as a trump card to continue its policy on Ukraine, launching new attacks on the Armed Forces of Ukraine, provoking Zelenskyy, and trying to throw him off balance. When Putin is asked at the next Normandy talks what has been achieved, he’ll be able to say that nothing’s working, that Kyiv must start direct negotiations with the “DPR” and “LNR” leaders. As there’s this vacuum period in Ukraine – the transfer of power, the Kremlin has purposely launched targeted operations in our country.
We need to change tactics and operations. We have the instruments; there are ways and means… We need to hit back, launch powerful attacks. Four soldiers killed! I’m convinced that we have the data and coordinates of all the critical or important enemy targets. If four Ukrainian soldiers were killed, we should retaliate and destroy 30-40 Russian mercenaries. We must take the responsibility of explaining to our Western partners that four Frenchmen who die on the frontlines, for example, are more important than the Minsk talks or any other agreements signed by France, the U.S., Israel, Canada, etc.
The situation is extremely difficult for the Ukrainian government. The alternative is to change the format, that is, to abandon the Norman format and involve the participants of the Budapest Memorandum, primarily the United States. We need to work out a motive for Trump to benefit from these negotiations ahead of the presidential election. The U.S. continues to put pressure on Russia, but they have their own interests. The U.S. is currently reformatting its relations with China and the EU, and for them, Russia is nothing more than an instrument in shaping the new world order. Of course, Russians want to be seen as the “second USSR”, a powerful country not to be ignored. The Soviet Union represented 20% of the world’s economy in 1966 (highest point), and only 7.58% of the world’s economy at the time of its collapse. Russia has never been equal to the USSR. Moreover, Donbas and Crimea are regional problems…
The appointment of Volodymyr Kravchenko as Chief of Staff of the Joint Operations is simply an improvement to the army’s management system. This is a normal process – command rotation. But, we have yet to see and understand in what direction the Ukrainian Army is moving and what reforms will be introduced in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
– Oleh Zhdanov, another truce has just been violated in the Donbas? The “DNR” and “LNR” authorities claim that the fault lies solely with the Armed Forces of Ukraine… The enemy is not letting up; they’re pressuring the new Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. It’s been almost three months. What can we expect from Zelenskyy?
Oleh Zhdanov: Nothing’s been done. I don’t understand the Chief of Staff when he says that if shots are fired, it does not violate the truce. We’ve been hearing gunshots from day one. Four of our soldiers were killed recently; men are wounded every day. There can be no truce because we aren’t talking to anyone. We’re talking to ourselves! We stop firing, but what about the other side? And, who is really on the other side?
I don’t see any strategy. What frightens me is that not only does President Zelenskyy not understand the current situation in the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces, but he also has no understanding of what to do next in this war. And look –“Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are” So, the newly-appointed General Khomchak is Mr. Ihor Kolomoisky’s man. And, what about this rotation of military personnel? You forget that they also released General Serhiy Popko, General Viktor Muzhenko’s best friend. They’re just selecting and assigning their own men. But, it’s not based on competitions or qualifications. Zelenskyy just signs the document and nothing else, because he knows absolutely nothing in the military field. By no means do I downplay the professional skills of these newly appointed men; they have experience and skills, including combat experience. But, all the strategic positions should be filled by people who know more and are the best in today’s circumstances. Moreover, where is the strategy for our Armed Forces? Where is the military reform agenda? We’re running around in circles again. It’s been three months!
They’re following the trial and error method. They’re trying to do something, to revive the 2016 model, when Kuchma developed a specific concept – “Let’s stop firing!” There’s only one thing left for us to do… we must abandon the Minsk format. No matter how you look at this format – from top to bottom, from right to left – there’s no escaping the “special status” for the occupied territories. But, the Minsk agreement isn’t a binding legal document for us, as Parliament has not ratified this paper. By the way, the resolution of the UN General Assembly says: “The UN recommends that Ukraine recognize the annexation of Crimea as an armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia, due to the annexation by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”. So, we won’t get anywhere until we acknowledge the fact of war.
– Yuriy Kasyanov, your recently posted the following on Facebook: “The trouble with Zelenskyy is that he’s not a man with a “sovok” mentality*. Andriy Bohdan (recently dismissed as head of the Presidential Administration-Ed) and Dmytro Razukkov (leader of the Servant of the People party-Ed) are not “sovoks” either. But Putin is a “sovok”. He has a well-defined goal – to build “a Greater Russia”. So, there’s no room for peace. Putin’s idea of peace means total capitulation… And it means the end of Zelenskyy’s popularity.” Are you, in fact, predicting Zelenskyy’s downfall?
(*sarcastic and critical reference to people uncritically supporting soviet values or having a soviet mentality-Ed)
Yuriy Kasianov: In 2014, many Ukrainians were ready to fight for their country. Riding on that strong patriotic wave, we could’ve ended the war. Today, the West has imposed the “Minsk peace” on Ukraine, that is, we cannot fight our way to victory; we must negotiate. Zelenskyy was elected in the wake of the same public sentiment – preaching the “Minsk peace policy”. Neither he nor Kolomoisky, and many of our oligarchs who are used to easy money, which is also important to Putin, but it’s not his first priority. In truth, what the Kremlin wants is to restore a “Greater Russia” at any cost!
What’s the solution? It’s very simple. It’s enshrined in Ukraine’s Constitution: any aggressive actions against the country must be countered. Everyone must participate in this war, not just the army. No matter how great Putin’s desire to restore “a Greater Russia”, he understands that this won’t happen via military aggression, but through cunning implantation of the “Russian world” and so-called “brotherly love” between Ukrainians and Russians.