Global Politics

In Ukraine, Signs of a Truce Unraveling


The wreckage of a Ukrainian armed forces helicopter lies in a field near the small town of Krasnoarmeysk, outside of Slavyansk on June 25, after it was shot down by separatists of the 'Donetsk People's Republic'

Photograph by John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

The wreckage of a Ukrainian armed forces helicopter lies in a field near the small town of Krasnoarmeysk, outside of Slavyansk on June 25, after it was shot down by separatists of the 'Donetsk People's Republic'

The war continues.

A ceasefire proclaimed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has not been honored by the separatists, despite the hopes of policymakers in Moscow and Kiev. Although representatives of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk agreed to a ceasefire, separatists on June 23 shot down a Ukrainian army helicopter near Sloviansk. Ukrainian military checkpoints and border crossings were also fіred on.

After the incident with the helicopter, President Poroshenko said he probably would reverse his decision on a truce. The intent of at least some of the separatists is to keep fighting. “Truce—this is bulls***. There is no peace,” said Pavel Gubarev, one of the separatist leaders of Donetsk.

Gubarev also said he would agree to a truce when the Ukrainian army leaves the territory of “the Donetsk people’s republic.” His impossible demand makes it impossible to make peace in the region. Leonid Kuchma, Viktor Medvedchuk, and Nestor Shufrich, who came to negotiate from the Ukrainian side, haven’t secured the confidence of the separatists. A video filmed in front of the building where the Ukrainians and separatists talked shows a hostile crowd surrounding Kuchma’s car.

The separatists lack a leader who can guarantee that any agreement will actually be implemented. Separatist forces consist of several groups. In the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are groups of mercenaries from Russia, which the self-proclaimed republics can’t control. One of these groups is now in the city of Gorlovka. Its leader’s name is Botsman (Boatswain). He controls the situation in the city and answers to no boss in Ukraine. On his orders, Gorlovka’s official mayor Eugene Klep was arrested and imprisoned in the basement of the police building.

Every day mercenaries and volunteers from Russia continue to infiltrate the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Mercenaries are going to Ukraine to earn money, and their bosses don’t pay them to observe a truce.

When Viktor Medvedchuk and ex-President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma—both friends of Vladimir Putin—decided to take part in negotiations, people thought that peace was finally possible. Now it is clear that Putin can’t control all the separatists. One of the military groups of Donetsk separatists is called the Russian Orthodox Army. They are religious fundamentalists, who believe that they protect Orthodox Christianity from the encroachment of the European devil. They care little about politics.

Almost all the experts and journalists of Ukraine are united in their assessment. It is too early to talk about a truce. The war will continue until the region is free of armed separatists and mercenaries. Otherwise the territory occupied by the separatists may turn into a European Somalia. The major cities of the Donetsk region already are reporting water shortages. Dozens of retail stores and banks don’t work, while small and midsize businesses have almost stopped operating. Reports of missing and dead people from the occupied territory come in every day. Donetsk Mayor Oleksandr Lukyanchenko said at his press conference on June 24 that the crime situation in the city has deteriorated. Despite the pause in antiseparatist operations, 27 people disappeared in Donetsk last week. Forty-seven cars were stolen, 42 of them commandeered by armed men on the road. They said they were taking the cars for the revolution.

Kazansky is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor from eastern Ukraine.

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