Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 11.04.2018
Russia is attacking Ukraine in Donbas with a ferocity not seen since the height of its invasion in 2014-2015. The reason for this escalation of warfare along Russia’s invasion of Europe battlefront is unclear. The heavy bombardments serve no military purpose. The Russian armed forces are not on the offensive and are making no serious attempt to gain ground. Neither is the invading army from Muscovy on the defensive, because the Ukrainian armed forces are one-sidedly observing the so-called ‘Easter ceasefire.’ Russia carried out 64 bombardments against Ukrainian defenders and civilians on April 10. What is going on?
Russia is waging a global war against the West. Several campaigns of Putin’s War have been notable failures for aggressor Russia in recent weeks. Russia attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury, England, on March 4 but was quickly exposed as the perpetrator. Subsequently, the United Kingdom, the United States, Ukraine, and some 20 other countries united to expel Russian spies acting under diplomatic cover. This was a show of unity by the West that the Putin regime was not expecting. Russia reacted by expelling Western diplomats from Russia, but this only had the effect of diminishing Russia’s role in international affairs among civilized nations. Russian state propaganda is spinning conspiracy theories about the nerve agent attack for which Russia is undoubtedly responsible. But the wild lies and crazy misdirections are as ineffective and unpersuasive as the ones put out after Russia shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a BUK missile on 17 July 2014. Moreover, British intelligence services have obtained evidence that Russia is behind the March 4 nerve agent attack that is even more compelling than the evidence obtained that Russia was behind the 1 November 2006 polonium poisoning and assassination of Alexander
Russia’s proxy in Syria, Bashar al-Assad, committed mass murder against his own people with chemical weapons on April 7, in the city of Douma. Western democracies did not ignore this attack, as they have other gas and chemical and nerve agent attacks by the Putin-Assad war machine in Syria. Russia used its illegitimately-held veto in the United Nations Security Council for the 12th time to once again try to further its aggression against the Syrian people. It is likely that a coalition of Western democracies will take some sort of action under the ‘duty to protect’ – sidelining spoiler Russia and the United Nations that it makes irrelevant. The Putin regime is not getting a ‘victory’ in Syria to present to domestic TV audiences though the propaganda channels. Instead, it is caught in a quagmire.
In a belated implementation of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the government of the United States sanctioned seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian government officials, and a state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its subsidiary, a Russian bank. There was an instantaneous shock effect on the Russian economy. The ruble fell in value, precipitously. Share prices of Russian companies, especially aluminum company Rusal, fell on the stock market. Russian oligarchs lost billions of dollars in net worth, and banks that loaned them money are now in jeopardy. The American sanctions have had as great an effect as the 2014 round of sanctions immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine in Crimea.
Putin didn’t get away with a nerve agent attack in Britain, or with aiding and abetting a chemical weapon attack in Syria, and he doesn’t seem to be getting away with attacking democratic institutions in the United States. Looking for a ‘victory’ – anywhere – may be the explanation of why Putin is shelling and shooting at Ukrainians with such vehemence.
On April 10, Russia attacked all along the Donbas battlefront, using weapons that are proscribed by the implementation accords of the Minsk Agreement ceasefires. Breaking the usual pattern of starting shelling after sunset (when OSCE Special Monitoring Mission teams aren’t present), the Russians are firing starting at dawn on April 11. Reports are coming that Russia is shooting barrel artillery and heavy 120-mm mortars. Using ‘human shield’ terrorist tactics, the Russians are firing from residential areas of occupied Donetsk. This is a horrific war crime, and an unprecedented escalation in 2018.
It probably doesn’t mean renewed invasion, but Russia’s escalation of attacks against Ukraine means something. Perhaps Putin feels that his unprovoked aggression against the Ukrainian people is the one thing he will not be punished for by other Western democracies. Given that there has been over four years of appeasement of Russia’s invasion of Europe in Crimea and Donbas, and given the lack of any military help to Ukraine defend Western civilization, Putin may very well be right in this regard.