Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 27.02.2019
Nothing is more important to the Putin regime than the annihilation of Ukraine. The invasion of Crimea, the invasion of Donbas, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and the massive campaign of anti-Ukrainian hate propaganda serve no other purpose.
The Russian military has raised its force levels in occupied Ukrainian Crimea, in occupied Ukrainian Donbas, and in Russian Federation territory adjacent to Ukraine. These troops and armour are not there for defence. The Russians are prepared to launch an offensive against Ukraine and expand their open aggression ongoing in Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine.
Since starting international war against Ukraine in 2014 the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have conducted more and bigger exercises. Exercises like Zapad 2017, Vostok 2018, and a snap drill now underway indicate that the military doctrine of the Russians is offensive in nature. This is the assessment of Viktor Muzhenko, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In a statement made at a meeting of Ukraine’s military leadership on February 26, General Muzhenko said it is especially alarming that the snap drill for Russian reserve troops is being held in Rostov and Voronezh regions which both neighbour Ukraine.
The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, reinforced General Muzhenko’s assessment. “Russia has not given up the attempts to achieve its goals in Ukraine by military means. The aggressor is deploying new military units near our borders, building up the potential for a possible invasion,” he said.
The 8th Combined Arms Army of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation operates two army corps in the parts of Luhansk and Donetsk region that the Russians invaded and occupied beginning in April 2014. The 1st Army Corps (so-called “DPR”) and 2nd Army Corps (so-called “LPR”) are the cannon-fodder in the vanguard of any future Russian offensive against Ukraine that springs from the occupied territories in the east of Ukraine.
A report from the United States Institute of Peace, called “Preventing Violence during Ukraine’s 2019 Elections,” says and Russian military offensive should not be discounted: “Open military aggression by the Kremlin targeting the election process is unlikely but must be anticipated,” reads the report. The Russians have prepared the propaganda ground for aggression: “Moscow could justify expanded military operations by claiming a need to protect ethnic or religious minorities.” Putin has already threatened to ‘protect’ followers of the Moscow Patriarchate church in Ukraine.
The new military offensive against Ukraine may already be underway – in the usual Russian shambolic fashion. The Russian Federation committed an open act of war against Ukraine when it attacked three Ukrainian naval vessels on 25 November 2018. The Russians paused and waited for the West’s reaction. Seeing no meaningful response whatsoever coming from the capitals of Western democracies, the Putin regime believes it has a green light for expanding its war against Ukraine.
Unlike the Russian Federation, Ukraine is a genuine democracy with contested elections. Although they may not control the result of the elections in Ukraine the Russians are trying very hard to exercise undue influence over them. The Putin regime is advocating against any pro-NATO, pro-EU, or pro-Ukrainian independence candidate. The Russians may launch a military offensive against Ukraine as part of interference in the elections, or the offensive may come as a reaction to a result which the Russians don’t like.
A Russian military offensive against Ukraine is prepared. Only Putin knows when it will start.