Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 02.10.2019
Surrender. Capitulation. Abandonment of duty. Betrayal of the nation.
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, ordered the army to withdraw from the battlefront in Donbas. Russia has been at war with Ukraine since February 2014, and today occupies Crimea and part of Donbas. More than five and a half years after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, brave defenders are being told by their top civilian commander to stand down even while Russia’s armed forces continue to attack settlements in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. Putin’s War has already killed more than 13,000 Ukrainians. More will die as Ukrainian towns and villages are left defenceless by Zelenskyy’s order.
Why did Zelenskyy do it? He is weak, easily manipulated, and is eager to win the approval of his friends. He is quick to anger and to make a show of his anger. He is a performer who played the role of President of Ukraine and ‘honest tough guy’ on TV and now he’s playing that role on a different stage. It’s all an act, for he has no discernible heartfelt beliefs – such as love of Ukraine or love of humanity.
Zelenskyy is beholden to Igor Kolomoyskyy to such an extent that he may be consider Kolomoyskyy’s puppet. Kolomoyskyy owns the 1+1 TV channel that aired Zelenskyy’s “Servant of the People” programme. Kolomoyskyy put all his resources (and so did Ukraine’s other oligarchs) behind the anybody-but-Poroshenko Zelenskyy campaign. The media monopoly held by the oligarchs made sure that any information favourable to the legacy of the Revolution of Dignity or to Ukraine’s successful defence from Russia’s invasion never saw the light of day.
What Kolomoyskyy wants (and what Zelenskyy is doing for him) is to take revenge on Poroshenko, on Ukrainian civil society, on reformers, and on anyone who tried to build a normal life in Ukraine on the foundation of the Revolution of Dignity. Immediately, Kolomoyskyy wants to take back control of PrivatBank to use it once again for money-laundering.
Zelenskyy is beholden to Russia. Invader-of-Ukraine Russia used dark money to finance the “Ze!” campaign and put out black propaganda about Poroshenko. The ongoing Russian disinformation campaign was used to overwhelm any correct information about the accomplishments of reformers on the home front and defenders on the battlefront in Ukraine.
What Putin wants is to destroy Ukraine as a sovereign, independent, and democratic state. Immediately, Putin wants to end sanctions which have been placed on Russian individuals and entities that have helped Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in Crimea, Ukraine should have declared war and the West should have helped Ukrainians to drive the foreign invaders out. Instead, Ukrainians were told not to resist militarily. Timid sanctions were put on some unimportant Russians. Russia occupied all of Crimea and began a reign of terror against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian patriots that continues to this day.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine in Donbas. At the time of the Battle of Debaltseve, Putin came up with a scheme to consolidate his territorial gains. This became known as the Minsk Agreement. He got Germany and France to agree to be do-nothing ‘guarantors’ and he got two Russian intelligence/military services false fronts, the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic,” to be recognized as ‘parties to the conflict.’
The Minsk Agreement requires foreign forces (i.e., Russia’s) to leave Donbas; the international border to be returned to Ukrainian control; a ceasefire; a withdrawal of heavy weapons; an all-for-all prisoner exchange; local elections to be held under Ukrainian law and international standards; and other provisions. Aggressor Russia has violated every article of Minsk and has never faced any consequences.
Ukraine respects the Minsk Agreement one-sidedly. The Armed Forces of Ukraine never initiates breaking the ceasefire and only shoots back when the lives of defenders or civilians are in danger. Ukrainians have shown heroic forbearance but have been given no credit for this from Russia-obsessed partner nations.
Short of removing sanctions, Putin got what he wanted with the Minsk Agreement. Crimea was no longer being talked about. Minsk was only about Donbas so Russian propagandists could present the fake news (amplified by the Western press) that Crimea was “annexed” and that Donbas was a “conflict in Ukraine” with “pro-Russian separatists.”
But Putin still wants to get sanctions removed. The Putin regime came up with the “Lavrov Formula” which it presented though its German Useful Idiots as the “Steinmeier Formula.” This bit of Russian slight-of-hand is a masterwork of maskirovka, for now conditions are imposed on defender Ukraine and not on invader Russia. It is Ukraine that is required to withdraw troops and Ukraine that is (somehow) required to hold elections “very soon” in Russian-occupied territory – of Luhansk and Donetsk regions only, not Crimea. How any of this is possible given that Russian armed forces are still attacking Ukrainian troops and holding Ukrainian civilians captive in occupied territory is not spelled out.
At first, Putin couldn’t get sanctions removed because he refused to leave Crimea. By expanding the war to Donbas, Putin got the condition for having sanctions removed to be magically shifted (by Russia-appeasing Germany and France) to “fulfilling the Minsk Agreement.” But because Putin breaks every one of its provisions, the Minsk Agreement didn’t work out as a way to remove sanctions. It was clear to everyone that Russia was breaking Minsk while Ukraine was respecting it, and therefore sanctions would never be lifted.
The Lavrov Formula gives the Putin regime a fresh chance of lifting sanctions by separating them even more from their reason for being in the first place, which is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Before it was invader Russia’s failure to meet conditions that meant sanctions stayed. Now it may be that defender Ukraine’s failure to meet conditions leads to sanctions being removed. This is how far Putin has changed the narrative from its original truth, which is Russia’s unprovoked and illegal war against Ukraine.
At the same time that Putin was pushing the Lavrov Formula through his Useful Idiots in Germany and France, he was pushing the dirt-on-Biden-in-Ukraine fabrication through his Useful Idiot Trump. This dash of maskirovka was cooked up by Russia’s intelligence services and passed to Trump through a number of back channels, notably Rudy Giuliani. Trump jumped at the bait and made the phone call to Zelenskyy that has led to his impeachment.
The consequence for the already-weak Zelenskyy is now he realizes the United States no longer has Ukraine’s back. Pro-Russia Trump was demanding Zelenskyy participate in a Kremlin-inspired conspiracy. The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was fired because she competently represented U.S. policy that Crimea is Ukraine and that Russia should stop waging war in Donbas. U.S. Special Representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who is respected in Ukraine for his no-nonsense approach to the Russian aggressors, resigned.
To begin with, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is not a Ukrainian patriot and he is not a reformer. He is a TV performer with no experience or passion for public service. He is beholden to the oligarch Kolomoyskyy and to the dictator Putin who helped put him where he is today. His personal weakness leads to a profound weakness in the Presidency of Ukraine. This is made worse by the weakness of supposed “friends of Ukraine” – Germany, France, and the United States – where a substantial portion of the political elites are now firm appeasers of Russian aggression.
What is certain is that Russian imperialist aggression against the West will continue. Every weakness will be exploited by the Putin regime. Zelenskyy’s surrender in Donbas will lead to an expansion of Putin’s War in Europe. More death, more injury, more destruction, more misery will come.