Why I think probability of resumption of full-blown hostilities in E.Ukraine increased substantially

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I have previously held the view that the conflict in E. Ukraine is unlikely to escalate during the summer because I have thought that it won’t be until early fall that Vladimit Putin will finalize his opinion on whether Petro Poroshenkois going to honor one of the key provisions of the Minsk-2 agreement, which requires Ukraine to introduce constitutional reforms (decentralization, etc) by the end of 2015. Now, however, I think large-scale hostilities may resume sooner than that for two reasons:

  1. Negotiations between rebels and Kiev are already in a deadlock (as evidenced by Swiss diplomat Heidi Taglivani’s decision to resign from the post of mediator of talks between rebels and Kiev in a gesture of frustration over both sides’ intransigent negotiating positions, though Kommersant claims she was more unhappy with Kiev’s) as Poroshenko seems to have decided to stall with constitutional reforms (decentralization, etc), even though the latter represent Russia’s key condition for negotiated resolution of the conflict.

  2. EU has already made clear that it will extend sanctions on Russia on June 25-26, 2015, so there is no need to wait until after those dates.

That Poroshenko is unwilling to pursue political changes without pre-conditioning them to re-establishment of control over Ukraine's entire border with Russia is clear from his recent statement. Last week saw Poroshenko reportedly said that Ukraine could not move forward with local elections and other political changes in the east until pro-Russian fighters and their weapons were withdrawn, and control of the border with Russia was restored to Ukraine. Yet, Minsk-2 doesn’t make constitutional reforms conditional on restoration of control over the border. Rather, the agreement says both should take place by the end of 2015:

“Restore full control over the state border by Ukrainian government in the whole conflict zone, which has to start on the first day after the local election and end after the full political regulation (local elections in particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts based on the law of Ukraine and Constitutional reform) by the end of 2015, on the condition of fulfilment of Point 11 – in consultations and in agreement with representatives of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts within the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group.” And Point 11 says: “Constitutional reform in Ukraine, with the new Constitution to come into effect by the end of 2015, the key element of which is decentralization (taking into account peculiarities of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, agreed with representatives of these districts), and also approval of permanent legislation on special status of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in accordance with the measures spelt out in the footnotes, by the end of 2015.”

The longer Poroshenko insists on the aforementioned linkage, the more I would expect the rebels to take Mariupol and Avdiyivka to:

  • Signal to Kiev on Moscow's behald that it is unacceptable to continue stalling implementation of Minsk-2's provisions for constitutional reform, (BTW past couple of weeks have seen Putin and Lavrov take turns recently to publicly remind Poroshenko that Russia is very concerned about Kiev's failure to make progress in decentralization).

  • Increase the viability of the rebel-controlled parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions: Mariupol area accounts for more than 20 percent of Ukrainian steel production and is a sea port. Avdiyivka is home to the coking plant that supplies 40 per cent of coke to Ukraine’s steel industry.


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