Poroshenko had a rough time

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The Ukrainian President proposed to consider peacemakers’ entering.

The battle at Debaltsevo resulted in Ukrainian troops’ defeat, but according to an announcement from Kyiv they left the region with arms and equipment. Petro Poroshenko blamed Moscow for breaking the Minsk agreements, Western countries supported his thought. Now the key question is whether Russia is to expect new sanctions.

On Tuesday evening the Ukrainian leader arrived in Artemivsk, a big city that is close to the separatists’ zone and that is under control of the Ukrainian armed forces. According to the information of the President’s official site, Artemivsk was the place where Debaltsevo’s troops were regrouped.

“I’m proud and happy to be the Supreme Commander of such armed forces. You fought to the end, holding ground at Debaltsevo. We protect our territories and I thank everyone for courage and heroism,” stated the President.

In Artemivsk Poroshenko rewarded Stepan Shaptala (the Commander of the 128th Mukacheve Infantry Brigade) with the title of National Hero of Ukraine. Under his command the Ukrainian armed forces got out of the surrounded area at Debaltsevo. It should be mentioned that last summer after the Ukrainian armed forces were surrounded in Ilovaisk Poroshenko visited Mariupol where DPR’s troops stopped the offensive due to the first Minsk agreements.

At that time Kyiv blamed Russia for its military intervention into the conflict on the east of Ukraine (Russia strongly denied it), this time the Ukrainian government states that “the whole world became the witness of Russia’s failure to fulfil its obligations”.

Western mass media spread the pictures on which the Ukrainian armed forces were leaving the region with weapons. As militia men didn’t prevent them from leaving, one can say there was no a blockade at Debaltsevo. It gives Poroshenko some slight reasons to claim the setback was “planned”.

Earlier Alexander Zakharchenko, the DPR’s leader, said his subdivisions would continue fighting “within the republic” and promised that “any attempt to get out of the surrounded area will be stopped”.

Then he suggested the Ukrainian troops to leave the region without weapons and equipment. Vladimir Putin, in his turn, said the Ukrainian army should lay down arms and step back.

All in all the pictures mentioned above doesn’t show us the amount of equipment they took out and doesn’t allow us to think the parties to conflict had an agreement.

Appearingly a breakdown didn’t take place, as there were no any victims. Kyiv announced that 80% of the Ukrainian armed forces had left Debaltsevo, but there was no any confirmation on the side of the self-proclaimed republics. Poroshenko twitted 2,475 soldiers and about 200 weapons had left the region.

It’s evident Kyiv tries to manage its defeat with minimum image’s losses. And Ukraine’s allegations of the Minsk agreements’ violations may be a reason for new sanctions against Russia.

The Minsk agreement didn’t provide statements about Debaltsevo’s future, so western countries and Ukraine insisted there were no any exceptions for the cease-fire in that region. Western mass media supposed it was the key point of disagreements. And now no one knows whether the battle at Debaltsevo is an exception of the long peaceful regulation or it will beget a new confrontation.

“It was evident from the very beginning that Debaltsevo was a thorn in the conflict’s flesh. Ukraine pushed itself into the corner claiming it was not true. So what?” states Fyodor Lukyanov, the Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. He’s sure the situation can’t impede the further conflict management.

“I think Debaltsevo was just an episode that came to an end. From the very beginning it was clear the region would be a problem like the case with Donetsk’s airport. But now the Ukrainian part decided to step back. This decision has to become a starting point in implementing all the agreements”.

Vladislav Belov, the Director of German Studies in Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences, has another point of view: “In any case Russia will be said to be responsible for militia men’s actions. We can only expect the deterioration of the situation and further sanctions against Russia regardless of different parties’ actions at Debaltsevo.

Furthermore, initially the EU planed to impose some additional sanctions and it started accomplishing its plan in the early part of the week. And there arises a question who was an initiator of that pressure at the time where negotiations were conducted. I mean all those telephone calls, etc”.

Amos Hochstein, a special representative and coordinator of international energy projects, claimed the USA was ready to enhance the implementation of sanctions against Russia.

On Wednesday Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, called Russia and the separatists for “an immediate and full implementation” of the Minsk agreements, threatening “to take adequate measures in case of cease-fire breakdown and other violations”. She didn’t provide more details on those measures.

Meanwhile, Petro Poroshenko came back to Kyiv to hold a meeting with members of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine. In the course of the meeting he stated that he had discussed with Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and François Hollande peacekeeping mission initiation in Ukraine.

“I believe it should be the EU Police Mission,” said Poroshenko. Representatives of the self-proclaimed republics spoke about the possibility of peacekeeping mission initiation, before the Minsk negotiations conduct, Moscow had the same inklings. It’s possible they discussed the issue but did not come to an understanding. Moscow would like to involve the UN because missions of other organizations (where Russia is not a member) would exclude Russia’s participation, and such an offer would hardly be taken by militia men.

The tense situation within the country (the actual military defeat) creates new political risks for Poroshenko. However, Ukrainian political analysts think there are no any serious threats to his power.

“Today Ukraine has no another choice. Alexander Turchinov (the current Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine), Arseny Yatsenuyk (the Prime Minister) or battalion commanders can’t replace Poroshenko,” expresses his confidence the Director of the Institute of Global Strategies, Vadim Karasyov.

In his opinion the current President of Ukraine is a win-win for all the external actors (the EU, the US, Russia) and in general he’s quite a favourable partner.

Nevertheless Poroshenko will have to initiate some staff reshuffles, says the Director of the Centre for Political Research, Mykhaylo Pohrebynskyy.

“Probably some of those forced staff reshuffles are not to his liking,” he thinks. For instance, Vladimir Fesenko, the Director of the Penta Centre of applied policy research supposes the defeat at Debaltsevo may be the reason for Viktor Muzhenko’s (Chief of the General Staff) dismissal.

Pohrebynskyy believes Ukraine should keep the peace in such harsh conditions. “We are to keep all the Minsk agreements, because Ukraine wants to end the war. We need a break to obtain arms and strengthen the troops to start negotiations,” he states.

Vadim Karasyov has the same viewpoint, telling that all the parties to conflict are exhausted. That’s why DPR’s and LPR’s representatives will take a time-out that may last half a year.

Ukraine needs this time to make reforms and take out a loan from the International Monetary Fund. “Do we have other alternatives? Military emergency? Neither the society nor the economy is ready for that,” adds Karasyov.

At the moment the Ukrainian government seems to make an attempt to consolidate the society in a patriotic way without any reforms. The investigation against ex-representatives of the Party of Regions formed by Viktor Yanukovich is going on. On Wednesday there was closed a popular TV show “Shuster Live” where a Russian TV journalist Maxim Shevchenko pronounced his speech after which the channel upper management made an apology to the Ukrainians. The Ukrainian State Committee for Cinematography forbade the performance of “Brat-2” (“Brother-2”) movie shot by Alexey Balabanov.

Text and pictures by GAZET