Tuesday 25 April 2017 | 03:51

Vladimir Fesenko: If Russia was looking for an excuse, the war with Ukraine would have already begun

16.08.2016  |  In the World   |  Aliaksei Jurych,  EuroBelarus
Vladimir Fesenko: If Russia was looking for an excuse, the war with Ukraine would have already begun

Ukraine doesn’t want to force a conflict; Kyiv and the West will most likely try to neutralize the current aggravation of Russian-Ukrainian relations.

On August 10 the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has said it prevented terrorist attacks in Crimea prepared by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s main intelligence directorate.

"The Russian Federal Security Service prevented terrorist attacks in the Republic of Crimea prepared by the main intelligence directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Their planned target was critically important infrastructure," the FSB said on its website, adding that the purpose of the planned attacks was "to destabilize the socio-political situation in the region as preparations for elections of federal and regional authorities are underway."

The Russian Federal Security Service added that "an intelligence network of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s main intelligence directorate has been eliminated thanks to measures taken on the Crimean Peninsula."

According to TASS, the investigative department of the Russian Federal Security Service in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol initiated criminal proceedings on the basis of the evidence gathered during the investigative activities.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has refuted the statement of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on eliminating the Ukrainian intelligence network that was preparing terrorist attacks in Crimea.

"Such statements by the FSB are nothing else but an attempt to justify the redeployment and aggressive actions of the Russian military units," the ministry said in a statement.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces has repudiated the statement of the Russian Federal Security Service. "Any statements of this kind are provocative," stated Vladislav Seleznyov, a spokesman for the General Staff.

"Ukraine condemns all the manifestations and forms of terrorisms and, quite naturally, it rejects the practice of using any terrorist measures as instruments of de-occupation of Crime," Ukraine’s President Piotr Poroshenko said in a statement.

"Ukraine is committed to the restoration of its territorial integrity and sovereignty, including the de-occupation of Crimea exclusively in political and diplomatic ways," Poroshenko added.

What has really happened in Crimea? What events have caused such a nervous and belligerent reaction of Russia? And most importantly – what should we expect from Russia next?

The questions of EuroBelarus Information Service answers Vladimir Fesenko, famous Ukrainian political scientist, the Head of the Center for Political Analysis "Penta”.

- There never was an intelligence network of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The FSB report, which appeared on August 10 has at least two false statements. First, the report said that an armed subversive group burst across the border under the cover of fire from the Ukrainian territory. But there is no proof of that! If the Russian territory was fired from Ukraine - all the Russian media would have been reporting it on Sunday. By and large, all of this information isn’t true. There never was a breakthrough on the border.

Moreover, August 10 information appeared in opposition of the Crimean media, citing unnamed sources in the Crimean leadership, that some subversive group crossed the Sivash. As once Makhnovists held at Sivash in Crimea. Events in the Crimea - a large puncture of the Russian special services: border guards, FSB - was therefore followed by a hysterical reaction to the events. No breakthrough on the boundary has happened - this is the first lie.

FSB said about "an intelligence network of the Armed Forces of Ukraine." There is no evidence of that. The only "saboteur" named by the Russian Federal Security Service has no relation to the Ukrainian security services. So this information is also a lie.

- What has really happened in Crimea?

- In Ukraine, there’s one very popular version: a manufactured provocation against Ukraine, almost a preparation of manufactured ground for a war - casus belli. This version is very popular. But Russia was looking for an excuse the war with Ukraine would have already begun by Sunday, while the reaction followed only three days later.

I tend to think that what could have happened is the penetration of some armed group into the territory of Crimea, which certainly consisted of representatives of the Crimean Tatars (it is the Crimean Tatars who have a real social and political network in Crimea). There’s a group of Crimean Tatars on the administrative border with Crimea as well as supporters of right-wing organizations. Perhaps together they decided to make a sortie into the Crimean territory. But it wasn’t a sabotage operation sanctioned or supported by the Ukrainian authorities.

It’s hard to tell whether any attempt of sabotage happened. But if we are talking about the Crimean Tatars, then the sortie can be considered an act of guerrilla war, not terrorism: we are talking about people who are now subjected to repression. Many activists of the Crimean Tatars are arrested; some people have died under mysterious circumstances. Of course, violence causes retaliation. Among the refugees who left Crimea for Ukraine, there are hawkish people who want to fight. I don’t justify them; I’m stating a fact.

- What should we expect from Russia now?

- One of the most popular versions in Ukraine, which caused a storm of emotions and anxiety, is that the events in the Crimea could become an excuse for an attack on the part of Russia. Moreover, the Russian side made very emotional statements. However, an attack on the part of Russia has been discussed since the end of July; but no attack happened. By the way, from the beginning of July separatists have been discussing the possibility of such actions on the part of Ukraine, too.

I don’t think that anyone is considering an attack. If Russia were looking for an excuse, the war with Ukraine would already have begun.

I don’t rule out another scenario - an attempt of a local offensive against the camps of the Crimean Tatars, radical right-wing organizations in Ukraine, which are located in the Kherson region. But then there is a risk of collision of Russian and Ukrainian military forces: after all, it is the territory of Ukraine. And God only knows what could such a chain reaction end up in. There is a bunch of other options, too.

The question arises, whether Putin is interested in large-scale military actions against Ukraine? I rather think he is not. Over the last year and a half Putin has been actively negotiating with the West – for example, he proposed a joint anti-terrorist coalition (by the way, it is very significant that he accused Ukraine of terrorism – he is playing on a very sensitive topic for the West). If active military operations against Ukraine start, he will break the entire game. The game is aimed at lifting sanctions from Russia and on finding a pragmatic compromise with the West. Who would agree to remove sanctions in case of a new conflict, especially on the Ukrainian territory? Rather a new round of confrontation comes instead.

- Vladimir Putin called the meeting of the "Normandy four" on the peaceful settlement of conflict in Donbas “meaningless” after reports about the detention of the "saboteurs" in Crimea...

- I think that Putin simply took advantage of the situation and decided to exclude Poroshenko from the talks: if the Ukrainian president participated in the talks of the "Normandy four", he would also be invited to the summit of "Big Twenty”. Putin used a good reason to exclude Poroshenko from negotiations where both Donbas and Crimea will be discussed. The format "without Poroshenko" is more favorable to Putin. Thus, taking into account all the circumstances and Putin's statements the conflict is more likely to take the political and diplomatic turn. Putin’s goal is to jeopardize Ukraine, accusing it of terrorism and even isolate Ukraine politically and economically in the end.

But, the West is unlikely to believe in a version about the "terrorist acts." Judging by yesterday's statement of the US State Department, the West would react reservedly. I think there won’t believe the Putin's version, but carefully analyze the situation and get clarification from the Ukrainian authorities instead. Most likely, the West will take every effort to prevent a new escalation of tension, now on the border with Crimea.

Ukraine doesn’t want to force the conflict now, so Kyiv and the West will most likely try to neutralize the current aggravation of Russian-Ukrainian relations.

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