Ukraine war: Russia will not satisfy Donbass

Russian war goals
Russia will not be satisfied with Donbass

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: The occupation of Donbass is an “unconditional priority”

© Uncredited / Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service / AP / DPA

The Russian foreign minister described the invasion of Donbass in eastern Ukraine as an “unconditional priority”. This does not mean that the Kremlin’s other war aims are being pushed into the background.

Is there now an answer to the question that even the most confident of Putin’s defenders has struggled to solve since the start of the war? The Russian aggressive war on Ukraine is entering its 96th day, and the question remains: What does the Russian president want and when will he be satisfied with what? So far, neither the harsh sanctions imposed on his country nor the massive arms deliveries to Ukraine have been able to dissuade the Kremlin ruler from the course of his war or make concessions.

In this regard, an interview given by his foreign minister, in which he described the capture of Donbass in eastern Ukraine as an “unconditional priority”, makes one stand up and take notice. Sergey Lavrov told French broadcaster TF1 that it was about pushing the Ukrainian army and battalions out of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which Moscow recognizes as independent states. The Russian Foreign Ministry published the answers on its website on Sunday.

In doing so, Lavrov declared that the capture of the region was the central goal of the war. Is this really a concession, but rather an indication that Russia may back down from its other intentions in Ukraine?

Gerhard Mangot denied that “Sergei Lavrov’s statement only confirms what was decided a few weeks ago.” “Advances in northern Ukraine around Kyiv had to be thwarted by setbacks, which is why Russia is now focused on the Donbas River in the east of the country,” said the Russian political scientist and expert from the University of Innsbruck. star.

“The invasion of Donbass is the absolute minimum goal of the Russian side”

At the start of the war, Russia formulated three objectives for Central War:

  • Recognition of the annexation of Crimea on the Black Sea as Russian territory
  • Recognition of the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent states
  • Ukraine’s neutrality

However, the Russian campaign was marked by all kinds of setbacks, the offensive was halted, and the troops were forced to retreat in many places. Accordingly, President Putin’s “Victory Day” speech on May 9 was mean. Many observers assumed that Putin’s fanatical history and outlandish numbers could use this historically charged day to promote the war as a success and to escalate it further. Although Putin celebrated his campaign, the war record was not a success story.

“The invasion of Donbass is the absolute minimum objective of the Russian side,” says political scientist Mangot. After all, the alleged genocide of the Russians in the region was one of the main justifications for the war. Even before Russian forces entered, Putin spread a propaganda lie that there was a “genocide” against the Russian-speaking population of eastern Ukraine. “With this kind of war propaganda, Russia is practically obligated to take Donbass,” says Mangot. Russia’s ability to fully capture Luhansk and Donetsk now depends on when new heavy weapons will arrive in Ukraine.

Russia is unlikely to deviate from its other war aims

Losing is not an option for Putin, much to Ukraine’s chagrin: He needs a record that justifies his war—which is already killing thousands of soldiers while the Russian people suffer from sanctions and inflation.

Against this background, Lavrov’s statements that the only priority is the conquest of Donbass should be viewed with suspicion. In the interview, Lavrov said that in other areas of Ukraine where Russia is carrying out a “military operation” – Russia’s euphemism for aggressive war – residents have to decide their own future.

Ukraine war:

“What Lavrov did not say, but also one of the goals of the Russian war: not to give up the occupied territories in the south, that is, Cherson and Zaporizhia, in order to defend the land bridge to Crimea,” Mangot analyzes. This is certainly Russia’s second important war objective.”

The Russian expert says that Lavrov’s statements are “cynical” anyway. Referendums are being prepared in Cherson and occupied parts of Zaporizhia, and their results are certain from the very beginning: that the territories will be annexed to the Russian Federation and become the territory of a Russian state. For now, Donbass cling to the illusion that they will become independent nations.

For weeks we could observe in Cherson how Russia wants to erase the identity of the city and its inhabitants by clearly drawing the next borders after the annexation of Crimea – in the heads, in the prefectures, in the cityscapes, in the administration. The newly appointed pro-Russian officials of Cherson had already expressed their desire to incorporate the region into Russia. There and in the Zaporizhia region, the pro-Moscow authorities began to issue passports after a decree of Putin on the simplification of the granting of Russian citizenship.

Is Putin satisfied with conquering the Donbass? “No, Russia will not give up its other war aims,” ​​says political scientist Mangot. Russia is currently not in a position to make concessions or enter into negotiations. The country is still able to gain military ground. “Negotiations are likely to happen only when both sides do not expect any advantages on the battlefield – and both sides are far from that,” Mangot said. “In general, the positions of Russia and Ukraine are much further apart than they have been since the beginning of the war.”

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