Pavlo Lodyn, Executive Director of the Center for Political Narratives of Democracy
After suffering significant losses, which are publicly acknowledged to foreign audiences even by Kremlin Speaker Peskov, the Russian army is resorting to reducing the front of active hostilities. The forced withdrawal as a result of the failed offensive from Kyiv and Chernihiv revealed the horrors of war crimes in Bucha, Irpen, Borodyanka and other settlements, which demonstrates the atrocities that the aggressor is ready to commit and is committing on the temporarily occupied territories. Now the official representatives of the enemy declare concentration of forces on “liberation” of Donbas. The possibility of such further plans is noted in the Pentagon and is well understood in the Ukrainian General Staff.
The political background to the potential reformatting of the war front was calls by the leaders of terrorist groups in the Donbas to join russia. However, the relevant committee of the State Duma of the russian federation stated that such a step is still “premature.” Similar wishes were voiced by North Ossetia, where they wanted to hold a “referendum” by April 10, while Abkhazia has so far abandoned such an initiative.
According to Yevgeny Magda, director of the Institute of World Politics, the geopolitical games surrounding the possible accession of Abkhazia or North Ossetia to russia are an attempt to compensate for the failures of the russian army. Compensators for the expansion of Russian territory at the expense of the previously occupied territories of Georgia are coming to the fore, so the passivity of the Georgian authorities is unclear, given the transfer of most of the contingent from the South Caucasus. A similar situation should not be expected in Nagorno-Karabakh. As for the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics”, the occupier set a goal for his puppets to join within the administrative borders of the respective regions of Ukraine. This is the Kremlin’s “victory”, which they plan to “sell” to its own population and use in negotiations with Kyiv. In addition, it is strategically important for Moscow to ensure that water goes to the occupied Crimea. Therefore, russia will not only try to capture the martyr city of Mariupol, but also to reach the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, only after that to start a real negotiation process. At present, russia’s negotiating position is weak, it needs at least some military success in the so-called “special military operation.”
There is no unequivocal reaction to the full-scale russian invasion of occupied Transnistria. Despite the presence on its territory of a permanent group of russian troops (and the Transnistrian army itself is under russian command), neither in 2014 nor now they do not seem to want to be involved in the war in Ukraine. The local leadership, which in addition to russian influence is controlled by the local Sheriff’s Holding, wants to maintain its status quo in the “gray zone” with all the peculiarities of political and economic life. In fact, the successful resistance of the Ukrainian armed forces, which prevents the occupier from advancing in the south in particular, is today a safeguard that allows residents of the occupied region of Moldova (and with it – the entire neighboring country) not to be involved in bloody confrontation started in Ukraine.
The russian media point out that the authorities managed to repeat the so-called “Crimean consensus” of 2014. This is demonstrated by the current sociological ratings of putin and his political forces. It is possible that such a carte blanche can be used in the Kremlin, where, despite the initial failure of its own army, they still dream of imperial ambitions, spreading this propaganda frenzy among the population. Russian law allows the president to initiate a referendum on international treaties, which could be used for the more ambitious goal of proclaiming a new Union State (especially this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Soviet Union). Its potential outlines could include quasi-republics that were formed during decades on the former Soviet Union territory and Belarus, which russia is trying to absorb. However, there is one significant obstacle to this – the resistance of the Ukrainian army and the entire Ukrainian people. Resistance, which may be the last nail in the coffin of the sub-empire.