Interview: Russia uses OSCE to achieve its goals in Transnistria and Donbas
The Russian hybrid war against Ukraine, Moscow's plans on Donbas and chaos that may follow are the topics of an interview given by Mikhailo Samus, expert at the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament in Kiev, to Deschide.MD news portal.
— Mr. Samus, Putin decreed in 2015 that any foreigner who does not have problems with the law, can become a mercenary in the Russian Army. What is meant by "does not have problems with the law"?
— First of all, if we talk about Donbas separatists who fought against Ukraine and then passed in the Russian Army, on contract basis, I do not think anyone asked any criminal record. They have recommendations from their military superior commanders. If that man does not appear in the judiciary database in Russia, then it can be a mercenary with no problem.
— However, if I am a citizen of Moldova and I want to become a mercenary in the Russian Army, do I need a document certifying that I am not prosecuted in Moldova?
— Yes, maybe you need a criminal record that would be translated into Russian and with a signature.
– Why exactly do you link Putin's decision regarding to mercenary in the Russian Army?
– After signing in Minsk appeared on the question of transfer of military forces from the fire line in a legal framework. The Russians had a serious agency in Donbas battalions that were subordinate to different Russian military entities - GRU or some Cossack formations. It was very difficult to drive all these structures. Motorized units and tanks that came from Russia fought in Debaltsevo, and had, of course, Russian commission. Then the Russians have realized that there was a very clear interaction between the Russian units and the units that were subordinated we do not know to whom, and various Cossacks and Hetmans. These people - who were on their own – could have run any time, they were not reliable. Due to this the Russian army was working on their own near Debaltsevo. The problem to organize these people appeared then. It was decided to work on the principle of the Territorial Army center. An official team was created from officers, commissions and battalions’ commanders. The people that were not a part of any legal structure were attached to this team. In this way the things were regulated on different directions: statistics, leadership, logistics and thus it led to normality. Therefore, the decision on the change of the legislation was taken, so everyone who fought for the realization of the Novorossiya project could have an official status.
— On August 26th, Ukraine and the so-called people’s republics Donetsk and Lugansk came to an agreement on the fire stop in the demarcation area, in order to let the children to go to school. In what way is obeyed this agreement?
— The Minsk format supposes the participation of Russia, Ukraine, OSCE and the officials of the so called People’s Republics. In this format was signed the agreement. It was agreed that both sides would be at least at one km distance. Although, each day a soldier or two dies and several are injured. This is the last month statistics.
— OSCE is pressuring the Moldovan side to accept some concessions towards Transnistria and to offer it a special status within the Republic of Moldova. Is being prepared a precedent for Donbas?
— It is clear, it is the same algorithm. Russia works in Donbas after the Transnistrian model. It is clear that Russia uses the same clichés in order to keep the influence in the region, the control over Ukraine, over Moldova, Moscow simply does not want to allow Ukraine and Moldova to develop faster than Russia. In this sense Russia uses international organizations to achieve its goals: cultural, political, religion. OSCE is one of the tools that Russia uses to achieve its objectives as long as this organization allows this. As long as Russia finances OSCE, it has the possibility to influence it. Because all countries are a part of OSCE, among them are countries that are not supporting the Russian policy, but there are others who are Eurosceptic and are supporting Putin. As long as there are conflicts as Transnistrian one, OSCE will exist as well.
— Good definition!
— Actually, OSCE was created to monitor the Helsinki Protocol, which Russia has violated when revised the borders while the annexation of Crimea. Therefore, was raised the issue to edit this protocol, because the borders started to change.
— Can really the people that live on the territory occupied by the separatists and that come to Ukraine to get their pensions (these pensioner tourists, as they are called), can they change the situation in the auto proclaimed republics? They understand the fact that their situation is worse than before.
—The paradox is in the fact that these people are in the negation stage. They say that what happened in Ukraine is due to the Maidan. They will not ever recognize that on their shoulders came the “Russian world”. If they declare that in Donbas the living is worse, it means they will state that were wrong and stupid and were fooled. No, they say, it is the fault of Maidan! If there was no Maidan, they think they would have a great life with Ianukovici further. Even in the freed cities are people – 30% of them – that await the comeback of the Russian world. They support Russia. Their number is not changing: it is a stable group.
— How different is the approach from Minsk in the Russia case, Ukraine’s one?
— The agreements from Minsk, formally, are very positive documents. It contains traditional ways to solve conflicts applied in the last 10 years worldwide. It is about the ceasefire, withdrawing of the parts from the borderline, period of stabilization, and then, the political settlement of the conflict. However, the document is elaborated so that it does not contain any time algorith, there are no clear deadlines: when these stages must be completed nor written the succession of steps. The Ukrainian side demands that, firstly, to be ceased fire and then armed forces to be removed from the demarcation line, ultimately, to introduce an international armed military troops. The Russian armed forces to be withdrawn from the territory under the regulation of this contingent. All the local military formations are going to be disarmed. A stabilization period would follow, when law and constitutional order would be established. Only after this, we could move to free elections in the region. Russia, on the contrary, requires firstly the beginning of the cease fire, then remove parts of the demarcation line and afterwards, proceed to elections in the region. Ukraine should allow elections there and give a special status to those territories. Only after that, the disarmament, i.e. the withdrawal of Russian military troops from Donbas will start. Everyone realizes that if this scenario is going to be implemented, in Ukraine will appear more regions and minorities to require a special status within Ukraine: Trans Carpathian Russians, Romanians in Chernivtsi, Hungarians in the west, Bulgarians in the south, Poles in the northwest. A plan that will cause chaos!