April 30, 2018 – Fort Russ News –
By Eduard Popov, translated by Jafe Arnold –
On Sunday, April 29th, disturbing news came from the frontline in Donbass. The official spokesman of the People’s Militia of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Major Andrey Marochko, cited intelligence data from Ukraine’s forward positions that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are moving heavy arms and troops up to the frontline.
According to Marochko, a train convoy of four wagons loaded with military vehicles and UAF soldiers arrived at the Kiev-controlled town of Rubezhnoe. Nine infantry fighting vehicles, two Grad multiple rocket launcher systems, and 200 UAF troops were “delivered.” Meanwhile, Marochko also reported, another company of troops from the Ukrainian National Guard’s Poltava battalion has been deployed to the town of Belovodsk.
At the same time, Ukrainian troops have continued to violate the ceasefire in Donbass. On April 26th, the UAF shelled the city of Dokuchaevsk in the Donetsk People’s Republic, killing two civilians and one DPR soldier.
According to my sources on the LPR frontline, UAF logistics infrastructure has been expanded throughout the Ukrainian-controlled Lugansk territories. In particular, military hospitals have been set up, and my sources say that preparatory work on organizing civilian hospitals for receiving wounded has also been noted.
There are no signs of inevitability that full-scale war will break out in Donbass in the coming days, but it cannot be ruled out. By pulling up troops to the frontline and preparing its logistical infrastructure, Ukraine is obviously preparing the preconditions for such.
My opinion remains that Kiev will attack not when it decides that the time is ripe for an offensive, but when the West gives the command. These days, it is becoming increasingly widespread to claim that the Ukrainians might go on the offensive ahead of the World Cup, the inauguration of President Putin, or Victory Day. Indeed, these are suitable political timings, but so were the Russian presidential elections on March 17th, yet there was no attack.
My sources in the military circles of the Lugansk People’s Republic told me in early March that they did not expect a Ukrainian attack ahead of the Russian presidential elections simply because of weather conditions preventing tank movements – whether heavy snow or the water runoffs from melting snow. In their opinion, a Ukrainian offensive would be possible no earlier than late April or May, i.e. now.
Now, as we can see, all the preconditions for a Ukrainian blitzkrieg are ripe or being prepared. Only one conditions, perhaps the most important factor, remains: geopolitics. A UAF offensive on Donbass would inevitably lead to a conflict between Russia and the West. This would be an extremely costly development. Hence why I would refrain from volunteering any unequivocal answer as to whether or not war is around the corner. Rather, we should continue to closely monitor both specific local developments and the larger geopolitical picture.
Eduard Popov is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia, and from 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don and actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass. In addition to being Fort Russ’ guest analyst since June, 2016, Popov is currently the leading research fellow of the Institute of the Russian Abroad and the founding director of the Europe Center for Public and Information Cooperation.