Defense Minister Valeriy Heletei warns that Ukraine needs to change its strategy in response to Russia’s open military aggression. © ATO press center.
The Sept. 1 trilateral talks in Minsk have so far failed to yield results. Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – a party participating in negotiations and only international player – said the situation is currently all but impossible to resolve.
“We can truly imagine some very dark scenarios now,” OSCE Chairman Didier Burkhalter told a Swiss TV station, adding “the risks of escalation are very, very numerous.”
Ukraine, representatives of the self-proclaimed republics in the country’s east and the OSCE have agreed to meet again on Sept. 5 for the next round of talks. They are set to discuss a potential ceasefire and a prisoner exchange, according to Andrei Purgin, deputy premier of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
But that is about the only agreement this diplomatic effort achieved.
Prior to the meeting of the Contact Group, Russian-supported separatists demanded extensive concessions in exchange for keeping the territory they control nominally within the Ukrainian state.
Separatists announced terms under which they would stay within Ukraine, but with extensive autonomy, Interfax reported.
The representatives of the separatist republics demanded special autonomous status for their republics, for the Russian language and special economic status that would allow them to join the Russian led Customs Union.
Separatists leaders have also demanded amnesty for their fighters, special status for their military units, and the right to appoint judges and prosecutors. Ukraine would be responsible for rebuilding, but have little say in how things would be run.
The terms are highly unappealing to the Ukrainians government, but come at a time when Ukraine is hard pressed to find a diplomatic solution as Ukrainian forces lose ground following pro-Russian forces entering the previously peaceful southern Donetsk Region from Russia and push towards the port city of Mariupol.
“This is an initial stage. It can hardly end with something drastically big,” said Purgin.
In the contact group Ukraine is represented by former president Leonid Kuchma, Russia by its ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, and the OSCE by its chairperson-in-office on Ukraine Heidi Tagliavini. The self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic has its chairman of the Supreme Council Valery Karyakin in Minsk to participate in consultations.
The Minsk talks come as Ukraine accuses Russia of a full-scale invasion. Ukraine’s Defense Minister Valeriy Heletei said that Russia has lost the so-called “hybrid war” with Ukraine, and has opted for a full-scale invasion. He said Ukraine needs to change its military strategy in response to Russia’s move.
“The operation to liberate the east of Ukraine from terrorists is over. We need to urgently build defense from Russia, which is trying to not only strengthen its position on the territories that had been previously occupied by the terrorists, but advance onto new territories,” Heletei wrote on his Facebook page.
Another government official, who spoke to the Kyiv Post on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that Russia has brought between 10,000 to 20,000 troops into Ukraine in the past week.
“The forces that were stationed across the border, they’re now attacking,” he said. According to him it took Ukraine time to realize exactly how many troops Russia had brought in because Ukraine has no satellite intelligence capabilities.
President Petro Poroshenko spent much of the day in meetings about the situation, including with Defense Minister Heletei. His statements about the need for new tactics was issued in conjunction with the National Expert Council on Defense, an advisory body made up of military experts.Kyiv Post+ offers special coverage of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.
Their statement explained how the government’s strategy has to change in response to new challenges, warning that in the short term the situation is bound to get worse. The council said Ukraine needs to create a brand new system of national governance suitable for war time, which would include the Cabinet of Ministers functioning 24/7.
The council said military command has to be concentrated in the hands of army professionals, rather than shared with the State Security Service, as is now the case.
The country should also brace itself for full-scale Russian aggression, and prepare to defend itself, according to the council. That includes the use of military aviation and bombing of military and civil objects across the whole country, not just the east.
“Special attention needs to be paid to prepare for military action, including fighting intelligence and subversive groups of the enemy,” the council said. It also recommended moving back snap parliamentary election.
The council concludes the only way to stop Vladimir Putin’s aggression would be to “strike the aggressor so as to cause high human casualties within his armed forces.”