January 26, 2018

Russia’s Donbas bait and switch


The Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday [January 18] accused Ukraine of preparing for a new war in the Donbas.

It’s a pretty strange accusation because, well, there’s been an old war going on in the Donbas for nearly four years now. It’s killed more than 10,000 people.

And the only reason it is going on is because Russia instigated it.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement came in response to legislation passed by Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada yesterday, defining the Russian-controlled areas of the Donbas as temporarily occupied territories and calling Russia an aggressor state.

Now reasonable people can certainly differ about the utility of the legislation, which has sparked passionate – and at times violent – debate in Kyiv. But to accuse Ukraine of preparing for war when Russia has been waging war on Ukraine since it seized Crimea and intervened in the Donbas in 2014 pretty much takes us into through-the-looking-glass territory. It’s a bait-and-switch tactic that the Kremlin has long deployed against its neighbors.

You instigate a conflict through proxies, you pretend you’re not involved, you accuse the victim of being the aggressor, and you present yourself as a mediator in a conflict that you, in fact, started.

We’ve seen it in Georgia. We’ve seen it in Moldova. And we’re seeing it in Ukraine.

Ukraine isn’t preparing for a new war in the Donbas. It’s trying to defend itself in an old war that Russia started.

Copyright 2018, RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036; www.rferl.org (see https://www.rferl.org/a/daily-vertical-whitmore-donbas-russia-bait-switch/28984901.html).