W.While Russia’s possible attack plans against Ukraine were being discussed at the EU summit, the war of positions in the eastern Ukrainian Donbass region continued unabated. There, in 2014, Russian and pro-Russian fighters established the separatist “People’s Republics” DNR and LNR in the areas around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, which recently have leaned even more closely than before on their protective power, Russia.
They also have armed forces. According to information from foreign experts, such as the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, they have a total of 34,000 men. Equipment includes tanks, armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery, and armor-piercing and anti-aircraft weapons.
“Units of the Russian Armed Forces in DNR and LNR”
According to a widespread opinion, a four-digit number of regular Russian soldiers and secret service people have stayed in the People’s Republics in recent years. Moscow denies this or does not provide any information. However, this week, once again, an ounce of truth came to light. A court in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia sentenced a man to five and a half years in prison for participating in a bribe.
A representative of the Russian military in the region was bribed in 2018 and 2019 with the equivalent of around 12,000 euros. The bribe payers wanted to secure the order for the delivery of supplies to the “units of the Russian armed forces in DNR and LNR”. According to the court, 1,300 tons of goods were delivered to the Russian troops in eastern Ukraine every two weeks.
American-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported the case on Thursday and released a copy of the verdict. A little later, the document disappeared from the website of the court, which stated that it had only reproduced the defendant’s statements. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “It is probably a mistake by those who wrote this text. Because that is impossible. ”There are no Russian troops in DNR and LNR, nor have they existed. On the other hand, “humanitarian aid” is urgently needed there and delivered regularly.
OSCE drones hampered by electronic signals
The only institution that can gain insight into the opaque People’s Republics as well as into the whole of Ukraine is the OSCE. It has been present across the country since 2014 with several hundred unarmed observers. However, her work is made increasingly difficult by the fighters in Donbass: In her latest daily report from Wednesday evening she noted that “at three checkpoints of the armed formations” – as it is now almost every day – the vehicles of their observers were stopped or prevented from continuing . The units of the fighters are called formations. The official reason was “target practice” or the lack of appropriate “permits”.
OSCE observation drones were also hindered by electronic signals, the cause being probably jammers. Once there was gunfire in the direction of a drone. As every day, there have been ceasefire violations, this time 548 cases, including everything from rifle and artillery fire to explosions. The freedom of movement of the civilian population in the region is even more restricted, partly with reference to the pandemic: in 2021, entries and exits into and out of the DNR fell by 99 percent by September compared to 2019.
This has serious social and economic consequences for many people. In view of the faltering Donbass peace process, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj offered “to negotiate with Russia in every conceivable format” this week in Brussels. He hoped that Moscow would also have an interest in “ending the war”.
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