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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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The «Russian Donbas» doctrine as a model of the Nazi totalitarian military regime, which can be extended to the entire territory of the Russian Federation and adjacent territories

On January 28, the doctrine of «Russian Donbass» was presented at the so-called «Integration Forum» in Donetsk. This forum, among others, was attended by State Duma deputies and «Russia Today» editor-in-chief Simonyan.

Representatives of the quasi-republics position this document as «the ideological basis of the state policy of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics». The doctrine defines a number of objectives. These are, in particular: the formation of a special view of history, which is based on the ideals and values of «Russian civilization» among the population of the occupied territories of the East of the country; «Promoting the strengthening of Russian national self-awareness, patriotism, pride of the people of Donbas for their homeland (Russia) and responsibility for its future; «Elaboration of the basic guidelines of state policy», which, among other things, will be aimed at «countering modern Nazism and Ukrainian nationalism»; «Attesting of the historical, cultural and socio-economic community of Donbas with Russia»; «Recognition of the spiritual heritage of Donbas as an integral part of Russian culture»; «Return of Donbas as a subject in the sphere of Russian historical space».

In fact, the document is a continuation of the Russification policy of the occupied territories. According to the Eastern Human Rights Group, the doctrine was written in the administration of the President of the Russian Federation, under the leadership of the head of the Department for Cross-Border Cooperation Alexei Filatov, based on Alexander Dugin’s ideas of Eurasianism.

From now on, a new reality will be formed in the occupied territories, which will have nothing to do with the Ukrainian state. Before the occupation of ORDLO, both Russian-language and Ukrainian-language schools functioned in Donetsk and Luhansk, and now all Ukrainian schools have been canceled. Education is carried out in Russian, using Russian textbooks. Today, an artificial «Russian identity» is being created in the occupied territory of Donbas, and one of its main tasks is to form an «enemy image» embodied by Ukraine and everything related to Ukrainian culture on the principle «we are enemies». At the same time, children who were born after the outbreak of hostilities and who have lived all their lives in the paradigm of Russian propaganda are already studying in schools.

One of the tasks of the «Russian Donbas» doctrine is to mobilize the fighting spirit of the militants who are part of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the Land Forces of the Russian Armed Forces fighting in the Donbas and stationed on the territory of quasi-republics. During the ceasefire, the quasi-republics which are often used by Kremlin as an element of pressure on the Ukrainian government, including through escalating the conflict, virtually were loosing the meaning of their existence. Since the fall of 2020, there has been a substantial increase in the number of allegations  in the Russian information space that Ukraine is allegedly preparing for an offensive to return territories under the Karabakh scenario.

Thus, the Kremlin, with the help of its own information resources, promoted the narrative of Ukraine's alleged plans to launch an offensive in the east of the country. As of today, one more agreement on a «complete and comprehensive ceasefire», which entered into force on July 27, 2020, does not actually work. In particular, this was acknowledged by the head of the Ukrainian delegation in the Trilateral Contact Group for the settlement of the situation in Donbas Leonid Kravchuk. «We can no longer pretend it (a truce) does exist. It is necessary to tell the truth, to call white what is white, and black what is black. The Russians are beginning to act defiantly, openly, without hiding their intentions. Therefore, we must be prepared for any unforeseen actions by the aggressor. Russian mercenaries, commanders and Russian weapons are in the ORDLO. We do not know when it can be used, but we must be ready for everything and pay attention to everything that happens», he said. [1]

Obviously, the Russian side clearly outlined its intentions in the January doctrine. Currently, more than half of the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions remains under the control of the Ukrainian authorities, while 7 districts are occupied by Russian troops: Horlivka, Donetsk, Kalmyk, Alchevsk, Dovzhansk, Luhansk and Rovenkiv districts. In the near future, the doctrine defines the goal of «establishing control of the DPR and LPR over all territories of the former Donetsk and Luhansk regions». The document mentions the concept of «Novorossiya» several times, and Ukraine's statehood has been repeatedly questioned.

The Russian side, through its consistent actions, once again proves that it is not interested in resolving the conflict in Donbas. The actual economic integration of the occupied territories into Russian economy, and attempts to give them subjectivity, passportization, and constant violations of the ceasefire regime are now complemented by official ideology. Such actions contradict the Minsk agreements and create additional obstacles to the potential reintegration of Donbas. On February 14, part of Vladimir Putin's conversation with the editors-in-chief of the Russian media was published, during which the Russian president stated that «Russia will not abandon Donbas». Thus, he reaffirmed Russia's intentions to continue the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The growing information aggression through Ukrainian TV channels controlled by pro-Russian forces and strengthening of the position of the pro-Kremlin party «OPFL» in the local authorities of Ukraine against the background of continuing aggression from the Russian Federation, finally forced the Ukrainian leadership to use countermeasures against the positions of the «fifth column». The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy by his signature immediately put into effect the decision of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) «On the application of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions)» - and as a result at the same day, three national channels stopped their broadcasting: 112, News One and ZIK, which were used for open and aggressive propaganda of the values of the aggressor state. Zelensky's step certainly strengthens the security of the state in the information space. However, since Russia's ability to influence the Ukrainian public opinion has significantly diminished, the Ukrainian government should be prepared for the fact Kremlin will change its priorities from information pressure to the military one. Volodymyr Zelensky still hopes to end the conflict in the east of the country through diplomacy. The President's team is currently developing a roadmap for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. This initiative should contribute to the further implementation of the agreements and the settlement of the conflict. However, given the position of Russia, which is currently not interested in a settlement and is ready to pay the price in the form of sanctions for the occupation of ORDLO, the probability that the road map will give the desired result is quite low. The price of aggression for Russia must constantly increase, so much depends on the position of European countries, especially France and Germany. The new hope that the European Union's policy towards Russia will become tougher came after the recent failed meeting between Lavrov and Borrell. However, even after that, the ambassadors of the European Union member states approved the decision on sanctions for Navalny's arrest which included only restricting measures against the heads of four Russian agencies.

The initiatives Zelensky's administration is developing show that the President of Ukraine does not lose hope for the peaceful return of the occupied territories. However, all the projects put forward by Ukraine meet resistance in the form of Kremlin's reluctance to leave Donbas. And this has already been officially confirmed by Vladimir Putin with his statement «Russia will not abandon Donbas». In fact, at he moment, there is process of a deep integration of the occupied territories of Donbas into Russia, as it was in Crimea from the beginning of its occupation by Russian troops in 2014-2015. This «integration» is accompanied by the deepening of economic ties with the Russian regions, Russian passportization, and is now supplemented by the formation of the official ideology of Russian fascism. Thus, in the occupied territories of Donbas, Moscow is building a Nazi model of a totalitarian military regime that can be extended to the entire territory of the Russian Federation and adjacent territories, while cynically accusing Ukraine itself of «fascism».

Under such conditions, wars are not won by diplomacy. There is a high probability that in the near future the Office of the President of Ukraine will have to understand that even reducing the intensity of the conflict and further freezing for a long time is an almost impossible task, not to mention the implementation of the Minsk agreements in the form which would be appropriate for Ukraine. After all, the Minsk agreements were signed after the military victory of the Russian Armed Forces and consolidated their military success. The main task that the leadership of Ukraine should set for the return of Russian-occupied ORDLO territories should be increasing the price for the occupation of Ukrainian territories and strengthening the military of the state to ensure readiness to return the territory by military means.