Since its independence in 1991, Ukraine has struggled to shed its Soviet colonial past and the remaining vestiges of Russian domination. It seeks to join Europe and the world of free nations. The Euromaidan's Revolution of Dignity transformed the country by removing a corrupt dictator and bringing to power a government committed to anchoring Ukraine firmly within the Euro-Atlantic community. Russia responded by resorting to war. It officially annexed Crimea, and then de facto invaded portions of eastern Ukraine. Eighteen months later, entire villages and cities have been destroyed, almost 8,000 lives have been lost, and another 30,000 have been wounded. More than 1.5 million internal refugees have been displaced.
"He wants to give it back to us right now. He doesn't need the Donbas," he said in an interview on October 5.
"Unfortunately, he will try to keep Crimea. He announced the occupation as a big historical victory for Russia so now it's impossible to return the Crimea because many Russians would see it as a political defeat."
In an article in Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, Horbulin argues that the main participants in the war have exhausted themselves. The Donbas has become a black hole from which Russia, its creator, cannot escape.
Hybrid war succeeded in Crimea, but it failed in the Donbas. Ukraine's economic blockade of the occupied territories has strained Russia financially. Separatist leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk are incompetent, forcing Moscow to augment its military advisers with administrators. Returning Russian "volunteers" are a problem for Moscow, which has already asked rebels to create a border force to prevent former fighters from coming home to make trouble.
But instead of blaming the omnipresent bogeymen—the oligarchs—let's acknowledge that this view is just too simple to be true. Ukraine's government is often unprepared to kill the beast of underperforming post-Soviet institutions. Parliamentary support of reforms is similarly weak due to internal political rivalries and contradictions within the ruling coalition. The so-called "new professional faces" who got Cabinet posts on the basis of unjustified quotas were neither "new" nor "professional," while civil-society activists—despite their frenzied efforts to advocate change—are often disunited and too inexperienced to replace the government in the strenuous and intellectually demanding process of political reform.
In 1998, Ukraine's main gas importer, Ihor Bakai, stated that "all rich people in Ukraine made their money on Russian gas." The technique was simple. A Ukrainian trader would receive monopoly rights to buy cheap gas from Russia's Gazprom—often financed with Russian credits—then sell it at a much higher price in Ukraine. In return, that trader was supposed to buy Ukraine's rulers to the Kremlin's benefit. After Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, Bakai fled to Russia, but that trade continued.
The announcement also shows that the United States views the current ceasefire in eastern Ukraine—in place since September 1—as an opportunity to help Ukraine upgrade its deterrent military capability. While Ukraine's request for 1,240 Javelin anti-tank missiles has gone unmet, Washington's willingness to move forward with radars sends a clear signal that the US may consider sending lethal weapons should the Minsk II process fail.
Although often frustrated with the Kyiv government, these Ukrainians—despite their affinity for Russian language and culture—do not seek to join the Russian Federation or subordinate themselves to the Kremlin's dictates. Russia's aggression has spurred the opposite of what it intended: it has increased the identification of residents in the east and south with the Ukrainian state.