Ukraine is once again a war zone. Russian-backed separatists and NATO-backed Ukraine government and militia forces fight it out in the eastern Ukraine town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region. The fighting reportedly tapered-off somewhat since last week, when shelling cut off power and water supplies to tens of thousands of civilians in the surrounding areas.
Unlike previous battles between government and rebel forces in Donetsk, the instigator is beyond dispute. United States state media confirmed it was Kiev violating the Minsk agreement, with Radio Free Europe reporting on a “creeping offensive” by government forces that kicked off the renewed fighting.
The government forces, according to Radio Free Europe, became frustrated by the success of the Minsk agreement and subsequently began the offensive:
[S]ince mid-December Ukraine’s armed forces have edged farther into parts of the gray zone in or near the war-worn cities of Avdiivka, Debaltseve, Dokuchaievsk, Horlivka, and Mariupol, shrinking the space between them and the separatist fighters.
In doing so, the pro-Kyiv troops have sparked bloody clashes with their enemy, which has reportedly made advances of its own — or tried to — in recent weeks.
Last Wednesday, Ukraine Defense Minister Igor Pavlovsky reportedly told Ukraine media, “As of today, despite everything, meter by meter, step by step, whenever possible our boys have been advancing.”
The Minsk agreement, technically known as Minsk II as an earlier agreement signed in Minsk failed to work, was signed in February of 2015. It led to a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons by both sides to create a security zone.
Up until Kiev’s new offensive, Minsk II mostly held—though the agreement also included provisions designed to lead to a political settlement between Kiev and the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. No settlement was ever reached nor is likely to be reached anytime soon.
Regardless of how well the offensive works out, Kiev has good reason to worry about the future. The election of Donald Trump in the United States and the internal fracturing of the European Union does not bode well for the success of a Western-aligned Ukraine.
Ukraine has completely failed to tackle corruption, which has led to numerous resignations of officials from President Petro Poroshenko’s government. Even Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president most committed to countering Russian influence, resigned from a government position last November citing intractable corruption.
Corruption is only half the problem. The other half is a virulent neo-Nazi movement within Ukraine that has both infiltrated the armed forces (with U.S. assistance) and positioned key members in the highest offices of government.
Add to this some very sloppy intrigue in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Ukrainian officials conspired with a Ukrainian-American activist and Democratic National Committee consultant named Alexandra Chalupa to undermine now-President Trump’s election chances by tying Trump and Paul Manafort to corruption in Ukraine.
After Trump’s victory, Kiev began furiously backpedaling and, according to Politico, has hired a GOP-linked lobbying firm on a $50,000 a month contact in hopes of improving relations with the Trump Administration.
Without U.S. and E.U. support, Kiev is going to have a difficult time maintaining an offensive, even a creepy one.