Russia’s Huge Donbas Offensive Could Kill Peace Talks

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Russia’s expected offensive in the eastern Donbas region had begun, opening a new phase of the 55-day-old invasion that could be decisive in shaping its end, reports NewsWeek.

Humanitarian and evacuation corridors from besieged areas

The Donbas offensive is bad news for the beleaguered peace negotiations, which have been ongoing since shortly after the invasion began on February 24. Talks recently stalled amid accusations of Russian war crimes in occupied areas, and in expectation of the Donbas offensive which may hand either side additional leverage.

So far, the talks have secured some humanitarian and evacuation corridors from besieged areas like the devastated city of Mariupol on Ukraine’s Azov Sea coast. The new offensive in the east appears to have shuttered even these corridors, which Ukrainian officials say have now been closed for three days.

Distrust has loomed behind the peace talks since their inception. The battle for Donbas—which Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said will be reminiscent of the Second World War—will only further undermine any negotiations.

Ukraine tries to continue the peace talks, but they don’t bring many results now,” Iuliia Mendel, Zelensky’s former press secretary who retains close links with current officials, told Newsweek. “This is the third day when even humanitarian corridors don’t work anymore.”

Up to now there has been nothing seriously promising about the negotiations. Russia is serious only when Moscow sees strength. Its intention to launch the second offensive really brings into question the further necessity of negotiations.”

Denazification of Ukraine

Russia’s initial plan for what it called the “denazification” of Ukraine appears to have been for a lightning offensive to seize key cities and decapitate the Zelensky government in Kyiv.

Its troops’ surprise defeat around the capital has forced Moscow to focus instead on the east, where President Vladimir Putin will hope to seize the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions, split between government and Russia-aligned militia control since 2014.

Any further Russian gains will complicate future peace talks. The status of Crimea and the occupied Donbas—both seized by Russian forces and their allies in 2014—is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the negotiations.

Read more here.

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Source: NewsWeek

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