EAG Westminster Evening Meeting “Europe’s Forgotten War in Eastern Ukraine”
Speaker: Major-General Borys Kremenetskyi – Defence Attaché, Ukrainian Embassy.
Major-General Borys Kremenetskyi is an experienced Officer who was previously the Ukrainian representative to the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the ceasefire so has direct experience of the war and of the failure so far of international attempts to end the conflict.
Russian Invasion of Ukraine
For over three years a hybrid war has continued in Eastern Ukraine, but it has been largely, and increasingly, ignored by politicians and the media in the rest of Europe. Although described as an ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ by the Ukrainian Government this is a largely conventional war, much of it fought from trenches and with tanks and artillery involved on both sides, but also with more modern innovations including the use of drones for reconnaissance and cyber-warfare.
Unrest started in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, an area also commonly known as ‘the Donbass’, in early 2014 with pro-Russian demonstrations that developed into armed conflict, initially between local separatists and the Ukrainian government, but as government forces regained control the local separatists became increasingly subordinate to Russian direction and dependent on Russian support, and without a ‘stealth invasion’ of Eastern Ukraine by large numbers of Russian troops, often under the guise of ‘volunteers’, the self-declared ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics’ would undoubtedly have collapsed.
Fighting intensified and Russian armoured forces and artillery joined the incursion into Ukraine, bringing to a halt the successful Ukrainian counter-attack. In spite of a series of ceasefires and abortive international attempts at negotiation fighting has continued with only occasional lulls, and thousands of Russian troops remain in Ukraine. Although Ukraine has received some support from NATO countries and some sanctions have been introduced by the USA and the EU against Russia as a result of its invasion, President Putin continues his aggression and there is no sign of Russian forces withdrawing or of the fighting ending. Russia’s other former Soviet or ex-Warsaw Pact neighbours are all too well aware of the situation and of its implications for them, but Western Europe and the USA have recently only shown intermittent and diminishing interest, in spite of Ukraine’s territorial integrity having been guaranteed by the UK and the USA – and ironically by Russia itself – in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.
NATO is not directly involved as Ukraine is not a member, but the war in Ukraine has resulted in NATO’s Eastern European members becoming conscious of their own vulnerability to Russian aggression under the leadership of President Putin, and in some of the rest of NATO realising the urgent need for its revival and for increased defence spending.
Meanwhile, Ukraine fights on largely unnoticed against Putin’s invasion.