What will Zakharchenko's death mean for Donbass?
Tens of thousands gathered in Donetsk on Sunday for the funeral of the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, after he was killed in a bombing at a cafe on Friday. Commentators examine the consequences of the attack for the Minsk Protocol and the future of Donbass.
The Minsk peace is history
The death of the separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko also means the end of the Minsk Protocol brokered by Germany and France, Népszava comments:
“Both sides are now pointing fingers at each other again. ... The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after Zakharchenko's death what everyone already knew: that this death will also lead to the suspension of the Minsk peace. He put it like this: the agreement in the Normandy format was no longer possible. Zakharchenko's liquidation had led to a new situation that first needs to be examined. But irrespective of that we couldn't have expected any progress either in the peace process or in Russian-Ukrainian relations. Next spring a new head of state will be elected in Ukraine and no one wants to put anything at risk until that happens.”
Separatist leader stood in Putin's way
Alexander Zakharchenko could have been killed at Putin's behest, internet portal Delfi speculates:
“Putin has gradually come to realise that the football he gave to Trump [at the summit in Helsinki] won't be enough. On the contrary: not only will the US not ease the sanctions, it will make them tougher until they really hurt the Kremlin boss. It would be complicated for Putin to renounce annexed Crimea. ... So the easiest way for him to improve relations with the West would therefore be to adhere to the Minsk Protocol and hand over control of the expensive and hopeless separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk to the international armed forces. Zakharchenko, however, had resolved to oppose the smooth liquidation of the Republic of Donetsk.”
Zakharchenko's death is very timely for Moscow, writes Evenimentul Zilei:
“It allows Russia to take a step back and find another reason to refuse to engage in the discussions and negotiations [about a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine] that it has already rejected for years. ... But worse still will be the general mobilisation in the region and the potential escalation with exchange of fire. Even a general attack is on the cards - now, six months before the presidential election in Ukraine.”
Conflict could be frozen
Diplomat Vasyl Filipchuk outlines in Apostrophe how the situation in eastern Ukraine could develop over the coming weeks:
“Was this really a brilliantly executed special operation by the Ukrainian secret services? If so, we can expect a full resumption of hostilities in the east of the country at the very least. Or was it about internal conflicts in Donetsk, and Moscow felt it had to intervene to 'establish order' in the occupied areas? Or there really is collusion on the step-by-step freezing of the conflict and turning Donbass into an area with an uncertain future.”
West tolerating terrorism in Donbass
Writing in the daily Izvestia political scientist Denis Denissov sees the silence of the international community after the attack as proof of double standards on the conflict in eastern Ukraine:
“With their stance (or rather lack of it) the Western partners of the Ukrainian leadership are demonstrating that terrorist methods are completely acceptable and are not condemned when used in the Donbass conflict. ... And this is not just about an act of terrorism in Donetsk but about the murder of a person whose signature is on the Minsk Protocol. We can well imagine the reaction if someone from the Ukrainian leadership in Kiev had been blown up. Hard sanctions would no doubt have been imposed on the Russian Federation even before the investigations began.”