As always it is hard to predict which will be the next step in the DPR/LNR/Novorossiya farce. It may appear that Russia, having started intensifying their warfare in Syria, is trying to tone down the conflict in Donbas.
Representatives of DPR/LPR have informed that they will postpone the planned “elections” until 2016. If the “elections” would have been held (the planned date was October 18), it would have been a big blow to the ceasefire process. There are also reports from Donetsk about lowering of Novorossiya flags, so is there finally a reason to raise some hope?
Well, not yet. The Russians have still a huge arsenal of heavy weapons in the zone, and few officers and special soldiers have gone home. It seems that the process of withdrawing weapons from the front line is going quite well, although OSCE has given disquieting reports of seeing a large number of Russian tanks outside Mariupol.
I can’t see why Putin should give up Donbas as his instrument in creating continuous problems for the West-oriented regime in Kyiv. He wants, of course, the West to lift the sanctions, but if he were to choose, being a torn in the eye of Ukraine would take the first spot. A full implementation of Minsk II means that paragraph 9 – giving back the control of the entire border to Kyiv – must be complied, and if so happens it will be a humiliating defeat for Putin and his gang of brothers. I don’t believe that will happen very soon.
The so-called insurgents, mainly local criminals fighting for the Russians, are now being painted into a corner: 1) they can’t go to Russia – the border is closed for them; 2) they know that they at some point will be confronted by Ukrainian authorities, including the army, and I highly doubt they will be met with any kind of goodwill. Ukraine will have to investigate all the war crimes, killings, torturing and atrocities committed by “separatists” during the last 18 months. So there is a substantial risk that these groups will continue to fight, and this time not for the midget in Kremlin, but for their own lives. If the Russians decide to leave or reduce their presence substantially, they will make sure to eliminate local key persons who may possess incriminating information about Russia’s role in the war.
The only certain thing is that it will take a long time and huge resources to clean up the mess which the Russians have made in the region. Hopefully the process can start soon, but chances for that are, in my opinion, quite small.