UA-69458566-1

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Iraq Situation Report: February 13 - 19 2020

By: Brandon Wallace

ISW is assessing the ongoing unrest and its effects on political-security dynamics in Iraq. The Iraq Situation Report (SITREP) map series summarizes key events and likely developments to come. The following SITREP map covers the period February 13 - 19, 2020. 


Key Takeaway: Iran’s proxy network is escalating its anti-U.S. campaign. The proxy network is likely responsible for a rocket attack on February 13 that targeted the same military base in Kirkuk Province where Katai’b Hezbollah killed a U.S. contractor in December 2019. An Iranian proxy leader and U.S.-designated terrorist, Akram al-Kaabi, announced during a speech in Tehran on February 14 that all of the “resistance” has shifted to an offensive phase of anti-U.S. operations. The United States directly intervened in the process of Allawi’s cabinet formation by sending high-level officials to meet or urge competing Iraqi power brokers – Sunni, Kurdish, and Shi’a – to force consensus in support of Allawi’s premiership.

Click below to enlarge image. Click here to download PDF. 


Monday, February 24, 2020

Russia in Review: The Kremlin's Fake De-escalation in Donbas


By: George Barros with Nataliya Bugayova

Key Takeaway: The Kremlin is successfully posturing as a legitimate, impartial mediator for the war in Donbas despite being a belligerent in the conflict. Claims that the Kremlin-initiated peace process is stabilizing the war in Donbas misrepresent the reality of the Kremlin’s actions and objectives. The Kremlin exploited Ukraine’s goodwill withdrawal of troops from portions of the front lines and continues to consolidate control over proxies in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials are advancing Kremlin-initiated peace processes while the Kremlin continues to pursue its objectives of regaining control of Ukraine’s decision-making and removing international constraints on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions.
 
The Ukrainian military and Kremlin-backed forces agreed to vacate three areas in Zolote, Stanitsa Luhanska, and Petrivske along the Donbas front line in 2019. These disengagement points sought to test the feasibility of withdrawals from the entire front line. Both sides completed their withdrawals from the three points by November 11. Russia demanded the Ukrainian withdrawal from the disengagement points as a precondition for peace talks among Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France.[1]

The Kremlin is exploiting the disengagement of Ukrainian troops from portions of the front. Kremlin-controlled forces launched an offensive on Ukrainian positions near a disengagement point in eastern Ukraine on February 18.[2] The attack killed one Ukrainian serviceman, injured at least three, and forced Ukrainian forces to retreat from a forward observation post in the Zolote disengagement area.[3]

Ukrainian officials confirmed the loss of one observation post, but continue to claim that they control all their positions, as they do not define an observation post as a “position.”[4] Testimony from a local Zolote MP and video footage show Kremlin proxies shelling wide sectors, including residential areas, using the same artillery barrage tactics employed at the height of the war in 2015.[5] The February 18 attack is the most significant to occur since the Ukrainian elections in April 2019 because it demonstrates the willingness of the Kremlin’s proxies to abuse disengagement points while Putin ostensibly advances peace processes.[6]

The Kremlin previously attempted to exploit Ukraine’s force disengagement along the front line in Donbas. Kremlin-backed forces executed a false-flag attack on the Petrivske disengagement point on January 26. Russian proxies infiltrated the Petrivske disengagement point and fired upon their own positions with tracers in an area under surveillance by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).[7] This false-flag attack occurred less than three months after Ukraine withdrew its troops and likely aimed to create the impression Ukrainian troops violated the ceasefire inside the disengagement point. The Kremlin may have used this false flag attack to assess Ukraine’s response to such violations to assist planning for future violations.

The Kremlin used the attack in Zolote to shape the information space in advance of talks at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The attack coincided with a UNSC meeting to discuss the Ukraine peace process on February 18. However, the Kremlin requested the February 18 UNSC meeting on February 13.[8] Russia accused Ukraine of “sabotage” in the peace process at the UNSC meeting.[9] The Kremlin likely used the UNSC meeting to pressure Ukraine to grant more concessions, such as disengaging from the full front line.

The Kremlin may have planned the attack in Zolote to coincide with the UNSC meeting. The timing of the attack in relation to the UNSC meeting assisted the Kremlin’s ongoing effort to pressure Ukraine and frame Ukraine as a spoiler of the peace process. Putin’s primary objectives in the renewed peace process are positioning Russia to regain control of Ukraine’s decision-making and removing international constraints on his ambitions.[10] Coordination between the Kremlin’s proxies in Donbas and Russian diplomats at the UN would indicate high-level Kremlin operational planning, but it is impossible to verify this interaction from open-source information. The Kremlin likely either planned the attack in Zolote to coincide with the UNSC meeting, or a Russian proxy commander executed an unauthorized attack and the Kremlin quickly reacted to spin the event to advance the Kremlin’s objectives in Ukraine.

Kremlin-controlled forces continued to inflict the same level of losses on Ukrainian forces while Moscow postured as a peacemaker in Ukraine. The Kremlin has increasingly postured as a legitimate, neutral arbiter in its war in Ukraine over the past six months.[11] Putin claimed that Kremlin-initiated force withdrawals in Donbas, prisoner exchanges with Ukraine, and renewed peace processes in 2019, culminating with talks in Paris on December 9, were an “important step” to de-escalation and that peace talks are “moving in the right direction” on December 10.[12]

Kremlin-controlled forces in eastern Ukraine killed Ukrainian soldiers in Donbas at a higher rate than the yearly average during the past five-month period of disengagements and peace process talks. [13] See Table 1.


Month
Corresponding Political Event
Ukrainian Servicemen KIA
Ukrainian KIA as percentage[15]  
January 2019

3
2.48%
February 2019

8
6.61%
March 2019

8
6.61%
April 2019
Ukrainian presidential elections
15
12.40%
May 2019
Zelensky takes office
9
7.44%
June 2019

8
6.61%
July 2019

14
11.57%
August 2019

8
6.61%
September 2019
The Kremlin renews push for Ukraine to implement the Steinmeier Formula. Kremlin-initiated peace processes resume
13
10.74%
October 2019
Ukraine agrees to the Steinmeier Formula. The Kremlin sets Ukrainian force withdrawal from Zolote and Petrivske as a condition for Normandy Format peace talks
9
7.44%
November 2019
Ukraine completes force withdrawal from Zolote and Petrivske[16]
6
5.00%
December 2019
Normandy Format peace talks in Paris
9
7.44%
January 2020
Kremlin-controlled forces carry out false-flag attack in Petrivske[17]
11
9.09%
Total  Since January 2019

121
100 %
Monthly Average since January 2019

9.31
7.70%
Monthly Average during renewed peace process in September 2019 – January 2020

9.6
7.94%

The Kremlin is expanding control over its proxies in Donbas. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) appointed Vladimir Pashkov as prime minister on February 5.[18] Pashkov is a Russian citizen and the former deputy governor of Russia’s Irkutsk Region. Pashkov’s appointment is another indicator of the Kremlin’s efforts to control the DNR’s governance. The Kremlin has denied having any control over the DNR since the beginning of the war in 2014.[19] However, Moscow has consolidated control over the railway systems of the DNR and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and taken steps to integrate the DNR and LNR’s banking systems with those in Russia.[20]

The Kremlin is increasing Russian administrative capabilities in occupied Donbas by issuing passports to Ukrainians en masse. The Kremlin likely intends to increase Russia’s population with Ukrainian refugees to address Russia’s demographic problems. The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MFA) announced plans on January 29 to simplify the Russian citizenship process for Ukrainians and Belarusians by removing the requirements for in-person meetings and knowledge of the Russian language.[21] The MFA says it granted Russian citizenship to over 220,000 Ukrainians in 2019.[22] The MFA’s decision to simplify the Russian citizenship process for Ukrainians is the latest development in the Kremlin’s ongoing campaign to increase leverage over Ukraine.[23] Russian officials opened a specialized migration center in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don region in April 2019 to facilitate granting Russian passports to Ukrainians in occupied Donbas.[24] The Kremlin is setting conditions to expand, not limit, its control over occupied Donbas, despite the Kremlin’s posturing as a legitimate, impartial mediator.

The Kremlin continues its subversion campaigns against Ukraine concurrently with the peace process.The Kremlin-linked Gamaredon hacking group reportedly increased cyber operations against Ukrainian government and military assets during peace talks involving France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine in December 2019.[25] Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) reported it dismantled a Russian bot farm in Kyiv on January 29.[26] The SBU claims Russian citizens and Kremlin proxies set up this bot farm, operating more than 500 active accounts, to disseminate disinformation on social media networks, instigate protests, attack government officials, and reduce confidence in government institutions.[27]

The Kremlin continues to posture successfully as a peacemaker with both Europe and Ukraine.Putin recently spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the Ukraine peace process. Putin, Merkel, and Macron have praised Kremlin-initiated military withdrawals, prisoner exchanges, and peace talks since September 2019 as progress toward ending the war in Donbas.[28] Macron claimed on December 9 that Ukraine’s three withdrawals from the front line and prisoner swaps with Russia supported efforts to “stabilize the situation” in Donbas and made it possible for the peace process to move forward.[29] Merkel claimed on December 10 that she was "extremely satisfied" with the outcomes of the December 9 meeting.[30] Putin called Macron to discuss the Ukraine peace process on January 3 and claimed both he and Macron gave a positive assessment of the agreements reached in Paris on December 9.[31] The Kremlin claimed Putin and Merkel shared the same positive assessment in a similar phone call on December 16.[32] The Kremlin claimed on November 11 that Merkel agreed with Putin that Donbas should receive special status, a legal provision that could legitimize the Kremlin’s proxies in Ukraine.[33]

The Kremlin changed its Ukraine campaign manager in part to posture for diplomacy. The Kremlin announced that Dmitry Kozak replaced Vladislav Surkov as manager of the Kremlin’s Ukraine campaign on February 11.[34] The Kremlin’s decision to appoint Kozak was likely in part to manage Ukraine’s perceptions. Ukraine’s presidential administration head said he believes Kozak is “more inclined to dialogue” than Surkov.[35] Kozak successfully facilitated the return of the Kremlin’s influence in Moldova under the veneer of diplomatic alignment with the West, a campaign ISW previously analyzed.[36] Kozak also oversaw the construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge connecting Crimea with mainland Russia and a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine in September 2019.[37]

The Kremlin’s objectives in Ukraine likely remain unchanged even though the Kremlin replaced its campaign manager in Ukraine. The Kremlin likely aims to use Kozak’s apparent reputation among the Ukrainian leadership as more pragmatic or reasonable than Surkov to advance Russia’s agenda in the peace process. The Kremlin might also be attempting to replicate Kozak’s success restoring Kremlin influence in Moldova in Ukraine. Putin fired Surkov from Kremlin service on February 18, likely in part because of Surkov’s failure to deliver on campaign goals in Ukraine.[38] 

Ukrainian officials are advancing Kremlin-initiated peace processes despite the Kremlin’s continued pressure. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the February 18 attack near the disengagement point in Zolote as a provocation that would not derail the ongoing peace process.[39]A senior advisor on Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council announced plans to launch a potentially Kremlin-preferable “National Platform for Reconciliation and Unity” on February 19.[40] The rhetoric accompanying the platform indicates a risk that Ukrainian officials may legitimize Kremlin disinformation targeting Ukraine. Rhetoric from the platform’s organizers reiterates Kremlin propaganda tropes about Ukraine that the Kremlin has used to justify its annexation of Crimea and proxy war in Donbas. The platform favorably repeats aspects of Kremlin disinformation on Ukrainian linguistic, cultural, and national identity issues, and, in doing so, promotes larger Kremlin propaganda tropes about Ukraine being a deeply divided nation. Ukrainian officials’ legitimization of Kremlin disinformation used to subvert Ukraine would be an information warfare victory for the Kremlin. Zelensky said on February 11 that he earnestly believes Putin wants to end the war in Donbas.[41] Ukraine’s defense minister confirmed on February 10 that Ukraine is preparing three additional disengagement points in Donbas - despite the Kremlin’s persistent military pressure and the January 26 false-flag attack on the Petrivske disengagement point. [42] Zelensky said the additional force withdrawals “should” occur in March.[43] Ukraine’s defense minister, however, stated that he is against Ukrainian withdrawal from the whole front line.[44]

The Kremlin continues to push its false narrative that Ukraine is derailing the peace process. The Kremlin continues to frame Ukraine as a “spoiler of peace,” despite the Kremlin’s ongoing escalation and pressure campaigns.[45] Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Ukraine of inhibiting the peace process on February 17, claiming that Ukraine refuses to withdraw from the entire front line. This accusation is based on a false premise: Lavrov claimed that Ukraine agreed before the December 9 peace talks to disengage from the entire front line but that Zelensky is now deliberately delaying the force withdrawal by implementing it in a piecemeal manner.[46] Lavrov’s claims are false, however, as there has been no formal agreement to withdraw from the entire front line, and senior Ukrainian officials have explicitly stated their opposition to Russia’s call for such a withdrawal.[47] The Kremlin will continue attempting to portray Ukraine as the spoiler of peace in Donbas, despite Ukraine’s numerous concessions that Russia’s proxies have met with violence and violations of agreements.   

The West should call out the Kremlin’s attempts to manipulate the information space. The Kremlin’s proxies in Donbas are not disengaging in good faith. The Kremlin will likely continue posturing as a peacemaker to sell Russia as a mediator, despite being a belligerent, in the war in Donbas. The Kremlin and its proxies will likely continue violating ceasefires in Donbas and may seek to gain a tactical advantage in Donbas from Ukrainian force withdrawal. The West should not allow the Kremlin to manipulate the information space and advance its version of peace in Ukraine that is actually Ukrainian surrender. The West should counter the Kremlin’s attempts to manage perception by calling out the Kremlin’s disinformation.  




[1] Illia Ponomarenko, “Ukraine military: Disengagement near Petrivske in Donbas completed,” Kyiv Post, November 11, 2019, https://www.kyivpost(.)com/ukraine-politics/ukraine-military-disengagement-near-petrivske-in-donbas-completed.html ; Ivan Apuleev, [“’Zelensky Cannot’: Putin on Force Disengagement in Donbas,”] Gazeta, October 11, 2019, https://www.gazeta(.)ru/politics/2019/10/11_a_12749744.shtml.
[2] “Evening Joint Forces Operation Press Briefing on 02/18/2020,” Joint Forces Operation Facebook Page, February 18, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/pressjfo.news/posts/793317444494207?__tn__=K-R ; [“Since Morning in the Zolote Region an Intensive Battle has been underway with all Types of Weapons, including 152 mm Artillery, 120 mm Mortars (Updated),”] Censor, February 18, 2020, https://censor.net(.)ua/news/3176305/s_utra_v_rayione_zolotogo_idet_intensivnyyi_boyi_s_primeneniem_vseh_vidov_orujiya_vklyuchaya_artilleriyu.
[3] [“Khomchak on the Details of the Battle Near Zolote: A Command was Given to Pull out From the Observation Post – We had to Open Fire with Artillery there,”] Censor, February 18, 2020, https://censor.net(.)ua/news/3176402/homchak_o_podrobnostyah_boya_pod_zolotym_byla_dana_komanda_otoyiti_s_nablyudatelnogo_punkta_prishlos ; Illia Ponomarenko. “Top General: Ukraine Repels Russian-Backed Offensive, Loses Minor Observation Post,” Kyiv Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.kyivpost(.)com/ukraine-politics/top-general-ukraine-repels-russian-backed-offensive-loses-minor-observation-post.html ; “Currently, the battle near the settlements of Novotoshkivske, Orikhove, Krimske, and Khutir Vilniy has ended,” Joint Forces Operation Facebook Page, February 18, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/pressjfo.news/posts/792988247860460 ; [“Since Morning in the Zolote Region an Intensive Battle has been underway with all Types of Weapons, including 152 mm Artillery, 120 mm Mortars (Updated),”] Censor, February 18, 2020, https://censor.net(.)ua/news/3176305/s_utra_v_rayione_zolotogo_idet_intensivnyyi_boyi_s_primeneniem_vseh_vidov_orujiya_vklyuchaya_artilleriyu.
[4] [“Khomchak on the Details of the Battle Near Zolote: A Command was Given to Pull out From the Observation Post – We had to Open Fire with Artillery there,”] Censor, February 18, 2020, https://censor.net(.)ua/news/3176402/homchak_o_podrobnostyah_boya_pod_zolotym_byla_dana_komanda_otoyiti_s_nablyudatelnogo_punkta_prishlos.
[5] [“Militants Covered Ukrainian Positions near Zolote with Artillery, TSN Received Exclusive Shots of the Shelling,”] TSN, February 18, 2020, https://tsn(.)ua/ato/boyoviki-nakrili-artileriyeyu-ukrayinski-poziciyi-bilya-zolotogo-1493190.html.
[6] The Kremlin’s proxies employed 152mm artillery, 120mm mortars, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, grenade launchers, and heavy machine guns. “Evening Joint Forces Operation Press Briefing on 02/18/2020,” Joint Forces Operation Facebook Page, February 18, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/pressjfo.news/posts/793317444494207?__tn__=K-R ; [“Since Morning in the Zolote Region an Intensive Battle has been underway with all Types of Weapons, including 152 mm Artillery, 120 mm Mortars (Updated),”] Censor, February 18, 2020, https://censor.net(.)ua/news/3176305/s_utra_v_rayione_zolotogo_idet_intensivnyyi_boyi_s_primeneniem_vseh_vidov_orujiya_vklyuchaya_artilleriyu.
[7] Petrivske is one of the three withdrawal test sites Ukraine and the Kremlin’s proxies disengaged from in fall 2019 during the lead up to the Normandy Format talk in Paris. The Ukrainian military and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) declared they completed force withdrawal in Petrivske on November 11. Force withdrawal began on November 9. Petrivsk was the last of three withdrawal pilot sites to test the feasibility of a full-scale withdrawal from the front line in Donbas. Illia Ponomarenko, “Russian-Backed Militants Attempt False Flag Operation in Front-Line Disengagement Zone,” Kyiv Post, January 27, 2020, https://www.kyivpost(.)com/ukraine-politics/russian-backed-militants-attempt-false-flag-operation-in-front-line-disengagement-zone.html ; Illia Ponomarenko, “Ukraine military: Disengagement near Petrivske in Donbas completed,” Kyiv Post, November 11, 2019, https://www.kyivpost(.)com/ukraine-politics/ukraine-military-disengagement-near-petrivske-in-donbas-completed.html.
[8] Russia’s Deputy Representative to the UN announced on February 13 Russia would initiate a UNSC meeting on the Minsk agreements for February 18. [“Russia Requested UN Security Council Meeting to Discuss the Minsk Agreements,”] Interfax, February 13, 2020, https://www.interfax(.)ru/world/695134 ; [“The UN Security Council at the Request of the Russian Federation Will Hold a Meeting on February 18 to Analyze the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements,”] TASS, February 12, 2019, https://tass(.)ru/politika/7749221.
[9] [“Many Officials in Kyiv Are Set on Sabotaging Minsk, Nebenzya Announced,”] RIA Novosti, February 18, 2020, https://ria(.)ru/20200218/1564946422.html.
[10] Nataliya Bugayova and George Barros, “The Perils of Talks on Russia's War in Ukraine,” The Institute for the Study of War, December 7, 2019, https://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-perils-of-talks-on-russias-war-in.html.
[11] Nataliya Bugayova and George Barros, “The Perils of Talks on Russia's War in Ukraine,” The Institute for the Study of War, December 7, 2019, https://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-perils-of-talks-on-russias-war-in.html.
[12] [“Exchange of Prisoners and Special Status: What Was Agreed Upon at the Summit in Paris,”] RIA Novosti, December 10, 2019, https://ria(.)ru/20191210/1562189425.html ; [“Joint Press Conference Following the Meeting in the ‘Normandy Format,’”] Kremlin, December 10, 2019, http://kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/62277.
[13] Russian forces and Kremlin proxies killed 121 Ukrainian service members between January 2019 and January 2020. On average, 9.31 Ukrainian service members died in action per month since January 2019. The standard deviation between the months is 3.15 deaths and the monthly percentage standard deviation is 2.60 percent. The months during the Kremlin-initiated peace processes of September – January 2020 contain a total 48 deaths, averaging to 9.6 deaths per month, which is higher than the 13-month average of 9.31 deaths per month. Empirically, in terms of Ukrainian KIA, the months during Ukraine’s force withdrawals and peace talks were not de-escalatory compared to the past 13 months. January 2020 saw higher casualties than October, November, and December 2019, but this is not a statistically significant increase because it falls within the range of one standard deviation from the mean. The Kremlin-preferable narrative that Kremlin-initiated force withdrawals, prisoner exchanges, and peace talks in late 2019 have stabilized the situation in Donbas is empirically untrue. Ukrainian KIA data sources: [“Timeline of Ukrainian Army Losses: January 2020. INFOGRAPHIC,”] Novynarnia, February 3, 2020, https://novynarnia(.)com/2020/02/03/taymlayn-vtrat-sichen-2020-infografika/.
[14] [“Timeline of Ukrainian Army Losses: January 2020. INFOGRAPHIC,”] Novynarnia, February 3, 2020, https://novynarnia(.)com/2020/02/03/taymlayn-vtrat-sichen-2020-infografika/.
[15] Percentages are rounded to the nearest hundredth.
[16] The Ukrainian KIA count dropped in November 2019 when Ukraine was withdrawing from Zolote and Petrivske, likely because Ukraine insisted on a sustained ceasefire to execute their force withdrawal. The Kremlin’s proxies likely de-escalated in November 2019 to meet the minimum conditions needed to achieve the Ukrainian force withdrawal from Zolote and Petrivske. The Kremlin’s proxies resumed previous levels of warfighting after Ukrainian forces finalized their withdrawal from Zolote and Petrivske. “Ukraine Starts Withdrawal of Troops in Rebel East,” Reuters, October 29, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-withdrawal/ukraine-starts-withdrawal-of-troops-in-rebel-east-idUSKBN1X81CI.
[17] Illia Ponomarenko, “Russian-Backed Militants Attempt False Flag Operation in Front-Line Disengagement Zone,” Kyiv Post, January 27, 2020, https://www.kyivpost(.)com/ukraine-politics/russian-backed-militants-attempt-false-flag-operation-in-front-line-disengagement-zone.html.
[18] [A Former Official from Russia who Worked for Kurchenko Took Charge of the ‘Government of the DNR,’”] Strana, February 6, 2020, https://strana(.)ua/news/248392-vladimir-pashkov-novyj-premer-dnr-chto-o-nem-izvestno.html ; [“Former Russian Vice-Governor Appointed by the Kremlin as New “Prime Minister” of the ‘DNR,’”] Ukrainskyi Novinini, February 6, 2020, https://ukranews(.)com/news/682340-novym-premerom-dnr-stal-byvshij-chinovnik-rossii-pashkov.
[19] “Kremlin Says It Has No Part in Russian Citizen Becoming 'Prime Minister' In Ukraine's Separatist Region,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, February 6, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/kremlin-says-has-no-part-in-russian-citizen-becoming-prime-minister-in-ukraine-separatist-region/30420378.html.
[20] Nataliya Bugayova, “Russia in Review: Putin Advances in Ukraine and Its Neighboring States,” The Institute for the Study of War, October 15, 2019,  http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/10/russia-in-review-putin-advances-in.html ; [“Fighters from 'DNR' and 'LNR' Created a New Cross Border Concern,”] Lenta, August 8, 2019, https://lenta((.))ua/boeviki-iz-dnr-i-lnr-sozdali-novyy-transgranichnyy-kontsern-20873/; [“”’DNR’ and ‘LNR’ Combined the Railways in the Concern ‘Railways of Donbass,’”] Antikor, August 19, 2019, https://antikor(.)com.ua/articles/320311-dnr_i_lnr_objedinili_heleznye_dorogi_v_kontsern_heleznye_dorogi_donbassa ; [“The Russian Federation is Preparing Occupied Donbas’ Banking System for Integration – InformNapalm,”] Gordon, August 21, 2019, https://gordonua(.)com/news/war/rf-gotovit-bankovskuyu-sistemu-okkupirovannogo-donbassa-k-integracii-informnapalm-1210939.html.
[21] [“The Procedure for Obtaining Russian Citizenship Will be Simplified for Ukrainians and Belarusians,”] Interfax, January 29, 2020, https://www.interfax(.)ru/russia/693163.
[22] [“The Ministry of Internal Affairs Named the Number of Residents of the DNR and LNR who Received Russian Citizenship,”] Izvestia, January 28, 2020, https://iz(.)ru/969213/2020-01-28/v-mvd-nazvali-chislo-poluchivshikh-rossiiskoe-grazhdanstvo-zhitelei-dnr-i-lnr.
[23] Mason Clark and Nataliya Bugayova, “Russia in Review: May 9 - 13, 2019,” The Institute for the Study of War, May 14, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/05/russia-in-review-may-9-13-2019.html.
[24] “First Center for Issuing Russian Passports to Luhansk Residents Opened in Rostov Region,” 112 Ukraine, April 29, 2019, https://112(.)international/politics/first-center-for-issuing-russian-passports-to-luhansk-residents-opened-in-rostov-region-39302.html.
[25] The California-based SentinelLabs intelligence and malware analysis organization published this assessment on February 5. Vitali Kremez, “Pro-Russian CyberSpy Gamaredon Intensifies Ukrainian Security Targeting,” February 5, 2020, https://labs.sentinelone.com/pro-russian-cyberspy-gamaredon-intensifies-ukrainian-security-targeting/.
[26] [“The Security Service of Ukraine Blocked in Kyiv the Work of a ‘Bot Farm’ Organized by Russian Citizens,”] State Security Service of Ukraine, January 29, 2020, https://ssu.gov(.)ua/ua/news/1/category/2/view/7054#.KnbLlhUI.dpbs.
[27] [“The Security Service of Ukraine Blocked in Kyiv the Work of a ‘Bot Farm’ Organized by Russian Citizens,”] State Security Service of Ukraine, January 29, 2020, https://ssu.gov(.)ua/ua/news/1/category/2/view/7054#.KnbLlhUI.dpbs.
[28] Katya Gorchinskaya, “The Normandy Summit Ended With No Breakthroughs. What Has It Achieved?,” Forbes, December 10, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/katyagorchinskaya/2019/12/10/the-normandy-summit-ended-what-has-it-achieved/#496281053061 ; “Putin, Macron Say Ukraine-Russia Prisoner Swap Gives Momentum For Peace Talks,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, September 8, 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/putin-macron-ukraine-russia-prisoner-swap/30153209.html ; “Russia and Ukraine Exchange Prisoners in Move to Improve Ties,” Al Jazeera, September 7, 2019, https://www.aljazeera(.)com/news/2019/09/russia-ukraine-prisoner-exchange-190907091503618.html ; Nataliya Bugayova and George Barros, “The Perils of Talks on Russia's War in Ukraine,” The Institute for the Study of War, December 7, 2019, https://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-perils-of-talks-on-russias-war-in.html ; Sarah White “France's Macron, Germany's Merkel Welcome Prisoner Swap in Ukraine,” Reuters, December 29, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-france-germany/frances-macron-germanys-merkel-welcome-prisoner-swap-in-ukraine-idUSKBN1YX0F7 ; George Barros and Nataliya Bugayova, “Europe Cedes Opportunity in Russia-Ukraine Energy Deal,” The Institute for the Study of War, January 30, 2020, https://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2020/01/europe-cedes-opportunity-in-russia.html.
[29] [“Summit of Paris in ‘Normandy’ format,”] French President Press Office, December 9, 2019, https://www.elysee(.)fr/emmanuel-macron/2019/12/09/sommet-de-paris-en-format-normandie.
[30] [“’Standstill Now Overcome,’”] German Federal Chancellor Press Office, December 10, 2019, https://www.bundeskanzlerin(.)de/bkin-en/news/normandie-gipfel-in-paris-1705166.
[31] [“Telephone Conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron,”] Kremlin, January 3, 2020, http://kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/62539.
[32] [“Telephone Conversation with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel,”] Kremlin, December 16, 2019, http://kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/62342.
[33]  Maria Tsvetkova and Michael Nienaber, “Putin, Merkel Say Ukraine's Donbass Should Get Special Status – Kremlin,” Reuters, November 11, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-germany-ukraine/putin-merkel-agree-ukraine-should-give-special-status-to-donbass-kremlin-idUSKBN1XL252.
[34] [“In the Kremlin Kozak is Named Curator for Ukraine,”] RIA Novosti, February 11, 2020, https://ria(.)ru/20200211/1564538952.html.
[35] [“Yermak Believes that in Russia Kozak is More Inclined to Dialogue with Ukraine Surkov,”] Novosti Donbassa, February 11, 2020, http://novosti.dn(.)ua/news/299046-ermak-schytaet-chto-v-rossyy-kozak-bolshe-nastroen-na-dyalog-s-ukraynoy-chem-surkov.
[36] Nataliya Bugayova with Mason Clark and Andre Briere, “Russia in Review: The Kremlin Reverses Setbacks in Moldova,” The Institute for the Study of War, December 6, 2019, https://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/12/russia-in-review-kremlin-reverses.html ; Darina Regio and Nataliya Bugayova, “Russia in Review: Opportunity in Moldova,” The Institute for the Study of War, June 24, 2019, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/06/russia-in-review-opportunity-in-moldova.html.
[37] Oleksiy Sorokin, “Who is Dmitry Kozak, Putin’s New Point Man for Ukraine?,” Kyiv Post, January 30, 2020, https://www.kyivpost(.)com/ukraine-politics/who-is-dmitry-kozak-putins-new-point-man-for-ukraine.html
[38] [“Vladislav Surkov Relieved of His Post as Presidential Aide,”] Kremlin, February 18, 2020, http://kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/62818. Leaked Kremlin emails from 2016 demonstrated Surkov was the Kremlin’s campaign manager for Russia’s political subversion campaign in Ukraine.
[39] [“On the Fifth Anniversary of the Debaltsevo Tragedy, Militants and Invaders Staged a Cynical Provocation,”] Volodymyr Zelensky Facebook Page, February 18, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/zelenskiy95/posts/2464201587163536.
[40] [“February 19 - The Launch of the National Platform for Reconciliation and Unity,”]  Sergei Sivokho Facebook Page, February 17, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/watch/?ref=external&v=190295905372373.
[41] Zelensky spoke favorably about his interaction with Putin at the Normandy Format talk in Paris on December 9, saying, “I am sure [Putin] understood me, very clearly understood. It seems that when you have eye-to-eye contact, you suddenly understand what kind of person is in front of you. Despite all the given intelligence, it seems to me [Putin] understood me. [Putin] understands the war needs to end.” [“Zelensky Believes Putin Understands that the War Must End,”] Interfax Ukraine, February 11, 2020, https://interfax.com(.)ua/news/political/640531.html.
[42] Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk confirmed on February 10 that Ukraine is preparing three new disengagement points. The three sites are a railway bridge in the Stanytsia Luhanska area (16 km northeast of Luhansk), Novoselivka Druha (36 km northeast of Mariupol), and entry-exit checkpoint "Hnutove" (20 km northeast of Mariupol). Zagorodnyuk said disengagement from these three sites would not fundamentally change the security situation in Donbas because their value is humanitarian and economic, rather than tactical or strategic. Zagorodnyuk said Ukraine will not withdraw from areas if doing so would harm Ukraine. Zagorodnyuk also claimed Zelensky asserted at the Normandy Format on December 9 that Ukraine will not disengage along the whole front line. Zagorodnyuk said the Ukrainian Defense Ministry “seriously examined” Putin’s proposal to disengage across the entire 420-km front line and determined it “contradicts the Minsk agreements.” Inna Kuznetsova, [“The Minister of Defense on Troop Disengagement, Exposed Schemes, NATO Standards and the Paper Army,”] Radio Svoboda, February 10, 2020, https://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/30425356.html.
[43] Artur Korniienko, “In Munich, Zelensky Calls for Repair of European Security, Starting with Ukraine,” Kyiv Post, February 15, 2020, https://www.kyivpost(.)com/ukraine-politics/at-munich-conference-zelensky-calls-to-repair-european-security-starting-with-ukraine.html.
[44] Inna Kuznetsova, [“The Minister of Defense on Troop Disengagement, Exposed Schemes, NATO Standards and the Paper Army,”] Radio Svoboda, February 10, 2020, https://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/30425356.html.
[45] Nataliya Bugayova and George Barros, “The Perils of Talks on Russia's War in Ukraine,” The Institute for the Study of War, December 7, 2019, https://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-perils-of-talks-on-russias-war-in.html.
[46] [“Answers to Media Questions by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov Following the 56th Munich Conference on Security Policy, Munich, February 17, 2020,”] Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, February 17, 2020, https://www.mid(.)ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4046843.
[47] Inna Kuznetsova, [“The Minister of Defense on Troop Disengagement, Exposed Schemes, NATO Standards and the Paper Army,”] Radio Svoboda, February 10, 2020, https://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/30425356.html ; Nataliya Bugayova and George Barros, “The Perils of Talks on Russia's War in Ukraine,” The Institute for the Study of War, December 7, 2019, https://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-perils-of-talks-on-russias-war-in.html.