Adam Taylor uses these maps to explain why Donetsk won’t be such an easy grab for Russia as Crimea was:
That first map is one good reason to doubt the popular support of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” but the other shows you something else: why Ukraine would care so much about it. The oblast, and in particular its namesake city, are renowned as the economic backbone of Ukraine for their coal mines and steel production (even if the truth about Donetsk’s economic strength may not be so rosy).
Combined, these two maps paint a good picture of why the Ukrainian government seems willing to take a stricter line on Donetsk than it did with Crimea. But they also paint a picture of why Russia’s tactic could be different, too: Less a simple act of annexation, and more an act of provocation.
Ambinder credits Moscow for stirring up resistance in Ukraine’s eastern provinces:
The “resistance” is artificial, of course.
People power in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has been generated more often than not by foreign governments that have their own agendas, and not by indigenous forces. The U.S. national security establishment understands this, because they designed the template the Russians are using. From the first CIA officers who toppled Mohammed Mossagdeh in 1953, to clandestine efforts to prop up and then discredit Asian governments during the Kennedy administration, to the Cuban exiles trained by the CIA to overthrow Fidel Castro, to efforts to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan after the September 11th terrorist attacks, to the “indigenous” American-backed Iraqis who took control after the war — the playbook is very familiar. …
The hallmarks of non-linear warfare are operational confusion, mistaken identity, and a sense of brittleness and crisis. Eventually, the combination of agents provocateurs and real protesters blend together. In Ukraine, Putin has already won that war.
Ioffe marvels at Putin’s ability to make his meddling appear local in origin:
One strange by-product of Russia’s tactics is the Kremlin’s deftness in completely reappropriating certain terms, of inverting and perverting them. Just look at the images of the protests in Luhansk and Kharkiv, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at images of Kiev’s EuroMaidan. Yet the former were whipped up [by] Russia, whereas the latter was a largely grassroots movement. As a result, because the hand of Moscow is so obvious in east Ukraine’s protests, the independence of the protesters in Kiev comes under suspicion: were they too organized externally, perhaps in the West? More simply, it gives the two movements equal moral weight, which Russian journalist Oleg Kashin called a “mocking parody of the Maidan.”
Bershidsky thinks Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov might be the best hope for averting a crisis:
The Russian-speaking industrialist, who many Ukrainians think is unofficially behind the pro-Russian protests in Donetsk, has actually played a complex role. In the wee hours of Tuesday, the usually reclusive Akhmetov came out to speak with protesters in Donetsk, cursing in Russian and explaining to protesters that he felt for them but that “Donbass is Ukraine.” Akhmetov promised government forces would not storm the administration building and took some activists for talks with a deputy prime minister sent from Kiev. …
The billionaire, who is still a member of the Regions Party, until recently headed by deposed President Viktor Yanukovych, wants broader autonomy for his home region, something in which Russia supports him and something the Ukrainian government is loath to grant. “Federalization” is a curse word in Kiev, because it would allow Moscow to keep the political situation unstable by making separate deals with corrupt local elites. Making concessions to people like Akhmetov, however, might be the only way to avoid the much less desirable outcome of outright war.