Following Kiev’s success in the city of Slavyansk, once a separatist stronghold, it will be extremely difficult for President Poroshenko to return to any kind of ceasefire, Mark Sleboda, an international affairs lecturer at Moscow State Uni, told RT.
After the ten-day shaky ceasefire between Kiev and militia in rebel Eastern Ukrainian regions ended on June 30, fighting has intensified bringing the regime its first significant victory on Saturday. The military forced self-defense troops from the cities of Kramatorsk and Slavyansk in what Kiev labeled a “symbolic” victory in the ongoing conflict.
According to Mark Sleboda, no ceasefire ever existed on the ground in the first place - it was only a PR move by President Petro Poroshenko. However now, after the self-defense troops retreat from the cities they controlled for three months, a new ceasefire is very unlikely, particularly since the “fanatics” Poroshenko depends on to retain power are strongly against it.
RT: How much of a turning point in the conflict is the retaking of Slavyansk by the Ukrainian army?
MS: First of all, what we have to consider is – as Mark Adomanis, a writer for Forbes just wrote today in one of his columns – it doesn’t mean that anyone is winning or losing in the Ukrainian civil war, the conflict. This is far too early to say.
However, we can look at what happened in Slavyansk and the retreat from towns such as Kramatorsk and the other outer ring of towns that defended Lugansk and Donetsk from a purely military and a tactical point of view. We can see that this could be actually considered a draw or a small success for the self-defense forces. They managed to withdraw most of their arms and forces from an encircled position in good order and draw them back to a much more defendable position with a much larger body of volunteers to support and that is much easier to supply than Slavyansk was. Slavyansk, in their own words, served its purpose as a delaying shield. Basically, the entire military might of this Ukrainian regime supported by the West was focused for three months on a small town of 120,000 people.
From a political and moral or morale point of view, the retreat from Slavyansk is a huge defeat and a huge victory that will be paraded on the cameras by this oligarch ruler of the regime in Kiev, Petro Poroshenko. He’s already raised the Ukrainian flag over the retaken government buildings in Slavyansk. And this will be presented as at least an initial, the first real success of his state terror mass repression campaign across the eastern Ukraine. And it will be a big morale disheartening blow not only to the people of Eastern Ukraine, but also to ordinary Russians.
RT: What could locals there expect now? At least some calm?
MS: No, not at all. I don’t think we can really expect seriously to see that at all. We’ve already seen videos of online today of residents of Slavyansk confronting the occupiers of their town and yelling “Fascists, go away!” And they were not treated very kindly in return. We have seen some very grim results in the previously occupied towns – such as Nikolayevka or Krasny Liman. Most of the young and middle-aged men are rounded up; what exactly is being done with them – whether they are being executed or taken off is not entirely known.
We heard the Defense Minister of Ukraine several weeks ago - speak openly and without even any attempting to hide it – that all of the citizens of eastern Ukraine when these towns and cities are re-conquered would be taken to “filtration camps”. Not even really trying to hide the connection with the (Nazi) concentration camps, of course.
RT: Wait a second. The Defense Minister said there will be concentration camps?
MS: He said there would be “filtration camps”. What I am saying is that there is no real difference between filtration and concentration camps. It’s one word denoted propaganda difference between the two of them. This is not controversial or questionable – this was reported live on TV. The Ukrainian Defense Minister stated this. The really shocking and disturbing this is that there has not been any outcry from the Western press about this.
RT: The National Guard says it will search for those who refuse to lay down arms and question them. How do you expect they'll be treated?
MS: I don’t think that there’s any secret that the National Guard – this paramilitary force composed mostly of the radicals of the Euro-Maidan, ultra-nationalist groups as well as international fascist brigade as Al-Jazeera has interviewed and reported earlier - suffered very heavy losses over the past three months in the siege of Slavyansk and other towns. They have shown previously in other towns that they are out for a little bit of revenge. And people in these towns certainly do not treat them as liberators or heroes, but, as they described them, “fascist occupiers.”
The report out this morning is that they are already going door to door looking for people who might have remained behind, who helped or are perceived as having helped the self-defense forces. And the locals say they are being executed.
RT: Hopes for peace took a blow when President Poroshenko refused to extend the truce. Is a lasting ceasefire still possible?
MS: Poroshenko has unilaterally declared a ceasefire that never in fact existed on the ground, it was simply a PR move to present to the EU in the week in the run-up to the signing of this new liberal EU association agreement. It never happened on the ground; the artillery shells, the air-strikes never stopped falling on the people of eastern Ukraine. There wasn’t any ceasefire before; there certainly won’t be any now. It will be perceived as that the regime won a military victory. And earlier in the last week, we saw the ultra-nationalists and fascists gather on the Maidan protesting for the resumption of the war and against the ceasefire.
So, domestically, with the base of fanatics that Petro Poroshenko depends on to retain power it would be extremely politically difficult for him to now, after having seen as one a first initial military victory, it would be very difficult for him to return to any kind of even false ceasefire.