Alina Cherviatsova (V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine): Hybrid War and Hybrid Law: the Minsk Agreements in the Context of International Law and Ukrainian Legislation
Hybrid war is a commonly used term to describe recent ‘mutations’ of conflicts where the traditional categories, such as ‘war’ do not grasp any longer all the complexity of circumstances. One of the main problems posed by ‘hybrid war’ is a problem of attribution as involvement of the state or political forces in hybrid conflict is too unclear and uncertain to justify ‘traditional’ responses against the use of force. Thus, hybrid war may demand also the use of ‘hybrid’ tools to restore international rule of law.
The war in Ukraine’s Donbas is a recent example of hybrid war in which the Minsk Agreements are used to resolve the conflict. Despite the fact that not a single provision of the Agreements has been fully implemented – the most important provision, the ceasefire, is being violated every day – the accords continue to be the only one agreement between Ukraine and Russia to restore peace.
From the legal point of view the Minsk Agreements have ‘hybrid’ nature in terms of both national and international law: on the one hand, the accords do not constitute a binding international treaty; on the other hand, they are not a part to Ukrainian legislation. However, the accords do play a role on the conflict settlement as some form of political arrangements with a certain degree of legitimacy among the involved actors.
This paper will analyze the nature of the Minsk Agreements under international law and Ukrainian national legislation to argue about the legal steps needed to restore Donbas to Ukraine.
Ernest Gyidel (University of Alberta, Canada): From “See You in Donetsk!” to “I Will Never Return to Donetsk”: Ukrainian IDPs and the Future of Donbas
The war in Donbas resulted in the most significant demographic change in Ukraine since World War II. Roughly half of the region’s population fled from the war, primarily to the neighboring provinces of Ukraine and to the Russian Federation. Since 2014 the Ukrainian authorities have officially recognized almost 2 million of these people as “internally displaced persons” (IDPs). The character of their displacement is not just spatial, but also social. Officially the IDPs receive financial support from the state and even have a special Ministry for their needs. In reality, the majority of them still face challenges of employment (around 60% are unemployed) and integration in the Ukrainian society, which often has been treating them with a mixture of hate, suspicion and indifference. Such unwelcoming environment forced many IDPs to go through a deep identity crisis and no longer identify with their home region. Less than third plan to return to Donbas after deoccupation. On the other hand, the themes of return to and returning of Donbas have dominated discussions among intellectual and public figures from the IDPs, who are specifically interested in how to define collaboration and how to reintegrate the deoccupied population. The recent law on collaborators proposed by Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, demonstrates that these discussions have not been in vain.
Serhiy Kudelia (Baylor University, USA): How Can Political Science Findings on Civil War Settlements Inform Conflict Resolution in Donbas?
A series of polls conducted since 2014 have indicated a steady public support for a negotiated solution to resolve the armed conflict in Donbas. In May 2018 about two-thirds of the polled (69.9%), according to Democratic Initiatives Foundation survey, were willing to make compromises over the future of Donbas in dealing with Russia and separatist leaders. However, the Minsk Agreements offer a very general roadmap for reintegrating the two separatist enclaves, while the proposed national legislation contains only temporary provisions on their special status and lacks specifics on the terms of long-term accommodation. Ukraine’s recent calls to deploy peacekeeping troops to hold local elections in the region similarly overlooks crucial questions regarding candidate and voting eligibility, the powers of local assemblies or the status of former combatants. This paper seeks to offer a comparative perspective on alternative conflict resolution strategies for Donbas. It draws on the findings from empirical quantitative studies of intrastate armed conflicts around the world to identify a set of specific context-sensitive institutional mechanisms that could become the basis for a settlement of the conflict in Donbas. The paper will focus on 1) mechanisms of power devolution that could help to prevent the formation of ‘segment-states’ or rewarding those culpable for violence; 2) mechanisms for effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants into civilian life; 3) accountability mechanisms to establish transitional justice; 4) choices of election timing and electoral rules to minimize the likelihood of transition breakdown. The paper will also examine political feasibility of these institutional solutions in light of the upcoming presidential election in Ukraine and the role of external actors, including Russia and the US, in their adoption and enforcement.
Tetyana Malyarenko (National University Odesa Law Academy, Ukraine): The Logic of Competitive Influence-Seeking: Russia, Ukraine and the Conflict in Donbas
The crisis in Ukraine since late 2013 has seen four successive internationally mediated agreements that have been at best partially implemented. Drawing on extensive fieldwork and 42 key informant interviews sides, the paper explains this outcome with reference to the logic of competitive influence-seeking: Russia is currently unable to achieve a friendly and stable regime in Kyiv and thus hedges against the consolidation of an unfriendly pro-Western and stable regime by maintaining its control over parts of eastern Ukraine and solidifying the dependence of local regimes there on Russian support. This gives Russia the opportunity to maintain the current status quo or settle for re-integration terms through which Russia can sustain long-term influence over Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policy. The paper concludes by reflecting on the consequences of competitive influence-seeking in the post-Soviet space: the likely persistence of low-intensity conflict in Ukraine; the further consolidation of territorial divisions in other post-Soviet conflicts; and the need for policy-makers in Russia and the West to prioritize the management of the consequent instability.
David Marples (University of Alberta, Canada): Background to the Conflict in the Donbas: from Hughes to Akhmetov
The paper summarizes the historical background of the modern Donbas and the mobilization of the population in the late Soviet period. It traces the rise and decline of the Communist Party, the emergence of the Regions Party, and the Yanukovych presidency of 2010-14. It discusses the negative reaction to Euromaidan, but concludes that without Russian intervention the disaffection would have been unlikely to develop into separatism. The intervention o Russia catalyzed and directed the discontent in a very different direction through its intermediaries who were both political and military leaders.
Oleksander Melnyk (University of Alberta, Canada): Casualties of the War and Inter-Communal Ethics in the Russian-Ukrainian Borderlands From the Start of the War Until Present
The paper will examine the problem of casualties and inter-communal ethics during the war in the Donbas. At the center of the study is the initiative “Evacuation-200,” which the Department of Military-Civilian Cooperation of Ukraine’s Armed Forces launched in September 2014 in conjunction with the dramatic defeat of the Ukrainian military at Ilovaisk. Composed exclusively of civilian volunteers affiliated with WWII memorial societies, the mission has already returned from the rebel-controlled territories close to 800 bodies of Ukrainian servicemen and civilians, with a few dozen bodies of insurgents and Russian volunteers returned to the “DNR” and “LNR.” By elucidating the multifarious activities of these networks, their relationships with the organs of the Ukrainian state, various international organizations, other structures of the Ukrainian civil society, and similar groups in the rebel-controlled territories, the paper will make a set of arguments about commemorative cultures and peculiarities of nation-building in contemporary Ukraine, as well as point to the continued existence of areas of ethical consensus that has enabled limited cooperation across the political divides even in the midst of fighting.
Oksana Mikheieva (Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv, Ukraine): Motivations of Combatants on Both Sides of the War on the Territory of Donbas Region
The undeclared Russian-Ukrainian war in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions led both pro-Ukrainian militias and rebels from Donetsk and Luhansk to join in the fighting. Based on field work amongst paramilitaries in Donbas, this presentation will tackle the questions of why people voluntarily chose to participate in the war and how they articulate their own motivation; how they interpret the conflict’s escalation in Donbas; and what they expect their life to be like once the war has ended.
William J. Risch (Georgia College, USA): Prelude to War? The Maidan and Its Discontents in the Donbas
This paper considers the potential for civil conflict in the Donbas in light of Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests of 2013-14. In the Donbas region, a grassroots Euromaidan protest movement emerged. While relatively small, it provoked conflict in a region where local leaders of the ruling Party of Regions, as well as pro-Russian civic organizations, offered different visions for Ukraine’s future. These other forces did not hesitate to use violence to defend their political agendas. Donbas residents had already become alienated from the local Party of Regions elite. Pro-Russian organizations were small and poorly funded. Still, escalating violence in Kyiv heightened fears that radical Ukrainian nationalism threatened Donbas. Pro-Russian organizations, and ultimately armed separatists from abroad, drew in local support as the latter experienced alienation from both their local political bosses and the new regime in Kyiv.
Nataliia Stepaniuk (University of Ottawa, Canada): Changing Modes of Citizenship: Civilian Volunteer Engagement in the Frontline Regions of Donbas, Ukraine
This paper traces the evolution and dynamics of civilian volunteer engagement in the frontline regions of Ukraine from its outset to the present. First, it presents a typology of volunteer networks in Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine that emerged to address the humanitarian and military costs of the Donbas war. Second, it discusses less visible aspects of war volunteering and draws attention to civilians’ rights-based interventions on behalf of the war-affected populations. Finally, the paper examines the changing modes of engagement that occurred amidst the routinization of the armed conflict and general fatigue among volunteers.
Sergey Sukhankin (Jamestown Foundation, Washington DC; International Center for Policy Studies, Kyiv, Ukraine): ‘Continuing War by Other Means’: The Case of Wagner, Russia’s Premier Private Military Company
The Wagner Group is a Russian private military company that has been active in Ukraine, Syria, and arguably in other regions. In early 2018, the decimation of the group in Syria shed an important light on the gray zone of Russian military operations in which such paramilitary forces are deployed. Expanding geographic area of Wagner’s ongoing expansion provides key lessons for understanding the evolution and likely transformation of this type of organization in the future. Given Moscow’s reliance on non-linear means of warfare and the frequent desire to maintain “plausible deniability” in its operations abroad, exploring and analyzing the Wagner Group offers a deeper insight into Russia’s role and modus operandi in conflicts across the world, especially when using Private Military Companies (PMC). The fact that it was the Ukrainian Southeast that became a testing ground for the Wagner, analysis of this issue acquires paramount importance.
Serhy Yekelchyk (University of Victoria, Canada): Conflicting Memories of World War II and the Current Conflict in Ukraine
The conflicting memories of Ukraine’s experience during World War II, which developed in its different regions after independence, were soon mobilized for political purposes. While Russia elevated the myth of the “Great Patriotic War” to the level of state ideology, the Ukrainian authorities cultivated a hybrid memory of the war that could keep the country together. It was only after the Russian annexation of the Crimea and the conflict in the Donbas that the Poroshenko administration embraced the legacy of the Ukrainian nationalist insurgents, although the new tradition of celebrating V-Day is more inclusive. The “separatist republics” construct the current conflict as an extension of the war, but their V-Day rituals no longer reflect their regional identity in the way the Day of the Republic does.