Daily Israel Report

Expert: Russia Orchestrating Ukrainian Conflict

Former Israeli ambassador to Russia, in special interview, lends credence to Ukrainian claims that Russia is behind protests.
By Shimon Cohen and Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 4/16/2014, 10:24 PM

Police (L), Pro-Russia protestors clash in Donetsk
Police (L), Pro-Russia protestors clash in Donetsk
Reuters

Tzvi Magen, the former Israeli ambassador to Russia, gave a special interview to Arutz Sheva Wednesday night analyzing the region's slow descent into chaos. 

According to Magen, Russia's turn to diplomacy is only for leverage against the US and Ukraine, ahead of the upcoming meeting between Kiev and Moscow's foreign ministers in Geneva on Thursday.

Magen mentioned how, several months ago during the protests that led to the current instatement of the acting Ukrainian government, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that Ukraine abandon its Westernization - and fall back under the umbrella of Mother Russia.

Since the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych, Magen said, Russia is looking for more creative solutions to maintain its cultural, political, and economic power over Ukraine. 

One of the solutions, he said, is to dissolve Ukraine into a loose federation of states - some of which pledge allegiance to Moscow instead of Kiev. While that situation seems to be playing out in the current crisis, the option is not likely to be received well by the West - and especially not the US. 

Magen also lends support to Kiev's insistence that Russia has actively facilitated the conflict, stirring regional tensions in order to orchestrate a full takeover of the region. 

He believes the Kremlin completely dominates the conflict, is aware of every move by both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protestors, and directs every step of the way to slowly take over eastern Ukraine. He added that it is very likely that a Russian special unit has been formed - as the Ukrainians have insisted - that specifically introduces and controls new internal conflicts in Ukraine.

Diplomatic efforts are also unlikely to help calm tensions, according to Magen. The former ambassador notes that any diplomatic moves would only cause Russia to increase its military presence along the Russia-Ukrainian border - citing concerns of an invading Ukrainian army - and thus take over border regions of the now-annexed Crimea, which Moscow has wanted for a long time. All of this, the official stresses, is to gain more leverage against Ukraine and the US. 

In the end, Magen says, Ukraine and Russia are unlikely to engage in a full war - but Russia will probably gain more ground.

"If they decide to fight the Ukrainians we'll see what they are worth, but I do not think they will go for it," Magen stated. He believes that the situation will ultimately see the status quo restored, if Ukraine decides not to fully commit to Westernizing; however, such a commitment would be temporary - and the implications are still undetermined. 

Magen's statements surface just hours after pro-Russian separatists took control of armed Ukrainian military vehicles, turning a failed "anti-terrorist" operation by the new Ukrainian government into a mockery on the international sphere and sparking alarm that an all-out civil war is ahead. 

Eastern Ukraine has been the seat of pro-Russian tensions since earlier this month, when neighboring Crimea held a controversial referendum vote and was annexed by Moscow after a de facto military invasion of the region. 

The annexation led to a bold call from Ukraine's now-deposed President, Viktor Yanukovych, to hold referendums nationwide - and let other provinces decide their national allegiances to either Russia or Ukraine.

Analysts suspect the move may have escalated tensions in eastern Ukraine and could have contributed to the current crisis there. 

Meanwhile, increasingly hostile rhetoric between Moscow and Kiev has escalated the crisis on the diplomatic front, and raised concerns that Thursday's talks between the two countries' foreign ministers will be fruitless in ending the conflict.