Petrivske forces withdrawal to begin in next two days

8 November 2019

The next phase in the forces withdrawal along the Donbas separation line is scheduled to begin in the next two days in the towns of Bohdanivka and Petrivske in the Luhansk region, authorities said on Nov. 7. Joint Forces Operation commander Volodymyr Kravchenko told a press briefing that day the Petrivske withdrawal will begin on Nov. 8, as a seven-day ceasefire had been achieved. Yet the Ukrainian side didn’t have confirmation from the Russian-backed forces that they were ready to move forward, though the mercenaries reportedly informed the OSCE they were ready to begin on Nov. 9, the news site said. That was confirmed by OSCE Special Representative Martin Sajdik, who said the Petrivske withdrawal will begin on Nov. 9, as agreed upon in the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk.


The forces withdrawal requires both sides to remove their soldiers and military hardware by 1 km from their positions at the separation line within three days. The withdrawal plans were confirmed by General Staff Commander Ruslan Khomchak, who led a tour of the area, including the town of Zolote, for four Western ambassadors, including acting U.S. ambassador William Taylor, Jr.


Russian-backed forces engaged in 15 shootings of Ukrainian positions on Nov. 7, killing one soldier and wounding four, as reported by the Joint Forces Operation press center. In response to the news, Former Defense Minister Anatoliy Grytsenko called for the Ukrainian army to return its forces to its frontline positions at Zolote in response to the Russian-backed shootings on Nov. 7. He called for any future withdrawals to occur only in the event of a complete ceasefire being upheld for a full month along the entire separation line.


As an alternative to the current forces withdrawal, the neoliberal Voice Party MP Serhiy Rakhmanin called for freezing the conflict in Donbas during a Nov. 7 television talk show. “We currently don’t have the ability to resolve this matter by military means. We don’t have the ability to resolve this matter by diplomatic means. But we can stop this in order to reorganize our thoughts. And the main thing is to return people. There should be a state program of returning people who are ready to return,” Rakhmanin said.


Zenon Zawada: We expect the forces withdrawal to begin today as the Zelensky administration has demonstrated (with Zolote) that it won’t wait for even the essential conditions to be fulfilled to move forward. Opposition to the forces withdrawal has been mute throughout this week. We believe the local pro-Western forces are waiting for the right moment, perhaps a disaster in the withdrawal of forces, to launch their political attack against the Zelensky administration.


Rakhmanin’s proposal for freezing the conflict won’t work because Russia is not interested in a frozen conflict. With Ukraine in such a vulnerable position as it is today – not only in Donbas, but with IMF funding under question and a natural gas conflict about to erupt – the Russian leadership smells blood and is moving in for the kill. Russia understands that chances like this to either subjugate or liquidate the Ukrainian state might not come around again, and it won’t waste this opportunity.


As for Grytsenko’s proposal, the Ukrainian public demonstrated it is not interested in extending the warfare when it voted overwhelmingly for Zelensky as president. The public has endowed Zelensky with the task of ending the warfare, and he has demonstrated he will go to great lengths to achieve it, regardless of the long-term consequences.

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