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Donetsk People’s Republic leader, Alexander Zakharchenko has recently been in Crimea, celebrating the three year anniversary of Sevastopol and Crimea’s reunification with the rest of the Russian Federation.
It was here that Zakharchenko gave his clearest indication yet of where he sees his Republic in the near future. Many have questioned whether the future of the Donbass republics would be as sovereign states engaged in fraternal relations with Russia or whether in time they to would re-unite with their historic motherland.
Because of Donbass being on the current border of the Russia Federation, having a Russian speaking and ethnically Russian population, industries geared towards the Russian market and a desire of the population to be Russian not only in fact but in terms of national identity, anything less than Donetsk and Lugansk becoming a fully fledged part of the Russian Federation, would be illogical and counterproductive.
Zakharchenko spoke of a common destiny between Donbass and Crimea in the following way,
“March 16, 2014, is a big day for the people of Donbass. We rejoiced at your victory, watched with pride your returning home.
We held a referendum as well. Yes, we did not have such legal relations with Ukraine as you did, but we also observed the people’s right to self-determination. In response, on May 26, 2014, the Kiev authorities delivered air strikes against the city of Donetsk. We have suffered huge losses among civilians. But, no matter how hard it was, we are still proud of you. We can see how the economy is being developed in the Crimea, the infrastructure is being restored. We are happy with your new TPP and energy independence, we are looking forward to fly to a new beautiful airport of yours. I am confident that cooperation between the Crimea and the DPR will be expanded only, as a number of mutually beneficial projects have been launched already”.
Many theories have emerged as to why the Donbass republics were not afforded as easy a journey home as Crimea.
The most convincing remains the geography argument, although this argument still has problems.
Unlike the Crimean peninsulaa, Donbass is located between Russia and fascist controlled Ukraine. This has made the fascist war of aggression against Donbass easier to wage from a military and logistical point of view.
Had Russia immediately recognised the sovereignty of the Donbass republics, many suspected that Russia troops could have faced off with NATO troops swooping in to aid the forces loyal to Kiev.
Even under the darkest days of Barack Obama, I found this theory slightly fanciful. NATO is very good at threatening and attempting to provoke Russia, but the closet NATO troops came to firing on Russian forces was during NATO’s illegal invasion of Yugoslavia in 1999, when American General Wesley Clark ordered his troops to fire on Russian peacekeepers at the Pristina International Airport in Serbia. It was only quick thinking by British General Sir Michael Jackson (no relation to the singer) that a deadly situation was avoided.
Since then, NATO troops have not come close to directly engaging Russian troops whether it be in South Ossetia, Abkhazia or even in Syria. NATO’s bark may be worse than its bite.
Therefore this theory has always struck me as unnecessarily cautious.
With Russia slowly helping to ease the bureaucratic burden of Donetsk and Lugansk citizens, there is an increased chance that the inevitable will happen sooner than later and Donbass will return home.
All of this of course happens against the backdrop of the regime in Kiev appear to be on its last legs.