Taras Berezovets,

Co-founder of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future

Director of the Agency of Hybrid War Resistance

In Part I of the report which became the first for at that time newly created Institute for the future we have thoroughly analyzed the beginning of the Russian hybrid aggression against Ukraine starting from February 2014. At the same time Odessa, Luhansk and Donetsk regions were kept for the Part II. This was done purposefully as the scope and nature of the events in the East and South of Ukraine required the most profound and full-scale discussion.

Looking back on the events of almost 3 years ago when a villainous attack of the Russian terrorist forces and separatists happened, we can already come up with more considerate conclusions. Thus, latest confessions of terrorists’ leaders such as Igor Girkin or Denis Pushylin together with intercepted conversations of Kremlin officials - in particular that of the RF President’s advisor Sergey Glazyev - give us solid ground to unambiguously affirm that without a direct intervention of the so-called ‘green men’ in the first stage of “Russian spring” the Donetsk People's (‘Narodna’) Republic (DPR, or more frequently DNR) and its complete clone Lugansk People's Republic (LNR) would never get a chance to turn into what they consequently became.

Direct evidences of the Russian special services and armed forces involvement become officially mentioned in resolutions of the UN and PACE, in documents of the United States, the European Union and other western countries, and also appeared in a yearly report of the International Criminal Court in The Hague which was published on November 14, 2016. The latter provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin to sign a decree on Russia's withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This was another important confirmation of the involvement of the Kremlin to direct aggression that was conducted in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine.

Range of criminal methods of the “hybrid war” against an independent state was extremely wide. It included a long-term preparations of the Russian special services both on the territory of a future invasion and among Ukrainian authorities and security forces, which included recruiting command personnel of army officers, Security Service, Border Guard; an elaborate system of informational and psychological influence over the population of the south-eastern regions; bringing its direct net of agents as well as agents of influence in the environment of political parties, particularly the Party of Regions and the Communist Party, as well as national-democratic and nationalist movements; the purchase of existing and new information resources with the Russian capital, etc.

To this end, Odessa, Luhansk and Donetsk regions along with the Autonomous Republic of Crimea were the areas least protected against a mass Russian influence. This was facilitated by the maximum inclusion of those regions into the Russian information space, which has never been interrupted since the proclamation of Ukrainian independence in 1991.

“Russian World” as a starting concept for Russian intervention was even perceived quite naturally and somehow attractive for a considerable group of population of these regions, as it correlated well with the concept of unique character and importance of population of Donbas and Odessa region in the Ukrainian historical discourse. “Donetsk patriotism” and glorification of Soviet past was based on many myths about the “special” role and mission of Donbas that were fueled by local elites for decades. As a result, many complexes and phobias of Donbas residents were actively used by Russian propaganda for imposing a sense which was alien for them before: that of separateness of an entire Ukrainian region population from the rest of Ukrainian lands. In the Odessa story, the Kremlin had effectively manipulated the long-standing local tradition to magnify the imperial past of the city starting from times of Empress Catherine II.

As a result, Ukrainian citizens of these areas turned out to be the most deceived by a temporary occupation authorities and leaders of criminal gangs that have become a sort of "power" in the territories of DNR and LNR. Odessa fortunately escaped the Donbas fate, although even this city failed to escape the tragic events of May 2, 2014. Odessa paid the terrible price to avoid a happiness of following the example of Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which was prepared for it by the Kremlin.

We must gain a thorough insight into the twists and turns of events of spring-summer 2014 in order to prevent a repetition of these mistakes in the future. The price for experience which Ukraine had gained 3 years ago turned out to be too high.