Donbass: ‘The war has not started yet’

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
Cossack commanders - featured in the first part of the column. (Photo: Vanya Savicevic)
Two top Cossack commanders in the People's Republic of Donetsk and a seasoned Serbian volunteer fighter are adamant: the real war in Donbass has not even started.

It’s a spectacular sunset in the People’s Republic of Donetsk and I’m standing in the Cossack ‘holy land’ - an open field in a horse-breeding farm - talking to Nikolai Korsunov, captain of the Ivan Sirko Cossack Brigade, and Roman Ivlev, founder of the Donbass Berkut Veterans Union group.

Why is this Cossack ‘holy land’? They take no time to remind me of the legendary 17th century Cossack military hero Ivan Sirko, a.k.a. “The Wizard”, credited with extra-sensory powers, who won 55 battles mostly against Poles and Tatars.

Only three kilometers from where we stand a key battle at a crossroads on the ancient Silk Road called Matsapulovska Krinitsa took place, involving 3,000 Cossacks and 15,000 Tatars.

Now, at the dawn of the Chinese-driven 21st century New Silk Road - which will also traverse Russia – here we are discussing the proxy war in Ukraine between the US and Russia whose ultimate objective is to disrupt the New Silk Road.

Commander Korsunov leads one of the 18 Cossack brigades in Makeevka; 240 of his soldiers are now involved in the Ukrainian civil war – some of them freshly returned from the cauldron in Debaltsevo. Some were formerly part of the Ukrainian Army, some worked in the security business. Korsunov and Ivlev insist all their fighters have jobs, even if unpaid – and have joined the Donetsk People’s Republic army as volunteers. “Somehow, they manage to survive.”

What’s so special about Cossack fighters? “It’s historical – we’ve always fought to defend our lands.” Commander Korsunov was a miner, now he’s on a pension – although for obvious reasons he’s receiving nothing from Poroshenko’s Kiev set up; only support from the Berkut group, the Ministry for Youth and Sports of the People’s Republic, and humanitarian food convoys from Russia.

Korsunov and Ivlev are convinced Minsk 2 will not hold; fierce fighting should resume “in a matter of weeks.” According to their best military intelligence, Kiev’s army, after the recent IMF loan, was allocated no less than $3.8 billion for weapons.

Checkpoint in Donetsk. (Photo: Pepe Escobar)

“After Odessa”, they say – a reference to the massacre of civilians in May last year - Ukraine as we know it “is finished”. So what would be the best political solution for Donbass? Their priority is “to free all Ukraine from fascism.” And after victory, referenda should be held in all regions of the country. “People should vote for what they want; whether to remain in Ukraine, whether to align with Europe, or with Russia.” This implies advancing towards Western Ukraine across hostile territory; “We’re ready for five, seven years of war, it doesn’t matter.”

So even if a political solution might be possible on a distant horizon, they are preparing for a long war. The EU is “mistaken” to treat them as separatists and even terrorists. As for those elusive Russian tanks and soldiers relentlessly denounced by NATO, where are they? Hiding in the bushes? They laugh heartily – and we’re off to a countryside Cossack banquet.

Kiev wants war

Serbian fighter Dejan “Deki” Beric – a hero of the People’s Republic army, already decorated with 10 medals - fully shares the assessment of the Cossack commanders: “The real war has not started yet.”

There are 20 Serbs – all with extensive battle experience - fighting alongside the Donbass brigades. “Deki” has just returned from a secret hardcore recon mission, infiltrating enemy territory just to conclude they are bringing in fresh soldiers, bringing new technicians, and are awash with new weapons. Minsk 2 is about to the shredded to pieces.

“Deki” shows absolutely harrowing personal footage shot with his mobile phone of the People’s Republic victory at the now fully destroyed Donetsk airport; the main scene (not fully uploaded to YouTube) starts with soldiers laughing, chatting and smoking and pans to dozens of scattered, lifeless bodies of Kiev’s forces.

Burying the dead: a hero of the People's Republic of Donetsk in Saur-mogila. (Photo: Pepe Escobar)

“Deki” confirms that even before last summer Kiev might have had no less than 20,000 dead. The absolute majority of soldiers he encountered were too scared to fight; in the Debaltsevo cauldron, “they didn’t even try to fight.”

Less than two weeks ago Ukrainian Prime Minister “Yats”, cherished pal of the American Queen of Nulandistan Victoria “F**k the EU”, made no mistake war is inevitable: “Our goal is to regain control of Donetsk and Lugansk.” Of course such a wide-ranging threat is possible only when you’re sure of total support from the IMF and NATO – financial and military arms from the US government. Not to mention Capitol Hill.

NATO has no proper intel agency of its own. NATO’s military intel is gathered by American, Brit or German agents – thus politically manipulated. That’s why NATO’s current Dr. Strangelove, Gen. Breedlove – call him Breedhate – is able to relentlessly spew out the same nonsense about “columns of Russian equipment - primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops” invading Ukraine over and over again, even as OSCE observers insist they have never seen them. And neither did this columnist.

Contrary to the assessment of both Cossack commanders and “Deki”, this concise analysis contends that neither side – Kiev or the Donbass armies – is about to launch a full offensive anytime soon. Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of Donetsk is turbo-charging the political front. Foreign Minister Alexander Kofman – who confirms he’s having political discussions with members of some EU countries - says there are plans for a wide-ranging meeting in May, leading to the possible set up of an Institution of Unrecognized Nations which could include a lot of participants, from Donetsk and Lugansk to Catalonia and the Basque country.

And Kofman is adamant. He’d rather see the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as an independent country, not as part of Russia. But first, the war Kiev – and Washington - are so obsessed on winning has to end.

Pepe Escobar traveled to Donetsk at the invitation of German-based media projectEuropa Objektiv.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.