The East Ukrainian region of Donbass is on pins and needles following the assassination of Alexander Zakharchenko, with some fearing that the killing might encourage Kiev to once again invade the self-proclaimed republics. Russia watchers were shocked when the news came in last week that a terrorist explosion at a local café in Donetsk claimed the life of the famous rebel leader, with the first reaction being to brace for what some predicted would be an imminent onslaught by Kiev. After all, the Ukrainian forces have been engaged in non-stop but low-intensity hostilities with the Donbass militia for the past few years now, and despite the Minsk Agreements, the war between the two never truly ended.
That said, the speculated invasion never happened, or at least not yet, and various explanations exist for why that is, ranging from the disciplined preparedness of the rebel militias in spite of the terrorist provocation to the theory that Kiev never really intended to commence another large-scale attack but had other reasons for carrying out the assassination. About that, while Kiev denies its involvement in the terrorist explosion, the rebels are certain that it was responsible, and Russia seemed to say as much the other day when Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova declared that "There are all grounds to believe that the Kiev regime is behind his murder, as it repeatedly used similar methods to eliminate dissidents and opponents."
Looking forward, the future of the Minsk Agreements is in jeopardy, though that's not because of anything that Russia has or hasn't done. To the contrary, Moscow reaffirmed its commitment to this peacemaking instrument while sharply criticizing Kiev for continuing to sabotage it, which could also be interpreted as alluding to its complicity in the recent terrorist attack. These concerns aren't anything new, but they take on a heightened significance after what just happened because they show that Ukraine is willing to up the ante by assassinating rebel leaders. This terrorist provocation is bound to trigger some form or another of revenge by the rebels, and the dangerous tit-for-tat that might unfold could ultimately unravel the Minsk Agreements once and for all.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Jafe Arnold, independent analyst and the founding editor-in-chief of Eurasianist Internet Archive, and Patrick John Lancaster, Crowd-funded American Independent Journalist who has been on the ground and in the trenches covering the Ukraine War from the Donetsk People's Republic for the entirety of the war.
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