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Published in Stream:
Ukraine Live Day 483
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
'Novorossiya' Is Not Dead - Separatist Leaders Discuss Unification With Each Other, Not With Ukraine
5 years
Over 100 Hectares On Fire After Grad Attack Near Tryokhizbenka - State Forestry Agency
Two Soldiers Wounded In Lugansk Region As Shells Strike Residential Areas

Nearly one month ago, a Russian news outlet ran the headline, "Novorossiya Projects Closed," and the rumor spread that Russia was cutting off its support for its expansionist vision to create a "New Russia" beyond the borders of the current Russian Federation, starting in eastern Ukraine.

At the time the statement was widely adopted by certain Western writers who tend to give Putin the benefit of the doubt/

But the facts on the ground simply did not match the statement; since the supposed death of "Novorossiya" there has been an escalation in violence and movement of heavy weapons inside territory held by the Russian-backed fighters. 

There are plenty of signs that 'Novorossiya' is alive, however. In statements published in the Donetsk News Agency (DAN), a key separatist spokesman discussed the unification of the self- declared "People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk" -- a key feature of the "Novorossiya" concept (translated by The Interpreter):

The Speaker of the People's Soviet of the DNR, Andrei Purgin, has not excluded the unification of the two Donbass Republics. According to his press office, he stated this live on radio Krym [Crimea].

"On the unification of the DNR and LNR, in principle, one can say it's possible. I think that work needs to be done on this," he said. 

Meanwhile, the Russian-backed separatists are more defiant than ever. As the Moscow correspondent of the Daily Telegraph notes, it's the Minsk peace process that appears to be dead.

Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the head of the self-declared "Donetsk Peoples' Republic," has made yet another statement which openly states that his government has no interest in unifying with Ukraine, a key element of the Minsk accord (translation by The Interpreter):

"No matter what happens in Minsk, the DNR is an independent state and will never become part of Ukraine, blood has come between us," said Zakharchenko at a meeting with residents of the village of Oktyabrsky, which is regularly shelled by the security forces.

Zakharchenko's defiant statements, in line with what he has been saying for months, certainly do not betray any sense that his major ally (Russia) has abandoned his cause.  

Beyond this, there is fighting reported across the front today -- part of a trend of increased fighting which has been observed over the last month: 

There is another possible sign that Russia may have supplied a new weapon to the separatists. Over the weekend the Ukrainian representatives of the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of ceasefire issues (JCCC) said that they witnessed two Tor-m2 anti-aircraft missile systems (SA-15 "Gauntlets"). It's not clear if Ukraine even has these weapons systems, we are not aware of any evidence that either side has used this weapon in this conflict, and in their comprehensive catalog of the weapons used in eastern Ukraine, ARES (Armament Research Services) makes no mention of the Tor missile system. 

See yesterday's report for details. 

It's worth noting that we have not seen pictures or videos which place the SA-15 in eastern Ukraine, but this is not the first observation of increased anti-aircraft weapons movement in this area. Last week the OSCE reported that they witnessed an  SA-8 "Gecko" system moving in a convoy with another anti-aircraft weapon, likely the Strela-10 (see our explanation). These anti-aircraft systems have been spotted with increasing frequency near the front lines which suggests that they are guarding important hardware that the Russian-backed fighters want to make sure they do not lose.
-- James Miller, Pierre Vaux