Ukraine says Russia has launched 'Operation Domino' in east

By bne IntelliNews November 7, 2014

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Russia has launched 'Operation Domino' against Ukraine, says Ukraine's security service, SBU. Kyiv says the Kremlin is flooding Ukraine's Donbass with guerilla fighters and their military trainers, intending to use the rebel-held region as a bridgehead for further expansion across Ukrainian territory. 

According to SBU spokesperson Mariyan Lubkivsky, speaking on a television news program on  November 6, Russia has started a huge training programme for guerilla fighters across the Donbass region of East Ukraine, held by Russian-backed insurgents, with the intention of expanding rebel-held territory. 

"SBU counter-intelligence has established that fighters with the help of their Russian handlers have moved their training grounds from Rostov [the Russian region that borders Ukraine's Donbass] in order to train fighters directly on the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine: this is operation 'Domino' and is financed directly by the Russian federal budget," Lubkivsky said.

Lubkivsky said that Russia had deployed thousands of top-class specialists to train guerrilla fighters, who comprise both locals and irregulars recruited from Russia. "This is one more indication of the evident but undeclared presence of Russian fighters in Donbass," he said. 

He also said that what Russia has claimed to be 'humanitarian convoys' bringing food and water to Donbass, in fact contain equipment for training the fighters. Lubkivsky said that there were already as many as 25,000 rebel fighters on the territory of Donbass, preparing to enact the 'domino' scenario, whereby successive regions fall to the rebels, as Ukraine weakens.

Previously, the Financial Times had reported interviewing a number of Russian military in rebel-held Lugansk, who said they had come to train the rebels.

Ukraine's defence minister Stepan Poltorak told former Nato supreme commader in Europe Wesley Clark that "our Eastern neighbor is actively supporting the terrorists [Russian-backed rebels] and supplies then with arms, artilleries and tanks to them, and does everything to futher destabilise the situation in Ukraine," as quoted by newswires on November 6.  Poltorak also acknowledged that Ukrainians in the eastern region also actively participated in the insurgency.

Independent Ukrainian defence analyst Dmitro Tymchuk, of the Centre of Military-Political Research, also reports that Russian forces are building up towards an attack. "During the last few days we can observe the completion of formation of tactical attack groups by the enemy,  and now they are ready for offensive action. Simultaneously Russia is moving troops up to the Ukrainian border."

According to Tymchuk, the Russian-backed insurgents are clearly planning further action, but a direct Russian incursion is at the moment unlikely, with the Russian forces intended as a back-up.  "Only a show of [Ukrainian] force can thwart the aggressor's plans," Tymchuk wrote on Facebook.  

Rebels leaders for their part accused the Ukrainian forces of stepping up aggressive activity, but in a statement released by the press centre of Ukraine's so-called "Anti-terrorist centre" Ukraine's commanders said that they were still closely following the terms of the Minsk peace accords signed on September 5.

Fighting between Kremlin-backed insurgents, regular Russian army units, and Ukrainian regular and irregular forces was ended by a ceasefire agreement signed in Minsk on September 5 by representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Donbass rebels and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

But the Donbass rebels' decision to stage their own unrecognised elections on November 2 is claimed by the West and Kyiv to have breached commitments made under the Minsk peace agreement, leading Kyiv to declare it will revoke a law according special status to the rebel-held territories that was also part of the peace agreement, and potentially restarting hostilities. 

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