Reports confirm a plan of the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, to launch a large-scale military campaign to secure the eastern port of Mariupol. In response to this news, representatives of the separatist People's Republic of Donetsk said earlier that they are ready to defend their land. However, many politicians both inside and outside Ukraine see Poroshenko’s venture solely as a means to maintain his power.
Poroshenko’s popularity is on the wane. In a recent opinion poll on leadership preferences conducted by the Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies, the results were as follows: Yulia Tymoshenko (14.8%); Vladimir Zelensky (8.8%); Anatoly Gritsenko (8.6%); Yuriy Boyko (8.3%); Petro Poroshenko (8.1%). Thus, Poroshenko, as presidential incumbent, needs to exert every possible effort to retain his power and survive the elections in March 2019.
In an interview with 7Dnews, Sarkis Tsaturian, director of the Russian Realist Agency, said, “Success of Poroshenko in the presidential elections seems impossible. He is losing his temper and that is why he had the idea of waging war to win the support, even superficial, of the separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine. Following the detention of Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait by Russian federal security, a military campaign at Mariupol port on the Azov Sea is an attempt to gain more votes in the upcoming elections. The seizure of this port could allow the Ukrainian Army to reach the Russian border, and eventually a victory for Poroshenko, on both military and political fronts.”
Commenting on the stance of the EU, Sarkis remarked, “European partners and even the Ukrainians themselves are unwilling to engage in any war, especially if it is for the sake of Poroshenko's success.” Headed by Germany and France, the EU has no intentions to create any other conflicts on the territory of the European continent. The EU is well aware that the Donbass region is not Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Russia will defend it in every way. Therefore, the EU is decisively against any Ukrainian military action in the east, action that eventually would terminate the Minsk agreements on peace in Ukraine.
Nikita Kamarov, head of the international monitoring department of the Russian Human Rights Protection Committee, commented on the future of the situation in Eastern Ukraine: “Almost a month ago, martial law in Ukraine was declared. In fact, it was used by some political forces for personal purposes, and above all by Petro Poroshenko and his own team, to improve their chances in the coming elections. There is no real military threat to Russia because of the imposition of martial law. By the end of December, the martial law should be abolished. In this regard, here is a question that poses itself: What is martial law in Ukraine now?”
Indeed, three months from now, presidential elections will be held in Ukraine, and Poroshenko enjoys little chance of winning. Through the application of martial law in the South and Eastern regions of Ukraine, campaigning will be hard for Poroshenko's competitors. Significantly, martial law prohibits social and political activity – including marches - in areas where the law is applied.
The mobilisation of the Ukrainian army forces near the Republics of Donbass and Donetsk increases the probability of military provocation against the two republics. In this case, Poroshenko will be able to find reasonable grounds to extend martial law. However, the opportunity to turn provocations into large-scale hostile acts remains very weak. If Kiev's threats are implemented "unprofessionally", Kiev will be clearly wrong, even in the eyes of the EU.