Wednesday 21 February 2018

Sinister 'hybrid war of shadows' chalks up a grim toll

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia yesterday (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia yesterday (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Kim Sengupta

Prisoner exchanges have begun and both sides have drawn up timetables for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry. And there is vague talk of constitutional changes. The aftermath of Minsk II, the second attempt at a ceasefire in Ukraine's bloody civil war, is going more or less as expected.

But the war is anything but over, even in the short term. At the weekend we saw an example of hybrid warfare - the use of sabotage, destabilisation and black propaganda though proxies. It came in a bombing in the city of Kharkiv, killing two people and injuring a dozen others, during a rally to commemorate the anniversary of the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, who is now in Russian exile.

The term hybrid warfare has been much in vogue recently with Western ministers, diplomats and military commanders lining up to warn of the Kremlin's use of such tactics. But, in fact, this type of war in the shadows has been going on ever since the fall of Mr Yanukovych, rising sharply in volume over the months.

Kharkiv, on the edge of the Donbas battleground, does not have a natural majority of pro-Russians like Donetsk and Luhansk, but controlling Ukraine's second city will buttress the dream of "Novorossiya" and give it more defensible borders. Kharkiv has experienced orchestrated violence, in tandem with a well-organised social media campaign. Gennady Kernes, the mayor, was shot in the back in an attempted assassination. The 64-year-old billionaire had been a fervent supporter of Mr Yanukovych, banning protests in Kharkiv to "avoid the spread of infectious disease". After the revolution he had become a super-nationalist, railing against Vladimir Putin's supposed plan to take over his country.

(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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