The mayors in all those small towns like Slaviansk are people from the Party of Regions, they are making deals with the “terrorists” to come in to their towns and occupy administrative buildings. Think about it–the mayors are leading the attacks against their own buildings.
Yes, Russian spets-naz are involved but the other layer is the huge network of criminal corruption trying to save itself or at least gain leverage. That’s why it is important not to see this just as “Russian vs. Ukrainian”–that is only one dimension and doesn’t capture the complexity of what is going on. One way to look at this is that this is the extension of the Maidan to the East. It’s the great front in the battle against criminal corruption. This moment was inevitable. As we now know, Yanukovych’s son has for years been supplementing the low pay of the security services and militia in Donetsk with envelopes of cash. They essentially privatized the security services. But that doesn’t make them reliable in the heat of battle. It’s also why the solution is not as easy and straightforward as it may seem–it’s not a simple military operation.
People are going to have to liberate themselves. And that’s not a bad thing. In Kramatorsk last night, the green men occupied the militia, got drunk, got bored and left. How do you think people in Slaviansk are feeling today? The mayor fled. The local city administration workers were forced to gather and were instructed that “they are now working for them”. What great joy have the armed men brought to their lives? And who can the armed men trust in Slaviansk? This is the problem with occupation. Pretty soon every resident of Slaviansk will start looking like a ‘Banderite”.
The Russian spets-naz are the most lethal and dangerous–but they don’t want to be captured and will try to elude direct confrontation at all costs. The green men, the Crimean blow-hards (sorry for the vulgarity) aren’t nearly as formidable and the local criminal thugs for hire are in it for the money. It’s not a winning formula, especially if the locals begin to fight back, as they seem to be doing. What happened in Zaporizhzhia was instructive, the “pro-Russian” protesters turned out to be mostly members of a local criminal gang, paid to stir up trouble. People came out by the thousands to surround them. It’s no secret that people are organizing and arming themselves in the East in pro-Ukrainian partisan groups.
The battle line is less “Russian” vs. “Ukrainian”–it’s criminal corruption vs. hope for law and order. That is the narrative that should find the greatest resonance. To complicate things further–I think the real target is Dnipropetrovsk. The third layer in all of this is the longstanding war between the Donetskie and the Dnipropetrovskie. But the difference there is that Dnipropetrovsk actually makes money and their guys are less afraid of the EU, as opposed to Donetsk.