By Paul Goble
Moscow is replacing the commanders of interior troops in the regions bordering Ukraine with more experienced generals in the hopes of blocking the influx of criminal elements and contraband, including weapons, from the Moscow-backed DNR and LNR, siloviki sources tell Russia’s Znak news agency.
Of course, the replacement of such commander could also be a first step to a new Russian offensive against Ukraine, and the Russian agency says that “in the Kremlin they do not exclude a new sharpening of the situation in the Donbass this fall” (znak.com/2018-08-03/istochnik_granichachie_s_ukrainoy_regiony_rossii_ukrepyat_proverennymi_generalami).
Znak gives details on the biographies of both those who are being replaced and those who are replacing them. It also features a comment by Moscow military expert Pavel Luzin who says that it would be a mistake to speak about the establishment of some kind of “buffer zone around Ukraine.”
Instead, he suggests, what Moscow is doing is working to ensure that it can stop the flow of arms, drugs and other goods from the DNR and LNR. “Don’t forget,” he says, “that the DNR and LNR now are strongly criminalized. Yes, they are formally loyal to Russia and to a certain extent controlled by it. But criminals aren’t part of the vertical.”
These two self-proclaimed republics, Luzin continues, “are full of petty bosses and field commanders who are ready to do almost anything for a few thousand dollars. There is a mass of weaponry, there are shadowy financial flows, and all this cannot remain beyond control. Therefore now Moscow is strengthening the local siloviki” with experienced commanders.