Donbass rebels no longer appear as a rag-tag militia, but as a fully coherent and professional military organization, with its own code, uniforms, traditions, banners and honor guard
This article originally appeared at Fort Russ
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is a case in point. The significance of what is being 'told' with the imagery is as profound - if not more - than the elections last fall, or the several ceasefire agreements during the course of the conflict.
Seeing these, the viewer will have any number of thoughts, and most of these are the intended effects of the imagery. All of the statements which these project are the intended ones.
The DPR 'rebels' no longer appear as rebels, but as a fully coherent and professional military organization, with its own code, uniforms, traditions, banners, and color/honor guard.
They have branded themselves in a nearly identical fashion to the Russians, as the Moscow Victory day previews indicate. There is a new shade of green being used on hardware both by the Russians and the Novorossiyans, alongside a new type of red star that has inside of it an upright white vector with a white bar through it. This is flanked on either side by extended St. George ribbons, which have come to symbolize, in contemporary context, both the joining of Crimea with Russia and the revolution in Novorossiya. That Russia itself has decided to use the St. George ribbon prominently for the second year in a row, speaks volumes by itself.
This imagery and its place in the information war, including the psychological levers it is meant to pull on, indicate a major shift in how the DPR presents itself to the world.
These are rich in contextual and subtextual meanings.
These images and symbols indicate an inauguration of a new period in Russian military organization, which combines 'Eurasian sphere' forces in a new way. These forces are both decentralized and centered ideologically rather than professionally, it is the use of the 'political soldier' which analysts and military scientists have written and published about since the "coming of age" of guerrilla warfare. It was precisely this guerrilla warfare, waged by ideological units composed of political soldiers, which were characteristic of the partisan struggle against German occupation during WWII.
This is similar in some ways to Hezbollah, whose successful creation of institutions of dual-power have led to analysts calling it a 'state within a state'. Like the DPR and LPR armies, Hezbollah is not considered terrorist organizations by the UN for a number of reasons including having features of a resistance/liberation movement and features of state organization, as codified by the Geneva convention. This Victory Day preview show is further evidence which visibly contradicts the claims by Kiev that they are primarily involved in an Anti-Terrorist Operation.
While various figures from within the Kiev government have tried to claim a Russian invasion, leading Ukrainian military officers have denied this. Ukraine has not declared war on Russia, nor has Russia on Ukraine. Trying to consider the DPR and LPR army as terrorists rather than legitimate belligerents (whether Russian in origin or not) also figures into the Kiev's attempt to avoid responsibilities for the treatment of POW's (etc.) and rules of war as outlined in the Geneva Convention and codified in numerous ICJ findings from The Hague.
Interestingly, in this frame we can see two military personnel leading this unit who are simulating a standard Hezbollah uniform. The hats, beard, belt, and white gloves are too similar and specific to be random.
But this is not all - this concentration of forces in Donetsk and its symbolism could be connected to other coming surprises, and have a connection to documented concerns from Novorossiyan leadership that Kiev will attempt a major escalation surrounding Victory Day.
Ukrainian pro-governmenta media ran a report that Donetsk military reported to the OSCE last week that there was a good reason for bringing in more heavy equipment near the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The increasingly high concentration of military equipment, like tanks and APC's, were simply in connection with a plan for a Victory Day celebration in Donetsk, DPR officials claimed, and this is not intended to indicate an intention to increase hostilities or violate the shaky ceasefire.
This is a convenient pretext to concentrate military equipment in Donetsk outside of the general intention of the Ceasefire agreement's requirement for a DMZ, one which to date has not been honored by the UAF. The UAF has not been able to adequately control the positions of its own decentralized '4GW' type units, the various volunteer brigades; Pravy Sektor, OUN, Azov, Aidar.
What we are to make of this preview is clear: the DPR is an official part of the Russian sphere of co-prosperity and affinity, and has for itself important hallmarks of state institutions. The DPR is in better condition and is better organized than the UAF, and can manage the proper balance and coordination of centralized command and control structures alongside of popular, horizontal, decentralized structures. These are tremendously important signs.
Joaquin Flores is a Mexican-American expat based in Belgrade. He is a full-time analyst and director at the Center for Syncretic Studies, a public geostrategic think-tank and consultancy firm, as well as a co-editor of Fort Russ news service.