When I asked [the Ukrainian Security Service officer] about Kernes’s wavering positions, Pavel smiled awkwardly. “Kernes is the dominating public figure in the city,” he whispered. “But you need to understand there is a legal system in criminality that is even higher than him.” There had been a “conversation” with “authorities” from the Kharkiv underworld,” Pavel explained. “This set things out in simple terms: Kharkiv would be Ukrainian.”
Soon after that decision was made, money flows from Russia into Kharkiv’s separatist organizations began to dry up, he said. The money had been coming from “Russian and Ukrainian politicians” — in Moscow, Belgorod and Rostov in the main—“sometimes 10 million roubles ($290,000), sometimes 5 million, sometimes 2 million.” The sudden evaporation of cash undermined the pro-Russian movement.