Russian proxy republics campaign to “reunite people of Donbas” and other political developments in the “LNR” and “DNR”

"LNR head" Leonid Plotnitsky and "DNR head" Aleksandr Zakharchenko at a joint press conference. Photo: gum-centr.su

"LNR head" Leonid Plotnitsky and "DNR head" Aleksandr Zakharchenko at a joint press conference. Photo: gum-centr.su 

War in the Donbas

Article by: Nikolaus von Twickel

Euromaidan Press is republishing a newsletter on political developments in the “LNR” and “DNR,” which is is part of the project “European Support for the Effective Monitoring of Human Rights in Eastern Ukraine” coordinated by DRA in Berlin (www.civicmonitoring.org / www.austausch.org, contact: [email protected]).

15 March – 4 April 2017: Summary

Industrial production in the “people’s republics” has widely ceased after local leaders took control of all Ukrainian-run plants in their territory, officially in response to the trade blockade on government-held territory. The separatists downplayed fears over the economic fallout and even launched a campaign to woo the people living in the government-controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In a positive move, a fresh ceasefire attempt began on April 1.

1. Effects of the blockade and “external administration”

Reports in both Ukrainian and separatist-controlled media suggest that much of the remaining industrial production in both the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” has ground to a halt after 1 March, when the separatists began to force local plants under their own control.

Read also: What assets did Russia’s puppet republics seize from Ukraine? Full list

The move was meant to improve the separatist “republics’” finances because the plants continued to pay taxes in Ukraine, where their owners, first and foremost influential oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, are based. But it might turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the separatists, because they must find new markets in recession-hit Russia, capable management in their isolated and deprived regions and, first and foremost, cash to keep operations going.

Managers at the Yenakiieve Metallurgy Plant told staff on March 30 that production won’t be resumed before the end of August, according to social media posts picked up in Ukrainian media.

To restart the huge plant with more than 5,300 workers would cost 584 million Russian rubles (about 10 million US dollars) per day, according to a report by the Donetsk “Ministry” for Industry and Trade that was published by the official DAN news site on March 25. After being widely quoted by Ukrainian media, the report vanished from DAN’s website but remains accessible via Google cache.

The reasons for the article’s removal is not hard to gauge – even locals will find it difficult to believe that the Donetsk “people’s republic” (”DNR”) can currently afford such costs, let alone those for the other 42 plants on its territory affected by the move. Both the “DNR’s” and the neighbouring Luhansk “people’s republic’s” (“LNR”) finances are thought to depend almost totally on Russia (see our Annual Report, p. 9) and it is unlikely that Moscow is ready to step up its already considerable subsidies in the near future.

In Luhansk, the separatists even decreed that executives’ salaries at “state” enterprises must not exceed 30,000 rubles (500 euro) per month.

Amid reports of wage arrears and non-payment of salaries in the areas controlled by them, the separatists are playing down fears of economic crisis. At a March 22 meeting with workers of the Yenakiieve Metallurgy Plant, trade union leader Maxim Parshin promised that the “DNR” will make first salary payments in April and that all jobs are secure, DAN reported.

On March 31, a city official told workers at the Donetsk Metallurgy Plant that they will get their salaries for March “soon”. The official, Oleg Belyayev, added that it was unclear when production at the plant could start again, because it lacks raw materials. The plant’s reopening has been postponed several times since the separatists took control of it back in June 2016.

Speaking in Donetsk the same day, Industry and Trade “Minister” Alexei Granovsky said that the process of bringing plants under control of the “DNR” was going smoothly. “All state enterprises have agreed, confirmed and installed (new) executives,” he was quoted as saying by DAN. It was unclear, however, what Granovsky meant with “state enterprises”. Officially, “outside administration” does not mean nationalization, i.e legal ownership does not change. Instead, the plants get a new management, must register in the “people’s republics” and re-orientate production (to Russia).

While severing economic ties between Ukraine proper and the separatist-held areas is a clear violation of the Minsk agreement, there are serious doubts that the separatists’ declared aim, economic integration with Russia, can be achieved any time soon, given the ongoing economic downturn in that country (see Newsletter Nr. 19).

2. Minsk Contact Group talks clouded by blockade

Ukraine is calling the “outside administration” a forced nationalization. During the latest round of talks of the Trilateral Contact Group on March 29 in Minsk, Kyiv said that “the seizure of state private and foreign enterprises” was a serious violation of the Minsk agreement and demanded an immediate return to Ukrainian law, according to Darya Olifer, the spokeswoman of Ukraine’s chief negotiator Leonid Kuchma.

Read also: Ukraine imposes official blockade on occupied territories demanding stolen assets back

Olifer explained that the nationalization and other recent violations like Russia’s recognition of separatist-issued passports had forced Ukraine to impose a trade embargo against the separatist territories. However, the embargo, announced on March 15, was widely seen as a result of Kyiv’s three months-long struggle with nationalist activists, who had imposed their own blockade to prevent Ukraine trading with the separatists.

Both the “DNR” and “LNR” had cited the blockade as the reason for putting local industry under “outside administration”.

The Minsk meeting had been clouded by these developments. Kuchma himself said two days earlier that progress had become so difficult that another summit of the “Normandy Four” (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) was necessary to break the deadlock.

Speaking after the Minsk talks, Martin Sajdik, the chief negotiator for the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said that “recent events intensify tensions between the sides and have an unambiguously negative effect on the process of mutual rapprochement.”

However, the parties in Minsk did achieve a minor success in brokering yet another ceasefire commitment for the upcoming Easter holidays. Whether that agreement, which came into force on April 1, will be successful, remains to be seen. The OSCE Monitoring Mission’s report of April 4 speaks of mixed results – fewer ceasefire violations in the Luhansk region, but a marked increase in the Donetsk region.

Read also: 2 soldiers killed amid “Easter ceasefire” in Donbas. 100 attacks in 3 days #Donbasreports

3. Separatists campaign to “Reunite the People of Donbas”

Despite facing the biggest economic challenge since their inception, both “people’s republics” launched a campaign to win over Ukrainians living in the government-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by offering seemingly better social services.

The “Humanitarian Programme for the Reunion of the People of Donbas” is heavily promoted by official media outlets in Donetsk and Luhansk and includes offers to move to the “people’s republics” for work, education or medical treatment or even for a Russian-language quiz known as Totalny Diktant.

Especially the programme’s healthcare part has been criticized as being a mere propaganda tool. “DNR” leader Alexander Zakharchenko said during a call-in show on March 23 that Donetsk clinics are offering priority treatment for patients from government-controlled parts of Donbas. However, Zakharchenko admitted in the same show that his “republic” is in a difficult financial situation, but added that fellow Slavs should always help each other. “We are a family,” he said.

Ukrainian journalist Serhiy Harmash pointed out in his video blog that Zakharchenko is calling sick people to come to the “DNR” for treatment that he cannot even provide to his own population.

Also part of the program is the opening of “service centers” at crossing points along the “contact line” with government-held areas. Their staff is supposed to help people to sign up for social payments from the “people’s republics,” although the blue containers primarily function as post offices, selling stamps and offering to forward mail into separatist-held areas, as explained by “DNR Communications Minister” Viktor Yatsenko during the opening of one centre at the Olenivka crossing point.

During the March 23 call-in show, Zakharchenko made it once again clear that for him those areas are a part of his “people’s republic” under “temporary Ukrainian occupation.”

When a caller from the government-controlled town of Volnovakha pointed out that Ukrainian authorities are likely to retaliate harshly against anybody cooperating with the separatists by using those centres, Zakharchenko told him to stand up and fight for his homeland: “I have no problem when they arrest you, because you live in Volnovakha (and) Volnovakha is a city of the Donetsk People’s Republic … each of us needs to be at his battlefield position, including those in Volnovakha. The war continues.”

Read also: 27,000 forced to attend “mobilization assembly” in occupied Donetsk Oblast

The program is the biggest attempt yet to extend the “people’s republic’s” reach into government-controlled areas. Previous examples include claims that a cell of the “DNR” ruling party, Donetsk Republic, has started work in government-controlled Sloviansk (see Newsletter Nr. 14).

4. Separatists deny involvement in Ukrainian intelligence officer’s death

Meanwhile, the wave of assassinations in Donbas continued. However, for the first time in many months, the victim was not a separatist commander but a senior Ukrainian officer. Oleksandr Kharaberyush, the deputy head of the SBU’s counterintelligence operations in the Donetsk region, was killed when a bomb ripped through his SUV on March 31 in Mariupol.  Ukrainian police quickly pointed fingers to the separatists, who denied any involvement.

The Donetsk “Security Ministry”, known under its Russian acronym MGB, said in a statement that it does “not employ terrorist methods unlike the Ukrainian special services,” adding that the “DNR” will “sooner or later” restore its territorial integrity – i.e. conquer all of Donetsk region.

The MGB was referring to captured Ukrainian soldiers who were shown on videos by the Luhansk Security Ministry last month, where they confessed in carrying out the assassination of “LNR” military commander Oleg Anashchenko (see Newsletter Nr. 19). Anashchenko was killed by a car bomb on February 4. Four days later, prominent Donetsk field commander Mikhail Tolstykh was killed in his office by yet unidentified attackers. The separatists blame Ukrainian special forces for both killings.

Source: civicmonitoring.org

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  • Randolph Carter

    Why is it Plotnitsky and Zakharchenko look like suspects in a lineup for pedophiles (stupid question)?

    “Zakharchenko … added that fellow Slavs should always help each other. “We are a family,” he said.”

    Ok, you helped Donbas residents at the points of Kalashnikovs and Buks, took away the homeland of my beloved, imposed your own wretched currency (the “rubble” as Brent likes to call it, which is worth about $0.017), fired into the homes of non-combatants, took people away under the flimsiest of pretenses to rot in your jails, your leader pledged to put Ukrainian woman and children in front of his own thugs and cowards, and overall your country was a Siberia-sized sack of sчit. And now you want to help???

    Take your help and засунь его себе в задницу. But on your way out, leave about 20 bn Euro on the doorstep. You aren’t family, so don’t come back.

    • Michel Cloarec

      A family of thieves !

      • Randolph Carter

        To borrow from the movie Blazing Saddles, A family of “rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers and shit-kickers.” (with acknowledgement to Mel Brooks)

    • veth
    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky look like suspects in a pedophile lineup because they probably ARE pedophiles. They try to copy everything their Lord and Master Pedo Putolini does, and that no doubt includes abusing little boys up to 8 years old or so with impunity.
      One shudders at the thought of children being offered candy by the likes of Plotnitsky and Zakharchenko.

      • Randolph Carter

        Just when you thought they had reached the bottom of the septic tank, they go even deeper. Does someone follow these guys around with towels to wipe up the trail of slime they leave behind? Of course, that would also apply to Putin and his pals in Muscovy, so we’ better stock up on TP, soap and Lysol.

  • Brent

    Want to see your business fail? Let Russians run it……

    How delusional for Zakharchenko to call on “Slavs to help each other” when he is one of the chief terrorists against his own Slavic Ukrainian brothers and sisters…the only “help” he deserves is getting help stretching the length of his neck dangling on a rope…

    • Alex George

      Yes it’s laughable isn’t it.

      The “separatists” control less than half of the Donbass, but they have proven totally incapable of administering what they do hold. It’s a tragedy for the people who live under their rule, but at least they are learning how bad Kremlin rule is.

      The blockade came at a good time, just when Moscow had difficulty in paying subsidies.

    • Liever

      Zakharchenko tries to get rid of the CATHOLIC POLAKS that rule UKRAINE from the inside! THEY SEND UKRAINIANS AND RUSSIANS AT EACH OTHER, JUST TO WATCH THEM DIE WHILE THE POLAKS GET [email protected] BY THEIR PRIESTS AND GOVERNMENT! Who else would other than those POLAKS who ***CLAIM*** to be genocided, and now decide to get PAYBACK for it! That’s why they back UKRAINE indefinitely, tey want to see true Ukrainians and Russians die!

      • Vasyl P.

        Funny. Research Hitler, and see what the two most massacred ethnicities were under him. Yeeep, Jews and Poles, the two you insulted in just one post.

        With that, you should look in the mirror before calling people Nażis. Hitler sounds like your kind of man

      • Alex George

        Zakharchenko is a cheap apparatchik who does exactly what he is told by Putin. That includes arranging the assassination of his fellow separatists if they fail to follow Kremlin orders.

        He is a traitor to his own kind, who would willlimgly enslave all the people of Ukraine if it gave him a supply of good vodka. Ukraine has rejected the fascist separatists and their Kremlin masters.

        • Liever

          THE JEWNAZZIS DONT REPRESENT TRUE UKRAINIANS EITHER, we all know the WEST backed MUSLIM LOVING GERMANY AND THE CATHOLIC POLAKS stole Ukraine from the real Ukrainians! THATS WHY CRIMEA WAS TAKEN WITHOUT A SINGLE SHOT! Donbass turned VIOLENT because the JEWNAZZI PORKY and his closed circle oligarch group intervened on their autonomy!

          • Brent

            What the f*ck would a Buryat-Mongol like you know about “TRUE UKRAINIANS”? Most of you Russians masquerade as being “RUS” people when you’re just mongrel Mongols mixed in with whatever slime entered your gene pool from the time your ancestors left the Mongolian steppes. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3353c8493a7362404b84852b1a7307b6184fbff65e702130dcefcc7cfe671606.jpg

          • Liever

            You are so PATHETIC!

            DON’T YOU SEE? UKRAINE’S BEING FLOODED BY PEOPLE FROM THE WEST TO FIGHT AGAINST RUSSIA! THE NAZZI UKRAINE REGIME WANTS TO FINISH OFF BOTH UKRAINIANS AND RUSSIANS! Of course you PATHETIC BIRDBRAIN NAZZIS ONLY BOW DOWN TO YOUR MASTERS because Ukraine can’t do ANYTHING in their PATHETIC country without a loan from IMF!

          • Alex George

            You poor deluded fool – there are no “floods of westerners” in ukraine.

            Ukrainian volunteers fought off the “great Russian army”. Yes, they received some money and some equipment, but the courage and determination was all their own,

            Your foolish fuehrer putin attacked the Ukrainian people. By doing that, he forever separated Ukraine from Russia.

          • Alex George

            Have you any idea how stupid you sound? Your posts don’t even make sense.

            Go away and learn how to put a sentence together, little boy

      • Brent

        Just shorten your name to “LIE”….not sure what the “ver” is for!!!

        Hey sh*t for brains, don’t you realize Plotnitsky is from Galicia? Yes the leader of YOUR LPR terrorists is a Galician….f*cking dumba$$!!!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/485c1ffe9e4d5913990b033311b91250c5102d1e2ed3946818b67c2ed2624f9b.jpg

  • Dagwood Bumstead

    Plotnitsky, Zakharchenko and Co clearly haven’t heard of the Chinese saying “an empty hand is not licked”. They have nothing positive to offer those in the territory they control- what makes them believe that sane people in free Ukraine would want to be part of their failed mini-states where their terror rules?
    And just how do they think they can assert their “authority” over the free parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts? With their 27,000 mobilised “volunteers”? They will be cut to pieces, just as their predecessors were last time they tried to advance.

    • veth

      On Minsk: We considered the importance of the accords. Russia can make progress in implementation by de-escalating violence and taking steps to withdraw separatist armed forces and heavy weapons so that OSCE observers can fulfill their role,” he said at a Moscow press conference jointly with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday, April 12, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Read also Ukraine reports 5 WIAs amid 45 enemy attacks in last day “Until full progress is made on the Minsk accords, the situation in Ukraine will remain an obstacle to improvement in relations between the U.S. and Russia,” he said.

      Read more on UNIAN: https://www.unian.info/politics/1874581-tillerson-donbas-conflict-in-ukraine-to-remain-obstacle-in-us-russia-relations.html

      • zorbatheturk

        RuSSia has no intention of upholding a ceasefire in Donbas. You do not invite a hungry fox to a party at the henhouse.

  • zorbatheturk

    Those two jokers look like prison escapees.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      That’s because they ARE criminals!

    • veth

      Just nazzies, Hitler is proud of them.

  • Michel Cloarec

    Why bother, they are desperate, they can´t manage the economy of their so called mini states. Russia does not have the economy either. They took the factories but they do not know how to run factories. They are used to THEFT only . So the workers in those factories will suffer with misery and hopefully revolt and cut their throat .

  • veth

    Russia will not participate in Eurovision 2017 in Kyiv, thanks God.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Nobody will miss Dwarfstan. And why they participated at all is beyond me- Eurovision is a EUROPEAN contest, and Pedo Putolini himself has repeatedly stated that Dwarfstan is not a European country.