Policy shift shows Russia preparing to recognize its puppet republics in Donbas



2017/04/21 - 23:39 • Analysis & Opinion, Featured, War in the Donbas

In February Russia shifted its occupation policy towards the Donbas from “Transnistrian” to “Abkhazian” scenario. This means that Russia doesn’t believe in Minsk accords anymore and intends to recognize its puppet “republics” in the Ukraine’s Donbas as states.

  • On February 18, President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed a decree on recognition of “passports” issued by so-called DNR and LNR in Russia.
  • So-called Luhansk people’s republic adopted the Russian ruble as its basic monetary unit on 1 March 2017. The ruble is the “official” “major currency” in both “republics” since 2015.
  • Most of the Ukrainian assets in the occupied territories were stolen by occupation forces in late 2014 and 2015, but some enterprises mostly owned by Ukrainian tycoon Rinat Akhmetov remained under Ukrainian jurisdiction until 1 March 2017, when they were seized by occupation authorities who introduced external “temporary administrations” to the companies. The “nationalization” continues until now, Luhansk branch of Akhmetov’s Ukrtelecom telephone company has been seized recently.

On April 4, President Petro Poroshenko said, “Russia changed its tactics both in Crimea and Donbas by raising stakes up to the creation of quasi-states.”

Russian occupation scenarios


Russia controls zones of frozen conflicts in Moldova (Transnistria region), Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia), and in Ukraine where the conflict is frozen in annexed Crimean peninsula and not yet frozen in the Donbas. Russia’s tactics are part of a wider pattern in which the Kremlin uses separatist conflicts as engines for corruption and criminality, and as Trojan horses to block progress in reform-minded countries on Russia’s periphery.

Conflict zones prevent countries from entering NATO and integrating into the European Union. Russian tactics are parts of its geopolitical strategy. Conflicts in the territory of post-Soviet countries, inflicted, fuelled and being kept frozen by Russia, can be understood as parts of the greater whole Russia’s imperialistic plan to regain strategic points of its lost empire.

Transnistrian modelA freezing of a conflict inflicted by Russia can be called a Transnistrian model or scenario of occupation. Such model is used in Moldova where Russia did not recognize the Russian-controlled region of Transnistria as an independent state over the 25 years it is uncontrolled by Moldova. The only official currency of Transnistria is the Transnistrian ruble and Russia still didn’t recognize passports and other documents issued by Transnistrian “authorities.” Officially, Transnistria is still a part of Moldova for Russia.

Transnistrian ruble, currency of Transnistria not accepted as currency anywhere outside of Transnistria: banknotes, coins, and "plastic coins" issued in 2014. Occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia have no currency.

Transnistrian ruble, currency of Transnistria not accepted as currency anywhere outside of Transnistria: banknotes, coins, and “plastic coins” issued in 2014. Occupied Abkhazia, South Ossetia, parts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts have no currency using the Russian ruble as basic monetary unit

Abkhazian model. Another Russian occupation model was applied in Georgia, where Russia recognized the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as states. The Russian ruble is the only currency used in both occupied Georgian regions. Russia recognized passports of both “republics” and their holders have the right to a visa-free entry to Russia. The latest provocative visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to occupied Abkhazia shows Russia disrupting international law in its relations with Georgia.

Annexation. The third Russian “occupation model” is classic annexation. In 2014 Russia annexed Crimea, establishing Crimea and Sevastopol as its federal subjects.

The Transnistrian model makes occupation cheaper and more effective for Russia because the “host state” still pays social benefits for its citizens in the occupied territories, brainwashed residents of occupied areas can elect pro-Russian candidates to state government bodies, finally, this model is not so fraught with consequence on the world stage.

Forcing the Transnistrian scenario

The Minsk-2 deal was the second attempt to force Ukraine to accept Russia’s Transnistria scenario for the Donbas, a “peace enforcement” intended to push both occupied regions back into Ukraine as Russian-run enclaves to expand Russia’s control over the internal and external affairs of Ukraine. The agreement demanded constitutional reform in Ukraine for the recognition of the “special status” for occupied eastern territories and holding of the local elections “discussed and agreed upon with representatives of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.”

However, the paragraphs prescribing to restore control of the state border to the Ukrainian government and pull out “all foreign armed formations, military equipment, mercenaries” from the territory of Ukraine were impractical for Russia. If Russia withdraws its troops from any occupied territory, this territory would disappear as a Russian “geopolitical project” in a few months.

Shifting policy from Transnistrian to Abkhazian

On February 18, President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed a decree on recognition of “passports” and other documents issued by so-called DNR and LNR in Russia. The “passports” were de facto accepted in Russia because their holders could enter Russia long before the Putin’s decree, however, this decree made them officially recognized by the Russian Federation.

Russia eliminated the last “islands” of Ukrainian jurisdiction in the occupied territories by seizing Ukraine-run enterprises on March 1. One the same day so-called LNR (Luhansk people’s republic) adopted the Russian ruble as its basic monetary unit. Ruble is the “official” “major currency” in both “republics” since 2015.

Recently, Russian Railways slashed rates for shipping coal and iron ore to points near the occupied areas, where the metals industry provides most jobs.

All these actions indicate that Russia considered Minsk-2 failed and changed its occupation policy towards the Donbas from Transnistrian to Abkhazian model.

This means Russia is going to fully separate occupied parts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts from Ukraine and recognize its Donbas puppet republics as states sooner or later like Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Former President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma who represents Ukraine to the Trilateral Contact Group on the Donbas (Ukraine, Russia, OSCE) stated that Russia’s recognition of documents issued by the separatist areas will lead to the freezing of the conflict in the same way it did in Transnistria. However, Russia didn’t recognize Transnistrian passports. It is Abkhazian model of the Russian occupation leading to the recognition of occupied regions by Russia as independent states.

Quoting the opinion of “three people close to the leadership in Moscow,” Bloomberg said that Putin has no plans to really recognize or annex the Donbas territories, however, this can very well be part of the Russian disinformation campaign. 

Moreover, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied that Russia was preparing to annex territories in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

As Brian Whitmore of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty points out:

And when you consider all the other things the Kremlin has denied (things that turned out to be — you know — like, true) well, then you can’t help but wonder if the annexation of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics might actually be on the table.

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  • http://www.franksrecipes.net Frank

    you should have put Moldova/Transnistria on that map too

    • veth

      It is.

      • Yuri Zoria

        It wasn’t and was added a bit later.

    • Yuri Zoria

      Thank you, you were right.

  • zorbatheturk

    A very evil ploy indicative of the Putinator’s methods.

  • Alex George

    So Putin has abandoned his original plan to get these territories re-integrated into Ukraine but with oblast governments hostile to Kyiv. He has only ever held a part of each oblast anyway.

    It doesn’t make much practical difference – Russia can only hold these territories as long as it keeps massive numbers of troops in and around them, and the cost is crippling. At the same time, the genuine separatists in the local population realise they have been betrayed.

    And as the Ukrainian economy improves, and Russia’s collapses, the people of Donbass wil realise how much they have been lied to. They will welcome the departure of the Russians with great relief.

    • Fortranz

      What we need to do too get this point across is to get the Trump administration [and it’s public supporters and the GOP] to see how this is the truth of the Crimea, Donbass and Luhansk oblasts. Not the propaganda that they have voted overwhelmingly to join Russia and that this is what the majority of the people in these oblasts want. When they begin too support this position than the Crimea, Donbass and Luhansk oblasts will begin there departure from Russia.

    • Yuri Zoria

      Maybe yes. Or it can be kind of blackmailing – “hey, take your Donbas back, do you see that I am serious?”

  • veth

    Son of DUMA-member gets 27 years jail in the USA for stealing 150 million dollars from VISA-cards worldwide. His father is member of the Liberal Party of Russia, the fascist party.

  • Murf

    I know this is not the preferred answer but Ukraine should let them go.
    The factories there are important but old and ineffecient.
    with subsidies the mines were costing Ukraine 150 DPT.South African coal costs 80 at the port.
    And the people there were the hard core Party of Regions types that obstructed reforms from the beginning.
    Lets also be candid,even if Ukraine gets them back Russia has already stripped everything of value or is going to before the turnover. What Ukraine will be stuck with is a devastated land that will cost billions to rebuild and clean up. The remaining people will be grateful at first but in a few years they will get all misty eyed for the “Good old Days when Donbas stood alone and defiant!”.
    They will be ripe for the next Russian tinpot dictator who wants to stir up trouble and the process will start all over again.
    Let Donbas go and be done with it.
    Ukraine does not need more territory that has to be repaired or a population of dubious loyalty.
    Ukraine has plenty of resources and industry they can develop smartly and be prosperous for generations. They just need the political unity to do it.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Many of the PoR supporters are in Dwarfstan now as “refugees”; some have been given a one-way ticket to Dwarfstan’s Far East. Few of them will return when the so-called LNR and DNR collapse. And as most have Dwarfstanian citizenship by now Kyiv can simply deny them entry as undesirable aliens.
      The PoR supporters that are still in the Donbas are hardly likely to stay when Kyiv regains control. Many of them will be on “wanted” lists and face years behind Ukrainian bars for criminal activities- hardly an incentive to stay, one would think.

    • Alex George

      Hi Murf, wherever did you get the naive idea that Ukraine has the option of “letting them go”? That is simply not on the table. Ukraine has two options – (a) resistance to putin, not giving him an inch more of Ukraine (ie what they are currently doing), or (b) surrendering all of Ukraine to Putin’s control.

      “Letting go” the territories is simply a step on the road to (b) – a substantial step,

      I agree with you that the old metallurgical factories are irrelevant – they were already obsolete in 2014. The occupied territories will look very different after liberation.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        Much of the industry in the occupied enclaves has been razed by now, with the inventories carted off to Dwarfstan either as scrap or for further use in Dwarfstanian plants.


        This article gives details of what has been destroyed in the so-called LNR. It is about 2 years old and is probably incomplete; no doubt a similar list can be compiled for the so-called DNR. Anyway, Kyiv will no doubt present Moscow with a hefty bill for all the destruction the dwarf’s aggression has caused.

      • Brent

        I’m waiting for “Comrade Drumpf” talking of reopening those Donbass coal mines……

    • Alex George

      “But in a few years they will get all misty eyed for the “Good old days when Donbass stood alone and defiant”.”

      Doesn’t the recent history of the rest of Ukraine teach us differently? It is far more pro- Ukrainian and anti-Kremlin now than it was immediately after the Maidan.

      And “letting Donbass go” is not an available option, so why even talk about it? Putin will never enter into such an arrangement except as cover for increased attacks in Ukraine. Remember Minsk I and Minsk II?

      • Murf

        They get misty eyed for the Soviet Union and Stalin.
        Anything is possible with those people.

        • Alex George

          Fair point…although that only applies to those who are Stalinist.

          • Murf

            Symptom of a larger mind set; the Soviet Man syndrome.
            They never walked away from it in way that even the Russians did.
            Not everybody of course but they left early on.
            Bring Donbas back into Ukraine now would be a disaster. Think East and West Germany in the 60s before the both Germans economy and society were ready for it. Ukraine is not ready for it.
            Ukraine needs political stability, economic growth and security.
            They will have none of those things if they bring Donbas in under the Minsk II.
            So forget about it. If Putin wants to make it another Bull Sh*t republic that keeps draining his resources , good.
            Cheer for him even.
            He is sinking in the quick sand of his own making so Ukraine does not need to throw him a line.
            Never interfere with an enemy making a mistake.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Current Ukrainian policy is to not recognise the so-called LNR and DNR, or the illegal annexation of the Crimea. For Kyiv the best thing to do is simply wait while Pedo Putolini wrecks Dwarfstan. Time is on Kyiv’s side, not the dwarf’s.
            The new policy of isolating the LNR and DNR is a good one as it increases the costs for Dwarfstan. Kyiv is now cutting off electricity to the LNR:


            This means Dwarfstan will have to take over the electricity supply. But are there any direct connections between the LNR’s net and that of Rostov oblast, and if there are, are they of sufficient capacity to supply the enclave’s needs in full? Can the power plants in Rostov oblast take up the slack? If not Dwarfstan will have to expand the network, adding to the cost of supplying the electricity.

            Things are getting more and more expensive for the dwarf.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Kyiv is now looking at cutting the electricity supply to the so-called DNR after having shut down the supply to the so-called LNR:


            Let’s hope this will be cut as well.

            Dwarfstan can supply part of the so-called LNR’s electricity needs, but not all according to te above-mentioned article. That probably means laying thicker cables to increase the supply capacity from Rostov oblast, new bigger transformers and switch gear to handle the extra current etc etc. This won’t be cheap, and if Kyiv does decide to cut the supply to the so-called DNR as well it will become even more expensive for the dwarf. Quite apart from the costs upgrading the power net will take time- but does Dwarfstan have the time to do so?

          • Murf

            I hope they do cut it to the DPR also. The electricity is going to power the repair plants for the Russians vehicles.
            Then they need to cut the gas since the “Republics” are not paying for it.

          • Alex George

            You are overestimating the number of “Soviet Men” in the occupied territories, and underestimating the numbers of them in the rest of Ukraine – there are many.

            Returning the occupied territories to Ukraine will not have the effects you fear.

        • Brent

          Putin just recently recognized the DPR and LPR passports so they can move to “the Motherland” if any pro-Russians are that misty eyed for the Soviet Union. Get rid of the disease of pro-Russianism that is infesting the patient “Donbas” and don’t kill the patient….

    • Andrew Chmile

      Actually Murf … MOST of the people there ARE Ukrainian — ethnically.

      Do recall Murf, Russian FEDERATION TROOPS had to be sent in, or it would have been over long ago.

      There REALLY was no “uprising of the people” there.

      However, it was the part of Ukieland that had the highest % of Russo-mongolians, drug addicts, least church attendance etc.

      Ruski true enough already stole a lot of factories & sent them to Russia …. yeah, yeah …. Rather like WTF they did in Germany, isn’t it?

      Nothing changes … But I *DO* know — Trump WILL sell Ukr. RIGHT TF OUT!

      Bet you a few beers on THAT one!

      Putin WANTS MOST IF NOT ALL OF UKRAINE — you know that …
      Trump PULLED the “give weapons to Ukr. campaign plank” out — then the fat, LYING POS said he didn’t know anything about it and was “going to look into it.” —- But ***LOT*** of “meetings” with Ruski AND his people …. Oligarch “happens” to travel to Aspen same as when “Jared scumbag” does …. etc.. etc… NO INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION OF TRUMP & Co.

    • slavko

      Letting go of Luhansk/Donbas would only legitimize Putin’s land grabs and would only serve Putin in his argument towards relief from sanctions.

      Instead I propose that Ukraine should just ignore the area and focus on development of other regions. Let it continue to remain as a buffer against Russia.

      • Murf

        My sentiments exactly.

      • Fortranz

        I don’t think Ukraine should “just ignore the area(s)”. If they do this Putin will take it as a sign that they don’t care about these regions any more and say that he has legitimate right to control of them. However your suggestion might be what happens here depending on how the rest of the EU see’s things.

        • slavko

          Shy of being aggressive there’s not much that can be done while waiting for Russia and their puppets to adhere to Minsk I and II agreements. It’s not possible to have elections there with armed occupation and a wide open border which Russia uses only to its advantage. And if Ukraine goes on the offense then Russia will complain that its rape victim is getting violent and will use the slightest self defense move as reason to invade deeper with the pretense that “Russian speakers” need to be protected. By ignoring I meant to maintain the status quo while Russia bleeds financially while supporting its military in Donbas.
          EU ‘s resolve must be tested as that will only make them stronger as I doubt that they want to be Putin’s lackey.

    • Brent

      Don’t forget Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky don’t just want the “NovoDelaware” they currently have been placed in control as mob bosses over by the Kremlin Mafia. They also want the rest of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and have openly stated this many times. They will not accept what they have because it does not include Mariupol and other Ukraine controlled cities in Donbass that the Russian locusts haven’t yet had time to destroy and strip of assets.

      Then what’s next? Kharkiv?

      • Murf

        Yeah and I want to be Jennifer Garner’s Boy Toy but I don’t see that happening either.
        They are all show and No Go.

  • Dagwood Bumstead

    And recognising the so-called LNR and DNR as “independent” states will achieve precisely….. what? Only the usual crackpots will recognise them- Mugabe, Kim Jong-un, Ortega, Maduro, Morales, Raul. Nobody else will.
    Instead it will merely act as even more visible proof that Dwarfstan is acting in bad faith in the Donbas (as if any were needed) and be extra ammunition for those who want to maintain sanctions, perhaps even increase them, and make it more difficult for those in favour of lifting them to defend their views. And despite the dwarf’s claims of the sanctions having no negative effect he desperately wants them to end.

  • Ihor Dawydiak

    While he’s at it, Putin should also grant independence to Siberia, Tatarstan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and so on as none of these regions have anything in common with Muscovy.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Without Siberia’s mineral wealth Muscovy is sunk. It produces almost nothing but merely profits from what other regions of Dwarfstan produce. Pedo Putolini knows this only too well and he will do EVERYTHING necessary to prevent the regions declaring any kind of autonomy, never mind declaring full independence. He has already shown in Chechnya that he will stop at nothing.

      • zorbatheturk

        Also the North Caucasus region is one of the poorest in RuSSia despite its hydrocarbon resources and pipeline infrastructure, since Moscow siphons off the revenues and puts little back.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          No doubt most of what returns ends up in the offshore bank accounts of Kadyrov and his thugs.