Moscow to spend $12.4 bn on occupied Donbas in next three years

Stanytsia Luhanska, Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine. Photo: Marco Fieber / flickr 

Russian Aggression, War in the Donbas

Article by: Yuliia Rudenko
Edited by: Alya Shandra

Moscow shall allocate over 900 billion rubles ($12.4 billion) in 2022-2024 over the next three years to financially back the territories of Donbas occupied by Russia under the national “Program for Accelerated Socio-Economic Development of Territories for 2022-2024” that became available to RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service. Journalists obtained the documents from Ukrainian intelligence agents.

Around 2.9 million people reside in the areas in the eastern part of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists, with pensioners accounting for about 38% of the population, the state documents say.

Monetary resources to be channelled to the occupied territories constitute a substantial increase: Moscow undertook to raise average monthly salaries from 15,000 rubles ($206) to 20,000 rubles ($274) for the residents of Donbas. That is, in 2024, a locale from the Putin-occupied eastern part of Ukraine will receive as much as a local from the Russian Rostov region. These appropriations are separated from military allocations for Donetsk People’s Republic (referred to as “territory 1” in the document) and Luhansk People’s Republic (referred to as “territory 2” in the document).

This new measure Putin is taking with regard to Ukrainian territories he seized manifests that occupation and these areas’ integration with Russia continues.

“The scenario programs approved by the government of the Russian Federation are aimed at the full integration of occupied Donbas into the Russian economy,” said a Ukrainian intelligence agent.

“On the occupied territories of Donbas, people live under Russian laws, in the Russian time zone, use Russian rubles, teach kids by the Russian curriculum, and celebrate Russian national holidays. We are dealing with the ongoing occupation, and Russia is accountable for all violations of human rights in place and holds responsibilities to the population of these territories,” Oleksandra Matviychuk, Head of the Board at the Center for Civil Liberties, commented on the funding decision for Euromaidan Press.

Yaroslaw Bozhko, Head at the Doctrine Center of Political Studies, singled out Kremlin’s logic behind the decision to grant social assistance to occupied Donbas:

“First of all, this is to sustain the region in the orbit of influence of the Russian Federation without swift integration, like in the case of Crimea, since there are no material or diplomatic resources for this scenario.

Secondly, to pressure Ukraine, turn around Kyiv’s stance in inter alia Minsk. And now, Russia’s criticism towards Ukraine’s position in the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine continues all the way to the derailing of negotiations.

Thirdly, undoubtedly, the Russian Federation sees the point in attracting the loyalty of Donbas residents to its political leadership. In the course of preparing for the election campaign for the State Duma of the Russian Federation [the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia], a campaign of illegal passportization of residents of the occupied territories was organized, to enable them to cast a ballot.

During the elections, these citizens were brought to the borderline cities of the Russian Federation where they primarily voted for the pro-government party United Russia, the ratings of which the authorities are trying to save by in particular these methods.

The initiative with social aid is the extension of this strategy of financially beguiling the constituents from the occupied areas of the eastern part of Ukraine.”

Elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation were held on 17-19 September. For the first time since the occupation in 2014, Ukrainian nationals residing in occupied Donbas participated in the “election process” of the Russian Federation.

Editor’s Note

Details of Moscow’s expenditures have also been revealed in the hacked emails of Putin’s advisor Vladislav Surkov. They suggest that in 2014, Russia was preparing to bankroll the “republics,” also referred to as “territory 1” and “territory 2,” in the amount of $8.8 billion each year, up till 2017 — calculated for three years, this is more than twice the current sum Moscow is planning to spend. This implies that since then, Russia has urged its puppet statelets to sustain themselves, lessening the financial burden on the occupying state.

Edited by: Alya Shandra

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