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The games of Putin and Akhmetov

The games of Putin and Akhmetov


Putin does not need the Donbas in Russia. Putin does not need the Donetsk and Luhansk “republics” either. In both cases, Putin would be forced to support the Donbas financially from the Russian budget. And Donbas, with its current outdated, unreformed economy, especially if subjected to possible sanctions, would become a much greater burden for Russia than Crimea, Abkhazia  and Transnistria put together.

Putin, unlike many residents of the Donbas, understands perfectly well that the fiery speeches by representatives of the Party of Regions that “Donbas supports Ukraine” are a bluff. The Russian economy, which already is on the verge of stagnation, simply cannot survive such a burden. Furthermore, these options may bring about the third level of sanctions.

Putin needs for the Donbas to remain in Ukraine, so that the unprofitable mines and social programs continue to be supported by the Ukrainian — not the Russian — budget, but in a status where Russia would control the regions through its puppets among the local elite. Federalization is to become the mechanism to achieve this status. In short, the expenses would go to Ukraine; the bonuses to Russia. This is the Russian concept of a “federal” oblast, supported by Ukraine.

To implement this plan, Putin needs to ensure two mandatory conditions:

  • Give the Russian language a special status that would offer additional opportunities to explain Russia’s “special participation” in the affairs of the Donbas.
  • Establish a constitutional mechanism that would make Kyiv’s power over the Donbas purely symbolic.

Why then has Putin concentrated a huge army on the Ukrainian borders? First of all, to place enormous pressure on Ukraine and force it to choose the “lesser of two evils.” Second, to provide an “alibi” for the traitorous Ukrainian politicians who will play a key role in this scenario. In other words, “I gave up the language and even the Donbas, but I ‘saved’ Ukraine from military invasion by Putin!”

A majority of Russians have always considered that Crimea was Russian territory that “accidentally and unfairly” ended up in Ukraine. This is why the seizure of Crimea immediately raised Putin’s ratings. Russians are ready to “tighten their belts” to support Crimea. With the Donbas, it’s an entirely different matter. The scale is different there. And so are the consequences.


Akhmetov does not need for the Donbas to be part of Russia. He understands perfectly what kind of place he would occupy in Putin’s hierarchy of the elites and what kind of access he would be “granted” to the Russian budget. Akhmetov also does not need the Donetsk and Luhansk “republics.” He knows what economic prospects await these “states,” and, therefore, him as well. This is why Akhmetov is not joking when he declares that he views the Donbas remaining exclusively within Ukraine.

No matter who is in government, Akhmetov needs to maintain his status as the real “master of the Donbas,” which will give him the opportunity to enjoy large profits as well as significant political weight. For this to happen, he needs for Donbas to be part of Ukraine, but, at the same time, practically independent of Kyiv.

The interests of Putin and Akhmetov correspond perfectly

The events in Mariupol have revealed the real situation with utmost clarity. When the police in the cities of the Donbas stood in line for the Russian colonels, Akhmetov only watched. When the “people’s mayors” and the “people’s governors” were bullying Donbas, Akhmetov watched. Not even the tortures and murders of peaceful Donbas residents by the separatists could stir him from this state.

Only when a detachment of security forces from Dnipropetrovsk appeared in Mariupol did a fabulous miracle take place; instead of observing and waiting, everyone could see immediate, decisive, effective actions! What Akhmetov “was not able to do” in Donetsk and other cities of the Donbas, he was able to carry out instantly in Mariupol. Within hours, the city came under Akhmetov’s complete control. Like it or not, one conclusion is obvious: Akhmetov did not consider the troops of the Russian saboteurs and the “people’s mayors” a personal threat. The state of fear and terror suited him perfectly. However, a military detachment from Dnipropetrovsk frankly frightened him.

Why did Akhmetov calmly watch the “creations” of the Russian colonels and “people’s mayors”? Indeed, they did appear rob him of real control in the Donbas. Is it because both the Russian colonels and the “people’s mayors” are on the same team with Akhmetov? Perhaps they do not even suspect it. But Putin knows about it. And so does Akhmetov. And Rinat Akhmetov knows that all the latter-day “leaders” will be removed immediately after they have fulfilled their “historic mission.”

But Putin does not control the detachments from Dnipropetrovsk. And this creates a real threat to Akhmetov’s power in the Donbas. It is very likely that Dnipropetrovsk is a major problem for both Putin and Akhmetov. First, it openly demonstrates that in areas where the influential elite does not want it, the orgy of Russian saboteurs and “people’s mayors” does not take place. Second, Kolomoysky, unlike Turchynov and company, acts more creatively and effectively

It is Dnipropetrovsk that actually destroyed the key Akhmetov-Putin game — the “Voice of Donbas” referendums. After all, the main goal of the “people’s referendum” was not to create real “republics” — but an imitation “Voice of Donbas” according to Akhmetov’s and Putin’s interpretation.

Immediately after the “referendum,” its organizers announced they did not want to withdraw from Ukraine. And surprise, Firtash from Vienna simultaneously announced that he was for a united Ukraine as well, but federalized. Putin suggested that if the status of the Russian language and federalization are ensured by the constitution, he may yet recognize the results of the presidential elections.

However, through the efforts of the “counter-referendum” by Kolomoysky, the “Voice of Donbas” sounded not as one-sided as was needed by Putin and Akhmetov. (Note: referendum whereby cities and towns in the Donetsk Oblast would join the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast — Ed.) Now they will have to explain why Akhmetov clearly hears the “wishes of the Donbas residents” and puts them above all else in one instance, but simply does not notice them in the other.

….If, of course, the Kyiv government does not “forget” to make use of this key trump card.

Test for treason. Test for caliber

Ukrainian politicians will reveal their true face and caliber immediately by their position on the language issue and federalization.

Akhmetov, who obviously is placing his bets not on having his name in history books, but on wealth and power, can afford “not to understand” a basic truth: that real respect can only be mutual. Therefore, the slogan “Ukraine must listen to the voice of Donbas” must absolutely always be accompanied by the answer “And Donbas must always listen to the voice of Ukraine.” The idea that “everyone has a right to his native language” should certainly apply not only to Russians but to Ukrainians as well.

Therefore, the language question must not be decided in one direction only. The question regarding the status of the Russian language can be decided only together with the granting of such status to the Ukrainian language in Russia. Therefore, what Russians want to be granted in Ukraine, they must provide for Ukrainians in Russia.

The relations between two brother countries absolutely cannot be built on the principles of the infamous con man Ostap Bender: “One half is mine, the other half is ours.” Because, already in the near term, this will lead to very tragic consequences when the Russian economy collapses under the excessive weight of Putin’s ideology and police dictatorship becomes impossible. The politicians who occupy key positions in Ukraine or who realistically aspire to do so do not have the right “not to understand” these basic realities.

The “resolution” of the question in the style of the 2009 version of the famous gas agreement, when all the conditions were in actuality dictated by only one party, does not eliminate the problem. On the contrary, the problem becomes more entrenched, taking on threatening dimensions, and eventually leads to very sad consequences. Therefore, the elimination of stress today by using methods that will triple the pressure tomorrow is not a real way out of the situation.

Very soon the leading Ukrainian politicians will have to show their true faces and their real caliber. An article in Dzerkalo Tyzhnya once quoted words that one oligarch supposedly said to another:  “Life is a big supermarket. Take what you want, but you will have to pay for everything.”

The almighty Viktor Yanukovych did not believe this.

By Hennadiy Lyuk, Ukrainska Pravda, May 16, 2014

Translated by Anna Mostovych

Original Ukrainian text:

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