While the terrorist leaders in Donbas claim to be building a new independent and prosperous state, facts suggest that their true goals may be far from that. Viktor Mazyarchuk, an expert in state governance, argues that the terrorist and their Russian puppeteers are conducting a campaign to destroy Eastern Ukrainian industrial potential and move as many assets as possible to Russia. To that end they have been conducting several campaigns:
- Seizing equipment from Donbas’s high-tech and armament plants, including, among others, a military electronics plant in Torez, a mining equipment plant in Donetsk and a small arms plant in Luhansk. On August 22-23, under the guise of the first so-called “humanitarian convoy” five factories were stripped of their equipment, loaded on the trucks (which were half-empty to begin with) and moved into Russia on the convoy’s return trip: “Topaz,” producing such modern object-detection systems like Kolchuha, “Tochmash,” producing mining equipment, “Yunist,” producing miniature hermetic relays for the aerospace industry, Luhansk ammunition plant, Snizhne Machine-Building Plant producing unique wind turbine molds. Currently, the molds from the Snizhne plant are being taken away to St.Petersburg, where a new wind turbine factory is being built, thus arming Russia’s defense sector.
- This process continues, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reporting similar activities on October 21. Equipment was stolen from two unique Ukrainian factories, the “Mashzavod 100” that creates monocrystals, and the aforementioned aerospace industry plant “Yunist.”
- Robbery at coal plants has been put on an industrial scale, with terrorist units prohibiting coal mines from shipping their product to consumers in Ukraine. The coal stays at warehouses and later makes trips to Russia on large vehicle convoys, which are regularly featured in OSCE reports. According to Ukraine’s Internal Ministry, an unloading point has been set up in Russia 5 km to the east of the border town of Hukovo. The scale of robbery is estimated at 500,000 tonnes, and there have been reports of sales at a price of $100 per tonne (in comparison, the average sales price of Russian-produced coal is $160 per tonne). This means the terrorists could earn 50,000,000 dollars on this operation alone.
- Another target is the mines’ equipment, which may be sold as scrap metal in Russia. Several mines have been experiencing technical difficulties or stopped working altogether due to heavy shelling and fighting. Strangely, none of the mines belonging to the East Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov seem to be affected, which suggest a possible deal with the terrorists for whom Akhmentov’s assets are off-limits in exchange for turning a blind eye to the coal operation.
- Other examples of organized robbery include car theft (with 229 cars stolen in Sloviansk alone during the occupation), extortion of “taxes” from businesses under threat of “nationalization” (i.e. illegal seizure), and claiming apartments and houses of refugees who left the region.
The effect of terrorist rule on the economy has been overwhelming. As of the beginning of October, only 20% of industrial enterprises in the region were functioning, according to an estimate by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine. In Luhansk proper, 19 of 23 enterprises have stopped their work.
To combat this threat to Ukraine’s economy, the author proposes to delegitimize the terrorist groups by denying them any international or internal recognition, start legal proceedings against their leaders, apply sanctions against terrorists and their sponsors in Russia and Ukraine, form an evidence database to prosecute Russia in European courts, conduct an information campaign in the affected regions to counter Russian and terrorist propaganda and, finally, adopt a program of development for Eastern Ukraine to mitigate its dependence on Russia and redirect its production to European and World markets.