Friday, September 19, 2014

Yevtushenko's arrest, war in Donbas, and Putin

Vladimir Yevtushenkov, one of Russia's richest men, was placed under house arrest a couple of days ago accused of money laundering. There were suggestions this was primarily an asset grab instigated by Igor Sechin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin.

However Vitaliy Portnikov in Liga.net explains that the arrest may be linked to Putin and his war in Donbas.

Here is a summary of what he has to say:

Yevtushenkov had been building up a web of business and other interests in Ukraine over several years, and had been close to former president Viktor Yanukovych. It was Yevtushenkov who was making offers to the former president "that he could not refuse" in order he scuttle the Association Agreement so carefully constructed between the EU and Ukraine.

But most importantly, Yevtushenkov was the main oligarch standing behind Konsyantin Malofyeyev, about whom I have previously written.

Malofyeyev was one of the main organisers of the invasion and coup in Crimea - the "Orthodox oligarch" obsessed with the restoration the Russia's former empire. He generously financed the separatists/terrorists in the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk republics, and is allegedly the main sponsor of arms purchases and the paymaster for Russian volunteers/mercenaries currently operating on Ukrainian territory. It may also be that Yevtushenkov was the conduit through which Yanukovych provided operational funding to the separatists from the massive sums he had stolen from Ukraine's budget.  Nevertheless, the overarching mastermind behind the occupation of Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine was, and is Vladimir Putin.

In recent weeks Putin and Poroshenko have been holding closed consultations to somehow de-escalate the situation in the Donbas.

[Note: What is being discussed is very hush-hush. Some noted observers like Sonya Koshkina have already declared: "the authorities are making the same fateful mistake as Viktor Yanukovych's team. That mistake is the deficit of openness". E.g. the text of the Minsk declaration was only leaked after several days, and then by OSCE sources..Voting in parliament for new laws providing special status for Ukraine's two easternmost oblasts took place in a closed session...in highly dubious circumstances etc.]

Part of these Putin-Poroshenko negotiations resulted in the unexpected postponement of the implementation of the economic part of the Association Agreement. According to Portnikov, Yevtushenkov's arrest may also be linked to these negotiations, .

If Putin really wants to deprive the militants/terrorists in the Donbas freedom of manoeuvre, he must not only get them to withdraw, but must also cut off their sources of funding.

Yevtushenkov's detention may be a signal that from now on only Putin, and nobody else decides further operation of the Moscow-controlled mercenaries in Donbas. Hitherto this has not been the case. The separatist fighters will begin to understand they can only rely on the ruler in the Kremlin.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What most Ukrainians feel in their hearts

Despite today's voting in the Verkhovna Rada granting self-rule and amnesty to Donbas separatists, most Ukrainians would strongly agree with VR deputy Inna Bohoslovka when she declares:

"I did not vote for the law on special status for certain regions of the Donbas.

I will never forgive those who killed, tortured and dares to further torment my fellow Ukrainian countrymen. I will fight them until the last of them will be sentenced or killed."

Bohoslovska was a Party of Regions deputy until end of November 2013..and is a friend of Ukraine's top oligarchs.

At the start of this year she accurately predicted the advent of the plague exported from Russia that has now enveloped eastern Ukraine.

The "special order of local governance in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts" is a grotesque joke...Does it cover the entire oblasts, or only those portions currently in the hands of separatists? Will towns liberated from separatists again be terrorised by those who have already tortured, kidnapped and murdered their citizens and looted their property?

Poroshenko has been forced to throw millions of Ukraine's citizens into the clutches of lawless cut-throats who have been given carte-blanche to do as they will.

 This was a black day for the EU and a black day for Ukraine..Dark days await....

And for those in Donbas who may have supported the separatists? What kind of victory have the last few months fighting produced for them? What future awaits them? Who is going to fix the huge damage? Russia is not interested...As for Kyiv - the treasury is bare.

The Yanukovych years will be just a pleasant memory.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Get better soon, Ksenia

Russian Journalist Hospitalized After Violent Street Attack

Ksenia Batanova, a producer with Dozhd, Russia’s only independent television news channel, is recovering after unknown assailants fractured her skull. The channel has devoted significant resources to covering Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict and struggled against government pressure.

Watch this brief and most engaging youtube clip of Ksenia talking to camera about herself...what a beautiful person...what a dreadful, cruel crime...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Can Donbas survive without Ukraine?

With the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities the situation in Eastern Ukraine has reached an impasse. The forces of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic now occupy the two major regional cities and about a third of the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

With the respite in the fighting, residents can now begin reflect on where their future lies and what their prospects will be.

Unless there is more significant violence resulting in gains or losses of territory in the next few weeks, with the onset of winter, boundary lines are unlikely to change at least until well into the New Year.

The announcement by president Poroshenko today of withdrawal of the majority of Russian troops and equipment would indicate the heavy fighting is now less likely and current boundaries encompassing rebel-held territory will remain as they are, at least for months to come.

A vital portion of industry in this region is export-orientated. If companies are to survive they require unhindered access to ports and overseas markets. Similarly, new equipment for modernisation and development has to be imported, mainly from abroad. Investors need security and political stability.

The port of Mariupol, which remains in the hands of Kyiv forces, is vital to the maintenance of prosperity in the region. If the separatists and their Russian sponsors and armourers want to conquer the city they would most likely have to launch a bloody and destructive assault.

Two of the three biggest employers in Mariupol are the giant AzovStal and the Illich MetKombinat steelworks which account for about one third of Ukraine's steel production and are the sixth and seventh biggest companies in Ukraine. They produce a major chunk of the country's metallurgical exports. The third biggest employer, AzovMash, manufactures railway freight cars, mainly for export to CIS countries as well as other engineering products; their output has been hit very badly by the troubles.

Mariupol is Ukraine's second biggest gateway for exports, predominantly produce of Donbas.

Donbas and Luhansk oblasts may well be granted special status in the near future. But who will pay pensions, and salaries of teachers, doctors and civil servants in the cities and areas controlled by DNR and LDR separatist gunmen? Who will ensure business and trade can return to normal?

Residents will certainly have much to think about before any elections..

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Thoughts on Minsk protocol

Sergey Tolstov, writing in Delo.ua describes what may well await the east of Ukraine following signing of the Minsk protocol.

The protocol, most significantly, makes no mention of the presence of Russian forces on Ukrainian territory:

Below is a summary of the conclusion of his well-detailed article:

Elections at gunpoint and [formal] recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics [DPR &LPR]

Until now the DPR &LPR were inherently military forces which have not fulfilled out any administrative function on the territories under their control; they were, and still are, purely parasitic structures.

Under the new [proposed] conditions the leaders of these groups will receive partial political recognition as participants of the settlement process and as representatives of territories having a "special status".

Such recognition, and, especially, participation of the DPR & LPR leadership [and candidates supported by them] in any local elections in territories they control will provide them with political legalisation, enabling them to create their own administrative apparatus.

Moreover, the holding of such elections would open the possibility of direct managerial control by DPR & LDR of public utilities, trade, and transport and energy infrastructure in the territories controlled by them.

As for elections in the territories controlled by the DPR & LPR their leaders are hardly going to abandon the use of repressive measures against political opponents. All sorts of prohibitions and barriers to participation for candidates from Ukrainian political parties can be expected. [Surely an understatement by the writer.]

As to restoration of the economy and infrastructure of Donbas, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has stated that Russia will help the south-east of Ukraine, but Kyiv has to restore it. In other words, the Russian government wants Kyiv to fund areas controlled by the separatists.

It this is to be the Russians stance then Kyiv must insist implementation of the program of economic revival of Donbas and the provision of humanitarian assistance to territories controlled by DPR & LPR  be dependent on the withdrawal of Russian troops. Otherwise Kyiv allocated funds should go only for the restoration of infrastructure in territories controlled by the central government.

In actual fact Tolstov has explained why the Minsk protocol is surely a 'dead duck'