Sunday, September 28, 2014

Splintered Donetsk People's Republic structure means Somalia scenario is realistic

Several days ago 'The Economist' magazine pondered whether 'A Somalia scenario' awaits Eastern Ukraine where the Donbas "becomes a swathe of ungoverned territory harbouring bandits who cross into the rest of Ukraine to raid, kidnap and steal...or a "Transdniestria [type] region, where organised crime and corruption have flourished under a Russian-backed regime."

Anyone who thinks this is overdramatisation should read Yevhen Shibalov's article "Donetsk People's Republic' from the inside - a short primer" in the 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya'  newspaper. It explains why it will be so difficult for any normal authority to co-operate with DPR in any meaningful manner to restore order. Here's what he says:

Initially Russian special services and politicians, as well as many of the Donbas elite, and even some Kyiv figures had high hopes for the DPR project, but its chaotic structure and unpredictable and violent nature makes it almost impossible to know how to handle this monster.

The DPR is formed of two often opposing disparate wings - the 'sylovyky' [power people] wing, and the 'polityky'. The sylovyky military wing, which comprises mainly field commanders of varying types, certainly dominates. The sylovyky do not take orders from the polityky...but occasionally take account of their requests when it suits them.

The leadership of the DNR can be split into several groups and sub-groups.

First there are 'The Idealists' who supported the DNR project from the very beginning; they can be split into two sub-groups: The Republicans, and the Anti-Kyivites.

This group's initial aim was federalisation..but as the Kremlin committed more arms and financial resources and violence erupted, their ambitions grew...first to autonomy, and then to creation of a fully independent republic. However this was not what the Kremlin had in mind at all.

The Republicans are led by Andrei Purgin. Many of his supporters have done well for themselves, commandeering apartments... automobiles etc.

The Anti-Kyivite sub-group do not recognise the new authorities in Ukraine's capital, but are ready to accept Donbas remaining part of Ukraine on their own terms. Their leaders include Oleksiy Hranovskyi and Oleksandr Khryakov. Oleksandr Khodakovsky, a 'Vostok' field commander is also attached to this group.

The Idealists included some whose intention was to attach Donbas to Russia proper, but most of these have left the oblast as chances of this occurring fade.

Representatives of the Idealists take part in any negotiations with Kyiv and other parties.

A second significant group in DPR are 'The Betrayed'. These include those who feel betrayed by local elites in Donbas. Many had been members of sylovyk structures under Yanukovych e.g. DPR 'chief of police', form head of Donetsk economic crime unit, Oleh Dykiy, and the above-mentioned Khodakovsky who had been head of an 'Alpha' special forces unit. Amongst 'The Betrayed' are guys who feel betrayed by Ukraine proper, who had come from other parts of the country initially to fight against the DPR, but feel they have been let down, so have switched loyalty to DPR.

A third significant group in the DPR are The Parachutists and Imports from Russia who look down upon the Idealists, but as the chances of Donbas linking up with Russia proper recede, this third group's influence is receding too. Their main man was Vladimir Antyufyeyev, formerly of ex-TransDnistrian security services, but he has now left Donbas. The Parachutists still fulfil a role of co-ordinating supply of arms and humanitarian aid to the region from Russia.

The final group in DNR are the 'crazies' who participated in many serious human rights violations, who have nowhere else to go. They include local thugs and gangsters, foreign mercenaries, 'volunteers', looters, adrenalin junkies etc. They operate in small unorganised units and are accountable to no-one.

The current head of the DPR Oleksandr Zakharchenko has great difficulty coordinating all of these disparate groups. He allegedly recently survived an assassination attempt when the car he was travelling was flipped over. His state of health is unknown. Many of his close team have now left the Donbas oblast.

And amongst this lot of vipers are millions of normal everyday Donbas citizens who just want some peace and quiet and stability, and are not overtly concerned who will be in power. Many have descended into a deep apathy...just  waiting for things to end. Those who can have left, perhaps to seek a better life elsewhere.

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