Friday, September 19, 2014

Yevtushenkov'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 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 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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Economist has another take: a falling-out of dwindling booty