Friday, June 20, 2014

Support for DPR evaporating

Yevgen Іkhelzon, in his Ukr Pravda blog, describes the Donetsk People's Republic as a "stillborn revolution"

Here are bits of what he has to say:

"When you walk along the streets of Donetsk, the impression is that everything that is happening there is the handiwork of the local "elites" i.e. the attempt to declare independence was organized by leaders of the Party of Regions who were in close contact with the "family" of former President Yanukovych.

In Donetsk itself, things are quiet. Only one battle has taken place there - at the airport. At the same time, in the area around Slovyansk serious clashes continue, but in Donetsk people say little about this, and are not particularly keen on sending help. The so-called Donetsk People's Republic is full of oddities and contradictions which are difficult to understand even for the smarter locals. Probably, I do not understand much either, but here are my views:


Almost all logically thinking locals believe that senior Party of Regions figures such as Nikolai Levchenko, [linked to Rinat Akhmetov] stood at the origins of the DPR. There is even a persistent rumours that the DPR governor Pavel Gubarev is a relative Levchenko's.

However, after its birth, something went badly wrong and the situation got out of control for several reasons - money pumped in by Aleksander Yanukovych [to pay troublemakers and create havoc], rapid involvement of Russian officials such as Glazyev and Zhirinovsky; and then the Communists and Russian nationalists piled in. This explosive combination, under the banner of DPR, tried to seize power in the Donbas in a re-run of the "Crimean scenario" - entering local authority buildings, taking control of the region, staging a 'referendum', inviting Russian troops and waiting to take up positions in a new region of Russia.

But the situation slipped out of control of local "feudal lords" and industrial chiefs. It has now become clear that Russia will not invade, and the DPR is a fictitious organisation that does not actually control anything.  Influence and power still belong to the Akhmetov's people. Local say that the so-called "Vostok" battalion has good relations with Akhmetov, and the mayor Luk'yanchenko is protected by "Oplot."

Sentiment among locals is mixed but now that support for the DPR is slipping, citizens do not understand why DPR is needed at all, when the mayor's office still exists. All that remains of the DPR are patrols, semi-deserted road checkpoints and several hundred militants who sit in their bases and occasionally occupy state institution buildings, incurring the wrath of the mayor Luk'yanchenko.

It is obvious that the flow of money from Russia has dried up. No-one attends rallies for free, and the idea of regional independence is not as tempting as the idea of raised wages and pensions which were to be provided by Vladimir Putin.

Current state of Donbas region.

In Donetsk many cafes and businesses are closed; in the evening the city is completely empty and there are far fewer people that usual on the streets during the day. Tens of thousands of people have fled the city, the vast majority did so not because of the ATO, but for the following reasons: intolerable atmosphere in the city, the presence of armed men from which good would come; so better to wait until things calm down. There have never been so many 'For Rent' signs on business premises in Donetsk.

I must say that the atmosphere is really quiet, but an air of tension exists. The enthusiasm for the DPR is declining rapidly in the city, I did not notice any St. George ribbons or Russian flags on cars; DPR flags hang only on admin buildings.

On public transport, people do not talk about politics, not knowing who shares their own thoughts. In private conversations people criticize the DPR and want everything return back to as it was (there are different opinions, but all are inclined to believe that Kyiv should negotiate and not fight for this to happen).

Bifurcated authority

Essentially, almost all Ukrainian institutions are  fully functioning and behave just as before the DPR took over. Pensions and social benefits are being paid, and until recently, there has been no interference with the National Bank of Ukraine. Donetsk city council is fully operational, the police patrol the streets together with the DPR soldiers in camouflage and Cossacks, and all are unarmed.

Patrols are rare, and are not especially hunting for anyone, police in Ukrainian police uniform attend call-outs and perform their duties normally.

It should be noted almost the entire staff of the police and the Security Services of Donetsk did not interfere, but even assisted in the seizure of buildings from which large numbers of weapons were plundered for distribution to the separatist militia. This could not have happened without clear orders of local elites. Similarly, the "protesters" were permitted to enter the Oblast Administration building where they remain until now. Police are still working from their usual buildings, and the SBU have reverted to a "home working" mode. Just as with most Donetsk residents, enthusiasm for the DPR is falling in police ranks, providing a hope that in the future Donetsk may return back to the Ukrainian fold.

Prospects for the Anti Terrorist Operation.

Ukrainian patriots living in Donetsk complain that Ukrainian law enforcers did not conduct any reconnaissance before starting any military action in the city. E.g. when the battle for the airport took place, the Ukrainian army could have easily taken the Oblast Admin building too.

Any large-scale combat operations with aircraft and widespread destruction in Donetsk will be highly counterproductive - support for the DPR will only grow as a result.  Pinpoint spetsnaz operations with the support of local people can be much more efficient. Even more effective can be negotiations with the real masters of the city where hundreds of thousands of supporters of a unified Ukraine currently live.

Prospects for the DPR

The DPR cannot exist without two things - Russian propaganda and a Russian invasion. Russian television, which today is watched by almost all the inhabitants of Donetsk, creates a virtual reality.

The possibility of a Russian invasion still exists  - it could happen if Glazyev, Dugin and Zhirinovsky persuade Putin to do it.

Without these two factors Donetsk Republic is doomed and will soon cease to exist. TV and clumsy actions of the troops executing the ATO can prolong the agony, and a possible Russian invasion would dramatically complicate the situation in Ukraine."
Several other local bloggers and commentators paint a similar picture.

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