Novaya Gazeta’s ‘Kremlin Papers’ article: Full text in English
Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper part-owned by Kremlin critic Alexander Lebedev, on February 24 published an article on an alleged Kremlin policy paper it said had come into its possession. The policy paper, which the Novaya Gazeta said was written and circulating within the Kremlin for perhaps more than two weeks before the ouster of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, details a response plan for Russia in the event of Yanukovych’s fall. As Novya Gazeta points out, the plan outlined bears a striking resemblance to the actions undertaken by Russia after Yanukovych left power. Moreover, if genuine, the paper gives insight into the shortcomings of Russian intelligence about the Maidan in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s lack of understanding of Ukrainian national feeling in eastern parts of the country, as well as the strength of influence of Ukrainian oligarchs on political events. The tone throughout is also one of strained, imperialistic paranoia, which is again striking in its similarity to the attitudes expressed by the Kremlin and in Russian society at large since the events of the Maidan, and which may lend credence to its authenticity. This translation from Russian was done by UNIAN staff. Editing comments are enclosed in square brackets.
"It is considered appropriate to initiate the accession of Ukraine’s eastern regions to Russia"
"Novaya Gazeta" is publishing Russia’s plan for the annexation of a number of territories of Ukraine, which were drawn up when Yanukovych was still president of this country.
The document that has come into the possession of Novaya was presumably “brought in” to the Presidential Administration in the period between February 4 and February 12, 2014.
According to the available evidence and the assessments of experts to whom we have submitted this analytical report for analysis, Konstantin Malofeev, an “Orthodox businessman” could presumably have participated in drafting it (see memo [on Malofeev] at the end of the editor’s comments).
However, the businessman’s press service denied this claim point-blank after a teaser to this article was aired on the Echo of Moscow radio station, and said that Mr. Malofeev intended to sue.
The document we are publishing is interesting due to the fact that at the early stages of the Ukrainian political crisis - that is, before Yanukovych fled from Kyiv and the “Bandera Junta” came to power – [it appears] a rationale, as well as the political and PR logistics of Russia’s interference in Ukrainian affairs and the annexation of Crimea and Ukraine’s eastern regions had [already] been planned in detail, step by step. Although the actual scenario of Ukrainian drama has changed things a bit, this draft plan is still closely in line with the subsequent actions by Russia’s government, which is striking.
The text is being published with small redactions. The original spelling and punctuation have mostly been retained.
1. The assessment of the political situation in Ukraine should be primarily based on recognizing the bankruptcy of [Ukraine’s] President Viktor Yanukovych and his ruling “family”, which is rapidly losing control of the political process;
secondly, the paralysis of the central government and lack of a distinctive political body which the Russian Federation could negotiate with;
thirdly, the low probability of such an acceptable body emerging after the snap parliamentary and presidential elections announced by Viktor Yanukovych on February, 4.
If the Russian oligarchy is balanced by a powerful class of government officials, the Ukrainian state machinery is obviously weaker than the oligopolies; it is controlled by the oligarchs, just like public policy. It is the oligarchs (R. Akhmetov, D. Firtash, I. Kolomoisky and others) who reign over Kyiv’s political community, including the Verkhovna Rada and the systemic opposition. The non-systemic opposition (the so-called Maidan) remains beyond the control of the leaders of the systemic opposition, as the “warlords” (mostly, football fans and people from the world of organized crime) set the tone there, while not having electoral influence, and apparently, controlled not so much by the oligarchic groups, but largely by the Polish and British intelligence services. At the same time, many oligarchic groups are funding Maidan, so as “not to put all one’s eggs in one basket.”
President V. Yanukovych is a man of low morals and willpower - he is afraid to give up the presidency and yet at the same time he is ready to “give up” on the security forces in exchange for a guarantee of him remaining president and having immunity after leaving office. Meanwhile, parts of the Berkut [special task forces of Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs], which are used to quell the unrest in Kyiv, mostly consist of natives of Crimea and of the eastern regions. According to local observers, any attempt of Yanukovych’s successor to organize repression against the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Security Service of Ukraine as punishment for the suppression of the Maidan will inevitably face harsh, forceful response. The position of Ukraine’s army is even more ambiguous. According to an employee of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, the army is “locked in barracks while the officers guard the weapons depots so that, God forbid, they do not fall into the hands of contract soldiers, who in this case would start shooting at each other.”
Snap parliamentary and presidential elections could become the trigger for a new round of protest- and assault-like civil war, the deepening of the “east-west” electoral division and ultimately accelerate Ukraine’s disintegration.
The course and the outcome of the Munich Conference (a regular conference on security issues which was held in Munich on January, 31 – February, 1 2014) provide a reasonable basis to believe that the European Union and the United States allow for the country’s disintegration, and not even consider such developments extraordinary. The concept of “piecemeal” absorption of a large Eastern European country by the EU is not only publicly voiced by a number of official EU speakers, but also finds supporters in the ranks of the Ukrainian elite.
(Highlighted by editors hereinafter).
Will Russia take part in this geopolitical intrigue?
2. Russia’s policy toward Ukraine must finally become pragmatic.
First, the regime of Viktor Yanukovych has gone totally bankrupt. Its political, diplomatic, financial, and information support from the Russian Federation is no longer meaningful.
Second, as a sporadic civil war in the form of urban guerrilla of the so-called “supporters of the Maidan” against the leadership of a number of the country’s eastern regions has become a fact, while the disintegration of the Ukrainian state along the line of geographical demarcation of regional alliances - “western regions plus Kyiv” and “eastern regions plus Crimea” - has become part of the political agenda, [and] in these circumstances, Russia should in no way limit its policy toward Ukraine only to attempts to influence the political situation in Kyiv and the relationship of a systemic opposition (A. Yatsenyuk, V. Klitschko, O. Tyagnybok, P . Poroshenko, etc.) with the European Commission.
Third, in an almost complete paralysis of the central government, unable to form a responsible government even facing threats of default and of Naftogaz lacking funds to pay for Russian gas, Russia is simply obliged to get involved in the geopolitical intrigue of the European Community directed against the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
First of all, this is because otherwise our country risks losing not only the Ukrainian energy market, but also indirect control over Ukraine’s gas transportation system, which is much more dangerous. This will endanger the position of Gazprom in Central and Southern Europe, causing huge damage to our country’s economy.
3. The Constitution of Ukraine is in no case able to provide for a mechanism that could legitimately initiate the integration of Ukraine’s eastern territories and Crimea into the state-legal framework of the Russian Federation.
As stated in Article 71 of the Ukrainian Constitution, the issue of changing the country’s territory is decided exclusively in a nationwide referendum. Meanwhile, in accordance with the Article 72 of the Constitution, a referendum is called by popular initiative at the request of at least three million Ukrainian citizens eligible to vote, provided that the signatures are collected in no less than two-thirds of Ukraine’s regions, with no less than one hundred thousand signatures in each region.
However, a paradoxical as it sounds, a framework for the Russian-Ukrainian integration process has already been set up - the system of Russian-Ukrainian Euroregions, members of the Association of European Border Regions (which, in turn, is a member of the Assembly of European Regions). For example, the Donbass Euroregion includes the Donetsk, Luhansk, Rostov and Voronezh regions, the Slobozhanshchina Euroregion includes the Kharkiv and Belgorod regions, the Dnepr Euroregion includes the Bryansk and Chernihiv regions, and so on.
Using the legal instruments of the Euroregions, legitimate from the EU’s perspective, Russia should press for signing agreements on cross-border and trans-border cooperation, and then establish direct public-contractual relations with those Ukrainian territories where a pro-Russia electoral mood is prevalent.
First of all, [this is] with the Republic of Crimea, and Kharkiv, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk and to a lesser extent Kherson and Odesa regions. (Sumy region and the Donetsk region are deliberately - and rather arbitrary – removed from this list. The first – due to the very high electoral influence of the Batkivschina party, the second - due to close business and political ties between the local business elite, led by R. Akhmetov, with a number of representatives of the opposition oligarchic alliance with its extensive interests here.)
Local elites are motivated more than ever before to move toward Russia’s new integration initiatives. Before the crisis, the elites of the Eastern Ukraine preferred “weak Kyiv” over “strong Moscow”, but now, facing a threat of losing “everything”, they are not going to wait meekly for the massive raids (including those based on compromising materials of a commercial nature gathered in the center [Kyiv]), which will inevitably be executed by the central government no matter what political forces are part of the “new consensus in Kyiv” after Yanukovych leaves office as Ukraine’s president. In these circumstances, they are ready to sacrifice their “independence.”
Current events in Kyiv convincingly show that the Yanukovych’s time in power could end at any moment. Thus, there is less and less time for an appropriate Russian response. The number of dead in riots in the capital of Ukraine is direct evidence of the inevitability of civil war and the impossibility of reaching consensus if Yanukovych remains president. In these circumstances, it seems appropriate to play along the centrifugal aspirations of the various regions of the country, with a view to initiate the accession of its eastern regions to Russia, in one form or another. Crimea and Kharkiv region should become the dominant regions for making such efforts, as there already exist reasonably large groups there that support the idea of maximum integration with Russia.
4. Of course, taking the burden of supporting Crimea and several eastern territories, Russia will be forced to take on budget expenses, which would be cumbersome in the country’s present position.
Undoubtedly, this will affect macroeconomic stability and the prospects for [Russia’s] economic growth. However, geopolitically, the prize will be invaluable: our country will gain access to new demographic resources, [and] highly qualified industry and transport personnel will be at its disposal. In addition, it can count on the emergence of new eastward Slavic migration flows - as opposed to the Central Asian migration trends. The industrial potential of the Eastern Ukraine, including the military-industrial sector, once included in the Russian military-industrial complex, will allow for the faster and more successful implementation of the program of rearmament of Russia’s military forces.
What is equally important, Russia’s constructive, “smoothing” participation in the highly probable disintegration of the Ukrainian state will not only give new impetus to the Kremlin’s integration project, but will also allow our country to retain control over Ukraine’s gas transportation system, as mentioned above. And at the same time, it will allow there to be significant changes in the geopolitical situation in Central and Eastern Europe, allowing Russia to regain its major role there.
5. To start the process of a “pro-Russian drift” of Crimea and eastern Ukrainian territories, [certain] events should be created beforehand that can support this process with political legitimacy and moral justification; also a PR-strategy should be built that draws attention to the forced, reactive nature of the actions of Russia and the pro-Russian political elites of southern and eastern Ukraine.
Recent developments in Western Ukraine (the Lviv, Volyn, Ivano-Frankivsk regions), where the opposition declared its independence from the authorities in Kyiv, also give grounds for the eastern regions to declare their sovereignty, with their subsequent re-orientation toward the Russian Federation.
6. Response actions in Eastern Ukrainian regions should have a two-part structure and a two-part scenario:
Protesters should demand that the Verkhovna Rada expand the format of the constitutional reform discussed by the Ukrainian parliament, including the simplification of the procedure for organizing a nationwide referendum:
"We can’t be held hostage to the Maidan. Ukraine’s unitary state system, which allows a violent nationalist minority of the population to impose its choice throughout the country, should be reconsidered. Russia is a federal state, and such a thing is unthinkable there. Strengthening the state-legal ties with Russia, we will strengthen the integrity of the Ukrainian state.”
Initially, the protesters should articulate their unwillingness to be “hostages of the Maidan,” of its attempts to usurp the right of other regions and the majority of the country’s population to its own civilizational and political choice; and the rejection of the “ideology of the civil war and splitting the country,” which is professed by political representatives of Western Ukrainian elites.
Speaking under Russian flags, protesters should not insist on changing the constitutional order. They should impute strong condemnation of “Western separatists, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity at the will of their foreign masters,” as well as the demands for the swift development of “associative relations between the eastern regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation”: “We are with Russia. No to civil war.”
Fair reluctance “to support with taxes the pro-fascist forces” from Western Ukraine and a government dependent on them, and guided by the requirements of the European Union rather than the needs of its citizens – these should become slogans for the moment.
It is advisable to consistently voice these three slogans, which stem from one another:
- A demand for “federalization” (or confederation) as a guarantee for these regions against the pro-Western and nationalist forces interfering in their internal affairs;
- The eastern and south-eastern areas joining the Customs Union at the regional level independently from Kyiv, which will provide for the necessary conditions for their industry’s normal operation and development;
- Direct sovereignty, followed by accession to Russia - the only guarantor of sustainable economic development and social stability.
We think that political movement for a pro-Russian choice and associative relations between the eastern and southern Ukrainian territories and the Russian Federation needs to be insitutionalized and legally registered. To do this, the grounds to hold referendums in Crimea and in the Kharkiv region (and then in other regions) should be created, so as to decide on the issue of self-determination and further possibility of joining the Russian Federation.
It is important to organize informal meetings of the leaders or representatives of the eastern regions of Ukraine in Moscow, where they would be supported and given political guarantees (at least, verbal) by an official with sufficient powers. Such representatives of eastern Ukrainian elite are, for example, N. Dobkin (Mayor of Kharkiv), V. Konstantinov (Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Crimea), S. Aksyonov (chairman of the Russian Unity party) ...
It is of extreme importance for the “world community” to have little to no reason to doubt the legitimacy and fairness of these referendums.
To do this, it seems appropriate to ensure the referendum process with modern means of verification (webcams and online coverage). A preliminary plan of such operations has already been developed and can be implemented within two weeks.
7. It is necessary to accompany these events with a PR-campaign in the Russian and Ukrainian media.
This includes developing and giving out to the media concept documents, a kind of manifesto of the eastern Ukrainian and western Ukrainian separatism. The general public in Russia should speak up in support of the accession of the eastern regions of Ukraine to Russia (a possible slogan “Putin 2.0 – we want a Treaty of Pereyaslav 2.0”).
From the Euroregions to annexation. Editor’s comment of Novaya Gazeta
This policy paper has some specific features.
1. As we have already mentioned, it was created before Yanukovych fled [Kyiv] and a provisional government consisting of the “systemic opposition” came to power. That is, even before the moment described by Moscow as a "coup d'etat" – which was the main justification for its subsequent actions.
2. The report has a pejorative assessment of Yanukovych, who later and for a long time was portrayed by Russia as a victim of the coup and Ukraine’s only legitimate leader.
3. The report is drafted in a pragmatic, almost cynical style. It has no “spiritual-historical” justification for Russian interference in Ukraine. No arguments about Novorossiya, the protection of the Russian-speaking population, the ‘Russian World’ and the upcoming ‘Russian Spring. There is only geopolitics and cold expediency.
4. The authors of the document are concerned with “legitimizing” the inclusion of Ukrainian territories into a Russian “state-legal framework”. In particular, they believe that there is a legal basis for the first step –mixed Russian-Ukrainian Euroregions (e.g., the “Donbas” Euroregion including Donetsk, Luhansk, Rostov and Voronezh regions), which are part of the Association of European Border Regions. The authors believe that using this legal instrument, it is possible to draw Ukrainian regions with “stable pro-Russian sympathies” into direct public-contractual relationships. And then there would be “legitimate” referendums on self-determination.
5. The report provides for some gross distortion of reality aimed to show the “reactive,” forced nature of Russia’s actions (the Maidan leaders are recruited football fans and criminals, they are controlled by Polish and British intelligence, the United States and the European Union allow for the disintegration of Ukraine, the EU started a geopolitical intrigue to split Ukraine, and the like). All these arguments were later actively used by Russian propaganda.
6. The report also has many arguments of a geopolitical and economic nature that were aimed to convince the leadership of the need for immediate intervention in Ukraine and thus a strengthening of Russia’s position not only in Ukraine, but also in Central and Eastern Europe, retaining control over the gas transportation network, passing through Ukraine, getting control of Ukraine’s military-industrial complex, located in the east of the country (for faster rearmament), and even replacing the “Central Asian” migrant flow with a “Slavic” or “Western” one
In general, it can be seen that the authors’ recommendations for Russia’s phased interference in Ukrainian affairs, with the ultimate aim of capturing a number of Ukrainian territories were mostly realized in Moscow’s actual actions:
- The organization of protests against the Kyiv regime in the regions with a pro-Russian bent;
- “Politically legitimizing” and “morally justifying” this process;
- The protesters’ demands for the simplification of carrying out Ukrainian referendums;
- Following demands for “federalization” or even a “confederation”;
- The demands for Crimea and the south-eastern regions to join the Customs Union independently from Kyiv;
- Carrying out “legitimate” and “honest” referendums on self-determination and unification with Russia;
- Active PR-support of these processes in the Russian and Ukrainian media.
The document’s authors made a significant error in determining the territories most ready to unite with the Russian regions: they name Crimea and Kharkiv region, considering Donetsk region, “Akhmetov’s empire”, less promising. Reality has altered these calculations. But in general, the scheme was implemented.
Brief memo by Novaya Gazeta
Billionaire Konstantin Malofeev is a founder and “managing partner” of the Marshall Capital Partners investment fund, the largest minority shareholder of Rostelecom (about 10% of the shares), a member of the board of trustees of the Safe Internet League (he is believed to be the initiator of blacklisting Web sites), and chairman of the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. Also, this man is known for his active support of the separatists in Crimea and eastern Ukraine – with the ideas, money and human resources (in particular, both Girkin (aka Strelkov) and Boroday used to work for his companies). In fact, Malofeev has served the Kremlin greatly: his PR-managers and “historic re-enactors” have hyped the conflict in Crimea and the Donbas, passing the baton to the volunteers-mercenaries and so-called “troops on leave,” allowing Russia to avoid been branded a “conflict party,” at least formally.
But Malofeev is known not only for that. He was involved in a series of high profile scandals that have become the subject of the judiciary investigations. Here are the most prominent ones. In late 2012 - early 2013, Russian police raided the house of Konstantin Malofeev and the offices of Marshall Capital in connection with a criminal case opened by the Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs under Art. 159 p. 4 (Fraud) into the theft of more than $200 million from VTB bank. VTB accused Malofeev of not returning a credit provided to Russagroprom for the purchase of Nutritec in 2007 (Marshall was its largest shareholder at the time). Prior to that, in 2009, VTB Capital plc filed a lawsuit in London against Malofeev as a former co-owner of Nutritec, believing that it was the victim of fraud. In August 2011, the High Court in London decided to freeze Malofeev’s assets. Later, the parties entered into a settlement agreement. As a result, the VTB’s request to the Ministry of Internal Affairs [to open a criminal case] was withdrawn.
Right before the raids, Malofeev was ejected from the elections of deputies of the village council in Znamenka, in Smolensk region, by the Vyazemsk district court. Through these elections, he was planning to become a senator, but the court ruled that he had bribed voters.
The original version of this article, in Russian, can be found here.