Friday,
31 March 2017
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OpinionLaundering the stolen

While Ukraine is enjoying another episode in the series of its "uncompromising fight against corruption," its aggressive neighbor is encroaching on Donbas not only de facto but also de jure.

Russians see themselves as gods of hybrid war, and on any allegation their response remains the same: "we are not there," or "where's your proof?" Now they are faced with a situation when Ukraine starts playing by the same rules. It’s hard to believe that the presidential administration or the Cabinet have no influence on the blockade, and, moreover, that they have no powers to unblock highways and railroads. But while Vladimir Putin says it’s volunteer soldiers who come to Donbas on their tanks during their vacation time, Petro Poroshenko, apparently, decided to show what direct action democracy is like, when there is neither will nor ability to reason the blockade activists. That is, in a situation where Russians claim that Ukraine must implement Minsk Agreements, at the same time whispering "Donbas is ours" and "We will not allow to destroy the young republics", Kyiv is gradually bringing the world to the idea that, if Moscow is so intricate, let it pay for the banquet. The logic is clear: it’s the occupier state that must pay for the occupation.

Russians see themselves as gods of hybrid war, and on any allegation their response remains the same: “we are not there," or "where is your proof?"

At the time when a Moscow puppet Zakharchenko boasts seizure of Akhmetov’s steel-making factories and coal mines, the Kremlin pretends that no one guessed that the decision about this seizure was taken in Moscow and rejoice that Putin once again has a winning hand. However, no one knows in Russia, what to do next with the assets seized. In fact, the products from the occupied Donbas can only be sold in Ukraine because Russian "liberators" are in no hurry to officially open their market to what has been stolen in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, Russia has an excess of own coal and metal, and local producers clearly need no additional competition.

If the situation does not change (so far, it is unlikely to change either way), the future of the industrial potential of the occupied Donbas remains unenviable: theft of production capacities and cutting them for scrap. It’s all the "Russian world" can offer, which has earlier been evidenced in Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia.

There is another interesting thing. Previously, Russian talking heads were forbidden to speak publicly about the "historic reunification of Donbas with Russia" as it was earlier rehearsed in Crimea. Now these options are being discussed openly, and "Abkhazian" and "Crimean" scenarios are being considered. That’s a kind of a threat to seize Donbas for good, although these territories have been captured by force and the Kremlin does not intend to return them anyway.

In addition, Russia is gradually being drawn into the presidential campaign. That is, in the campaign heading toward Putin’s triumphant re-election for his fourth/fifth term. In a situation where there are no actual achievements in the economy and the internal structure of the country, they will exploit the subject of Russia’s external enemies. For this purpose, "a small and victorious" war can come very handy. Although, it is unlikely to be small this time.

In 2014, having captured Crimea, Putin has managed to completely break the opposition in pieces and claim a status of a collector of the "Russian land" (there is nothing that can blur one’s clear mind as as the seizure of foreign territories). It’s even easier with Donbas: the land has already been conquered, and it remains only to choose the mechanism of a "legal framework for the accession."

Recently the head of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs spoke about the possible recognition of Donbas. In addition, the Russian TV screens once again welcome the Kremlin proteges from the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, who claim that soon, Ukraine will fail with no electricity, water, food, and apparently air available.

Having captured Crimea, Putin has managed to completely break the opposition in pieces and claim a status of a collector of the "Russian land"

By a scale of propaganda nonsense, the captured Donetsk is in the lead, while Luhansk is deprived of attention. But, in any case, the Luhansk-based “Russian heroes” are echoed by numerous experts and the State Duma officials. They all try to make people believe that, once Ukraine falls, the Russians will have a bright and hassle-free future (however, they’ve been singing the same old song for the fourth year already).

Had such actions not been agreed in the Kremlin, Russian MPs would have at least been scolded for their frivolous statements, or even banned from TV talk shows. However, such improvisations are not swept aside by the Kremlin, but on the contrary, Moscow stresses that any option is possible – whatever Putin selects.

Another crime and the de facto annexation will always find an excuse. I am sure that they will even find a way how it all corresponds to Minsk-2. They’ve already said that the recognition of Donbas-issued travel documents and the seizure of businesses do not contradict Minsk Agreements. It will be the Russian taxpayers who will have to pay the cost, and it’s probably Donald Trump who will be blamed at the end of the day. After all, there must be a reason why he suddenly refused to “love” Russia.

Roman Tsymbaliuk, Moscow

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