Week’s milestones. Nasirov-Gate underway, blockade with consequences, and false expectations from Nadiia
A number of Ukraine’s political forces saw a half-criminal, half-medical drama around the detention of chief taxman Roman Nasirov as an opportunity to show off. Logistical blockade in Donbas became bilateral, also being aggravated by the establishment of the "external management" over 43 Ukrainian companies located in the militant-occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. MP Nadiia Savchenko achieved no success in liberating Ukrainian prisoners held captive by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine.
The upcoming changes earlier announced by the U.S. administration in the issue of funding the efforts to protect democracy in the civilized world seems to have found a reflection in Ukraine. Anti-corruption watchdogs decided to show what they’re worth: at the end of the day, NABU’s cavalry attack on the head of the State Fiscal Service, Roman Nasirov, has turned into a protracted standoff in Solomensky District Court in Kyiv. Outside the court, it’s not only civic activists, hungry for justice, who gathered overnight, but also certain politicians seeking to ride the wave of popular discontent.
Nasirov, who is being defended by a substantial legal team, is for obvious reasons, getting closer to securing the status of universal evil, while the investigators seem not to worry a lot about the purity of the legal procedure. For some reason, the reports are out of trend on the fact that in the post-socialist countries, the fight against high-level corrupt officials has always resembled grubbing the stumps in a dense forest, and Ukraine is unlikely to be an exception. Assorted opposition and the lack of a consolidated position of the official Kyiv contribute to the fact that the anti-corruption issue has received additional political significance. Unfortunately, the sides to this confrontation are not interested in counting their moves at least a couple of steps forward.
Jingoistic blocking of goods transportation in Donbas has given the separatists and their Russian supervisors grounds for seizing (or, as they call it, the establishment of the "external management at") 43 enterprises, which probably are the last remaining tidbits on the uncontrolled territories. Although Interior Minister Arsen Avakov was eager to lift the blockade by force, the government chose not to exacerbate the situation in this way, suggesting that Moscow has already prepared a response to such developments. Otherwise, the militants would not have put forward an ultimatum before the Ukrainian authorities – the one which can obviously never be met. Putting the rhetoric aside, we see the following: Ukraine may suffer serious losses to its budget because of a drop in exports and a reduction of tax payments by profitable enterprises, while Russia will procure coal and steelmakers’ products at dumping prices. It seems that some Ukrainian politicians have forgotten that during the war (both hybrid and conventional) weakening the adversary’s economic potential is one of the main objectives.
Therefore, the rumors spun in the media of the NBU Governor Valeria Gontareva’s resignation fits well into this crisis agenda. At the moment, the list of possible successors is being updated (Arseniy Yatsenyuk has publicly denied a possibility of reclaiming the top NBU seat), while Gontareva assured the public that she could only consider resignation once the IMF memorandum is signed greenlighting another bailout tranche for Ukraine. Moreover, she vowed to warn in advance of her intention to step down. So, the bargaining routine around the top post at the NBU will continue in a backstage mode.
Petro Poroshenko last week visited two of Ukraine’s eastern regional centers – the cities of Dnipro and Kharkiv, where he recalled failed attempts to promote "Russian spring," and radiated confidence in the return of Crimea and Donbas under Ukraine’s control. The president seems to be starting preparations for the upcoming campaign, while his approach seems to be a bit too conservative so far.
MP Nadiia Savchenko is being pushed by her "well-wishers" toward rapprochement with militant leaders in Donbas. The deputy, who until recently enjoyed the status of an actual opinion leader, is now being exploited to achieve some purely tactical objectives: creating visibility of some alternative points of view. After Savchenko’s visit to Donetsk and Makiyivka, which she, herself, branded "a special operation" none of the Ukrainian prisoners held captive by militants was liberated. She is approaching a point where her voyages to Donbas, or the announced one – to the occupied Crimea – will be of a zero value.