A second front in the battle for Donbass

By Victor Shapinov

The economics and politics of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LC) retain the influence of oligarchic clans formed back in Ukrainian times. This creates a serious threat to the state-building of the
republic and to its very existence, and impedes opportunities for the gradual integration of the LC in the common economic space of Russia and the Eurasian Union.

During the uprising in the Donbass in the spring of 2014 against the hated authorities in Kiev, the participants of the popular movement never forgot names such as Rinat Akhmetov, Yura Yenakiyevo, Natalia Korolevska, and Sergey Kurchenko. Simply put, the uprising was conceived not only as one of national liberation (against the Ukrainian nationalists), but also as social (against the oligarchs).

And if the nationalists were left on the wrong side of the front line, the representatives of the oligarchy who stayed behind, like those in Kiev, those on the French Riviera, and (it must be confessed) those in Moscow, began to “do business” again.

The oligarchic clans of the time of Yushchenko and Yanukovych, which “forgot nothing and learned nothing” in the spring of 2014, are trying to arrange their affairs to continue as before under the Ukrainian “old regime,” against the very existence of the people’s republics.

This “quiet restoration” of the old Ukrainian order which they prepare for the LC and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) is actually even more dangerous than the new military preparations of the Kiev regime. More dangerous, because the young republics, with the corpse of the old oligarchy decomposing and pumping poison inside, have not completed the formation of a new State machine. These people already have experience at the destruction of the state.

The Ukrainian oligarchy is an an enemy against which the “cover” of an artillery volley will not work. Here a long and systematic struggle is required, one that coincides in substance with the construction of a new economic and political model in the Donbass, the model dreamed about by people at the barricades in the spring of 2014, and which they voted for in the referendum on May 11 [2014].

Why have the Ukrainian oligarchs become such a problem for the people’s republics? Doesn’t it seem that big capital has a lot invested there, and many oligarchs built themselves up for years as great partiots of Donbass? Why not work together?

In fact, the interests of the oligarchic groups and the interests of the people of Donbass were at some stage bound to be incompatible.And it’s not just the typical post-Soviet conflict between a predatory elite, newly enriched by privatization, and the impoverished people.

What is this incompatibility?

First, the Ukrainian oligarchic groups (the LC feels most strongly the influence of Efremov – Korolevska, Ivanyushchenko (Yura Yenakiyevo) – Abram, Kurchenko, and Akhmetov) are focused on getting the fastest maximum profit, which objectively runs counter to the strategic interests of the republic.
For example, when the republic tried to propose a structure for one oligarch to rebuild machinery, it met with refusal. The oligarch chose instead to cash in on speculation in gasoline and fuel, devastating the already war-shattered region, rather than engage in systematic work to restore the economy.

Second, the businesses of the Ukrainian oligarchic groups are tied to Ukraine. And because of this, it is in the economic interests of the oligarchy to return Donbass to the authority of Kiev. Of course, Akhmetov or Ivanyushchenko are not fans of the Nazis Bandera and Shukhevych, it’s “just business.” But this means that the Ukrainian oligarchs in the Donbass are a priori anti-state force hostile to the LC and DNR.

Third, the Ukrainian oligarchy is also a threat through corruption of the government apparatus of the LC and the revival of all the plagues of the oligarchic system of power, which the people of Donbass hoped to get rid of by voting for independence in the referendum.

Fourth, the Ukrainian oligarchy is oriented to the West.That’s where their capital is, where their property is, where their credit is, where their children study. It is by the capitalist elite of the West that they dream of being accepted.

We all remember how the”patriot of Donbass” Rinat Akhmetov supported Euromaidan after U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland conducted an educational conversation with him. The West knows all the “weak spots” of the Ukrainian oligarchs, and can, in an emergency, guide their activities in the right direction for itself.

The “Second Coming” of the Ukrainian oligarchy in Donbass is a deadly threat to the people’s republics. Is the leadership of the LC and the DNR aware of this threat, and is it possible to open a real “second front” in Donbass in the war against the Ukrainian oligarchy?

Unlike the rest of Ukraine, where the oligarchs strengthened their positions after the Maidan victory, turning some regions into their fiefdoms, the position of the oligarchic clans in Donbass was seriously shaken. And many say that the leadership of the LC and DNR are ready for further work to complete the de-oligarchization of Donbass.

But we’ll talk about the details of this struggle next time.


Translated by Greg Butterfield

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