The economics of rebellion in eastern Ukraine

In April 2014, angry mobs and armed men stormed administrative buildings and police stations in eastern Ukraine, waving Russian flags and proclaiming the establishment of “Peoples’ Republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk. At the time, some observers predicted that the “pro-Russian” uprising would spread to other parts of southeast Ukraine, throughout the vast territory Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to as historical “New Russia”.

Contrary to these forecasts, the rebellion remained surprisingly contained. No region outside Donetsk or Luhansk experienced large-scale armed conflict or fell under rebel control. Not only were separatists unable to realize the project of a greater “Novorossiya” (‘New Russia’) stretching from Kharkiv to Odesa, they failed to consolidate their grip even within the borders of the Donbas. Not more than 63% of municipalities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts were under rebel control at any time during the first year of the conflict, and less than a quarter of these territories showed resistance to government forces during Kyiv’s attempt to liberate them.

What explains local variation in rebellion? Why is rebel violence more intense in some areas than in others? Why have some towns in eastern Ukraine remained under government control while others fell to the separatists?

The most common answers to these questions have fallen into one of two categories: ethnicity and economics. The first view expects rebellion to be more likely and more intense in areas home to large concentrations of ethnolinguistic minorities – in this case, Russians or Russian speaking Ukrainians. According to this logic, geographically concentrated minorities can overcome some of the collective action problems associated with rebellion – such as monitoring and punishing defectors – while attracting an influx of fighters, weapons and economic aid from co-ethnics in neighboring states. Among others, Vladimir Putin too has cast the Donbas conflict as a primarily ethnic one: “The essential issue is how to ensure the legitimate rights and interests of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in the southeast of Ukraine”.

An alternative explanation for rebellion is economic opportunity costs. According to this view, as income from less risky legal activities declines relative to income from rebellious behavior, participation in rebellion should rise. As Maidan and the Revolution of Dignity proclaimed adherence to European values and set the path towards Europe and away from the Custom’s Union with Russia, the opportunity costs of rebellion declined in the Donbas. As a heavily industrialized region with deep economic ties to Russia, the Donbas was uniquely exposed to potential negative economic shocks caused by trade openness with the EU, austerity and trade barriers with Russia. A rebel fighter with the Vostok battalion summarized this view: “Many mines started to close. I lost my job. Then, with what happened during the spring, I decided to go out and defend my city”.

In an article forthcoming in the Journal of Comparative Economics, I evaluate the relative explanatory power of these two perspectives, using new micro-level data on violence, ethnicity and economic activity in eastern Ukraine. I find that local economic factors are stronger predictors of rebel violence and territorial control than Russian ethnicity or language. Ethnicity only had an effect where economic incentives for rebellion were already weak. Separatists in eastern Ukraine were “pro-Russian” not because they spoke Russian, but because their economic livelihood had long depended on trade with Russia and they now saw this livelihood as being under threat.

The economic roots of the pro-Russian rebellion are evident from new data on violence and control, assembled from incident reports released by Ukrainian and Russian news agencies, government and rebel statements, daily ‘conflict maps’ released by both sides, and social media news feeds. The data include 10,567 unique violent events in the Donbas, at the municipality level, recorded between then President Viktor Yanukovych’s flight in February 2014 and the second Minsk ceasefire agreement of February 2015. Figure 1 shows the geographic distribution of rebel violence and territorial control during the first year of the conflict.

1-eng

To explain variation in the timing and intensity of violence and control, I considered the proportion of Russian speakers residing in each municipality, and the proportion of the local labor force employed in three industries, differentially vulnerable to post-Euromaidan economic shocks. These included machine-building, which is heavily dependent on exports to Russia, highly vulnerable to Russian import substitution, and currently lacks short-term alternative export markets. At the other extreme, there is the metals industry, which is less dependent on Russia, and a potential beneficiary of increased trade with the EU. Finally, I considered employment in the mining industry, which had grown dependent on Yanukovych-era state-subsidies, and became highly vulnerable to IMF-imposed austerity measures. Given the relative exposure of these industries to post-Euromaidan economic shocks, one should expect the opportunity costs of rebellion to be lowest in machine-building towns and highest in metallurgy towns, with mining towns falling in the middle. Figure 2 shows the spatial distribution of these variables. I also accounted for a host of other potential determinants of violence, like terrain, logistics, proximity to the Russian border, prewar electoral patterns, and spillover effects from rebel activity in neighboring towns.

2-eng

A statistical analysis of these data reveals that a municipality’s prewar employment mix is a stronger and more robust predictor of rebel activity than local ethnolinguistic composition. In municipalities more exposed to negative trade shocks with Russia (municipalities with high shares of population employed in machinery and mining), rebel violence was more likely to occur overall, and was more intense. For a median Donbas municipality, an increase in the machine-building labor force from one standard deviation below (4%) to one standard deviation above the mean (26%) yields a 44% increase (95% credible interval: a 34%-56% increase) in the frequency of rebel violence from week to week.

These municipalities – where the local population was highly vulnerable to trade disruptions with Russia – also fell under rebel control earlier and took longer for the government to liberate than municipalities where the labor force was less dependent on exports to Russia. On any given day, a municipality with higher-than-average employment in the beleaguered machine-building industry was about twice as likely to fall under rebel control as a municipality with below-average employment in the industry.

By contrast, there is little evidence of either a “Russian language effect” on violence, or an interaction between language and economics. The impact of prewar industrial employment on rebellion is the same in municipalities where a majority of the population is Russian-speaking as it is where the majority is Ukrainian-speaking. Russian language fared slightly better as a predictor of rebel control, but only under certain conditions. In particular, where economic dependence on Russia was relatively low, municipalities with large Russian-speaking populations were more likely to fall under rebel control early in the conflict. The “language effect” disappeared in municipalities where any one of the three industries had a major presence. In other words, ethnicity and language only had an effect where economic incentives for rebellion were weak.

The seemingly rational economic self-interest at the heart of the conflict may seem puzzling, given the staggering costs of war. In the eighteen months since armed men began storming government buildings in the Donbas, over 8000 people have lost their lives, and over a million have been displaced. Regional industrial production fell by 49.9% in 2014, with machinery exports to Russia down by 82%. Suffering heavy damage from shelling, many factories have closed. With airports destroyed, railroad links severed and roads heavily mined, a previously export-oriented economy has found itself isolated from the outside world. If local machinists and miners had only known the scale of the destruction to come, the economic rationale for rebellion would surely have appeared less compelling. Yet when choosing between a high-risk rebellion to retain one’s economic livelihood and an almost certain loss of income, many people chose the first option.

From a policy standpoint, the economic roots of the Donbas conflict should be seen as good news. Despite the ethnocentric media coverage of this war in Russia and the West, the data show that attempts to divide Ukraine along ethnic or linguistic lines are likely to fail. These results can also explain why the conflict has not spread beyond Donetsk and Luhansk. Home to a large concentration of enterprises dependent on exports to Russia, highly subsidized and traditionally shielded from competition, the Donbas became exposed to a perfect storm of negative economic shocks after the Euromaidan. No other region in Ukraine, or the former Soviet Union, has a similarly vulnerable economic profile. Without a compelling economic motive, a pro-Russian rebellion is unlikely to occur elsewhere in Ukraine.

By: Yuri M. Zhukov, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan

Ukraine’s anti-Communist law should be rewritten, but not scrapped

The recently published open letter on Ukraine’s ‘anti-communist law’ has weighed into a heavily emotive debate. We could consider the law from the point of view of the ammunition it will give Ukraine’s critics, but I do not think this should be a key consideration. If their use of the repeal of Ukraine’s regional languages law (which never happened) is anything to go by, the trolls at 55 Savushkina street will have this woven into their technical tasks for the next few months, irrespective of whether it is ever signed into law. Russia has dictated Ukraine’s affairs quite enough, one would think

There are some points on which this letter hits the nail on the head. Where was the rigorous political debate in the Rada on such potentially divisive issues? Also, that the law creates a vaguely defined offence of denying the legitimacy of Ukraine’s struggle for independence in the twentieth century. Vaguely defined laws on which individuals could be arbitrarily lynched are a post-Soviet model of justice which surely has no place in today’s Ukraine. The offence of denying the criminal character of the entire Soviet regime from start to finish is also fraught with risks, although I think the examples given of potential offenders amount to mere thought experiments. This poor quality of legislative practice shows that Ukraine still lacks a culture of constitutionalism, and President Poroshenko should indeed send lawmakers back to the drawing board to pass a better law which better addresses these concerns. But the essence of what Ukraine is attempting to do here must not be discounted.

I first moved to Kiev in 2006, living first near Arsenalna, then Nyvky out in the suburbs, both on the metro system. Using the metro regularly there brings you face to face with the Soviet legacy, from small hammer & sickles in metal grills to the garish representation of Lenin and his sayings at Teatralna. I always hated it, and I also hated the seeming indifference of most locals to it. Even amongst the more active, nobody really raised this issue. The moderator of one pro Ukrainian language Facebook page was more concerned with a small Russian language sign at Palats Sportu station (only retained as it was part of the station’s original design) than de-Sovietization. For me the latter was far more important.

The Lenin menagerie at Teatralna was finally removed last year, and I was overjoyed on a visit back to Kiev to see it gone. Perversely, it is this exact display which is pictured atop the open letter itself on the Krytyka webpage. It’s common for western visitors to Eastern Europe to wonder why countries in the region saw the need to rip up their communist monuments. After all, it’s part of their history, they say. But as we all know, history is written by the victors, and in 1922, after a civil war which ravaged Ukraine, that’s what the Bolsheviks were. This regime not only built its own monuments but destroyed royalist monuments, churches etc. and, ultimately, their monuments were designed as symbols of central power, prescribed history, control and obedience. How can a country build a democratic mindset with monuments glorifying totalitarianism everywhere?

So in many ways the gist of the law is actually correct. Retaining Soviet detritus has been too costly to Ukraine’s societal development, and people’s indifference unhealthy. The law also bans Nazi symbols. Again, the law should bear in mind Ukraine’s needs, not Russia’s, and I think there’s a much more searching debate to be had about what’s acceptable and what isn’t. To me, the black and red flag should be permissible, Wolfsangels and other SS symbols etc. should not be. It’s difficult to apply a consistent standard across both the Nazi and Soviet periods as they are so vastly different in scope.

The most important desired outcome is freedom for independent historians, academics and journalists. Remember, by the way, that it was Yanukovych who closed the KGB archives in 2010, aiding the mythologization process in Western Ukraine, boosting the Svoboda party and creating a foil for the pro-Russian ‘anti-fascist’ constructs that the Party of Regions was using. When you have Ukraine sympathizers writing things like “so it is established fact that the UPA slaughtered tens of thousands of Poles? I don’t think so” (some here in Warsaw can tell you they lost family members at the hands of the Ukrainian insurgents), you realize the importance of the work of these historians.

Holodomor remembrance is a good example of the power of education. Not so many years ago the average Ukrainian knew little in concrete terms about what had happened to their country in the 1930s. The bringing to light of historical evidence has brought about the right kind of response, one of reverence and remembrance in which all public figures participate (leaving aside the more specific question of genocide). The fear of the mythologizing of history in Ukraine, as in Russia, is a legitimate one. Ukraine shouldn’t follow Russia down the path of pseudo-history.

Is there an alternative to smashing or bulldozing Lenin statues and other monuments? Perhaps. Hungary’s’ Statue Park is an example Ukraine could follow. What they do in former East Germany with Karl Marx in Chemnitz (complete with giant winter scarf!) is a perfectly sensible thing to do in the context of the free world safely inside the EU and NATO. But in Ukraine the monuments underline a medieval understanding of power which makes them much more problematic to retain. Another risk is that Soviet monuments can be reactivated as symbols by subversives or invaders. The reconstruction of a Lenin monument in occupied East Ukraine reminds us of their value to the opponents of a free Ukraine.

Perhaps the most damning criticism that could be made of the law is that it is in a way a cop out. If Communism was so bad, when will Ukraine act on lustration for the crimes of the Soviet period (not to mention for the Kuchma and Yanukovych eras)? The open letter is a thoughtful contribution to this difficult discussion. Although signed by one or two dubious figures it is also signed by many more respected and knowledgeable academics with Ukraine’s best interests at heart.

Monuments and street names to those who weren’t Ukrainian & killed Ukrainians is inclusivity Ukraine can do without.

The debate about de-Sovietization must by necessity move into controversial territory. Should it be only street names such as Lenina or Kominterna which should be changed? Should street names such as Heroiv Stalingrada (Heroes of Stalingrad) be changed purely because they contain, and indirectly venerate, the name of one responsible for the deaths of millions of Ukrainians (I’d like to see it renamed Heroes of Donetsk Airport instead)? The argument the open letter makes is for inclusivity of those across Ukraine, but surely, as someone has suggested, that inclusivity could be found in countless numbers of local figures worth celebrating. Monuments and street names to those who weren’t Ukrainian & killed Ukrainians is inclusivity Ukraine can do without.


By , originally published on Chicken in Kiev

 

The Russian Church’s war against Ukrainian culture and history

As Ukraine engages in a war against the Russian invasion of the Donbas and soldiers give their lives for the sake of freedom, a silent war is being waged at the Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv.

The Pecherska Lavra is a territory that includes churches, monastic quarters, the Metropolitan of Kyiv’s residence, and the holy relics of generations of saints; in addition to housing six National Museums and an artists’ studio. The Moscow Patriarchate, which has exclusive permission to hold services at the Lavra, has targeted the artists’ studios and the museums in what can be described as a corporate raidership of property. If successful, the cultural and artistic heritage of Ukraine and the city of Kyiv could potentially be destroyed.

Overlooking the mighty Dnipro River, the Ivan Yizhakevych Lavra Art Studios was founded over 130 years ago and has housed countless prominent Ukrainian artists and iconographers such as Mykhailo Boitchuk, Maria Pryjmachenko, Heorhii Yakutovych, Petro Vlasenko, Yuriy Khymych and others. Boitchuk, the founder of the Monumentalist School of Art, was executed by Stalin on the grounds that he was a Vatican spy. Diego Rivera worked with Boitchuk during the early 1930s at the Artists’ Studio.

eviction

Prior to the Revolution of Dignity of 2013-2014, numerous attempts were made to evict the artists from their premises. During Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency the heat and electricity were turned off, eviction notifications were sent, and the artists took to the streets in the hopes that citizens of good will would defend them. In conversations with a former director of the Lavra the reason given for the eviction was that this studio does not serve a religious function. It was rumored that the monastic authorities were planning to remodel the building into a residence for Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

However, another historical structure was successfully evicted. The Hromashevsky Infectious Diseases Hospital, built at the beginning of the 20th century and funded by the citizens of Kyiv, was closed last year. Metropolitan Pavlo Lebid, instrumental in the eviction of the hospital, has been criticized by the press for money laundering, an ostentatious lifestyle, and celebrating his 50th birthday to the tune of $100,000.00 American dollars. The monks who founded the monastery in the 10th century attended to the needs of the sick by studying medicine, visiting Mt. Athos in the search of medicinal herbs, and by opening the first hospital on monastery grounds. There are plans to turn the building into a hotel for Lavra visitors and pilgrims. The argument of what defines a “religious function” seems skewed in favor of financial profit as opposed to meeting the needs of the poor, sick and marginalized.

The Monastery of the Caves (Pecherska Lavra) has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The guidelines for the inclusion of a site are the following:

Each property nominated should therefore: represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; or exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design; or bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared; or be an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural ensemble.

The stewards of a UNESCO World Heritage Site are tasked with the responsibility of maintaining the site’s historical authenticity. Building new structures and the reconstruction of buildings that mar their original design are strictly forbidden. Repurposing a structure also brings the UNESCO designation into question and constitutes a violation of this status.

The building which houses the Ivan Yizhakevych Lavra Art Studios was constructed solely for the study and propagation of the visual arts. It is the duty of Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture, the administration of the city of Kyiv, and the Monastic community of the Pechersk Lavra to uphold, maintain and foster the legacy of the founding artists and to guarantee the continued presence of their descendants for generations to come.

The controversy surrounding the eviction of artists’ studios and the national museums is ongoing. The National Museums and Institutes threatened by closure at this time: 1) Museum of Decorative Arts, 2) the Museum of Theatre and Cinema, 3) the Museum of Printing, and the 4) National Institute of Scientific Research and the Protection of Cultural Monuments.

The silent war which is being waged on the Ukrainian culture and heritage by the Moscow Patriarchate needs to be exposed. As over a hundred Maidan activists were gunned down by Russian snipers last year, video footage was captured on the grounds of the Pecherska Lavra showing monks burning what seemed to be stacks and stacks of documents. What were they burning and what were they trying to hide?

The very presence of a foreign church entity on Ukrainian soil needs to be responsibly reviewed by government authorities. This is of particular importance when that church entity, the Moscow Patriarchate, actively supports terrorism, refuses to bury Ukrainian soldiers killed on the frontlines, and agitates the faithful to hate a legitimately elected Ukrainian president and parliament. If the stewardship of the Pecherska Lavra was in the hands of the Kyivan Patriarchate the place and integrity of Ukrainian cultural museums and institutions would be in safe hands.

This brief article constitutes a preliminary attempt at bringing this matter to the attention of our worldwide Ukrainian diaspora community and to all persons of good will. Please take the time to inform your friends and to advocate on behalf of our esteemed Lavra artists and all of the historical and cultural museums and institutions at the Pecherska Lavra.


Rev. Myron Panchuk M.A.

Something is rotten in the Luhansk Republic

Infighting, assassinations, and anti-Semitic conspiracies: something is rotten in the Luhansk Republic.

On January 1, as Russians and Ukrainians were still recovering from the traditional heavy New Year’s night partying, news of the death of Batman (the alias of retired Ukrainian police captain turned separatist field commander Alexander Bednov) shook the blogosphere and media. News of his fate initially was scarce and contradictory, some claiming Bednov was still alive, others reporting his car destroyed in an ambush and the base of his eponymous “rapid response group” under siege by fellow Luhansk Republic separatist forces. Still, others blamed “Ukrainian guerrillas” and even a Russian Spetsnaz operative named Wagner (not an alias).

What we do know is that the night before his death, Bednov recorded a video where, surrounded by children (locals, apparently), he wished the people of “Novorossiya” (New Russia) peace and prosperity in the New Year. By the evening, Batman was most certainly dead – but it is still unclear how exactly he met his end.

An official communiqué by the self-declared Luhansk Republic prosecutor’s office the next day (apparently the first of its kind, or at least the first reported by the media) claimed the commander was killed while resisting arrest, allegedly for torturing locals they kept as prisoners.

Batman’s group, on the other hand, has a page on the Russian social network Vkontakte that tells quite another story. They claim Bednov’s car was struck with RPGs while on the road the morning of January 1st. Their story, supported by several prominent pro-Russian observers, suggests Batman was killed on the orders of Igor Plotnitsky, the current “elected” head of the Luhansk Republic, as part of Jewish conspiracy. According to this scenario, the “rebellious” field commanders in Luhansk are being liquidated so that the “West-Ukraine born yid” Plotnitsky can carry out a sinister and subversive plot to yield Donbas back to Ukraine.

[insert]plotnitsky[/insert]

An anti-Semitic anti-Plotnitsky cartoon posted on Batman’s Vkontakte page.

A failed state that never was

The story of the Batman’s end may just be the tip of the iceberg to the turmoil in the fragile Luhansk Republic. Since the start of the Russian-backed insurgency, Luhansk has been the smaller, poorer relative to Donetsk, run by what Buzzfeed’s Max Seddon describes as a “motley band of locals” – as opposed to the “founding fathers” of the Donetsk Republic, Muscovites Igor ‘Strelkov’ Girkin and Alexander Borodai; one an ex-Security Service agent, the other – a political expert.

Prior to his own departure, former and original Luhansk Republic chief Valery Bolotov never saw eye to eye with his Donetsk counterparts, putting the first official nail in the coffin of the New Russia project. Since his departure in August, the power vacuum still has yet to settle.

But this divide is not only relegated to insurgent leadership, but rather rooted in the composition of the grunts forming the bulk of Luhansk militants.

In one interview back in July, a Russian intelligence commander in Luhansk told the New York Times that roughly 80% of separatist insurgents in the city were ‘scrappy locals who had never seen battle’ who were also as quick to desert as they were to enlist. More recent explanations come by way of Vladimir Yefimov, a former member of the Russian Spetsnaz now organizing Russian insurgents in Ukraine via a Sverdlovsk veterans’ organization. From an organizational standpoint he readily explains that the best soldiers – those from the Special Forces and elite – are assigned to Donetsk, while neo-Cossacks and those without combat experience are relegated to Luhansk.

According to FT’s Courtney Weaver, the way the fractious Luhansk statelet is run “makes even the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic look like a slick operation”. While the Donetsk Republic maintains somewhat of a semblance of a state, propped up by Russian financial, humanitarian and military aid, Luhansk seems to be unraveling.

Separatism from separatists

At least three independent “Cossack republics” created by Russian Don Cossacks have refused to submit to the “central” authorities in Luhansk, and have since set up their own checkpoints where “cossacks in dirty old uniforms beg for cigarettes and food,” describes Pavel Kanygin, a reporter of Russia’s independent Novaya Gazeta. Deaths from starvation have been reported in towns around the occupied Luhansk region, which have yet to see any of the now infamous “Russian humanitarian aid” coming across its natural border. Canned food from Russian producers has appeared on store shelves instead.

On his way from Luhansk, Kanygin met two Russian volunteers, fleeing to Donetsk and fed up with the lack of supplies and infighting they had experienced in a unit led by Alexey Mozgovoy, one of the visibly rebellious Luhansk commanders. However, Mozgovoy’s old war comrade Igor Girkin, the man who by his own confession “pulled the trigger” of the Donbas war back in April, has now taken to urging them to take a different path. While denouncing the murder of Bednov, he warned that any infighting would be interpreted as a rebellion against the Kremlin and weaken the separatists to the Ukrainian threat, instead suggesting Russian volunteers should follow his example and leave “Novorossiya” altogether, for good.

Girkin himself returned to Moscow back in August, days before a Russian offensive turned the tide of the war in the Donbas. Himself seen as an independent figure, his exit allegedly was one of the conditions for Russian troops to enter the fighting directly. Another independent separatist commander and Girkin’s ally, Igor “the Demon” Bezler followed suit in November. Nikolay Kozistsyn, a neo-Cossack commander who’s ‘Great Don Army’ at one point claimed control of 4/5ths of occupied Luhansk, fled in December, allegedly removed over a dispute with the Luhansk Republic over control of local coal mines and shipping of their product to Russia. Pavel Gubarev, the man who led Donetsk pro-Russian protests from the very beginning in March, saw his party removed from ballots in the city’s November 2 “elections” and became victim of an alleged assassination attempt weeks prior. It’s worth noting that Bednov was similarly banned from elections in Luhansk, turning them into a Soviet one-party imitation.

Those elections apparently did serve a purpose – that of legitimizing the current leadership of the quasi-states. Pavel Kanygin in his in-depth analysis of Kremlin control over the republics suggests a plan to strengthen Kremlin control by removing “independent” separatist leaders and replacing them with Russia’s yes-men, orchestrated by one Vladislav Surkov, a sinister string-puller inside the Kremlin. Surkov, Igor Girkin arch-enemy and probably the man behind the purges, has sent his envoys to Donetsk, which has since gained some Moscow chiс – for example, oysters appearing on restaurant menus, a sight unseen even before the war.

It is unclear what Surkov’s endgame might be: whether it is restoring life in Donbas back to normal, setting up a staging point for a further Russian invasion, or eventually yielding the occupied territories back to Ukraine on some face-saving terms, remains to be seen.

One thing is certain: whatever this plan is, independent and popular separatist leaders are seen as a spanner in the works and dealt with ruthlessly, turning the authoritarian “Russian spring” to a decidedly cold winter.

By: Kirill Mikhailov & Mat Babiak

Live on Twitter: Journalists confirm invasion has begun

Did long predicted invasion of mainland Ukraine “officially” just start? UK journalists Shaun Walker (Guardian) and Roland Oliphant (Telegraph) seem to think it has, seeing Armored Personnel Carriers with official Russian plates cross the border. Various other journalists documenting the situation have photographed columns of tanks and other heavy military vehicles heading in the direction of the border.

(last updated Aug 15, 10:45am EST)

 

“A column of armored vehicles (12 pieces) goes towards the Ukrainian border.”

This article will be updated as the situation progresses on Twitter.

SBU: Wiretap proves terrorists possessed ‘Buk’ missile launcher

In response to Ukrainian allegations that pro-Russian terrorists had shot down the Malaysian Boeing they denied possession of weapons capable of doing it. However, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has published an intercept of the terrorists discussing in great detail a BUK-M surface-to-air system, another “gift” from Russia, capable of downing targets like #MH17.

Video with English Subtitles

Security service of Ukraine has investigated the circumstances of the July 17 terrorist act that took about 300 people dead. The data obtained indicates that the Boeing-777 plane was shot down by Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) terrorists using a surface-to-air missile complex Buk-M brought in from Russia. On July 14 the first information appeared on the terrorists possessing a Buk SAM complex capable of intercepting airborne targets at significant heights. However, the information of the Buk being in Ukrainian territory could not be confirmed back then.

The following is a transcript of the intercept between prominent pro-Russian terrorist leaders:

Oleg – Oleg Bugrov, Luhansk Republic chief of staff, deputy defense minister
Orion – Russian citizen, Main Intelligence Directorate officer probably called Andrey Ivanovich

Oleg: The plane bombed the settlement. It missed.
Orion: Awesome. That’s revenge for the planes we’ve downed today, but that will end in a couple of days.
Orion: We already have a f***ing Buk, we’ll shoot them down.

In the morning of July 17, 2014, the day of the tragedy, counterintelligence obtained trustworthy information of the DPR terrorists obtaining at least one Buk-M unit with a crew transferred across the Russian border near the town of Sukhodolsk around 1:00 AM.

Around 9:00 AM the complex reached the city of Donetsk and later was transported to the settlement of Pervomaiskyi.

Khmuryi – Sergey Nikolayevich Petrovskyi, 1964, Russian Main Inteligence Directorate, Igor Girkin (Strelkov’s) deputy on intelligence, was in Donetsk during the intercept
Buryat -DNR terrorist (name being investigated)
Sanych
-DNR terrorist, Khmuryi’s deputy

Khmuryi: Buryat, I hear you, go ahead.
Buryat: Where do we load this beauty?
Khmuryi: Which one? That one?
Buryat: Right, the one I’ve brought. I’m already in Donetsk.
Khmuryi: Is it the one I’m thinking about? The “B”… “M” one?
Buryat: Right. The Buk.
Khmuryi: Is it on a tow car?
Buryat: Yeah. It has to be unloaded and hid somewhere.
Khmuryi: Does it have a crew?
Buryat: Right. IT HAS.
Khmuryi: You don’t have to hide it anywhere, it’ll go there now.
Khmuryi: Have you brought one or two?
Buryat: Just one. There was a mishap there. They did not transfer our tow car. They unloaded it and it went here self-propelled.
Khmuryi: So did it come self-proppelled or on a tow car?
Buryat: it crossed the “stripe” (the border) self-proppelled.
Khmuryi: I see, and now you’ve brought it on a tow truck… Don’t take it anywhere… I’ll tell where it should go now, it will go together with Vostok batallion’s tanks.
Khmuryi: Sanych, you know… My Buk-M will go with your guys, it’s on a tow, where do I get it to put it into the column?
Sanych: Next to the “Motel”, right before Gornostayevka.
Khmuryi: Right after the motel, right?
Khmuryi: Listen closely: call Bibliotekar. You’ll see you know what right after the motel ring.
Khmuryi: Take only those who came back, whoever you need to guard it. Leave the others here. When you get there, Pervomaiskoye will be close, look at the map.
DNR terrorist: Got it.
Khmuryi: Set up around there, pull out those you have left. You’ll be in reserve. And guarding the thing you’re about to drive. Gyurza will be there too. Call me if you need anything.
DNR Terrorist: Ok.

It should be noted that on July, 17, apart from the Buk-M, DNR got three Hvozdyka howitzers from Russia. The terrorists also don’t hide their knowledge of artillery strikes at Ukrainian forces from Russian territory.

Khmuryi: Hello, Botsman. I hear you. Well, we aren’t doing good, we are near Marinovka right now and it isn’t too good there. But we’re holding our ground.
Botsman: Why is it so bad?
Khmuryi: Well, what do you think? We are under Grad fire, we’ve only got a breather now. We’ve also downed a Su-25 fighter-bomber. We’ve got a Buk-M now.
Khmuryi: They are trying to escape Zelenopolye and they can only go through me. Downed two Su-25’s yesterday and another one today.
Khmuryi: Thank god we got a Buk-M in the morning. It got easier. But it’s still quite hard.
Botsman: What can I say? If you need anything, call me, I’ll be right there.
Khmuryi: Thanks, brother. In a couple of hours I’m heading to Donetsk, looks like we got a breather after all. Three Hvozdyka howitzers waiting for me there. I’ll tow the Hvozdykas here because it’s really quite tough here.
Botsman: Listen, should we shell them with a Grad?
Khmuryi: You see, we’ve got a Grad, but no spotter. However, we’re waiting for Russia to shell them from the other side.

Pro-Russian separatist ‘Supreme Soviet’ forms “Union of People’s Republics”

Representatives of self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics signed a joint document at a session of its Supreme Soviet, declaring the “Constitutional Act of the merger of “the Union of People’s Republics.”

“Today members of the DPR Supreme Council voted for a single constitution of New Russia. It means that the DPR and LPR will share the same constitution,” prime minister of the Donetsk Republic, Alexander Borodai, said. Borodai is a Russian citizen with ties to anti-semitic organizations.

Separatist leaders announced that their ‘republics’ will be rebranded “People’s Union Republics,” acting in a new Soviet-era styled “Union of People’s Republics.”

The DPR and LPR and legally classified as terrorist organizations in Ukraine.

Area controlled by 'New Russia' in relation to the ongoing Anti-Terrorist Operation
Area controlled by ‘New Russia’ in relation to the ongoing Anti-Terrorist Operation

Applebaum: Nationalism Is Exactly What Ukraine Needs

Donetsk, Slavyansk, Kramatorsk—is what a land without nationalism actually looks like: corrupt, anarchic, full of rent-a-mobs and mercenaries. For the most part, the men in balaclavas who have assaulted Ukrainian state institutions under the leadership of Russian commandos are not nationalists; they are people who will do the bidding of whichever political force pays best or promises most. And although they are a small minority, the majority does not oppose them. On the contrary, the majority is watching the battle passively and seems prepared to take whichever government they get. Like my friends in L’viv, these are people who live where they do by accident, whose parents or grandparents arrived by the whim of a Soviet bureaucrat, who have no attachment to any nation or any state at all.

Thus do the tiny group of nationalists in Ukraine, whom perhaps we can now agree to call patriots, represent the country’s only hope of escaping apathy, rapacious corruption, and, eventually, dismemberment.

And this should be no surprise: In the nineteenth century, no sensible freedom fighter would have imagined it possible to create a modern state, let alone a democracy, without some kind of nationalist movement behind it. Only people who feel some kind of allegiance to their society—people who celebrate their national language, literature, and history, people who sing national songs and repeat national legends—are going to work on that society’s behalf.

In truth, you can’t really make “the case” for nationalism; you can only inculcate it, teach it to children, cultivate it at public events. If you do so, nationalism can in turn inspire you so that you try to improve your country, to help it live up to the image you want it to have. Among other things, that thought inspired the creation of this magazine 100 years ago.

Ukrainians need more of this kind of inspiration, not less—moments like last New Year’s Eve, when more than 100,000 Ukrainians sang the national anthem at midnight on the Maidan. They need more occasions when they can shout, “Slava Ukraini—Heroyam Slava”—“Glory to Ukraine, Glory to its Heroes,” which was, yes, the slogan of the controversial Ukrainian Revolutionary Army in the 1940s, but has been adopted to a new context. And then of course they need to translate that emotion into laws, institutions, a decent court system, and police training academies. If they don’t, then their country will once again cease to exist.

Anne Applebaum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and has acted as editor at The Economist, and a member of the editorial board of The Washington Post.

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Strelkov Declared Supreme Commander

One day following a local separatist referendum, the commander of the Donbass People’s Militia, the paramilitary wing of the Donetsk Republic Organization, Igor “Strelkov” Girkin has declared himself “Supreme Commander” of the fledgling rebel territory. In his decree, in addition to giving himself absolute authority over all military and security structures and demanding sworn allegiance within the next 48 hours, he declares outright war against Ukraine and all military or police units stationed in the province. Girkin then lists Ukrainian and U.S. officials who will be ‘prosecuted’ for ‘perpetrating massacres’ (including CIA director John Brennan), and concludes his declaration by requesting military assistance from the Russian Federation.

It is unknown at this time if his self-appointed position will conflict with self-proclaimed ‘People’s Governor’ Pavel Gubarev. Girkin has been a vocal critic of separatist authorities in Donetsk, and has publicly stated that there have been conflicts with Republic leadership in Donetsk prior to their working agreement. “The agreement wasn’t easy for us, because in the resistance we have quite a lot of grievances about the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic, which has been able to do almost nothing since the seizure of the Donetsk governor’s office.”

Below is his statement:

I decree:

1. Reassign myself as the Supreme Commander of the DPR, and all permanently stationed military units on the republic, including security, police, customs, border guards, prosecutors and paramilitary structures.

2. Entering into the territory of the DPR forces of the counter-terrorist operation (CTO) under Ukrainian rebels who are neo-Naz0 groups (the so-called “National Guard”, the Right Sector,” Lyashko’s Battalion, etc.) are subject to detention and, in the case of armed resistance, will be destroyed on the spot.

3. Law enforcement agencies will prosecute the leaders of the Kyiv junta and other persons involved in instigating, organizing or perpetrating massacres in the territory of the DPR: Igor KolomoiskyValentyn Nalyvaichenko, Andriy Parubiy, Arsen Avakov, Yulia Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Turchynov, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Oleh Lyashko, A. Artemenko, and U.S. citizens John Brennan, Victoria Nuland, and Jen Psaki.

4. All the soldiers and officers of the armed forces, internal security forces, the Security Service, the Interior Ministry and other paramilitary structures of Ukraine from now on will be considered to be illegally within the territory of the DPR. Within 48 hours they are required to swear allegiance to the DPR or leave the country. All will come under the command of the DPR  authorities and will be guaranteed the preservation of military and special ranks, salaries and social security (assuming nothing to do with the commission of serious and very serious crimes).

5. Given the urgency of the situation in the country, the Kiev junta unleashed genocide on the Donetsk population, and the threat of intervention by NATO, I refer to the Russian Federation with a request for military assistance to DPR.

I. Strelkov

‘Strelkov’ has been described by Ukraine’s security service as a Russian colonel and resident of Moscow. He is currently a target of European Union sanctions, and was named by the EU’s Official Journal to be on the staff of the Russian foreign military intelligence agency (GRU), and a key figure involved in the military takeover of Crimea as an assistant on security matters to Sergei Aksyonov, Crimea’s self-declared prime minister.

This act comes a day after Donetsk’ regional referendum, which was internationally condemned by western nations and the OSCE as illegitimate. Reports on the day of the poll showed evidence of mass voter fraud and intimidation. The run-up to the referendum involved the seizure of thousands of pre-filled ballots, and a tapped phone call released by the SBU which unveiled Russian involvement and premeditated fraud.

SBU Audio Links Donetsk Republic to Russian Involvement

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has released evidence concerning the preparation and coordination of the Donetsk Republic’s planned referendum with Russian foreign agents, in particular, leader of the neo-Nazi paramilitary group Russian National Unity Alexander Barkashov.

Donetsk Republic leader Pavel Gubarev during his time with Russian National Unity
Donetsk Republic leader Pavel Gubarev during his time with Russian National Unity

In the purported conversation, the leader of Orthodox Donbass, a group working with the separatists, discusses the need for Russian military support and that the Republic’s forces are not likely to withstand the ongoing fight with Ukrainian military by the May 11th referendum date, and that such a province-wide measure could not be held so long as Ukrainian forces remain in the region. In response, the voice said to be Barkashov insists that not cancellation or postponement can be allowed to take place, and that the results should be fabricated if need be. At first he suggests penning in a 99% vote in favor similar to the Crimean scenario, but then lowers the figure to a slightly less incredulous 89%. Barkashov then mentions that “everyone is keyed up, even [Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov” and that he had written to Vladimir Putin concerning the events.

Recall that the Donetsk Republic’s self-described “people’s governor” Pavel Gubarev is a former member of the neo-Nazi paramilitary group, but this new evidence would suggest his ties to the group are still strong. Gubarev has remained separatist leader in absentia since his arrest on March 6th.

The below video contains English subtitles.