In early June, Kiev took a number of steps proving its wish to strengthen the blockade of Donbass and Crimea.
On June 3, Yuri Lutsenko quoted President Poroshenko as saying that Kiev had to blockade that “cancer.” He welcomed the decision by the head of the Lugansk civil-military administration Hennadiy Moskal to prohibit any vehicles to move from the “occupied territory” and expressed wish to see it applied to Donetsk as well.
The same day the Supreme Rada registered a bill by a group of MPs from Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front, the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and Lyashko’s Radical Party recognizing the territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics as “occupied” and forbidding people to move to and from and to carry products to and from those territories (except for OSCE and ICRC humanitarian aid). On June 12, MP Levchenko submitted a bill banning trade with “temporarily occupied territories.”
On June 11, the head of the Donetsk regional administration, General Oleksander Kikhtenko was replaced by Pavlo Zhebrivsky. Kikhtenko is a radical nationalist, one of the few people who can actually be regarded as Poroshenko’s men.
Some sources say that Kikhtenko was expected to be more radical as was Lugansk governor Moskal, who has stopped all contacts with the Lugansk People’s Republic. Kikhtenko was a doughface, who kept claiming that almost 80% of companies in the Donetsk People’s Republic continued paying taxes. He was against severing economic ties with Donbass as without coal, there will be neither coke nor metal.
Zhebrivsky believes that dignity is more important than coal or metal. So, his key task is to fight contraband and to prevent Donbass from earning money by continuing the war and using products on both their and our territories.
Meanwhile, point 8 of the Minsk Agreements requires considering ways to fully restore social-economic contacts, including those concerning the payment of pensions, bills and taxes. And this point is supposed to be implemented before Kiev’s control over the border is restored. As far as we see, the Minsk Agreements have no terms like “contraband” (although the de facto openness of borders of the people’s republics with Russia gives ground for such views).
As far as Moskal is concerned, his measures are aimed not so much against the Lugansk People’s Republic as against the corruption that is thriving among the forces guarding the border. Meanwhile, instead of offering laws complying with the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian MPs are making the border regime even tougher. And they are not even worried about the economic damage this may cause.
In fact, Kiev continues its economic blockade of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics.
This policy may have quite negative consequences for Ukraine’s economy, but nobody is worried as Ukraine is not supposed to have an economy any longer. All it is supposed to do now is to give away all of its attractive assets (both state-owned and private) against debts. Consequently, the authorities are no longer interested in those assets as they can no longer help them in any way.
All they can hope for is the help of the US and the EU (as was the case in Georgia). For the time being, they enjoy a role in their global game. Then they will be needed for protecting the Ukrainian assets of TNK. They will find ways to survive.
Regarding Donbass, Poroshenko and his supporters have made it clear what they think about the peace process. They are just waiting to see when their army will be strong enough to be able to attack and when the Russians will not for some reasons be able to interfere. The economic blockade will make it hard for the republics to prepare for war and can make their regimes unpopular among their populations (which does not, however, mean that the Kiev regime will become popular).
As far as the Minsk agreements is concerned, the current skirmishes on the border may well be aimed to wreck them. If this happens, the US will do its best not to renew the agreements and to freeze the situation.
The only unclear thing here is for how long the Americans will need this and why they have to consider the wishes of the Kiev regime.
Vasily Stoyakin, political strategist, specially for EADaily