Ukraine's uncontrolled part of the Luhansk oblast remained without Ukrainian power supply at midnight on April 25. Many people "looked forward" to the "blackout" and "Stone Age" in the "LPR", but everything happened far otherwise. The absolute majority of the population in the occupied territory just did not notice this fact. They went to bed – there was the light, woke up – the light was still there. Literally an hour was required for the Luhansk power engineers to connect to the Russian power grids.
The price of "trump card" for "dissatisfied" Russians
"Now they will be despaired there and will understand that without Ukraine they can go nowhere", "the Luhansk and Donets residents will finally understand that Russia does not care about them", "let them live with candles and matches", - some residents of Sievierodonetsk controlled by the Ukrainian security forces commented on the event in the morning of April 25. And they were wrong - that was made clear by the lunchtime that no one have had any problems with the LPR because of the blackout of Ukrainian electricity yet. The population does not care what kind of origin the kilowatts are in their counters, the main thing is that the light should be there. And it was!
"Republican ministers" hastened to report on "their own sources" but were soon disproved by the statement of the plenipotentiary representative of the Russian Federation in the Contact Group on settlement of the situation in eastern Ukraine Boris Gryzlov. Mr. Gryzlov said the following: "In accordance with the actions of the government of Ukraine, the government of the Russian Federation made a decision on providing the electricity supply (to the occupied part of the Luhansk region – ed.) on the part of the Russian Federation in the framework of humanitarian support".
Let us recall that the following was heard in the morning from the occupied Luhansk from the "Minister" of the "Ministry of Emergency Situations" Sergey Ivanushkin: "Power supply of the main districts of Luhansk was already turned on in 40 minutes after the loss (of electrical connection – ed.), due to our prompt action, and we have completely closed switching over in the LPR at 2.00, we have switched over to our internal resources. The flow to the territory of Ukraine is stopped, it is zero, we work completely on our electricity".
According to Ivanushkin, the occupied Luhansk was transferred to "its own" internal power supply.
"We were ready for this. Because if someone did not believe, we knew that they would still cut it. So we have completely prepared all the schemes, now they are at work. The wires were replaced, all repair and restoration work was carried out in order to increase the flow of electricity", - the "minister" claimed.
It is worth to remark that Luhansk was really prepared in advance for this turn of events, but most of the preparations, apart from the replacement of the broken wires along the line of demarcation, consisted in reminding Moscow that if Ukraine cut down the light, "we do not know here what to do, you will not leave us, deal?". And Russia did not leave, having suffered financial losses, but having won in the media space.
The price paid by Russia is $53 million a year. This figure was announced by the head of the Russian Energy Development Fund Sergey Pikin. He stated in an interview to the Russian media that "at least 53 million" will be spent on the energy supply of the "LPR". According to Pikin, the districts of the Luhansk region that are not controlled by Ukraine need 400 megawatts of power each year.
Not everyone in Russia supported such "support" of the "unconquered" Luhansk. For example, Russian journalist Ilya Waitsman had sharply criticized this decision of the Kremlin.
"I understand that the tariffs for electricity will rise massively this year in Russia from July, and, naturally, they will rise because of the "humanitarian support" of the existence of a lawless misconception – the LPR", - Waitsman wrote on his Facebook.
According to him, Russians are already paying for resources for the Crimea: "Now we will pay in addition for the "LDPR". Putin's ambitions and war, of course, have to be paid by us, who else? We always have spare money. And the leader should be made pleasant by any means".
"Not a political decision"
Practically, according to official statements, the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine had "cut off" the electricity to the "LPR" because of the lack of payments for electricity consumed by the "grabbed" enterprises of DTEK and enterprises under the Ukrainian jurisdiction, operated in the territory of the "LPR" until March 1.
"Enterprises registered in the territory controlled by Ukraine had their own production capacities in the uncontrolled territory. However, we supplied electricity there without problems until quite recently, since there were at least some payments to the bank accounts. So I cannot say that they did not pay at all. But already from March 1 when these enterprises were seized, the payments for electricity supplies had stopped and amounted to zero. So we should understand that any supplies to the occupied territory will mean the financing of terrorism", - the Deputy Minister for the occupied territories Yuriy Grymchak stated.
In his turn, the Minister of Energy of Ukraine Ihor Nasalyk noted that the supply of electricity to the "LPR" will be resumed after the redemption of payment arrears. According to him, the decision to blackout the "LPR" is economic, not a political one. As the minister noted, the situation had escalated in the last two months when Ukrainian enterprises were nationalized by the Luhansk "authorities".
A number of Ukrainian media, referring to the OSCE representative Martin Sajdik in the Tripartite Contact Group at the negotiations in Minsk, stated that the issue of energy supply could not be resolved during the next meeting on April 27. The stumbling block is the introduction of "external management" by militants at Ukrainian enterprises located in the occupied territories.
The Deputy Minister for Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons Heorhiy Tuka doubts that the problem with redemption of the existing debts of the CDDLO can be somehow solved.
"Proceeding from the position that all business relationship with the occupied territories is now stopped, it would be too optimistic to talk about any prospects of redemption of the existing debts. Unfortunately, I must state that, from my point of view, this can lead to the disconnection on an ongoing basis", - the ex-governor of the Luhansk oblast stated.
Who will repay?
The question of who will pay the existing debt remains open. The "LPR" is a dubious candidate for such an event. The "republic" fares really well with theft, but not with payment of accounts. Russia will pay nothing to anyone too, although it was called the main culprit of the loss of electrical connection of the "LPR" in the Ministry of Occupied Territories.
At the same time, there is an opinion that residents of Ukraine will have to pay the Donbass debts. The former manager of Galnaftogaz, the energy expert Andriy Herus reported on his Facebook on the concept developed by the NEURC for the settlement of arrears for the electricity consumed, which includes government grants, writing off the tax liabilities and a surcharge to the tariff for consumers.
"A meeting on settlement of arrears for the electricity consumed (the debt was $264 million even at that time, $1 billion - in all) was held at the NEURC back in February-March 2016. As a result of the meetings, the concept of the corresponding draft law was developed. I will briefly summarize hear at the expense of what within the meaning of this concept there should be a repayment of debts. So: $188 million are subventions and grants from the State budget: $241 million is remission of a debt of consumers to the state-owned banks (and the further remission of the NBU refinancing): $226 million is writing off the tax liabilities to the budget and $377 million is a surcharge to the tariff for all consumers (as an option because of the introduction of RAB tariffs)", - Herus wrote.
Thus, according to the expert, it was planned to close the debt at the expense of the state budget and an additional tariff increase for all consumers in accordance with this concept.
"Of course, when some enterprises saw such a concept that their debts could be closed by the state budget and other consumers, they stopped paying for electricity from March 2016 in all. Despite the fact that "they are registered in the territory of Ukraine and act according to the Ukrainian legislation". Such a freebee scheme existed up to the recent events. This is a "Ukrainian" business, - Herus noted, promising to publish facts in the figures and names of specific enterprises.
A natural question arises: could Ukrainian enterprises that worked in the "LPR" till March 1, 2017 under Ukrainian law, that is, three years, be able to accumulate billionth debts in two months? If not, what prevented the official Ukrainian authorities from working out the issue of repayment of debts with the management of enterprises that paid taxes to the Ukrainian treasury?
The answer or rather the non-answer to the question only shows that the decision to cut off the power "because of the debts" is actually not connected with debts. This is purely political pressure on the militants in order to return the "status quo" and hand over the grabbed enterprises to the Ukrainian oligarchs-owners. Tuka correctly says: when the enterprises were Ukrainian by registration, Ukraine could pretend that it does not see where its money goes and actually pay to the militants. And now when the mines and factories began to be controlled by the terrorist "LPR-DPR" officially – such payments became the financing of terrorism. And the debts are beside the point here! All the more so as the arrears of the "uncontrolled territories" looks negligible with the debts of the free parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. The logic of supporters of the blockade – to make the Donbass venture for Russia as expensive as possible, has won. Now they can draw another star in the value of $53 million to their body…
Ostap Horodenko, OstroV