Those who follow the development of the situation in the Donbass certainly paid attention to the words of Merkel and Macron during the latest telephone conversations of the Normandy Four, on the need to restore economic relations between Ukraine and the occupied territory.
Of course, this statement is just a bluff like the entire Minsk process, since the seized enterprises already have a new owner who does not want to return them back.
Moreover, Kyiv has already launched a mechanism for the purchase of the same coal abroad. The contracts with the Americans have already been signed, and breaking them is fraught with political complications. In addition, the process of converting Ukrainian TPPs to gas coal is already underway... In general, the process of replacing anthracite in the Ukrainian energy industry has already begun. So, when on February 27 Zakharchenko announced about the economic blockade of Ukraine, he seemed to have forgotten which republic is an UNPRECOGNIZED one.
"Now the situation is changing radically and now Ukraine is under the DPR-LNR blockade. Now they should think how to negotiate with us", - A.Zakharchenko.
Let me remind you that the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, having introduced the economic blockade of the occupied territories two weeks after the so-called "DNP-LNR", put the main condition for its termination - the return of the "nationalized" enterprises to their owners. That is, to Rinat Akhmetov. But militants, reinvigorated by Moscow, said that they would not do this until Ukraine complied with the Minsk agreements.
"We consider the claims over temporary administrations at enterprises of Ukrainian jurisdiction to be unjustified, for us it is a compulsory measure. We could probably begin some discussions about the return or non-return only after the full Minsk-2 implementation and the all-round political settlement. Until this point, even the beginning of the discussion is inappropriate and irrelevant", - the chairman of the "DNR" People's Council Denis Pushilin said in March. However, now he and his colleagues from the "LNR" say the opposite.
Perhaps, only the founder of the Vostok battalion and the former minister of state security of the "DNR" Alexander Khodakovsky rationally assessed the situation with "nationalization" from the very beginning.
"Now we either get the stagnation of our economy and these hundred thousand workers pass to the category of those receiving unemployment benefits, or we start it all with the help of Russia", - he said on March 16.
As we can see, Russia's assistance turned out to be less comprehensive and the "DNR-LNR" got to the predicted stagnation. The economic situation in the Donbass has deteriorated and even the leaders of the "republics" recognize this. They, however, come up with various explanations for this: Akhmetov, who fed them for three years, turned out to be bad, then the notorious Ukrainian blockade. But the fact itself is not denied - there are more problems with the economy.
"You know, there is a situation that worsens and complicates many things. You know that there is an owner of the enterprise, he has repeatedly stated how he cares about his employees and residents of the Donbass. And that he is a Donbass patriot in the first place. Unfortunately, his actions cannot be called "care"... Rinat Akhmetov financed laboratories in Ukraine, which reveal coal from the Donbass. That is what happens. We have to fight against this. Ukraine needs this coal. They are trying to extricate themselves, they are ready to buy it from the USA very dearly. But the coal which is here is normal economic ties, we have announced this. We do not have a larger buyer for our coal than Ukraine. We are working to find out the markets, and we will find them. But the existing economic ties are being broken thanks to such people as well. We will sell coal. The situation will be improved, but this period is complicated, it is needed to be got through", - Pushilin, who had laid down political conditions to Ukraine for the return of enterprises to the owners in March, complained last week to employees of "Komsomolets Donbassa" Mine.
In general, the economic situation has really been worsened. The puppet "republics" have not yet found markets for their coal, which could replace Ukraine. Meanwhile, the occupation "media" actually launches a campaign to discredit and intimidate IDPs, who started returning to their homes for a number of reasons.
For example, here is an epic dialogue between the anchorwoman of Oplot TV channel and "the director of the Department of the DNR Ministry of Information Maya Pirogova.
Pirogova: ... the first newcomers, we all know this, arrived in December of 2014. What happened to 70, or maybe, 50 percent of them? – they became tipsters. Tipsters, subversive groups – all of them are offended. This is a direct threat to the security of country.
Anchorwoman: – I believe that our city has got a cleanup. The city and everything that is now included in the DNR. We have got a cleanup through this pain and suffering, including from those people who left. I hope they will not return.
And here is an example of personnel policy in occupied Donetsk. The "Minister" of the "DNR" Ministry of Emergency Situations Alexey Kostrubitskiy boasted about it.
"I receive applications for job from time to time: take us for work. We are good specialists. We are competent specialists, we know everything and can teach others". This is said by those who had left us in challenging times, had left their friends and colleagues… And now they return and say: we had the reason, we left for a reason… I answer them: you know, in 2014, when it was difficult, I was here, and my family, - my daughter is 8 years old - left and she was in the hospital, in resuscitation department, and I did not have the opportunity to go there. That is the whole reason… And the one who was afraid and ran away – they do not belong to our ranks".
That is, on the one hand, they advertise their "program for the reunification of the people of Donbass" everywhere, and on the other – these "people" are being intimidated and discriminated in every possible way. And if you compare these facts: the worsening of economic conditions and the campaign against returning ones, you will come to a simple conclusion: Moscow and its puppets in Donetsk and Luhansk are interested in having as few people, living in the Donbass today, as possible. Because they are a burden in course of stagnating economy. They are needed to be fed, provided with pensions, unemployment benefits, humanitarian aid… And this increases the cost of the Donbass gamble for the Kremlin seriously. So, propaganda is one thing, but they do not need extra mouths in real life. The worse the economy, the less people, according to the logic of occupation authorities, should live on a degrading territory. And the less is the cost of human life there. By the way, Russia and Ukraine have the same policy…
Serhiy Harmash, OstroV, Centre for Research of Donbass Social Perspectives