The leaders of Donetsk separatists admitted the financial losses of the "republics" because of the blockade on the part of Ukraine and the inevitability of returning to the sovereignty of Kyiv. Russia showed that it will not sacrifice its economic interests for the sake of supporting the captured enclaves.
Situation in CDDLO
There was nothing unusual in uncontrolled territories of the Luhansk and the Donetsk oblasts in August – "school truce", announced before September 1, was violated the very next day, subversive groups were actively working at the contact line, 2 deputies of the "people's council" were killed in the "LNR" and members of Jehovah's Witnesses religious organization were accused of cooperation with Right Sector and the Security Service of Ukraine. Two schools in Luhansk introduced separate education for boys and girls in order not to impose "female behaviour pattern" on boys (the so-called methodology of Vladimir Bazarov). The usual life of the "republics" looks exactly this way.
At the same time, Ukraine is still constantly present in the "LDNR" media space. Most of the news on local TV channels is devoted to how bad it is in Ukraine, and not to how good it is in the republics. This keeps up a high level of claims to Ukraine in the society, what, in principle, corresponds to the strategic political objectives of the "LDNR" founders.
On August 30, Roman Lyagin, the former head of the DNR Central Elections Commission, who organized the so-called referendum on May 11, 2014, publicly acknowledged the impossibility of integration into Russia and the inevitability of returning to Ukraine. "I am the organizer of referendum and responsible for the failure of Ukrainian elections in 2014. I did what I did according to my convictions, sincerely and aggressively! Because I believed in Russia, which will not leave us, but it left. Thousands of people are being slaughtered like livestock for a television picture. The Donbass is not destined to go the way of the Crimea! We were betrayed and sold!… Was everything in vain!? Yes, there is no Russia that we have imagined, and maybe it never was. Returning to Ukraine is inevitable in order to return the normal life and resume the operation of enterprises!", - he wrote on Facebook.
Economic situation in the temporarily uncontrolled territories of Ukraine deteriorates – the so-called leaders of the "DNR" publicly speak about this. The real reason for deterioration is the "nationalization" of large industrial enterprises, which was carried out by militants in winter. The answer of Ukraine - the official economic blockade of the "LDNR" - resulted in the loss of significant sales markets, primarily in the coal industry, job cuts and further growth of social tension. Former "Minister of State Security of the DNR" Alexander Khodakovsky estimated the number of lost jobs in 100 thousand.
Re-orientation of Ukraine to the import of coal from the USA, the RSA and Europe hits the "republics" hard, and they have nothing to fill up these losses, except for Ukrainophobic propaganda.
The chairman of the "People's Council" of the DNR" Denis Pushilin admits that the "DNR" has serious problems with coal trading: "At the present point in time, there is no larger buyer of our coal, except Ukraine", - he said.
CDDLO and the Russian Federation
In August, "Repatriation of Refugees to Donbass" program started in Russia. This is a grant from President Putin, issued to a non-governmental organization in Krasnodar Krai. The amount of project is not large – just about $11 thousand, $8 thousand of which will be allocated directly within the framework of grant. It will be possible to conduct a sociological research, open an office and pay salaries to several employees, such as careers advisers, with such sum of money. "Many of these refugees consider their being outside the region as a temporary measure, staying there in a marginal state of discomfort and psychological stress", - Russian Kommersant quotes the authors of the program.
This is a very strange project – most of those who left the Luhansk and the Donetsk oblasts in 2014, had jobs and housing there, and such people need no consultations, but a suitable legal system and guarantees of respect for civil rights and personal security. The law on simplifying the procedure for getting Russian citizenship or a residence permit in the Russian Federation for citizens of Ukraine, which came into force on September 1, 2017, will be more useful to them. Now, to refuse Ukrainian citizenship in Russia, it is enough to write an appropriate statement and notarize it, without receiving any certificates in Ukraine.
In August, Russia "rattled arms" on the Ukrainian border, conducting military exercises in Belarus, which caused a number of alarming statements from the Ukrainian military. In August, analysts of the Centre for research of Donbass social perspectives noted that Russia's military threat to Ukraine remains, and the degree of tension in this issue will significantly depend on the development of the U.S.-Russian communication.
In the world context
The dynamics of events on the contact line directly depends on the political communication of the Russian Federation, the United States, the EU and Ukraine.
In July, the U.S. introduced a block of economic sanctions against "American opponents" Iran, Russia and North Korea and increased economic pressure on Russia. At the same time, Ukraine began to buy coal from the United States in August. Ukraine also constantly talks about the issue of lethal weapons supply from the U.S., and the U.S. State Department's Permanent Representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker in his rhetoric raises theses that are beneficial to Ukraine.
The marked increase in U.S. influence on the situation in Ukraine reduces the influence of the EU, and hence of the "Normandy Four". Some analysts expect a greater drifting of Germany's positions on the eve of parliamentary elections, which could lead to another change in the balance of forces involved in the resolution of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
The reaction to the increasing involvement of the USA in the Ukrainian issues was fast: Ukraine was accused of supplying North Korea with rocket engine technologies. Despite the fact that the fake news were quickly disproved, the mere fact of the possibility of launching such messages through respectable American media (especially in the context of the North Korean nuclear threat), shows the possibilities and strategy of Moscow. In 2000-2002, the scandal with the alleged supplies of Kolchuga detection systems to Iraq, despite the arms embargo on Saddam Hussein, cost President Kuchma his international political reputation and caused issues within the country itself.
In the short term, the U.S. sanctions will cause negative results to the Russian economy, but on the eve of the Russian presidential elections, the Kremlin, most likely, will not dramatically change its propaganda framework regarding Ukraine. In August, the main efforts were made to promote the implementation of the Minsk Agreements by Ukraine in the total absence of similar actions by the Russian Federation and its puppets. The purpose of such pressure on Ukraine has not changed - to force to recognize "republics" as its part and to give them the opportunity to exert an extremely destructive influence on the internal Ukrainian context.
The internal political aggravation that usually occurs in Ukraine in late August and early September, this year will be directly linked to the Donbass - the government has already announced a bill on the reintegration of Donbass, which will provoke serious disputes within the country. In addition, on September 17, the validity period of the law "On the Special Procedure of Local Self-Government in Some Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts" adopted following the signing of the Minsk agreements, comes to an end. In fact, this law did not work in Ukraine, and during the voting for amendments to the Constitution, which would have enshrined the "special status" of the CDDLO, a terrorist act took place near the parliament on August 31, 2015 (activists of the nationalist Svoboda Party were blamed for that). For 3 years, the rhetoric of the Ukrainian authorities has changed and now the issue of "special status" cannot be politically acceptable, although it will certainly be included in the discussion of right-wing political parties.
Centre for research of Donbass social perspectives