Last week, the "republics" saw a kaleidoscope of amazing events that led to an unexpected change of nominal power in the "LNR" with the help of armed people from the "DNR". Many talk about the coup in Luhansk. Others are inspired by what happened, deciding that the next step is the unification of these strange and unviable entities into one "state" with the capital in Donetsk. However, the obstacle to it - at the level of public explanations – were all the same Minsk agreements.
The "junta" came to power
On November 20, Igor Plotnitsky, who then nominally headed the Luhansk "republic", announced the resignation of "Minister of Internal Affairs" Igor Kornet, against whom he launched an open campaign in the preceding weeks. In particular, the armed security of Plotnitsky in the presence of television cameras kicked Kornet out of someone else's house, which he seized in 2014. An unnamed local "court" allegedly ruled his resignation on the basis of a criminal case brought against him. "People's Council" of the "republic" also voted for the dismissal of the "minister". However, Kornet disobeyed.
In his turn, he stated that "as a result of the operative investigation measures implemented by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of State Security of the Republic, they received evidence of the involvement of the director of the LNR TV station Anastasia Shurkaeva in the activities of Ukrainian special services. They also had proof of the involvement of the Head of the LNR Administration Irina Teitsman, as well as the Head of the Government Security Service of the LNR MIA Yevgeniy Seliverstov in the staged coup in September 2016. As a result of the coup, the former prime minister Gennadiy Tsypkalov and Vitaly Kiselev, Deputy Commander of the People's Militia, were sentenced to prolonged imprisonment. These actions were conducted with the direct participation of high-ranking officials of the Prosecutor General's Office who were engaged in fabricating these criminal cases".
"After the MIA had irrefutable evidence of the involvement of these individuals in the crimes, the latter took steps to discredit the agency and dismiss key employees of the Ministry who were directly involved in the detention of the organized crime group", - Kornet said later. "Tonight I gave all available materials to the Head of the LNR Igor Plotnitsky, who decided to initiate criminal proceedings and arrest all the persons involved: the Head of the LNR Administration Irina Teitsman, the Head of the Government Security Service of the LNR MIA Yevgeniy Seliverstov and the director of the LNR TV station Anastasia Shurkaeva".
On November 21, a number of "administrative" buildings in Luhansk were blocked by armed men with white armbands on their sleeves. They did not answer any questions, although they behaved politely. However, judging by the fact that they were asked by the "nervous" journalists of the "state" TV and radio company that at that time remained loyal to Plotnitsky, the men did not protect the head of the republic.
Plotnitsky was actually a prisoner in the building of his administration. During the day, he tried to save face, making sharp statements against Kornet, but in the end, he was forced to surrender and leave the "republic". Despite Kornet's statement about the arrest of his associates, including the head of the TV and radio company, they were released together with Plotnitsky.
The "Ministry of State Security" of the Donetsk "republic" openly supported Kornet, while the Luhansk analogue of this "department" continued to remain silent even at the peak of the confrontation. Numerous commentators claimed that the chief of the Luhansk "MIA" Leonid Pasechnik was neutral in this situation. At the same time, his Donetsk colleagues claimed that they had conducted their operations to expose and capture the notorious "Ukrainian saboteurs" in conjunction with the "Ministry of State Security" and the "Ministry of Internal Affairs" of the Luhansk "republic".
The "Ministry of State Security" of the Donetsk "republic" claimed that "special intelligence agencies of Ukraine used the officials of the LNR to discredit the activities of law enforcement agencies and special services of the People's Republics. A massive dissemination of directed disinformation was carried out, which would compromise the activities of the top leadership of the law enforcement bloc of the Republics and paralyze their activities".
The Luhansk "Ministry of State Security" spoke out only after Plotnitsky and his entourage had fled. So, they made several accusations against the director of the television and radio company Anastasia Shurkaeva, who allegedly cooperated with the SBU. Similarly, the "General Prosecutor's Office" entered the game. This happened after Kornet’s people seized this "department" and established his leadership there. "Purified prosecutor's office" also attacked Shurkaeva, Teitsman and Seliverstov.
In addition, the websites of the "Prosecutor General's Office" and the "Ministry of Internal Affairs" of the "LNR" published lots of confessions of witnesses and accomplices in the massacre of the allegedly planned "coup" of 2016. One of them, the former "prime minister" Gennadiy Tsypkalov, was then tortured to death by those who detained him. Earlier, this fact was “considered to be a suicide”. Until now, it was also believed that along with Tsypkalov, the former deputy head of the "people's militia" Vitaliy Kiselev was tortured to death, but after the "coup", local "law enforcers" were informed that Kiselev was alive. Nevertheless, nobody has seen him yet. The people close to Plotnitsky, were named guilty of Tsypkalov’s and Kiselev’s massacre.
After Plotnitsky fled to Moscow, for many it was unexpected that the head of the same "Ministry of State Security" Leonid Pasechnik was appointed to the post of the “LNR” head. To give this "junta" at least some sort of legitimacy, in Moscow Igor Plotnitsky wrote a resignation statement in connection with his alleged health issues and devolved power on Pasechnik. This way, he violated the "republican" "constitution", according to which, in case of the resignation of head, his position is occupied by the chairman of the "people's council". Already after the appointment of Pasechnik, whose candidacy was yesterday unanimously supported by the "deputies" on the order of Plotnitsky, the "people's council" amended the "constitution", having conditionally legitimized new head of the "republic".
Plotnitsky, who cannot be eliminated as one of the signatories of the Minsk agreements, was generously appointed "authorized representative" from the Luhansk "republic" "for the implementation of the Minsk agreements". No one has understood what this means up to this point. "Acting Foreign Minister" Vladislav Danego will represent the "republic" at negotiations in the Belarusian capital, same as before.
Balances of forces
The removal of Igor Plotnitsky was a surprise for many observers. It was considered that Plotnitsky has increased immunity as a person who signed the Minsk agreements".
As former head of the "people's council" of the Luhansk "republic" Aleksey Karyakin, previously called accomplice of the conspiration of Tsypkalov and Kiselev and fled from Luhansk from the alleged reprisal in 2016, said in an interview to Novorossia news agency, "as of today, there are no grounds for removing Plotnitsky. The Constitution states for what reasons the head of the Republic can be removed from his post: either he himself will want to leave, or this is an impeachment. But the law on impeachment is not adopted, so he cannot be displaced in any way. But I will note once again: this is not a coup d'état, and there is no goal to remove Plotnitsky. Now he is being secured against pro-Ukrainian agents of influence, who want to seize the LNR from the inside".
Apparently, Plotnitsky himself was sure of his indispensability. As one of the leaders of Donetsk militants Alexander Khodakovsky wrote about this on Facebook, "Plotnitsky made a decision to change the way things are in the direction of strengthening his own power, so it was necessary to take to measures that, of course, agitated everyone, but in fact — this is a shame. Just the same trend is in Donetsk: the existing ways of things are changing not slowly and not imperceptibly, and there is a hyper concentration of power in in the hands of a single person. There already were precedents when Zakharchenko's units received order to assault the Ministry of State Security just because of the fact that officials of the Ministry of State Security subjected his private message inbox to secure procedure during the preparation for mass event, but, thank God, there are enough hard-headed forces in Donetsk that said that this would not happen, — and everything has settled down. But the level of thinking is clear, isn't it?".
"If you fall back on the most appropriate terminology — then the most banal and uncomplicated military takeover is in Luhansk. I am not afraid of this word, it does not cause acute emotions. All legal norms have already been passed, no matter how symbolic they are, so it is time to stop picturing a good face when the game is poor. Success is never blamed. I think it is time to hold a referendum among Luhansk citizens about reunification of two territories in one state. If Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky do this, given the deep crisis of power in the LNR, — this will be the most meaningful act in their life", — he noted in another post.
"If you want to win the battle, you must manage it", — the author of article, posted on the website of Novorossia news agency, wrote post factum. — The events in Luhansk on November 20-23, 2017 showed that Moscow's actions here were well-timed. Plotnitsky resisted and did not want to surrender power for three days. This means that it was impossible to talk about the 100% controllability of processes in the LNR from Moscow. And that was corrected. For three days. Igor Plotnitsky had lost. Furthermore, he had lost not when the column of military equipment from the DNR territory entered Luhansk, but much earlier. He had lost when, having started his game, he could not remain necessary for the system".
"Moscow quickly established order in Luhansk, literally in a few days, — it was also said in this article. — As the result, it did not create any problems for itself and today, it can appoint almost any person to the position of "leader of the LNR". Thus, further decisions have sharply expanded, and controllability of processes has been completely restored. Today, Russia is ready to build everything it needs from the Donbass republics, from completely obedient and tooled for the Minsk process LNR and DNR to Novorossia and Little Russia (or whatever else it can be called). And what is the most important, as quickly as possible".
"Special thanks to the head of the DNR"
Appointment of Leonid Pasechnik for the position of Igor Plotnitsky was generally perceived positively in both "republics", in spite of the doubtfulness of procedure with violation of the already dubious "legislation". What is funny — the "republican" commentators did not forget to mention the awarding of former employee of the SBU Pasechnik with a medal from the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko as a merit.
As the DNR-Live website wrote, "one of the high-profile cases already as the Minister of State Security of the LNR is investigation of a series of crimes, committed by the ex-minister of fuel, energy, and coal industry Dmitriy Lyamin. According to sources in the LNR – it was the investigation of this case that gave Leonid Pasechnik a broad public support in the Republic and multiplied a number of enemies in Ukraine. Moreover, it was the first open conflict between the Minister of State Security and Igor Plotnitsky, who managed the LNR at that time. According to some sources of DNR LIVE, it was Igor Plotnitsky who was in charge of coal smuggling from the LNR at that point in time".
Lugansk Media Centre added that "on behalf of the deputies, chairman of the People's Council of the LNR Vladimir Degtyarenko wished the acting head of the Republic "wisdom in making decisions and good health, of course" — what is of prime importance in the light of formal reasons for the resignation of being suddenly "sick" Plotnitsky.
In his first appearance as head of the "republic", Pasechnik himself did not forget to give a positive sign to his new colleague Alexander Zakharchenko: the sign is really important, if we bear in mind that Plotnitsky and Zakharchenko did not communicate in connection with some conflict.
"I would like to say a special thanks to the head of the DNR Alexander Zakharchenko and express hope for further cooperation and fruitful work in the development of the Donbass republics and integration into the Russian Federation. Special thanks to employees of the MIA and the Ministry of State Security of the Donetsk People's Republic once again", — LMC quoted Pasechnik.
The review was prepared by Sofia Petrovska, OstroV