Month: October 2015

The little coup that couldn’t

This is written mainly as a round-up of recent events, on a topic I believe has been under-explored in English-language media. 

In the past week, Lugansk, the capital of the separatist de-facto state of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) has been subject to an unusual degree of turmoil. The source of the turmoil is a broader investigation into high-level corruption headed by the LPR Ministry of State Security (MGB) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). The latter contains the police force.
The debacle kicked off on October 17th, when the Minister of Coal, Fuel and Energy Dmitry Lyamina was detained on corruption charges. Lyamina was detained and beaten in his residence and word of his arrest was followed by the arrest of Alexander Emelianenko, a Deputy of the “People’s Council”. The People’s Council is the supreme legislative body in the LPR. The supposed charges are on the question of misappropriation of humanitarian assistance funds, a serious issue which has plagued the DPR & LPR since their inception.

Igor Plotnitsky, the head of the republic, would seem to be at the center of this debacle. Following the news of the Energy Minister’s arrest he deposed Leonid Pasechnik of his position as Minister of State Security on grounds of abuse of power, the statement was later dismissed as the work of Ukrainian hackers. Subsequently Lyamina was transitioned into just being in house arrest. This sparked resistance from local mayors and other organizations, including leaders of certain armed groups, who joined in solidarity with the “state security powers” – the MVD & MGB.  On October the 18th, Deputies of the People’s Council held an emergency night session supporting the MGB decision to detain Lyamina, the video of this event was made public by the MGB. The following day, Plotnitsky had a meeting with these deputies in which he convinced them that their decision was made in the heat of the moment.

The “official” LPR government information portal, headed by Plotnitsky became subject to DDOS attacks that lasted for approximately three days and made the webpage inaccessible. As a result of this, websites of the MVD and People’s Council became the main sources of information on this specific matter. The general discourse across the board was that they lamented the illegal interference of state leadership into the responsibilities and activities of the security powers.

On October 21st, reports surfaced of supermarkets such as but not limited to “epicenter” being cordoned off by armed police. These supermarkets are rumored to be owned by Plotnitsky’s wife. The buildings were formerly under the possession of the chain “ATB”. ATB Buildings were also seized in Donetsk and are used for their “First Republican Supermarkets”.

On this same day, after days of radio silence, Plotnitsky was rumored to have fled to Moscow. These rumors were later confirmed but the abrupt decision to travel to the Russian Capital was dismissed as a business trip, an interesting endeavour for the head of a republic in the midst internal turmoil. A more realistic hypothesis is that Plotnitsky went to the Kremlin, troubled with his rogue security apparatus. The Russian leadership decided that Plotnitsky must stay in power at least until the next round of elections, in fear of the consequences of a power vacuum. Beyond this, allowing the Ukrainian and Western media to capitalize on the political instability would be adverse. This is of course purely speculation, but not completely unfounded.

Now, on October 23rd, it would appear that an accord of sorts has been struck as was briefly discussed at the plenary session of the LPR People’s Council. The agreement was that the security apparatus would increase cooperation with the head of the republic. Furthermore, the political party “Lugansk World” (also the majority party) will henceforth serve as a public inspector in the anti-corruption realm.

Everything considered, this whole affair would all appear to be a coup averted by the will of Russian leadership. What is not known is the intention of the security apparatus in moving in a direction of deposing the Head of the Republic. Whether this was ever really a coup in process is up for discussion, however the amount of pressure put against the head of the republic by the security apparatus and the way Plotnitsky became marginalized suggest at best a very serious power struggle. Regardless, whether or not we have witnessed an averted coup or just a power struggle, it is clear that there has been some sort of compromise, whether this involves more power to the security apparatus remains unknown. A lot of the information put forward here (or rather, the manner in which it is put forth) is dismissed by pro-separatists as propaganda, so take it with a grain of salt if you wish. 

If not for my distaste towards cheesy made up words, I would call this a coupromise.

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