Political groups in “DPR”: reintegrators vs republicans

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Internal political life of “DPR” has a lot of paradoxes: local elections were announced and canceled, there are claims as for final separation and returning in Ukraine after them. It is easy to be confused among those cobwebs of political and business-groups, new local “elites” and their connections with different powers in Kremlin. This material is a simplified analyze of internal political apportionments in unrecognized “republic”, where a number of different political groups are operating.

First group can be attributed to radical idealist-“republicans”. Their time has passed with Strelkov-Girkin and his people being detached from the top position in “DPR”. They were used for creating an illusion of mass separatist tendentious in Donbass region and morale raise from Slavyansk to Ilovaysk. But, because of their unpredictability, radicals had had high level of political ungovernability, that could not satisfied Kremlin`s active “Russian world’s reenactors”. Even now, abended from top position Strelkov is criticizing Moscow actively for it hesitancy as for “republics” destiny.

The second group, officially lead by creator of “DPR” movement Andrey Purgin and by “People`s governor” Pavel Gubarev, might be related to medium idealists. They were pushed to decrease their ambitious due to Kremlin push and internal circumstances, after the conflict getting cold and borders under Minsk agreement were marked. With no doubt, they were playing an important role on idea front, supporting the conflict with Ukraine with populist slogans, till the resent time, but had never had a real power. Early September 2015 events, related to Purgin`s and his ally Alexandrow arrests have showed moderated idealists level of influence decries. Kremlin decided to relate on other forces due to conditions as for Minsk agreements implementation.

The relatively independent role in the “DPR” playing field commanders, such as, “Givi” (Mikhail Tolstoy) and “Motorola” (Arseny Pavlov), have become known in the media, who head the autonomous armed units “Somalia” and “Sparta”, respectively. They situational side with the various factions in the political struggle, but generally adhere to the policy line of the authorities.

Last political group finally consolidated their representatives of the third group – “Republican pragmatists.” They represented by Denis Pushilin – a faithful executor of the curators of the Kremlin, which embodies their vision of the “republic.” Recently, from the camp of moderate idealists moved to the pragmatists and the leader of the “DPR” Alexander Zakharchenko, who has a difficult mission to combine incongruous – the debate on independence and self-sufficiency, “DNR” on the need to reintegrate into Ukraine due to economic factors.

The compound of the group of integrators, obviously, includes one of the major players in the ideological field of “DPR” – the former head of the SBU”Alpha”  in Donetsk region, and now the commander of the brigade “East” Alexander Khodakovsky. He reoriented the idea of “war until victory” to the implementation of “compromise within Ukraine”, which allowed him to keep his job and not to be “detached” following the example of small arms and Purgina. It is particularly noteworthy that the Khodakovsky`s “East”  which was behind the armed forces of “DPR” in April 2014, in fact, in recent years did not participate in the active phase of military operations, engaging in forging various business schemes. But personally Khodakovsky often associated with Akhmetov, due to the fact that the battalion “Vostok” actually turned into a security firm for businesses Ukrainian oligarch.

In fact, there is what and from whom to guard. The first who are interested in Akhmetov`s assets – the leader of “Republic” Zakharchenko. In this situation, do not be amiss to note that the so-called “minister MSS DPR” Sergei Lukashevich – a protege of Zakharchenko, who is “the head of the DPR” can count on him in any problem situation. Zakharchenko has repeatedly said that he considers Yenakiyevo Steel Plant, owned by the holding “Metinvest” Akhmetov,as “DPR public property” and that he would oblige the management of the plant to raise the price of scrap metal, which the company receives from the public and organizations. In the interests of Zakharchenko also includes the energy sector, with the Akhmetov`s campaign “DTEK”  and the largest network of filling stations “Parallel”, which work  first were stopped, and then shifted to the supply of fuel from Russia, which provides by the people of Zakharchenko.

In addition, food security of “DPR” also depends on the “nationalized” business of Zakharchenko, who oversees the two largest food supermarket chain – the former “ATB Market” under the name “First Republic” (owned by his wife Zakharchenko) and “Amstor” (previously owned by “Smart -groups “MP from the” opposition bloc “Vadim Novinsky). In the sphere of interests of the leader of “DPR” is includes network of the supermarket “Brusnichka”, owned by Akhmetov, that was closed at spring.

As for rules of doing business in the “DPR”, if at the beginning of its existence, “republic” were occupied exclusively with military planning, with the normalization of the situation and establishment of “state” structures “DPR”, governments are closely watched the tax deductions treasury “of the young state.”

At the level of small and medium businesses is evident in obsessive allusions to businessmen that they show very small turnover. As for the major market players such as retail chains, the situation is even more interesting. On the one hand, continue its activity in “republic”, recognized as a terrorist organization in Ukraine, Ukrainian legislation does not allow. On the other hand, the leaders of “DPR” insists that all tax payments should go only in the “Republican” budget.

In this situation, the largest retail chains in Donetsk and other cities of “DPR” and “LPR” simply changed their names, re-registered  business with new, already nominee people, fired with Ukrainian legislation all employees and took them back to the same position. This allows their real owners feel comfortable in front of both sides. That metamorphosis, in particular, in Donetsk undergone trade network “Epicenter”, now bears the name “Galaxy” and “Ekomarket” – “Nova Terra,” “Foxtrot” – now in some places has become “Fox” and “Auchan “now called” Sigma “. It is noteworthy that all of these trading networks change of names does not affect any range or even in the form of staff working there still selling all the same products as their counterparts on the territory controlled by Ukraine.

Despite all the hardships, the government of “DPR” are trying to demonstrate control. However, problems with the heating season (obviously man-made), the unresolved issue with the local elections, the constant threat of military escalation, dependent on the decisions of the Kremlin curators, confront local authorities are more complex tasks. It is not excluded that Moscow has already prepared for the “republics” backup plan with a change of political elites in the more traditional moderate politicians from the former “Party of Regions”, which could come under the old-new banners. How such a scenario is realistic will be shown very soon.

Valery Kravchenko, Center for International Security

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