Introduction by Kennedy Applebaum
February 19, 2016
An article by Colonel Cassad, posted at Slavyangrad.org on February 14, 2016, has partially allayed any doubts I may have had about the intentions of Donetsk People’s Republic President Alexander Zakharchenko. Pro-Novorossiya sources on Twitter and other sites have accused the DPR leader of being both an oligarch himself and a traitor to the Republic, the latter mainly because he supports the Minsk Agreements at the sacrifice of sovereignty for Donbass. (See for example my February 18, 2016 commentary Minsk: A Betrayal and Tragedy for Donbass.) The political and moral analyses give rise to a complex debate, and I am divided on the issue, particularly after the Shirokino withdrawal, though I generally favor supporting Zakharchenko.
Researching the politics of Donbass from the United States without knowing the Russian language, I am admittedly often baffled by cross-accusations, rumors and disinformation. The article below, posted on the preeminent website Slavyangrad, is both enlightening and reassuring. The description of events surrounding Zakharchenko’s appointment of Pavel Gubarev as mayor of Yasinovata, a city just north of Donetsk, means in my mind that the DPR leader is sincerely dedicated to eliminating the subversive practices of the oligarchs for the sake of the citizens, as he claims.
Pavel Gubarev and Yasinovata
by Colonel Cassad
Posted at Slavyangrad.org
Translated by Alexander Fedotov
Edited by @GBabeuf
February 14, 2016
Briefly about the fascinating story of the appointment of Pavel Gubarev as Mayor of Yasinovata and of organized protests against him. The plot is as follows. Zakharchenko signed a decree appointing Gubarev as mayor of Yasinovata to replace the acting mayor. On arrival in Yasinovata, Gubarev was met with organized protests because supposedly the previous mayor was good and the new one is bad. The rally was promoted by structures associated with Khodakovsky. Gubarev himself outlined things as follows.
ON THE QUESTION OF MY APPOINTMENT AS A HEAD OF YASINOVATA DISTRICT
by Pavel Gubarev
On 26 January, 2016, the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic offered me the post of head of the Yasinovata district (including the town of Yasinovata). I was even given the priority task, which the previous authorities had refused to carry out. In Yasinovata the new oligarchy had organized a scheme of corruption related to the Yasinovata railway, and to gas consumption and associated payments. By my nature, I like problems of this kind. Especially when the case involves the oligarchs. I was also entrusted with the task of reducing social tensions in the town and starting full-scale restoration works on destroyed infrastructure objects, particularly those of social value.
I consider it unjust that some people in Yasinovata are maintaining trade relations with hostile Ukraine, enriching themselves at the expense of the people and enriching our enemies as well. Is this what we fought for when we started the Russian Spring?
Some of my friends at once advised me that it was a dangerous assignment since Yasinovata is supposedly a “patrimony” of Khodakovsky. “You think I don’t know?” was my answer. In general, rejecting the appointment seemed a sign of weakness to me, so I accepted it. The People’s Governor giving in to Khodakovsky is not exactly “comme il faut”. All the more so since we have a People’s Republic, not neo-feudalism. Well, at least according to the Constitution.
On January 28, 2016, by the order of A. Zakharchenko, I was appointed as head of the new administrative unit—Yasinovata district and surrounding villages and settlements (the major part of the district is under Ukrainian occupation). I learned that the decree was signed (there was a theoretical possibility that he would not sign), on Monday, February 1. The next day should have been my presentation in Yasinovata as head of the district. In the morning of February 2, we went to Yasinovata. There were three people accompanying me: an assistant, a secretary and a driver. Around 8 am, I already knew that the previous leadership—who, of course, do not want to leave their comfortable positions—had organized a provocative rally: a dirty political technology via paid “titushky”. When we confronted the rally, young athletic looking men blocked me from entering the building. I had déjà vu—because not so long ago, these technologies were used by the Ukrainian oligarchy for holding on to power in the region in the face of the people’s rising in the Russian Spring. Is it all back to square one? Titushky, bribery, protection of corruption schemes… Did thousands of people give their lives in the Donbass War for that? There were about 100-150 protesters. Among them there were about thirty very excited people, the rest was passive and were there as “extras”. We managed to clearly identify several groups: community workers, education staff, representatives of the Vostok Brigade with chevrons on their sleeves and employees of the Yasinovsky Machine Works. Partisan of the rally shouted prearranged slogans “Gubarev go away!” etc. I felt it was necessary to talk to the people. It was interesting to hear the positions even of biased people. They could be summarized as follows:
1. Gubarev did not fight.
2. Gubarev spent the whole war in Russia.
3. Gubarev is not from Yasinovata.
I am not going to refute these premises, because basically everybody knows that they do not correspond to reality. Besides, I am not from Yasinovata.
Let us take a look at the biography of the former mayor, Yuri Yanenko. His roots are in the Don area. Before the war in the Donbass he worked in the organs of the Internal Affairs department of Ukraine. In particular, in September 2011, he was appointed as a deputy chief of the department coordinating law-enforcement authorities of the Mariupol Municipal Committee for preventing and combating corruption. In July 2014 he defected to the DPR.
I am a native of the Donbass. Seventeen of my thirty-two years I lived in Severodonetsk (now the administrative centre of the occupied part of the LPR), and fifteen in Donetsk (since 2000). Nevertheless, in my life, there are several episodes that emotionally connect me to Yasinovata. But that does not concern us right now.
We were easily able to find out who were the organizers of this provocation (it was not very difficult as you might imagine). Ordinary participants of the rally had been handed out 500 roubles each. “Engagé” activists were paid more. But the core of the meeting was made up of people close to the concerned party who does not want to give up power. They shouted the most loudly.
During the demonstration, I was approached by Sergey Krest––a Vostok Brigade commander, the closest ally of Khodakovsky. He came to me, limping (from an injury), shook hands and said quietly:
“If you come here once more, I will break your legs.”
I smiled and thought: “You scared a hedgehog with your bare ass.” I calmly told him that his proposition had been heard and would be taken into consideration. Threats are normal in the DPR, a country in a civil war. Therefore, I did not take seriously his “I will break your legs.”
The unfruitful dialogue with the engaged participants of the rally was almost over. We had a call from Zakharchenko’s administration and were advised to leave Yasinovataya until the issue was resolved “at the top.” After talking with two other people I sat in the black Lanos and headed towards Donetsk, the capital. Once “at the top” is mentioned—it means “at the top.”
You know, I am prepared to go forward until a problem is successfully solved. From the earliest days, we have designated the oligarchs as our enemies. And today, through the gas and transport fraud in Yasinovata a new oligarchy is being created, which is using old and outdated dirty political technologies to cover up their black business. I do not even want to talk about what has been happening in Yasinovata during the last year. Who was selling, what was taken and where? Who received fabulous profits from this? Have some individuals begun to think again that people understand nothing? They do understand.
They understand everything.
While on the way to Donetsk, I was informed that the appointment had not been cancelled by anyone.
I fear nothing since March 1, 2014. I will return to work. To that paid provocation we will respond with people’s rallies; to empty accusations—with arguments; to threats—with a firm stance. I am not used to caving in. All the more so when the whole issue is fraud, corruption and money!
Dear residents of the Yasinovata area, working on your behalf is a great honour for me. Thanks to the will of fate I was given this honour. Together, we will overcome the shackles of the oligarchy, bureaucracy and corruption. See you soon at my workplace. My door will always be open for you.
PS [by Cassad]: It appears that there is an attempt either on the part of Zakharchenko, or of the new composition of curators of the DPR, to limit the influence of Khodakovsky, pulling Yasinovata out of his orbit (due to the changing realities)—where people linked to Vostok and the “Patriotic Forces of Donbass” had been placed . The value of the issue among other things is that Yasinovata is tied to the coal trade that is such a favourite on both sides of the front line. Some historical examples of the reach of Yasinovata:
Deliveries of coal from the ATO zone through the railway section Yasinovata-Skotovata, which was damaged as a result of fighting on 9 August, were resumed according to the press service of DTEK [an energy holding company headquartered in Donetsk. It is the largest private vertically integrated energy holding in Ukraine. The company is owned by SCM Holdings, a holding company of Ukrainian oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov ―trans.]. The press service noted: “Deliveries of coal from the ATO zone through the railway section Yasinovata-Skotovata to DTEK Krivoy Rog Thermal Power Station (TPS) were resumed […] On August 12, about 200 railway wagons with about 14 thousand tons of coal passed through Yasinovata-Skotovata.”
All TPS operators have largely coinciding routes of coal export. In early autumn, Centrenergo and Donbassenergo used the railway section Yasinovata-Skotovata, which has long been the only link between Ukraine and the occupied territories. This same route is also part of the supply link for DTEK. Donbassenergo also uses the sections Sentyanovka –Shipilovo and Panteleymonovka-Nikitovka-Artemovsk-2, while DTEK uses Kondrashevska-Ogorodniy, Sentyanovka-Shipilovo and Nikitovka-Mayorska.
At the same time at DTEK, several of whose enterprises happened to be behind the demarcation line, it was confirmed that they are working on the restoration of railways. They even offer their own version of coal export. Thus, according to Maxim Timchenko, CEO of DTEK, it was their idea to restore the section Nikitovka-Mayorska, which will relieve the Yasinovata-Skotovata node.
The situation is exacerbated by the inability to deliver the required volumes of coal due to the destruction of infrastructure. After the destruction of the Debaltsevo junctions, the main node of the coal streams go through Yasinovata, the capacity of which is not sufficient for the timely supply of TPS.
According to the separatists, in March-April about 380,000 tons of coal was exported from the DPR to Ukraine, while in May 500,000 tons is expected to be supplied. However, in spite of the supply from the ATO zone and the end of the heating season, Ukraine continues to experience a deficit of its own electricity supplies. To cover the shortage of capacity in the power system, according to the Energy Ministry, Ukraine purchased in April 143 million kWh of electricity from Russia.
Actually it is not difficult to notice that Yasinovata remains one of the central points whose control makes it possible to influence the flows of coal, in which, in addition to government bodies on both sides of the front line, the same Akhmetov was concerned.
Whoever was behind the appointment of Pavel Gubarev in place of the current mayor, this change of administration means that the issue concerns control of the flows passing through Yasinovata. Since Gubarev is obviously not very “friendly” with Khodakovsky and not at all friendly with Akhmetov—largely because Pavel’s initiative broke Akhmetov’s plans to organise in the Donbass, in place of a people’s uprising, ‘managed’ protests that the local oligarchs would use to pressure the junta for concessions—this reshuffle means that a feeding trough is being withdrawn from Akhmetov. If successful, the appointment of Gubarev can be interpreted as a weakening of the patrons of Khodakovsky (hence his attempts to develop media activity with the channel “Dialog” and with other “publicity”) and his possible departure from the coal business.
Why is this happening? I have two versions: it is either an escalation of the conflict between Zakharchenko and Khodakovsky (in fact it was a rally against Zakharchenko’s decision, since Gubarev did not appoint himself as mayor of Yasinovata), or an indirect consequence of the Lyamin case, when, after the scandal reached the high Moscow offices, the curators became concerned about matters of the coal trade with the junta, as in the LPR alone, according to the LPR’s MGB (State Security Ministry), more than 90% of the payments was stolen. The scale of the theft in the DPR was not adduced, but it appears that it is not small either.
In general, we shall see who will win.
Editor’s note: Alexander Sergeevich Khodakovsky is the commander of the Vostok Battalion formed in early May 2014. Khodakovsky is a former commander of the Alpha special unit of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). During the 2014 insurgency in Donbass, he left Ukrainian state service and became the leader of the “Patriotic Forces of Donbass” in Donetsk Oblast, and later (until July 16, 2014 when he was replaced by Vladimir Antyufeyev) the Security Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic. –Wikipedia