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UKRAINE: Russia tricks residents of occupied Donbas

Russia tricks residents of occupied Donbas into voting in its ‘elections’ in new aggression against Ukraine

By Halya Coynash

 

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (03.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/3je3lKk – Russia’s Election Commission has allowed residents of occupied Donbas who have taken Russian citizenship to vote electronically in its parliamentary elections.  Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decrees making it easy for Ukrainians in Donbas to obtain Russian citizenship were internationally condemned as an act of hostility against Ukraine and this new development should surely receive just as firm a response.  Cynical deceit is being used, with residents of the so-called ‘Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics’ [LDPR] encouraged to obtain SNILS [an Individual Insurance Account Number].  This makes it possible to vote electronically, but the propaganda campaign underway is convincing residents that this will entitle them to Russian social benefits.

 

Putin issued his first decree on 24 April 2019, making it easier for residents of LDPR to get Russian citizenship.  The move was met with concern especially since Russia had used mass issue of passports in the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia prior to the war with Georgia in 2008.  On 17 July 2019, Putin issued a second decree, this time making it possible for all Ukrainians in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (Donbas) to receive Russian citizenship according to ‘simplified procedure’, even if they live on Ukrainian government controlled territory.  The EU condemned the decrees as being in violation of the Minsk Agreement and on 10 October 2019 stated that they did not recognize Russian passports issued in occupied Donbas.  A study carried out by the Donetsk Information Institute (DII) in 2020 found that Russia had not achieved its plans to issue 600-800 thousand Russian passports to residents of LDPR by the end of 2020, however most Russian and other sources do claim that 600 thousand residents have obtained such questionable ‘citizenship’. 

 

It is these people who, according to a decision from the Russian Central Election Commission on 20 July 2021, will now be able to ‘vote’ online in Russia’s parliamentary elections. The latter are illegal because they encompass occupied Crimea, and also very suspect because Russia has prevented virtually any opposition candidate from taking part (through legislation or arrests). One of the objectives behind involving LDPR in Russian elections is doubtless to be able to claim a greater number of voters in ‘elections’ that are essentially as predetermined as those in Soviet times. Ukraine’s Centre for Journalist Investigations reports, citing local newspapers, that ‘Russian citizens of LDPR’ are being enrolled in Russia’s ruling ‘United Russia’ party essentially en masse.

 

Natalia Lynnyk, Deputy Director of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU], believes that Russia is counting on gaining “mobilization resource”, with the aim in the future of being able to claim that they “are defending Russian citizens specifically on this occupied territory.  And in that way, they get the chance to carry out military activities for the so-called defence of these Russian citizens.”   The aim, she stresses, is to ‘seize’ people, Ukrainian citizens, and not the territory.  People “are placed in such conditions that they are compelled to take Russian citizenship because that assures them some minimal degree of stability and protection.”  Lynnyk stresses that there is evidence of coercion, as seen in 2020, when factory workers, public sector employees, etc. were taken by coaches to the Rostov oblast in Russia to ‘vote’ in the fake referendum of amendments to Russia’s Constitution.   Russia basically needs people, both to boost its so-called electorate and for cheap labour outside the main cities in the Russian Federation.  The Kremlin understood back in 2014 that there would be a real reaction from the West, if only in the form of genuinely painful sanctions, if Russia openly seized more Ukrainian territory.  It is therefore controlling, arming and funding the illegal pseudo republics, while not officially recognizing them.  

 

Radio Svoboda’s Donbas Service [Donbas Reality] has also probed Russia’s recent moves and draws attention, in particular, to the mass campaign in LDPR media, on billboards, etc. over the last month trying to get people to obtain a Russian SNILS individual insurance number.  It is clear from interviews with people on the street, that they have understood SNILS to provide the right to Russian medicine, social benefits, etc.  Those applying for such a number, or those who, in order to get SNILS, decide to obtain Russian citizenship, presumably believe that all such benefits will be available to them.  The propaganda campaign is silent about the fact that this is a mere first, largely technical, step, and that people without a Russian place where they are registered will not be able to receive social benefits.  They will, however, be able to ‘vote’ in Russia’s elections online.  Russia has also simplified the procedure for receiving SNILS, so that you really just fill out a form, and can do it in Donbas, including at work. 

 

Maria Kucherenko, from the Research Centre of Civil Society Issues, is convinced that the main objective is to enable voting online, so that Russia can claim ‘mass participation’ without the logistical problems of transporting huge numbers of people to the Rostov oblast.  She does, however, expect that such coachloads will be organized as well, in order for the good propaganda shots, purportedly demonstrating queues at polling stations and eagerness to participate.

 

Konstantin Skorin, from the Moscow Carnegie Centre, also views the participation by people from LDPR in the elections as having a propaganda, rather than an electoral, purpose.   The idea is to show these ‘new Russian citizens’ choosing Russian leaders.” “This is an important propaganda step, indicating that Donbas is integrating more and more with Russia, and is being drawn more and more into Russian political life”.

 

The fact that people are being conned with false problems of benefits will deepen disillusionment, Kucherenko says, although she does not see this as inclining people to view Ukraine as looking after them.  Deep or not, such disillusionment will remain silent, with people doubtless understanding just how dangerous it is to speak out. 

 

 

Photo credits: khpg.org





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UKRAINE: End to 7 years of impunity for savage murder of Ukrainian journalist?

End to 7 years of impunity for savage murder of Ukrainian journalist?

By Halya Coynash

 

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection GroupOver (12.07.2021) – https://bit.ly/3r2YNu5 –  Over seven years after Cherkasy journalist Vasyl Serhiyenko was abducted and murdered, the trial of his suspected killers has been moved from a court which seems to have been doing everything to ensure that the case never ends in conviction.  Most importantly, it has been moved from the Cherkasy oblast where a person widely suspected of having commissioned the crime wields considerable influence. The fact that the trial will begin from scratch will make little difference as it had scarcely moved since 2017, with all of the defendants, gradually being released from custody.

 

The application to the Supreme Court to change the jurisdiction in this case was lodged by the prosecutor and lawyer representing Serhiyenko’s family.  The Court’s ruling on 6 July means that the trial will be moved from the Horodyshche District Court in the Cherkasy oblast to the Darnytsky District Court in Kyiv. The Prosecutor, Yulia Malashych, had backed her application for the withdrawal of the entire panel of judges by citing their infringement of all reasonable timeframes and failure to respond to applications from the victims in this case.  They had totally ignored the state of health and advanced age of a key witness, with victim status, namely Nina Nysha, the murdered journalist’s mother.  The elderly lady had witnessed the merciless beating of her son outside their home on 4 April 2014, and pleaded in vain with the assailants to let him go.  Nina Nysha died on 29 February 2020, without even having had a chance to give her testimony, let alone see the killers of her son answer for their crime.

 

58-year-old Vasyl Serhiyenko was both a journalist and the leader of the local Euromaidan in the Cherkasy oblast town of Korsun-Shevchenkivsky.  In the months immediately prior to his killing, Serhiyenko had reportedly been gathering information about Hennady Bobov, an MP until July 2019, and a person with power and connections in the Cherkasy oblast, as well as about Serhiy Tulub, former Cherkasy oblast governor, Serhiy Tulub.

 

Serhiyenko’s body was found in a forest the day after his abduction.  He had choked to death on his own blood, following major blows to the head and 19 knife wounds.

 

Three of the suspected perpetrators – Volodymyr Voronkov; Viktor Horbenko and Valentin Zavrazhin were caught in 2015 in connection with another crime.  The men were accused of trying to set fire to the equipment of a local farmer who was known to be in competition with Bobov.  The car they arrived in had bloodstains which proved to be from Serhiyenko.  The investigation concluded that Serhiyenko had been taken in that car to a petrol station near the Modus holiday park, which is also linked to Bobov, before probably being transferred to another car.  Two other men were arrested in 2017: Roman Nedibalyuk and Vadym Melnyk.  Two men are in hiding: Andriy Inosov and Valery Fedorov.  On 29 June, the prosecutor reported to the court that some of the men now on trial had had telephone contact with Inosov several thousand times.  Fedorov’s whereabouts are not known and it is possible that he was later killed.  

 

Only one of the men on trial , Voronkov, is charged with the actual murder (with Fedorov).  Melnyk, who was formerly the head of Bobov’s guards, is accused of having organized the abduction and killing.  Horbenko; Nedibalyuk and Zavrazhin are accused only of involvement in the abduction, although even this was carried out with extremely brutality and it seems inconceivable that they did not know that the abduction was to end with Serhiyenko’s murder.

 

As mentioned, all of the men have gradually been released from custody, including Voronkov who was freed in December 2020. 

 

Horbenko’s release under house arrest came shortly after shocking developments in court led to criminal charges being laid against judge Lyudmila Synytsya from the Horodyshche Court.  In June 2019, the former Special Investigations Department had wanted Horbenko transferred to Kyiv for questioning in connection with another case where the investigators were trying to establish who had commissioned a crime. Since there are strong grounds for believing that the defendants all worked for the same boss, Horbenko’s testimony could have been very important for the Serhiyenko case as well, and the investigators clearly needed to separate him from the other men if there was to be any hope that he would give such incriminating testimony. Details of how their attempt was sabotaged, and the role played by  can be found here. Despite repeated warnings from the prosecutor that her behaviour in divulging confidential information carried criminal liability, Synytsya continued to effectively inform everybody present in the courtroom, including men in the same SIZO as Horbenko, that he was about to be transferred to Kyiv where he could well give testimony against them.  Horbenko promptly denied writing any application for a transfer, claiming his signature to have been forged. Despite it being abundantly clear why Horbenko would now feel the need to lie, Synytsya chose to believe that the investigators had falsified documents, ordered that Horbenko not be transferred, and soon afterwards released him for custody.  The investigators thus lost a potentially crucial crown witness, who was shortly afterwards released from custody. 

 

On 16 July 2020, Synytsya was informed that she is facing criminal charges over her behaviour in court that day.  On 12 August, Ukraine’s High Council of Justice [HCJ] rejected the application from the Prosecutor General’s Office to temporarily suspend Synytsya.  Indeed, they went even further, and addressed an appeal to Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova that she identify and bring to account “people who carried out actions which violate the guarantees of judicial independence.” 

 

Yevhenia Zakrevska, the lawyer representing the Serhiyenko family, believes that there is evidence to point to Bobov’s involvement in the case, with this presented during the original trial of the first three men arrested in 2015.  That trial had actually been moving normally but needed to be terminated due to the judge’s retirement. That need for a new trial coincided with the arrests of Melnyk (and Nedibalyuk) in 2017, and it was after this that the ‘trial’ effectively stalled.

Photo credits: Oleksiy Arunian, Graty





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UKRAINE: More than 3,500 Ukrainians illegally imprisoned in Donbas

More than 3,500 Ukrainians illegally imprisoned in Donbas

By Kvitka Perehinets

 

Kyiv Post (09.07.2021) – https://bit.ly/3hwWQ5V – More than 3,500 Ukrainians are being held in more than 160 illegal prisons in the occupied parts of Donbas, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Emine Dzhaparova reported on July 9, citing the Prosecutor General’s Office.

 

She said that Ukrainians illegally detained in Donbas and Russia have endured torture and psychological pressure, which is just one facet of the crimes committed against Ukrainian citizens over nearly eight consecutive years.

 

Dzhaparova called for joint efforts to close all secret prisons in the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, unimpeded access by human rights organizations to all places of detention and the ability to speak confidentially with all detainees.

 

She also remarked that even the UN Special Rapporteur on the Prevention of Torture, Nils Meltzer, was denied full access by Russian-sponsored occupation authorities to detention facilities in Donbas during his visit to Ukraine in 2018.

 

One of the best-known illegal prisons in occupied Donbas is Izoliatsiya: previously an art factory of the same name. It was seized by militants of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in June 2014 and turned into a prison.

 

According to the police, militants established a “torture base” on the territory of the former plant, where they forcibly detain civilians, captured service members of the Ukrainian armed forces and other units involved in the Joint Forces Operation fighting against the militants.

 

On July 7, the Prosecutor General’s Office had reported that the police had issued suspicion notices to two leaders and organizers of Izoliatsiya.

 

A total of 15 suspects have already been suspected of violating the laws and customs of war on the territory of Izoliatsiya. About 170 victims were identified.

 

Photo credits: AFP

 





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UKRAINE’s most malicious miscarriage of justice: the case of Panasenko

By Halya Coynash

 

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (15.03.2021) – https://bit.ly/3cFnLZA – Volodymyr Panasenko turned 62 on 13 March, his 15th birthday imprisoned for a crime nobody believes he committed.  If he were one of Russia’s many Ukrainian political prisoners, legislators and others in Ukraine would, at least, be making public noises, and maybe even trying to secure his release.  Panasenko, however, is imprisoned in Ukraine, and legislators are in no hurry to right a terrible wrong, against him and other men, whose life sentences also arouse very strong concerns.  Ukraine has already been slammed for this by the European Court of Human Rights, with the second time, on 10 December 2020, a bulk judgement finding violation of the rights of 24 applicants, including Panasenko.

 

The Court in Strasbourg is losing patience with Ukraine, since this is not the first time it has stressed that the European Convention’s prohibition of torture (Article 3 of the Convention) requires that there must be at least the possibility that a life sentence can be reduced.  The Court is not saying that all prisoners must be released, only  that they must have the chance of “a review which allows the domestic authorities to consider whether any changes in the life prisoner are so significant, and such progress towards rehabilitation has been made in the course of the sentence, as to mean that continued detention can no longer be justified on legitimate penological grounds”

 

While ECHR kindly assumed that the only possible reasons for a review lay in some changes or reform of the life prisoner himself,  the situation is far worse in Ukraine.  Here one of the most compelling grounds for needing a review mechanism lies in grave concerns that many of the life prisoners are either innocent, or have received a disproportionately harsh sentence.

 

A Ukrainian life sentence is for life, with the only possibilities for release being a terminal illness or a Presidential pardon. The latter have not been issued once in the last several years.

 

The problems with Ukraine’s justice system are most graphically seen in the case of serial killer Sergei Tkach.  He was able to murder his victims with impunity over an incredible 25 years because at least ten other men had been tortured into ‘confessing’ to some of the crimes and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.  Even after Tkach was arrested in 2005 and confessed to around 100 murders, 37 of which were fully proven, it still took a long time before those other victims, arrested for Tkach’s crimes, were finally released.

 

The methods of ‘investigations’ which enabled such miscarriages of justices were widely used, at least until the adoption of a new Criminal Procedure Code in 2012.  Among other important changes, this makes it impossible to pass a sentence solely on the basis of a ‘confession’, and also ensures that people accused of serious crimes have a lawyer present from the outset.

 

Human rights monitors believe that there are up to 100 life prisoners in Ukraine whose sentences, based on ‘investigations’ before 2012, are extremely suspect – either disproportionately long or, worse, passed against men who are innocent.

 

The last possibility for judicial review of such cases was removed in 2011, when the then President Viktor Yanukovych seriously reduced the powers of Ukraine’s Supreme Court.  Many of the powers then taken away have been reinstated, but not the Court’s right to review cases under exceptional proceedings.  This refers to cases where there is believed to have been violations of material and procedural law, through the fabricating of evidence, etc.

 

For the last 10 years, there have been several attempts, including through legislative initiatives, to rectify the situation.  The first parliament following the Revolution of Dignity (Euromaidan) even voted on a draft bill, No. 2033a in its first reading back in 2015 and then let it gather dust until the parliamentary elections in 2019 made its adoption possible.  A new bill (No. 3078) was tabled in February 2020, but was returned by the profile committee for reworking, and was, on 2 February 2021, withdrawn.

 

This makes Ukraine’s failure to comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ judgements seem especially flagrant.  It also leaves a large number of life prisoners whose sentences are very likely flawed with no chance of justice.

 

This is almost certainly not just inertia, but downright sabotage from some quarters.  When there seemed a real chance that the earlier No. 2003a bill could be passed, numerous, highly manipulative, articles appeared in the media about the bill.  These gravely distorted the facts about the very restricted scope of the review proposed, and played on people’s fears about ‘maniacs and killers’ being released.  Very many of the investigators, prosecutors and judges who either deliberately faked evidence or ignored clear signs that a person was innocent still hold their position, or have been promoted to considerably higher posts, including in the Prosecutor General’s Office. They have a clear vested interest in blocking any possible review.

 

While there are many worrying cases, one stands out for its shocking cynicism and for the number of prominent Ukrainians, including the first Human Rights Ombudsperson, Nina Karpachova and first Ukrainian President, Leonid Kravchuk, who have pointed to the evident miscarriage of justice.

 

On 26 October 2006, a car bomb, planted under a car belonging to Lviv City Councillor and owner of the Shuvar market, Roman Fedyshyn left him unharmed but killed 14-year-old Marika Kutsinda who was walking past when the bomb exploded..

 

A month after the blast, the police had caught one person suspected of carrying out the attack, and declared another person wanted (he was arrested in 2013), as well as Oleksandr Rudy, who was suspected of being the go-between between the perpetrators and the person who had commissioned the crime.

 

Rudy was arrested while under treatment for alcoholism in a psychiatric clinic and signed four different ‘confessions’. He first asserted that the blast had been ordered by Fedyshyn himself to improve his political rating.  When the investigator Roman Sharko told him that such a confession would not do, he named Myroslav Bokalo, the administrator of the market.  This was also deemed wrong, so Rudy then asserted that the crime had been ordered by two men – Bokalo and Panasenko.  The latter had created the company behind the Shuvar market together with Fedyshyn.  A fourth ‘confession’ mentioned only Panasenko.

 

Rudy retracted his words in court, stating at both first trial, and then appeal level. that Panasenko had nothing to do with the crime and that it had been commissioned by somebody else.  He later also wrote a statement saying that he had given false testimony against Panasenko under pressure from the investigator. The pressure, he specified, consisted of threats that he would get life himself if he didn’t provide the testimony and beatings.

 

This was ignored by the court, under presiding judge Stanislav Holubytsky, as were other falsifications in the case. Panasenko’s lawyer Natalya Krisman is convinced that everything was done to put Panasenko away for life.  She says that neither the investigators nor the court really tried to conceal their certainty that Panasenko was innocent.  It was simply that the other candidates had power and could not be touched.

 

Volodymyr Panasenko remains imprisoned.  Despite the European Court of Human Rights’ judgement, on 15 February 2021. The Grand Chamber of Ukraine’s Supreme Court refused to initiate proceedings into Panasenko’s appeal against his life sentence.  Stanislav Holubytsky is now a Supreme Court judge, with this despite a negative assessment from the Public Integrity Council which cited his role in the trial of Panasenko.  Roman Sharko, who played a direct role in falsifying evidence has been appointed to a managerial post in the Prosecutor General’s Office, responsible for overseeing ‘adherence to the law within the National Police’.

 

Photo credits: KHPG.org





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UKRAINE: What’s happening in Donbas? Analysis, forecast & conclusions by Sergei Garmash

By Sergei Garmash (Research Center of Donbas Social Perspectives)*

Published in English by HRWF (05.03.2021)

 

Analysis

 

In the past few months, two trends have clearly emerged in the course of the conflict in Donbas. First, Moscow has stepped up its actions to effectively integrate occupied regions of Donetsk and Lughansk Regions (“occupied territories”) into the military, legal, economic and political sphere of the Russian Federation. Second, Russia has returned to the use of military actions launched from occupied territories as an instrument of political influence on Ukraine.

 

It should be noted that Moscow initially regarded the ceasefire agreement reached on 22 July 2020, not as a humanitarian gesture, but as an instrument to achieve its main goal: to position the “governments” of occupied territories as a party to the conflict and therefore a legitimate negotiating partner with the Government of Ukraine (Kyiv). To achieve this result, the Kremlin must move the center of gravity for resolution of the conflict from the “Normandy Four” (N-4), where there is no direct representation of the occupation “governments” and where Russia is considered to be a party to the conflict, to “the Trilateral Contact Group” (TCG) in which there is direct representation of the occupation “governments” and where Russia pretends to be the “second mediator.” That is why Moscow was not willing to reach an effective ceasefire agreement via the “Normandy Four” but was willing to agree to a ceasefire via the TCG as a method of proving the relevance of the occupying governments as an independent agent from Russia.

 

Therefore, Russia has set a trap for Kyiv. Any further movement by Kyiv towards a direct dialogue with the occupying “governments” via the TCG will be presented to the world by Moscow as “proof” that the conflict is and “internal Ukrainian” civilian conflict and not the result of Russian aggression. And, of course, it will then demand the lifting of sanctions tied to its failure to comply with the Minsk agreements while still providing money, weapons and “vacationers” to its puppet “governments” in the Donbas. And, at the same time, Kyiv will no longer have any instruments, other than military action, to influence the enemy.

 

Indeed, as Ukraine has for six years been forbidden by the Minsk Agreements to achieve the liberation of its occupied territories by military action, its only instrument to weaken the aggressor is economic sanctions, primarily those imposed by Western governments, as well as domestic. If Moscow, having succeeded at forcing Kyiv to negotiate table with the occupied “governments” of Donetsk and Lugansk, eliminates or weakens the effect of international sanctions, then Ukraine will be left with three options:

 

  • Agree to federalization and thereby the de facto absorption of Ukraine by the so-called “Donetsk and Lughansk Peoples Republics”;
  • Accept a “frozen conflict,” recognizing the eastern territories as lost until the ultimate collapse of Russia;
  • Use the only remaining method  – military force.

 

It is clear that none of these three options can satisfy the majority of Ukrainians, which means the conflict will continue to cause serious internal destabilization and therefore pose a threat to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty. And, this is precisely why the Kremlin is pursuing its “TCG strategy.” In other words, for Moscow the end of hostilities in the Donbas as a result of direct negotiations between Kyiv and occupying governments is not “the end of the war,” as Russian proxy/Ukrainian politicians such as Medvedchuk are singing sweetly, but the strengthening of the GLOBAL HYBRID WAR against Ukraine, the purpose of which is to destroy Ukrainian statehood. Seen in this light, it is clear why Moscow agreed in July to a ceasefire it previously rejected and why now, six months later, it has resumed hostilities. Moscow has concluded that Ukrainian President Zelensky would not trade a sham “peace deal” for his de facto recognition of the conflict as an “internal Ukrainian” civil conflict.

 

At the same time, Russia is intensifying the transformation of the Donbas occupied territories into an integrated Russian enclave (notwithstanding that majority of residents of occupied Donbass considered themselves as Ukrainian prior to the start of Russian aggression in 2014). Since Kyiv was not agreeable to a quick suicide on Russia’s terms, Moscow has now dedicated itself to playing the long game. As Russian political strategist and Vladislav Surkov protege Alexei Chesnakov recently said, “Moscow is ready to wait at least 50 years …” In practice, this “readiness to wait” means that Moscow will try to execute the “Abkhazian scenario” in Donbas occupied territories. “This means that Donbas is a part of Russia in fact, but not legally. Approximately the way it was with Abkhazia before the events of 2008,” explains the pro-Kremlin Russian political analyst Sergei Markov. In fact, the Abkhazian scenario is:

 

  • Institutionalization of the puppet “state”;
  • “Conversion” of the majority of residents to Russian citizenship;
  • Integration of this quasi-state into the Russian economic and political space’
  • De jure recognition in the event of a military attempt by Ukraine to liberate its territory.

 

There are, of course, material differences in the cases of Abkhazia and occupied Donbas. First, in Abkhazia there are Abkhazians, a separate nationality from the “oppressive” Georgian national majority. There are no such people as “Donbasians,” separate from Ukrainians by their nationality, religion, or any other characteristics. Secondly, in Abkhazia there are only 200,000 people while the population of occupied Donbas in more than 3 million.

 

But, Russia has figured out how to solve these “small problems.” First, Moscow is implementing a comprehensive strategy to effect the segregation of the population in occupied territories by cutting all ties to Ukraine and Ukrainian government services. This is reinforced by displacing Ukrainian citizenship with new “DPR” and “LPR” citizenship supported by occupation issued passports. According to information from our sources in Donetsk, Moscow has set a deadline for the occupation “governments” to complete the “de-Ukrainization” of the population by 2025 and also to ensure that more than 50% of these “DPR/LPR citizens” should also have officially obtained Russian citizenship and passports. In this way, the Russian Federation optimizes the expense of occupation, expands the possible pool of local combatants in future conflicts and creates a pretext for direct military intervention by Russian Army “peacekeepers” to protect “Russian citizens.”

 

Forecast

 

  1. Implementation of the “Doctrine of the Russian Donbas”

 

The “governments” of the DPR/LPR have developed a “Doctrine of the Russian Donbas” that provides a road map for their policy and actions. According to “DPR” head Denis Pushlin, the original goal of the doctrine was to provide the legal and political basis for the absorption of the “DPR/LPR” into the Russian Federation. However, after push-back from the Kremlin, the final doctrine as issued instead promotes “strengthening the statehood of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as Russian national states.” From this episode it is clear that while Moscow does not want the formal entry of the “peoples republics” into the Russian Federation, it does want the Donbas conflict to continue as an unhealed wound on the body politic of Ukraine. In this regard, the “Russian Donbas” doctrine has quite practical goals:

 

  • Creation of an ideological and “scientific” basis for separating occupied territories from Ukraine as the region is allegedly “natively Russian”;
  • Support for the myth that Russian aggression is actually an “intra-Ukrainian and ethnic conflict”;
  • Creation of an uncontested ideological Russian identity for residents of occupied territory with the Russian Federation as their “future”;
  • Psychological pressure on the Ukrainian government to accelerate a political settlement of the conflict on Moscow’s terms.

 

  1. Increased coercion in renunciation of Ukrainian citizenship

 

  • In Donetsk, holders of Ukrainian passports can be detained for 30 days in order to “determine their identity.” This absurd and coercive situation, detention for 30 days to determine the identity of a person with an internationally recognized identity document, speaks for itself.
  • Holders of Ukrainian ID-passports cannot receive social benefits in Donetsk or carry out other operations in which an identity document is needed. To do so, they must first “legalize” the ID-passport by getting an “address certificate” of their registered place of residence. In turn, this certificate is issued only if there is a certificate stating that the person has applied for a “DPR passport.”
  • For about a year now, Ukrainian citizens in occupied territory who qualify for their first Ukrainian passport (age of 16) or upon passport expiry cannot receive a Ukrainian passport because of checkpoint closures by the occupation administrations. As a result, in order to have any sort of identity document, they are forced to obtain “DPR” passports.
  • According to information from open sources and our confidential sources, in order to meet Moscow’s orders for 100% DPR/LPR “passportization” by 2025, the authorities are preparing a plan for the seizure of Ukrainian passports. Such a step will present Ukraine with a choice, either close the entrance to Ukraine for Ukrainian citizens with passports of “DPR” – “LPR”, or recognize the “passports” of the “republics”. Both options will suit Moscow, but both carry serious risks for Kyiv.
  • Without a passport of Ukraine, residents of ORDLO (HRWF Note: Temporary Occupied Territories of Ukraine) will not be able to receive Ukrainian pensions, social benefits, enter universities, open bank cards, etc. That is, they will be completely cut off from Ukraine.
  • The draft “Law” “On Citizenship” currently being discussed in Donetsk anticipates that “DPR citizenship” cannot be obtained by people who have been absent from the territory for long periods (forced migrants) or politically unreliable people. Thus, “legal” conditions will be created for the disenfranchisement of more than 2 million Ukrainian citizens from occupied territories.

 

  1. Forced Acceptance of Russian Citizenship / Passports

 

As a practical matter, receipt of a DPR/LPR passport by most people is primarily a means for the receipt of a Russian passport so they can leave occupied territory. This is because by the operation of Russian law, a holder of a DPR/LPR passport qualifies for Russian citizenship under a defined “simplified procedure.” Of particular note is that applications for Russian passports are accepted by officials of the DPR/LPR “Ministry of Internal Affairs.” This farcical situation, whereby the “independent government” officially accepts citizenship applications for another government (the Russian Federation) quite neatly exposes the fundamental lie of Moscow’s “non-involvement” in the administration of occupied territories.

 

Notably, Russian passports are issued only after a fingerprint check and the of taking the oath of a citizen of the Russian Federation. According to our sources, DPR/LPR authorities have set a goal the issuance of Russian passports to 80/90% of the population by 2025, significantly greater than Moscow’s order for 50% passportization. This mass Russian passportization resolves several pragmatic goals:

 

  • Permanent consolidation of its influence over occupied this territory, regardless of the timing and modalities for its return to Ukraine;
  • Creation of pretexts for military intervention in the event of Kyiv’s military intervention in occupied territories;
  • Creation of a new mobilization resource from “citizens of Russia” living in DPR/LPR;
  • Creation of a bridgehead for the seizure of new territories of Ukraine by the hands of the “DPR/LPR” military forces;
  • Creation of a legal basis for military and special personnel training “republic citizens” as “citizens of Russia” living in DPR/LPR;
  • Creation of an environment were able bodied men will want to leave DPR/LPR territory to evade military service;
  • Creation of an environment where able bodied men will emigrate to Russia and assist in resolving Russia’s demographic collapse.
  • Increase the pro-Putin electorate in Russia via emigration from DPR/LPR

 

  1. Militarization of DPR/LPR

 

A key factor explaining Moscow’s desire of the increased pace of DPR/LPR integration with the Russian Federation is the success of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh conflict followed by Ukraine’s agreement with Turkey on the supply of 48 “Bayraktar” drones, the use of which which has been widely recognized as the deciding military factor of the hostilities in Karabakh. This has caused a new stream of weapons deliveries by Moscow to DPR/LPR, as well as the beginning of the construction of a “second line of defense” of the “republics.” In addition, to increased mobilization and readiness, Moscow’s puppet leaders of the “DPR/LPR” have issued decrees mandating drills for the call up of “citizens in reserve at the mobilization points from December 2020 to November 2021″.

 

Against this background, an information campaign on the need to introduce universal military service has intensified. In the public announcements, details about the terms of mandatory service have already been resolved. According to the ex-commander of the “Vostok” battalion A. Khodakovsky, “Draftees will have the right to join the military on a contractual basis. They will not be initially sent to active units, but those who wish to join the army and defend their homeland can do so.”

 

It must be noted that the hype around “universal conscription” will also contribute to the emigration  of young people from the territory of the “republics” as service in the legitimate Ukrainian or Russian armies is perceived as preferable to participation in illegal armed formations.

 

  1. Use of COVID-19 to isolate and reduce the population

 

The COVID-19 pandemic remains an important factor that is used to segregate the DPR/LPR population and isolate it from Ukraine. As before, the passage of people through the checkpoints is significantly limited by the DPR/LPR authorities. When compared to 2019, crossings have decreased by almost 30 fold. Existing checkpoints have been closed and the opening of new checkpoints (as anticipated by TCG agreements) is being blocked by the occupation authorities, notwhithstanding that the situation with COVID in government-controlled territory is much better than in occupied territory. As a result, one can only conclude that the reasons for such isolation are purely political. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the militants intend to lift the blockade of checkpoints with an improvement in the epidemic situation.

 

Against this background, data on infection and mortality from COVID-19 in DNR/LNR obtained via open source information demonstrates the Kremlin’s policy to physically reduce the population of the occupied territory of Donbas. In DPR/LPR, on average, only 0.016 of the population is tested daily (for comparison – in Ukraine – on average, about 0.15%). There is only one (!) laboratory for testing COVID-19 tests for about 2.5 million persons. On average, 52% of the tests are positive. The mortality rate of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in the “DPR” (according to “official” statistics) Is 9% (in Ukraine – 2.4%). If we add to this and mortality from “common pneumonia”, then the mortality rate will approach 15% – a rate higher than anywhere else in the world.

 

At the same time, local authorities are treating the vaccination program against COVID-19 as only a propaganda event and they are trying to compensate for the low amount of the vaccine received from Russia with false information that vaccination is contra-indicated for those who have already had COVID-19. This and other misinformation promulgated by the occupation authorities will significantly reduce the percentage of those who voluntarily apply for vaccination.

 

Conclusion

We can conclude that Russia’s purposes for continuing the conflict in Donbass are to use it as a tool to restrain Kyiv from Euro-Atlantic integration, divert its efforts from the fight against the occupation of Crimea, and as a mechanism to influence the internal political situation in Ukraine. Outside of these goals, neither the people of Donbas nor its territory is needed by Moscow. And, as a result of Moscow’s policies, the lives and safety of those living in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Lughansk will continue to deteriorate. This is an explicit Russian policy to purposefully cause the deterioration of the quality of life force the reduction of the regions’ population.

 

And yet, today, more than ever, there is light at the end of the tunnel – a real hope for the possibility of returning the occupied territories of Donetsk and Lughansk to Ukrainian sovereignty in the foreseeable future. The deterioration of geopolitical and economic conditions for the Russian Federation will slowly but surely influence the internal political situation in Russia, which is increasingly fed-up with the decrepit Putin regime. In turn, Zelensky administration in Ukraine has become more realistic and come to understand that Kyiv will not be able to come to an agreement with Moscow without shooting itself in the head. This leaves Zelensky no choice but to start a real fight against the aggressor state, including Russian agents within Ukraine. For the first time in seven years of war, the process, as they say, has begun. Now we must take even more care to make ensure that Zelensky continues in the right direction.

 

(*) Source in Russian https://www.ostro.org/general/politics/articles/607011/

Translated by Joel Ray Montgomery

 

 

Photo credits: Shutterstock.com

 


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