Will the Donbass Blockade Ever End?


February 28, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

On February 26th, Ukrainian neo-Nazis waging the blockade of Donbass established their first fortress in the direction of Mariupol, as the blockade headquarters’ Facebook page has reported. 

This fortification which has since come to be called Solovey, or “Nightingale,” is located in the village of Novotroitskoe in the Kiev-occupied part of the Donetsk region. According to the Facebook report: “The garrison of the fortress is made up of veterans of the Donbass and Aidar battalions, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists volunteer movement, the Ukrainian National Self-Defense organization, and social activists.” It is also indicated that the garrison’s main goal is blocking the flow of trade and contraband along the Donetsk-Mariupol line. The blockade’s headquarters have also added that they plan to further expand a network of defense structures. 

The actions of the “blockaders” have already incited an emergency situation with Ukraine’s energy supplies. The Ukrainian government is already considering the option of “selective blackouts” for businesses and homes. The main problem is that Ukrainian thermal power plants are dependent on one brand of coal, anthracite, which is mined in Donbass. The transition to other varieties of coal is, according to experts, either impossible or extremely expensive. Thus, things have reached such a point that Ukraine has been compelled to purchase coal from Australia and South Africa.

The continuation of the blockade will lead to even more serious consequences for the Ukrainian energy sector, industry, and the social sphere.

Nevertheless, Kiev is for now in no hurry to use force against the blockaders despite the risks stemming from the blockade, and despite the approval to disperse the action expressed by several international power centers (the White House, OSCE, German government, Normandy Four, etc.). 

How can this indecisiveness by Kiev be explained?

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I initially thought that Kiev has simply postponed plants to break up the blockade. After all, on February 19th-26th there were planned actions by Ukrainian neo-Nazis dedicated to the third anniversary of the Maidan. Ukrainian groups on social networks reported that part of the volunteers had withdrawn from their positions in Donbass and been sent to support their “brethren” in Kiev. Giving the neo-Nazis another occasion for protest by dispersing the blockaders would have been rather risky for the Poroshenko regime. 

But on February 27th, now that these actions have already finished, one can expect more decisive actions from authorities. Indeed, I am inclined to believe that decisive actions will follow. Perhaps Poroshenko is now gathering forces and waiting for the opportune moment while preparing a suitable interpretation and justification for the elimination of “patriots.” Most likely, someone among the blockade’s organizers will be blamed for being a “Kremlin agent.” President Poroshenko will find it convenient enough to blame the neo-Nazis for collusion with Russian security services who will be alleged to have prompted them to organize the blockade.

But the longer that the government is silent and demonstrates indecision, the stronger the confidence and arrogance of the blockaders will grow. At the same time, the expanding space of the blockade is drawing in new members. 

As we predicted, there was no Maidan 3.0 in Kiev. The blockade thus might be a new performance by the neo-Nazis. It is no accident that yesterday’s enemies in the neo-Nazi camp have today found unity in the blockade: the Azov regiment and its affiliated structures such as the Azov Civil Corps and National Corps party unexpectedly announced their support for the blockade, whereas only a month ago they were engaged in firefights with fighters of the Donbass battalion specifically over disagreements on the idea of a blockade. Azov here is striving to seize its own place among the number of other neo-Nazi formations (OUN, UNSD, Donbass, etc.). I would dare to say that the far from foolish leader of Azov, Andrey Biletsky, known as the White Leader, has sensed a change in situation and decided to use the blockade format to promote his political projects.

It can be assumed that the blockade will spread not only in breadth (geographically) but also in depth, in gravity. One potential scenario is the capture or blockade of an office or unloading station of Rinat Akhmetov’s DTEK company which includes a number of large enterprises and mines in the DPR, Kiev, and other regional centers. Indeed, it is Akhmetov’s interests that are being hit the hardest of all by the neo-Nazis’ blockade. Plus, such an action would attract more media attention, hence the likelihood of predicting a similar kind of blockade in Kiev itself.

But as for now, the Ukrainian authorities have not reacted. Meanwhile, the leaderships of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics have. They have stated that on March 1st they will introduce external management at all Ukrainian enterprises in the republics if the Donbass blockade is not lifted. In so doing, the republics have threatened to cease coal deliveries to Ukraine and redirect coal to Russia if the blockade is not ended.

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This move by the DPR/LPR will either push the Kiev authorities towards more decisive actions such as dispersing the blockaders, thus leading to reactions from their side, or it will simply give extra points to the war party in Kiev, thus entailing in its wake some new radical steps by Kiev against the Donbass republics. This includes possible military operations. In just the next few days we will see the practical steps of the republics’ authorities on turning their threat from words into deeds. 

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