Fort Russ Saw it Coming: Lugansk ‘Coup’ Opens New Chapter in Donbass Revolution


November 27, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

Op-ed by Special Editor Jafe Arnold – 

On November 21st, unidentified armed men swarmed the capital of the Lugansk People’s Republic, blockading government buildings and carrying out arrests in what would soon reveal itself to be a swift and rather peaceful “coup.” 

By November 23rd, it became clear that these armed men were acting on the orders of the LPR’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Igor Kornet, and that their task was maintaining order while the echelons of power in Lugansk were purged of officials involved, in Kornet’s words, in “criminal activities detrimental to the republic and the people of the Lugansk region.” This action came on the heels of Kornet being dismissed from his post on November 20th on the orders of the head of the LPR, Igor Plotnitsky. Kornet had refused to leave his post, and was now issuing arrest warrants for alleged Ukrainian agents and officials whose corruption scandals were deemed tied to Ukrainian infiltration. 

The next day, it became clear that Plotnitsky himself was one of the targets of this coup, as he and several officials slated for detention left for Russia. Plotnitsky officially resigned on November 24th for health reasons, citing the physical and mental toll of wounds sustained during the war. The Minister of State Security (MGB), Leonid Pasechnik, informed the public of Plotnitsky’s resignation and assumed the duties of acting head of the Lugansk People’s Republic. 

The whirlwind events of the past week confounded many. But thanks to ceaseless coverage of developments in the People’s Republics of Donbass since 2014 and the expert contributions of Dr. Eduard Popov since 2016, Fort Russ managed to stay on top of events and ascertain the trajectory and significance of both the larger geopolitical picture and the intense heat of the moment in such about-turns as we saw last week in Lugansk. 

During the climax of the “coup” in Lugansk, three points in particular were addressed which explain the reasons behind and the unfolding aftermath of the change in government in Lugansk. 

Firstly, the lagging socio-economic development of the Lugansk People’s Republic in comparison to the neighboring Donetsk People’s Republic was identified as the material basis for the crisis of legitimacy of the existing LPR leadership. As confirmed by both empirical analyses and Dr. Eduard Popov’s own firsthand sightings, the LPR has been plagued by a distinct absence of economic reconstruction. 

Secondly, we pointed out the corruption scandals and related Ukrainian infiltration of the LPR leadership to be the political reflection of Lugansk’s economic troubles which dialectically compounded and reproduced obstacles to effective statecraft. The nascent political class in the LPR increasingly became entangled in an uncontrollable spiral of scandals, such as the case of 3.3 million tons of coal being illegally sold to Ukraine in 2015 only for Plotnitsky to grant amnesty to the perpetrator, attempted “coups,” such as the spectacularly mediocre “storm in a teacup” in September 2016, and hysterical outbursts such as the LPR’s own Minsk representative’s recent pronouncement that the Lugansk People’s Republic could change its name and re-join Ukraine. 

In short, the LPR leadership was failing to live up to the title of “people’s republic,” the mandate for which they received in the popular referendum of May 2014 and over the course of the trials and tribulations of war, and their negligence, or conscious machinations, were evermore undermining the economic and, as follows, political and military viability of the republic.

This brings us to the third point. With economic development stalled and political life degrading into a sad spectacle of corruption and incompetence, the very raison d’etre of the Lugansk People’s Republic, and Donbass self-determination in general, was at a crossroads. The direction in which the LPR was heading became unclear at best and muddy at worst; the LPR leadership was increasingly unrepresentative of its population’s needs and desires and the vision of the Donbass revolution. Rather tellingly, when a monument to fallen Donbass defenders was opened in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don in October in the presence of Putin’s aide on Donbass, Vladislav Surkov, DPR head Zakharchenko was present – Plotnitsky was not. 

As a result, Plotnitsky and his entourage were pressured out. On November 24th, Dr. Eduard Popov predicted three possible scenarios for future development, in which the questions of economic restoration, the unification of the Donbass republics, and a re-legitmization of the LPR’s cadre would be front and center. These three points have since found expression, thus confirming our analysis.

On November 25th, talk of holding new elections in the LPR engulfed the info-sphere. The former speaker of the abandoned Unity Parliament of Novorossiya, Oleg Tsarev, has even been proposed as a candidate, thus harkening back to the revolutionary days of 2014. 

On November 26th, the new acting head of the LPR, Pasechnik, proclaimed the economic revitalization of Lugansk to be one of his key policy postulates, and integration with Russia to be a guiding light in LPR policy. 

In addition, the question of forming a Donbass federation, whether christened “Novorossiya,” “Malorossiya,” or “People’s Republic of Donbass”, has re-appeared in mainstream Donbass political discourse. For the first time, voices advocating such have been loudest of all in Lugansk. 

Moreover, it is important to note that Russia has in no apparent way whatsoever sought to halt or reverse the course of recent events. In fact, Russian officials have welcomed the changes in Lugansk, and the head of the Russia-Donbass Integration Committee, Andrey Kozenko, has officially congratulated Pasechnik. This starkly contrasts Russia’s habitual preference for stability, but we predicted this shift back in October. 

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In view of the foregoing, the recent events in Lugansk are not only pivotal. They are positive. They are opening a new chapter in the history of the People’s Republics of Donbass, one which is evidently, explicitly seeking to address and rectify the problems which Fort Russ and Dr. Popov have been discussing with our readers all along. 

Jafe Arnold is Special Editor of Fort Russ, Special Projects Director of the Center for Syncretic Studies, and the founding Editor-in-Chief of Eurasianist Internet Archive. Holding a Bachelors in European Cultures from the University of Wroclaw (Poland), Arnold is currently undertaking his Masters in Western Esotericism at the University of Amsterdam. 

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