Connecting Novorossiya? Sputnik Interviews Fort Russ’ Arnold on LPR ‘coup’


December 2nd, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Special Editor Jafe Arnold – 

Fort Russ’ Special Editor, Jafe Arnold, was recently interviewed on the situation in the Lugansk People’s Republic for Radio Sputnik’s Trendstorm program. The radio interview can be listened to and downloaded at Sputnik News. Below we present the transcript of the interview for our readers. 

Andrew Korybko: What were the driving forces behind Lugansk’s sudden leadership change, how do you think the new administration will deal with them, and what are the risks that they could spread to Donetsk? 

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Jafe Arnold: Hi Andrew, thanks for having me on. I think it’s really important to clarify that the so-called “coup” in Lugansk did not fall out of the sky. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise, because we saw basically a miniature rehearsal for this with the same people and the same issues at stake more than a year ago back in September 2016. 

In my read on it, the main cluster of problems then and now are the lack of economic development in the Lugansk People’s Republic, and corruption – and not just any corruption that we could point to anywhere in the world – but corruption at high levels specifically tied to Ukrainian infiltration and illegal economic dealings with Ukraine. These were directly undermining the LPR’s capacity. 

In terms of people, we have the republic’s security branches, represented by Kornet and Pasechnik, who saw these problems as leading to the collapse of the republic. 

On the other, we have the bureaucrats in one way or another associated with Plotnitsky. This group was really starting to become notorious, like when Plotnitsky pardoned a minister, who was arrested by security forces for selling some 80% of the LPR’s coal production to Ukraine. There’s also the case that just happened earlier this month, where Lugansk’s own representative to the Minsk negotiations suddenly said that the LPR could change its name and re-join Ukraine if it makes things easier. 

Basically, the LPR’s own leadership was undermining the republic’s economic and political viability, to the benefit of Ukraine, with whom some of Lugansk’s own officials were lining their pockets. Overall, the LPR started to be incapable of formulating any coherent policy and couldn’t even control its own officials’ statements and actions. I would definitely say that it was failing to live up to the title of “people’s republic.”

So last week, the LPR leadership was replaced by people mainly from the security sector who have explicitly said that they want to turn Lugansk’s decline or stagnation around. Right after assuming power, Pasechnik listed economic reconstruction as one of his main platform points. The point that the LPR’s parliament unanimously ratified a constitutional amendment allowing for Pasechnik, as the minister of state security, to be head of the republic, shows that the change in course is supported by the people of Lugansk’s elected representatives. 

I don’t think that the problems Lugansk has been facing will spill over into Donetsk. The DPR has been a point of contrast to the LPR precisely because Donetsk has had economic reconstruction and has been consolidating statecraft for at least the past year. And in Donetsk we’ve seen a rather robust political discourse that has proposed visions not only for Donbass as a whole, but also for the former Ukraine as a whole. 

So, I think that the main result of all of this is that closer, coordinated statecraft between Donetsk and Lugansk is back on the table. This time around, Lugansk is finally in a position pursue more constructive policies. 

Korybko: There’s been talk for some time about Lugansk and Donetsk merging into a single Novorossiyan political entity, but that hasn’t happened yet, so what’s the reason why they’ve remained separate republics, and what are the chances that they’ll unify in the future? 

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Arnold: Great question, because if you look at it historically, ethno-culturally, socio-economically, or geopolitically, the division between Donetsk and Lugansk is definitely artificial. Even in Donbass’ first experience of independence in history, in 1918, the Donetsk and Lugansk regions were both one republic, the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Republic. 

The initial division into separate Lugansk and Donetsk republics came after the referenda in May 2014 and was mainly a practical issue. The organization of militias, the role of different autonomous movements, and the fight to hang on to territory went at really different paces – definitely much more successful in the DPR than in the LPR, which turned out to be only a fraction of the size of the actual Lugansk region. But even literally right after, both republics adopted a constitutional act on establishing the union of Novorossiya and started forming a common parliament. This was only natural. 

Then, the main reason why Donetsk and Lugansk remained separate is the Minsk Agreements. As a result of negotiations with Ukraine, Donetsk and Lugansk were forced to sign the agreements as separate entities.

Since then, as we know, the LPR and DPR have developed at vastly different rates, with the DPR in the lead and the LPR lagging behind. As I’ve said, became more and more of a problem and ultimately was one of the main factors in the change in government. 

With this change in government in Lugansk, a political will has returned to the LPR to formulate and realize a vision for itself and Donbass. The rectification policies that the new LPR leader has said he’s going to pursue will bring the LPR closer into alignment with the DPR, and this in itself will rely upon the active support from Donetsk which, if we look at policies and political discourse in the DPR, we can see that Donetsk is really ready to give. 

That being said, I would be very cautious in speaking about a new Novorossiya just around the corner, because there are serious legal issues that need to be resolved vis-a-vis the Minsk Agreements, the republics’ constitutions, and so on. There are competing interests, there’s uneven development, so we would really need to see a qualitative leap. 

Without a question, though, in my opinion, we will deifnitely see closer convergence between Donetsk and Lugansk, but any new federation is a ways off for objective reasons. Then again, the important thing is that when there’s a will, there’s a way. That’s where we’re at now – there’s a will. 

Korybko: Bearing everything that we’ve spoken about in mind, what’s the likelihood that Kiev will try to exploit the events in Lugansk in order break the ‘frozen peace’ with the two republics, and how could any reescalation of the Ukrainian Civil War affect the prospects of the Novorossiya project?

Arnold: I think that if Ukraine could have manipulated or disrupted the leadership change in Lugansk, it would have done so already. But, as we know, the so-called coup happened rather peacefully and swiftly, and when Ukraine did try to make a move, it only managed to invade two small villages in the neutral zone. This shows that the LPR security forces and Donetsk really have things under control.

What I would like to say, though, is that we’ve seen a full-scale evolution in Donetsk. Of course, we are dealing with a real functioning state now, and this state does have serious problems, this state has proven itself in holding back NATO-backed Ukrainian troops for almost three years now. I think that now Lugansk has greater chances of experiencing the same political and military development that Donetsk has. 

If the war were to break out in full force again, that would mean the de facto end of Minsk, and that would mean the de facto defrosting, so to say, of Novorossiya.

So any restart to the war would really, I think, give impetus to the rebirth of the idea of Novorossiya and the practical reality of Novorossiya. 

In fact, this is why I think Kiev is doing everything it can except launch a full-scale offensive. If it did, not only would it lose, again, but Donbass would come out bigger, stronger, more united, and it would have no reason to hold itself back from a Novorossiya 2.0.

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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