Thursday, August 25, 2016

Moscow, Mitrokhin Says, Keeping LNR and DNR from Going to War -- Against Each Other

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 25 – Moscow may or may not use the LNR or DNR to renew its aggression against Russian aggression against Ukraine, but it now faces the challenge of preventing the two from going to war against each other, one it can meet but that by itself highlights the weakness of the Novorossiya project, Nikolay Mitrokhin says.

            A recent series of attacks on and murders of leaders of the pro-Moscow DNR and LNR in the deep rear of areas controlled by the militias, FSB and Russian military personnel raises the question as to who is responsible, the Russian analyst at the University of Bremen says (

            Officials and the media in these Russian-controlled areas in each case sought to lay the blame for these attacks on Ukrainian “diversionists.”  But Mitrokhin suggests that only “naïve local residents and those who watch Russian television” can possibly accept that version of events.

            It has been clear for some time, he says, that the leaders of the two entities have anything but good relations, with supporters of the one attacking the leader of the others as a Jew and complaining about the problems that the other entity is causing for theirs because “the larger and economically developed DNR depends on the smaller and weaker LNR.”

            For the DNR, the shortest route to the Russian Federation lies through the LNR, something the LNR recognizes and exploits having established “not a nominal but a completely real border with “its own tariffs, taxes and other” fees to the detriment of the economic and political interests of the DNR.

            “Not only ordinary residents of the DNR but also its wealthy entrepreneurs are suffering from this,” Mitrokhin says, and they are angry about what the LNR is doing.  One of them, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, may hope to lead a combined LDNR in the future given the fact that the Minsk accords have collapsed. That gives him another reason to attack the LNR.

            However that may be, the Bremen-based Russian analyst says, “on the territory which Zakharchenko controls are people who specialize in a certain method of murder.” And it is thus no surprise that LNR leaders are increasing their personnel security arrangements not so much to fend off Ukrainian “diversionists” as to fight DNR and Zakharchenko agents.

            Mitrokhin says that in his view, “there is no reason to expect a serious war between the DNR and the LNR. Both ‘the army’ and other force structures in these ‘republics’ is fully or to a significant degree under the control of Russian curators.”  But that doesn’t mean that it can stamp out all the conflict between the DNR and the LNR.

            The leaders of the two have “the possibility either to settle accounts by economic means … or by sending in hired killers.”  That doesn’t bode well for Moscow’s project, but it may also threaten Ukraine because Moscow may decide that the only way to deal with these conflicts is to give the two “republics” a new common cause – the resumption of aggression against Kyiv.

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