The average resident of both Russia and Ukraine, and even Donbass itself does not know and does not understand why there are two people’s republics in the territories not controlled by Kiev, and not one. After all, the extreme conditions of hostilities and the economic blockade usually promote cohesion, and the division of the region into the DPR and LPR creates significant everyday and economic inconveniences for the local population. For example, there is a customs office between the unrecognized republics, you just can’t send your goods from Luhansk to Donetsk.
To a large extent, this stems from the fact that the DPR and LPR appeared on the initiative from below and as independent centers of power with their own “people’s governors”, activists and militias. They had to fight for survival in close cooperation, but parallel to each other. By the time the active phase of hostilities ended, the republics had already formed a different legislative base. Even the creation of one-man command at least in the army and on the declared territory (different cities controlled different militia groups) turned out to be a task that they could solve only in a few years.
But these are, as they say, questions of history. In the area of practical interests of the Donbass elites, both old and new, “questions” of a different kind dominated. Sometimes these were political interests (it is better to be the first guy in the village than the second in a large village), sometimes – financial, from the field of control over this or that enterprise. For specific people in the leadership of the LDNR, the principle of “tobacco apart” was obviously more convenient, and to a greater extent in Lugansk: they doubt their competitiveness against the background of richer Donetsk.
The VZGLYAD newspaper wrote in detail that this “feudal fragmentation” negatively affects the incomes of the residents of Donbass. As well as the fact that the extremely low level of wages is a ticking time bomb under the region, where people are used to living on a grand scale and are unlikely to be ready to endure indefinitely.
The DPR and LPR required large-scale structural reforms, mutual unification of legislation, elimination of duplicate departments, which would increase manageability, reduce opportunities for corruption, and reduce the burden on the budget and overpayments from the population. The lion’s share of these tasks would be solved by their merging into a single state entity, to which the leaders of both republics were urged by both experts and the people in the broadest sense.
But whenever this came up, the leadership of the DPR and LPR found some kind of explanation that did not explain anything, and most often there were words about the Minsk agreements, they say, two republics signed them, so the unification would undermine the negotiation process (and let us recall, he was stuck in a dead center because of the efforts of Ukraine, which is deeply burdened by this process and is not going to “implement” anything).
And suddenly – the ice broke, or, in other words, a bear died somewhere. The head of the DPR Denis Pushilin and the head of the LPR Leonid Pasechnik announced the creation of a single economic and customs space. This is not yet the unification of the republics, but this is a ho-ho in comparison with the situation that we have now. The new regime of functioning of the LDNR, as the local authorities promise, “will remove restrictions on the movement of citizens, products and finances” between the two republics, which “will be the key to accelerating their development.”
It remains to be understood: who was the bear that died? What happened so that in Donetsk and Lugansk they started to implement not just overdue, but long-overdue measures?
There are at least two versions, one of which is close to conspiracy, but will certainly be discussed in the media, since it includes the most important political figures – Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Suppose that at the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva (which, recall, went better than one might have expected) or through other channels after it, Moscow’s position was clearly communicated to the Americans: Washington must force Kiev to comply with the Minsk agreements, or Russia will to equip the future of Donbass in a different way.
Let’s say Moscow expected this emphasis to be heard in the talks between Zelensky and Biden. For the president of Ukraine, they passed without any success, but his entourage and he himself are trying to pass off as success that the topic of the Minsk agreements was not only not present in the statements of the American side, but was not discussed at all. This only means that while Biden decided to get away from this topic, but the adviser to the head of Zelensky’s office, Oleksiy Arestovich, publicly triumphed – Ukraine de “off the hook” of an unfavorable deal for her.
Arestovich is a specific person even by Kiev standards. In most cases, listening to him is not respecting yourself. But it should be noted that such a person occupies one of the key positions in the Ukrainian contact group on the Donbas settlement, which should implement the Minsk agreements. That is, the combination of Arestovich’s personality with his position clearly shows that the notorious “Minsk-2” in Kiev has been seen in its grave and is eager to “get off the hook.”
The Americans, by the way, are neither a party nor a guarantor of these agreements, that is, Biden cannot “forgive” the Ukrainians for what they themselves promised, this should be done by the leadership of Germany, France and Russia as acting guarantors of the settlement. But “off the hook” so “off the hook”: since there is no progress, Russia’s wait-and-see attitude was replaced by active actions – Moscow pushed the Donbass republics to unite in order to further integrate their economies into the Russian one. And if someone (the Americans) doesn’t like it, then we warned the Americans.
But there is another explanation for what is happening, much more boring – without geopolitics, trading, warnings, signals and top officials. There was no such thing that Moscow, having assessed the situation, gave the command to act, and in Donetsk and Lugansk they were saluted. Work on the creation of a single economic space was carried out by the republics on their own initiative, at their own peril and risk.
This version is supported by the fact that the signing of specific agreements and documents that will unite the economies of the two republics has been announced for the very near future, and such agreements cannot be reached quickly (taking into account the wave of past economic disagreements). Consequently, the work on them proceeded without looking back at the talks in Geneva and Washington. Simply because it was necessary.
Perhaps the “hook” talk was perceived as a “window of opportunity” to say the time has come. Perhaps they did not play any role at all, but Pushilin and Pasechnik are now reacting to pressure from below. Their declaration of intent states, among other things, that the new policy “will make it possible to achieve a number of indicators, in particular to increase the average salary in the economy as a whole by 2.3 times – up to 35 thousand rubles, and to increase the average pension by 1.3 times – up to 13.8 thousand rubles, the average salary of state employees will reach 29 thousand rubles. “
Divide 35 thousand rubles by 2.3 and try to live on the remainder, taking into account that most consumer goods are not only imported (from the Russian Federation), but also have risen in price after all the administrative fees.
By itself, the creation of a single economic space of the LPNR will not provide the necessary growth in the standard of living. This is only the first step, which should be followed by the second – the unification of legislation and technical regulations with those in Russia, so that it becomes possible to include Donbass enterprises in our economic chains, including participation in state orders. Only then will the region be able to get out of stagnation and timelessness, that is, in fact, it will stop implementing the Ukrainian strategy of revenge.
This strategy boils down to keeping things as they are. So that the region does not develop, so that specialists leave from there, so that the equipment at the enterprises becomes obsolete, and the enterprises themselves are closed. Another five to ten years of this path, and Donbass can be taken with bare hands, according to Kiev.
The only possible opposition to this strategy is economic integration with the Russian Federation. This is the way in which Donbass will be able to realize its potential as a rich region and part of the “Russian world”.
It’s time to come to terms with the fact that Ukraine, neither under Zelenskiy nor under any other government, will agree to the implementation of Minsk-2, which would resolve the ethnopolitical conflict according to the Bosnian scenario. We need to build a different version of the future for Donbass – the one where it is together with Russia. If the declaration of intentions of Pushilin and Pasechnik does not remain an empty declaration, if all the promised agreements are indeed signed and implemented, this will show that after seven years of waiting, delays and “geopolitical considerations” Donbass has nevertheless taken the right path.