Zur Dokumentation interner politischer Entwicklungen und damit auch des Charakters der Organisation von Politik in den beiden »Volksrepubliken«, veröffentlichen die Ukraine-Analyse hier Auszüge aus dem Newsletter »Entwicklungen in ›DNR‹ und ›LNR‹«.Der Newsletter erscheint im Rahmen des Projekts »Dialog für Verständigung und Recht: Europäische NGOs gemeinsam für Konfliktbewältigung im Donbass«. Basierend auf der Auswertung von öffentlich zugänglichen Internet-Quellen und erstellt von Nikolaus von Twickel gibt der Newsletter einen Überblick aktueller gesellschaftspolitischer Entwicklungen auf dem Gebiet der selbsternannten »Volksrepubliken Donezk und Luhansk«. Das Projekt wird vom Deutsch-Russischen Austausch (DR A e.V.) in Kooperation UKRAINE-ANALYSEN NR. 188, 27.09.201712mit ukrainischen und russischen Partnern durchgeführt und vom Auswärtigen Amt gefördert. Der Newsletter ist im Internet archiviert unter <http://www.civicmonitoring.org/>. Dort finden sich auch die Internetadressen der im Text genannten Originalquellen. Ansprechpartnerin beim Deutsch-Russischen Austausch ist Yuliya Erner (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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The “Malorossiya” affair
Having largely vanished from international headlines, the conflict in eastern Ukraine made a comeback last month when Donetsk separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko suddenly declared that the “people’s republics” should unite with Ukraine and form a new state called “Malorossiya”.
In a surprise statement made during a conference In Donetsk on July 18, Zakharchenko announced that because Ukraine as a state had been destroyed by the Maidan revolution (which he said led to a “Neonazi regime”) it should be replaced by Malorossiya with Donetsk as its capital (Malorossiya, literally “little Russia”, had been the name for Ukraine in Tsarist Russia). He stressed that this was the separatists’ last offer to the “criminal regime” in Kiev in order to make peace.
Zakharchenko made little effort to explain the legitimacy of such a step, merely claiming that representatives from a majority of Ukraine’s regions were present and supported the idea.
However, it quickly emerged that this was a huge exaggeration, as leaders of the neighbouring Luhansk “people’s republic”, in theory Zakharchenko’s closest allies, said that they were not at the conference and had not been consulted. Naturally, the move was quickly condemned by Ukraine and its western allies. President Petro Poroshenko suggested that Malorossiya would fail just as the “Novorossiya” project did in 2014. The German government said that Zakharchenko’s declaration was “unacceptable”.
Many western and Ukrainian commentators stressed that Zakharchenko is a Kremlin puppet and thus could not have made the decision without Moscow’s consent. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on the same day that this was a personal initiative by Zakharchenko.
One little noted fact that supports this view is that even Denis Pushilin, the “Donetsk People’s Republic’s” chief negotiator and second most prominent figure, wasn’t at the conference and later only gave a lukewarm endorsement to Zakharchenko’s initiative, arguing that it needed more discussion and possibly a referendum.
The view that the “Malorossiya” initiative was thought within a small circle surrounding the Donetsk separatist leader was confirmed the same day by Zakhar Prilepin, the Russian writer who acts as an advisor and deputy battalion commander to Zakharchenko. In an interview with “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, Prilepin acknowledged that the Malorossiya declaration had been devised as “a surprise for Moscow”—because “time is ripe” and Donetsk was ready to rule all of Ukraine.
Thus, it was perhaps of little surprise that Zakharchenko had to more or less renounce his project. On July 26—two days after the leaders of Germany and France condemned it as undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity during a “Normandy Format” phone call with Presidents Poroshenko and Putin, he suddenly said that it was just a proposal and more time was needed for discussion. And on August 9 he declared that there will be no “Malorossiya” because the name caused too much opposition.
Interestingly, Zakharchenko’s initial grand declaration did not make it onto his official YouTube channel, nor is it featured in the video section of his official website (which does have a transcript, though).
Whoever was behind the idea, the whole episode shows that while Zakharchenko may ultimately be a pawn, he is willing and able to perform independently until he is called off by his masters. As for punishment, it is probably well understood in Moscow that the damage done by the Malorossiya initiative is borne mainly by its political proponent, ie Zakharchenko himself.