Even progressive and pro-Ukrainian people from this region are often pessimistic about the Donbas and its population, saying that most locals are completely hopeless, it’s impossible to get through to their brains or souls, and it’s unrealistic to change the socio-political landscape of their territory; it’s like a black hole on the map of Ukraine, a kind of huge demographic and psychological well, the bottom of a mine, from which it is impossible to claw a way out to the surface.
These Ukraine-oriented people from the Donbas are sceptical about prospects for their region as part of Ukraine, and are convinced that most of the population of the Donbas is still waiting for Putin’s “paradise” while seeing a united Ukraine only as part of Russia. In my view, the only thing that is hopeless in Ukraine is its authorities. Because, as Isa Akaev, Commander of the Krym volunteer battalion rightly noted in an interview, the problem with Ukraine is that it is not even governed by businessmen, but by hagglers. Hagglers are incapable of thinking strategically and far-sightedly. Their basic instinct, figuratively speaking, is to grab a piece of pork fat and immediately eat it under a quilt, even if it makes them sick.
In truth, Ukraine is a country with a complex regional composition. But most of the countries in Europe and the world are the same, while monolithic ones, such as Japan, where 99.5% of the population is made up of ethnic Japanese, are a minority. So it is not worth counting on the fact that all regions of Ukraine will be full of patriots wearing embroidered shirts, particularly if with Russia continuously fanning the flames of separatist sentiments, to the point of the armed intervention of the Russian army in the Donbas. Western Ukrainian liberals have finally realized that Ukraine is not their part of the country alone and are horrified to find out that the rest of Ukraine is not that like-minded after all. They then want to get away from regions that are in a different cultural paradigm. Why thoughts of escape, rather than battle have emerged in a certain part of the Ukrainian intelligentsia, is another matter. Unfortunately, these are also the very thoughts of some pro-Ukrainian intellectuals in Eastern oblasts...
However, the reasons for the disconsolate situation in the Donbas and Crimea must often be looked for in Kyiv, not in these particular regions. In 23 years of independence, there has not been a single patriotic government of action, not words, which could have proposed an alternative for the problematic regions and implemented it with the required inflexibility. Throughout these years, official Kyiv did not even attempt to withstand the efforts of neo-imperial Moscow in the Donbas, giving this territory as prey to pro-Russian oligarchic forces, which, having transformed it into its own powerful bridgehead, ultimately even took power in Kyiv. It was a miracle that they did not fulfil the plans of the Kremlin regarding the whole of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government had a unique chance in 2005. If the favourite slogan of the Orange Revolution – “Bandits to prisons” – had been implemented back then, the criminal mafia elite would have been eliminated from the Donbas. This is what could have revived it as a fully-fledged Ukrainian region. The Donbas respects force and does not accept those, who “drive on empty”, even if this “empty” is very democratic and patriotic. So a graphic example of such force, directed against local criminal “feudal lords”, whose government was transforming the Constitution of Ukraine into a fiction within the borders of this region, could have made a deep and lasting impression on its residents, convincing them that Kyiv is definitely a nucleus of progress, law and justice, capable of both coming to an agreement and coercion. But it emerged that Viktor Yushchenko’s Kyiv was merely the residence of a different clan, not from the Donbas.
Another Yushchenko regime, with all of its catastrophic prospects for Ukraine, is reviving in Kyiv today, in an endless pseudo-democratic demagogy, excess rhetoric about reforms that don’t exist and a glaring lack of practical steps. Another period of imitation in Ukrainian history?
A quick and decisive (completely possible in June – July 2014) crushing defeat of the separatists and terrorists in the Donbas, instead of the current ATO epic with uncertain chances for success, would have done far more for the Ukrainianisation of this region, than “special laws”, “the expansion of the region’s rights”, “the special status of the Donbas” and other pseudo-legal and political speculations.
Much is said about the mass Russification of the Donbas with the help of the Russian mass media. Could the Kyiv authorities, who did nothing for the protection of the rest of Ukraine from this information avalanche, have withstood this? Is there any point in saying that convincing the residents of the Donbas will not give results, if no one has even tried to do this? For 23 years, the Kremlin used information to terrorise Ukraine, and it was only during a real war, that some of the most pathologically-militant TV channels were switched off in Ukraine. However, it is too soon to rejoice. It has been confirmed that the TV transmission centre, which broadcasts the Kremlin’s propaganda in the Donbas, is paid for by... Kyiv. Such publications as Trud v Ukrayine (Work in Ukraine), Izvestiya v Ukraine (News in Ukraine), Komsomolskaya Pravda v Ukrayine (Komsomol Truth in Ukraine), Moskovsky Komsomolets v Ukrayine (Moscow Komsomol in Ukraine), etc., still exist.
So what can be expected from authorities that tolerate and indulge this? And their attempts to actually do something, such as establishing a Ministry of Information Policy, have provoked the frenzied bellowing and screaming of “democratic journalists”, who don’t want any restrictions on freedom of speech during military action, so that no one prevents the Kremlin from using its own mass media to ruin Ukraine from inside. Meanwhile, the most democratic countries of the world imposed certain restrictions in the information sphere during wartime. The newspaper Volkische Beobachter was not published in London when Britain was at war against Nazi Germany. So far, no one has actually and consistently attempted to protect the Donbas from the Kremlin’s brainwashing. And what can be said about the Donbas, when propaganda is given out at every underground station in Kyiv – in free copies of the newspaper Vesti (News). No one can explain the source of its financing... Of course, there are regions which are the most prone to anti-Ukrainian propaganda, because of the array of political, cultural and historic circumstances. This pertains to the Donbas and Crimea first and foremost...
Today, the re-cultivation of the Donbas should lie in cleansing this territory of the rotten local nomenclature. Everyone who cooperated with treasonable elements and all traitors in the environment of the police, court, prosecutor’s office, SBU employees, heads of administrations and their apparatuses, must be relieved of their duties without the right to reinstatement, and brought to justice. After all, they betrayed their civil servant’s oath. The cleaning up of local councils, as well as all other government structures is also necessary, using the same method. People who proved their loyalty to Ukraine at this difficult time should be appointed to all key positions.
There has always been quite an active and constructive pro-Ukrainian minority in the Donbas, which official Kyiv ignored. It did not hear this pro-Ukrainian Donbas, while closely listening to the whims of the anti-Ukrainian one instead, gratifying it with subsidies worth billions of dollars , the total handover of power and responsibilities in the region, and indifference to local policy on ideology and values.
It was with approval from Kyiv, that the Donbas was transformed into a kind of state within a state, with little control from the centre, and the absolute rule of an oligarchic clan over the life and heads of local communities.
Without doubt, the Kyiv-oligarchic leadership in no way tried to create a strategic Kyiv – Donbas axis with the progressive pro-Ukrainian anti-oligarchic forces there. Even now, it is not striving for this, considering it better to flirt (out of habit!) with the inspirers and financiers of the Donbas separatism (see p. 22), diligently guarding their business and income, not causing them any bother. Such policy of force, which is consolidated around Poroshenko – Yatsenyuk, is not only conducted in the Donbas, but also in the rest of the regions (there are concerns that they will have the same result). The most vivid example is that of Kharkiv City Mayor, Hennadiy Kernes, whose position was, and continues to be quite anti-Ukrainian. However, not a single attempt to eliminate this situation, which poses a threat to Kharkiv and the rest of the country, has been seen.
Official Kyiv’s current policy in the Donbas is to reject revolutionary changes (which were already needed yesterday), keep the personnel of Rinat Akhmetov and Oleksandr Yefremov personnel in office and avoid steps directed towards the punishment of traitors. It should be noted that the overall Poroshenko – Yatsenyuk course is reformative rhetoric without any practical transformations, which has already led to a situation where representatives of the previous regime, close to the Yanukovych Family, win court cases against the current government. A joke goes that very soon, a court will rule that Yanukovych was stripped out of his powers illegally and should be reinstated as president. Without decisive changes in Kyiv, it is obvious that nothing will change for the better in the Donbas either, because in an ideological confrontation, there will be no arguments that would lead to a victory there.
And ordinary people in the Donbas and Crimea are far less hopeless than the officials in downtown Kyiv.