Fundamental shifts in Ukrainian politics are being accompanied by a certain revival in ORDILO. In the leadership of the so-called republics (real, not nominal), they also seem to have permutations. And although, unlike Ukrainian politics, all the processes in the occupied territories take place behind the scenes, very secretively and non-transparently, some information nevertheless comes to the surface.
Rumors of a change in the Russian curators of the “republics” have long been circulating in the media and popular Telegram channels. But now they seem to be becoming a reality. Several sources have at once reported that instead of Vladislav Surkov, who was patronizing various unrecognized entities, which Moscow had spawned in the post-Soviet states, the former Russian Ambassador to Belarus, Mikhail Babich, would be the curator of Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republic (LDPR).
This information had appeared in the media before, but attention was paid to it only after Babic’s scandalous dismissal from the post of ambassador. He worked in Minsk for less than a year, but was remembered by a number of outrageous and distinctly boorish statements addressed to the Belarusian authorities. And they, of course, refused to deal with such an ambassador. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said that the Russian ambassador "does not see any difference between a Russian federal district and an independent state." This statement aroused the enthusiasm of the Russian nationalists, but Putin nevertheless had to make concessions and withdraw the excessively “industrious” official.
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It is clear that after the scandals in Belarus, Babich's authority in the eyes of the Russian Imperials has grown substantially. And his possible appearance in the hypostasis of the curator of LDPR was greeted by the Red-Browns with joy. They say it would be good for Babich to treat the “people's republics” as if they were Russian federal districts. But emotions, as often happens with this category of citizens, have left logic and common sense behind. Few of them thought that, in fact, Babich’s policy in Belarus turned out to be just as “constructive” as all Russian chauvinism. Loud and boorish statements, that delighted the rabble, actually caused damage and only worsened relations between the countries. And such methods are unlikely to be effective in the future.
Moscow has not yet announced a new area of focus for Babich, but various sources confirm that he is already working with the so-called republics. “The Kremlin has not officially confirmed Babich’s work in Ukraine. However, he is already working at LDPR. [He is] checking, assessing the situation, holding closed meetings and consultations. As a result, there will be further personnel and political decisions,” commented on the information on Babich’s supervision Aleksandr Zhuchkovsky, a well-known militant of the DPR.
In social networks, they are already announcing the purges in the leadership of the “republics” and express the hope that Babich will begin to fight with an iron hand against the rampant looting and robbery (I can’t bring myself to call it “corruption”) in ORDILO. However, given the fact that theft has long been the national idea of the Russian Federation itself and is encouraged by the “elite”, Donbas is unlikely to see any changes in this. After all, Babich is also not an independent figure; he is just another cog in the corrupt and rusted mechanism of the Russian authorities.
However, the long-term curator of LDPR Vladislav Surkov, too, has not gone anywhere yet and, obviously, he is not going to completely leave. At least now he is showing his presence in every way. A few days ago, he met Denis Pushilin, the figurehead of the DPR, in Rostov-on-Don, where they attended a mixed martial arts tournament, sat side by side on the stands and eagerly took pictures. However, Pushilin, remaining Surkov’s man, in fact, seems to have little effect on the situation. Unlike the late Oleksandr Zakharchenko, who together with his associate Timofeev “Tashkent” actually controlled the situation on the territory entrusted to him, Pushilin makes predominantly demonstration performances: he gives speeches, plays the guitar and voices regular statements. The real power is concentrated in the hands of those who control the economic block of ORDILO, therefore the so-called Prime Minister Oleksandr Ananchenko is actually more influential than Pushilin in the DPR. And, it seems, Mikhail Babich will supervise him and his people from now on. Surkov, according to reports from ORDILO, will not completely leave his business, but his weight will not be the same as before.
Still, whoever the new curator may be, he is clearly not the one who will determine the Russian policy towards Ukraine and the occupied territories. No matter how happy Russian national patriots are about Babich’s imperial creed, he, like Surkov, will not take strategic decisions on his own, but will implement what Putin and his coterie will order. And the general line on the Donbas after the arrival of the new government in Ukraine may also change. It is no secret that the Russian leadership is counting on a reboot of relations and the revitalization of negotiations on the occupied areas of the Donbas reintegration (of course, on the terms of Moscow). And if the new Ukrainian government is ready to make concessions and legalize the occupation of the Donbas in the form of any autonomy, Russia will willingly contribute to this. And then all the imperial fervor of Babich will evaporate sharply and he will speak in the same vein in which the representatives of the Russian authorities have spoken for the last five years that Donbas is the territory of Ukraine, and the “republics” will not be recognized.
Today, the LDPR curators (obviously, within the limits of flirting with the new Ukrainian government) are already trying to launch a line for reintegration into Ukraine. Evidence of this is a flash mob, unprecedented in the previous five years. Residents of ORDiLO (mostly dependent state employees and students) are forced to write down an appeal to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asking for autonomy for DPR and LPR within Ukraine. It was impossible to imagine this before. Starting from 2014, the militant official narrative constantly emphasized that there could be no return to Ukraine, and the same dependent state employees were driven out to the streets with posters "We don’t want to work for Ukraine." But now the tonality has changed dramatically, residents of the Donbas got an order to no longer demand “returning to their native harbor”, but autonomy within Ukraine.
On this occasion, the militants hastily created a special site, Donbas Choice, on which allegedly the population of certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts can sign an appeal to Zelenskiy: “We, Donbas residents, demand the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to stop shelling our homes! We demand to return the pension to people! We demand to give us the right to speak our native Russian! We demand amnesty for all parties to the conflict! Give us the opportunity to develop our economy! Let our police protect us! We demand autonomy for the Donbas!”
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Voting on the site is nothing but a showcase. It is enough for the user to simply enter their name and city of residence in the form, as well as upload the photo. Anyone who wishes can enter any data regardless of place of residence. Among the “signers” you can already see photos of porn actors, as well as random people, who “voted” without their knowledge. For instance, the mayor of Severodonetsk Valentyna Kazakova. So we can witness another imitation.
Taking into consideration that without the consent of the above nothing of the kind could appear in the occupied territories, there is no doubt that the “leaders” ordered the “activists” to ask to return in Ukraine. It is still unclear to what extent all these actions are serious. Perhaps it’s just about sounding public opinion or some ritual curtsey towards the new Ukrainian president. While the appeal to the Ukrainian authorities with requests for autonomy does not come from officials, but from odd “activists”, it is always possible to demonstratively distance from such initiatives and assume that nothing has happened.
So, it's too early to make any conclusions about current events. The only thing that can be said precisely is that the Kremlin didn’t plan to take away ORDILO, as well as it doesn’t plan this now. It will continue to use the occupied regions of the Donbas exclusively as a modest coin in confrontation with the West and the Ukrainian authorities. Therefore, those who very much enjoyed the issuance of Russian passports and perceived it almost as recognition of “republics”, are going to get once again frustrated with the Russian leader.