Yesterday, gunmen, some without formal insignia on their uniforms, filled the streets of Lugansk city centre as an apparent power struggle broke out in the heart of the Lugansk People’s Republic, one of the two Donbass Republics formed by expressions of popular will in the aftermath of the fascist coup in Kiev, which took place in the winter of 2014.
The proximate cause of the tensions, which thus far have not effected civilian life, is an internal power struggle between Lugansk President Igor Plotnitsky and Interior Minister Igor Kornet.
Plotnitsky had moved to dismiss Kornet from his post and has appeared on television stating that all is calm and that new officials will soon be appointed to replace those who worked closely with Kornet.
Meanwhile, Kornet has stated that he is still very much exercising his duties as Interior Minister while blaming recent tensions on a plot from Kiev to infiltrate the Lugansk People’s Republic, a plot which Kornet seems to be taking credit for both stopping and policing.
Amid rumours that he had fled Lugansk, Plotnitsky has appeared on television yet again to assure the public that he is still in Lugansk and exercising his duties.
Beyond this, nothing else can be confirmed as events remain shrouded in secrecy and social media innuendo.
What can be said though is that the events in Lugansk appear to be symptomatic of the growing pains in a young republic born from war and one which has suffered aggressive attacks from the Kiev regime, virtually every day of its existence.
Any small, young republic that was established without help from international actors, is going to have some difficulty in fully establishing a functional bureaucracy. The fact that Lugansk has been as successful as it has been in doing so, is a testament to the commitment of Lugansk people to their independence and their defensive battle against fascism.
Generally, the political order in Donetsk has been more stable. This is likely due to Donetsk leader Alexander Zakharchenko being both a military and civilian leader. Also, Zakharchenko is a deeply charismatic young leader who has become increasingly iconic, so far as many Donetsk people are concerned.
This isn’t to say that Donetsk has not had its share of growing pains, over and above the frequent attempts at the Kiev regime to sabotage the smooth operating of the bureaucracy in Donetsk. That being said, Igor Plotnitsky in Lugansk is an older and far less charismatic leader, who may lose his position to Igor Kornet.
While media loyal to the Kiev regime has been quick to blame the entire set of events on Russia, a claim Russia has vehemently denied, the struggle exposes the political impotence of Kiev more than anything else. Frankly, such an incident is ripe for direct exploitation from Kiev and there still is the danger that Kiev’s forces and mercenaries may use this a chance to conduct surprise attacks on Lugansk. However, on the whole the Donbass conflict’s lines of control are more or less frozen and have been for much of 2017.
Furthermore, if all Kiev can do is scream “Russia”, when the chaotic events in Lugansk have a clearly ‘do it yourself’ quality to them; it is a further sign that Kiev has essentially admitted its failures in Donbass and that the Republics will continue to conduct their affairs on a clear independent basis, even at a time of internal crisis.