I agree with the main thrust of Alexander Mercouris’ analysis of the counterproductive nature of Kiev’s blockade of the Donbass.
The blockade severs lingering economic links with Ukraine while raising the impetus to accelerate integration with Russia, puts at risk the recent strong Ukrainian economic recovery, and as Mercouris emphasizes, and top off all the zradas, it doesn’t even attract the Western attention that it once did in the pre-Trump era
However, whatever else he might be, Poroshenko is not stupid, and it would be surprising that he would set out on this course of his own free will.
The reality is that the far right militants carrying out the coal blockade are not in any real sense controlled by Kiev, and they often act in ways directly contrary to its interests – for instance, their absolute opposition to the Minsk Accords, to which official Kiev at least pays lip service. What is even more interesting, though, is that the rumor mill is near unanimous that they are controlled by the Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoysky.
Kolomoysky has always had big political ambitions – too big, at any rate, for his own real but ultimately limited level of power and influence. The privatization of Privatbank last December was viewed as a knockout blow against him. However, he does have a surfeit of armed men on his payroll – even in the West, his name has become tightly associated with mercenary battalions – and ample reasons to strike back against Poroshenko.
First, there is just the understandable personal yearning for revenge. Kolomoysky has a very big ego, and it must absolutely grate on him to have been so thoroughly cut down to size by Poroshenko.
Second, his actions – and especially the reactions to them – come at the expense of Rinat Akhmetov, who is a Poroshenko ally but retains the bulk of his assets in the Donbass (there are persistent rumors that the decision not to take an undefended Mariupol in 2014-15 was informed by the need to maintain an internationally recognized port through which his enterprises could continue exporting). Now the great bulk of Akhmetov’s enterprises are getting nationalized by the LDNR, severing one of the last great chains that bound it to Ukraine.
Third, it appears that Kolomoysky has crafted an alliance with fellow Dnepropetrovsk native Yulia Tymoshenko, who has returned from the political dead to become Ukraine’s highest polling politician – not exactly a high bar, of course, but a major threat to the Poroshenko government, and especially his weak PM, Vladimir Groysman, should this crisis trigger new Rada elections.
In short, an impressive array of different interests and political forces – Kolomoysky’s, Tymoshenko, and armed Ukrainian nationalism – have converged on a “solution” that satisfies their common interests. I believe it also happens to be very bad for Poroshenko and the Maidan regime in general, and consequently, very good for the LDNR, the Novorossiya idea, and ultimately, Russia.
The Kremlin’s vascillating and ambiguous policies towards the Donbass has been a constant source of anxiety and depression both to its long-suffering people, forced to endure three years and counting of fighting and shelling, and to the supporters of Novorossiya in Ukraine, Russia, and abroad.
However, the anarchic realities of Ukrainian clan politics and the uncompromising maximalism of its armed nationalists have yet again come to the rescue, preventing Poroshenko from making even cosmetic moves towards federalization that would give the Kremlin the justification to move ahead with “shoving back” the LDNR into Ukraine.
Long may the liberum veto of the Ukrainian oligarchs continue!