The Russian Interfax news agency is reporting that Boris Gryzlov, Russia’s point man in the Ukrainian conflict, has today issued a warning to Kiev that Russia will take unspecified action unless the coal blockade is lifted.
This follows warnings from Moscow that Russia will not allow a humanitarian catastrophe in the Donbass and from the authorities of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics that they will enact a wholesale nationalisation of all Ukrainian owned plants and businesses within the Republics’ territories on 1st March 2017 unless the blockade is lifted.
The major loser from such a nationalisation decree would be the Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov whose steel plant in Ukrainian controlled Mariupol is now said to be in crisis because of lack of the necessary supplies of coal.
Possibly in response to these warnings from Moscow the Ukrainian government is convening a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue of the transportation of goods from the Donbass. Whether in light of the Ukrainian government’s inability to take any action against those behind the blockade up to now the meeting will change anything is another matter.
The coal blockade looks like an attempt to provoke the Russians into accelerating the integration of the two People’s Republics into the Russian economy. The idea seems to be to use this as an excuse to talk up once again the claims of “Russian aggression” and to demand on the strength of that that the sanctions against Russia be continued or even increased.
It is a typically over-complicated strategy of the sort sections of the Maidan leadership have repeatedly come up with, which in the meantime is further devastating Ukraine’s economy, and which – like the previous fighting in Avdeevka – will fail to achieve the objective those behind it have set themselves.