Ukrainian agents, corruption haunt situation in Lugansk

Ukrainian agents, corruption haunt situation in Lugansk

Breaking news has been coming in from the capital of the Lugansk People’s Republic. Since this morning, the center of Lugansk has been swarmed by armed men in uniforms without insignia, and the administration building of the LPR has been blocked off. This operation, as it turns out, is connected to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Igor Kornet, who was supposedly dismissed on November 20th on the order of the head of the LPR, Igor Plotnitsky.

Today, however, Kornet announced that he had in fact not left his post and, moreover, that he had ordered the arrest of a number of senior officials. According to Kornet, last night he presented LPR head Igor Plotnitsky with materials exposing the involvement of a number of senior officials in “criminal activities detrimental to the republic and the people of the Lugansk region,” after which he ordered the arrests of the General Director of GTRK (State Television and Radio Company), Anastasia Shurkaeva, the head of Plotnitsky’s administration, Irina Teytsman, as well as the chief of government security under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Evgeniy Selivertsov.

The arrested persons, according to Kornet, were working on Ukrainian instructions, the aim of this group and other Ukrainian agents of influence being eliminating power rivals and purging the republic’s leadership of those in favor of a decisive and uncompromising fight against Nazi Ukraine.

Earlier today, I asked my contacts and friends in the Lugansk People’s Republic to provide their comments on the ongoing events. They confirmed the reports that were available then, i.e., those made by Kornet and official LPR media. According to my sources, numerous violations of the law had indeed been perpetrated by certain officials in collusion with their Ukrainian patrons. In particular, this concerns the LPR Prosecutor’s Office’s hiring of several employees from Ukraine’s Prosecutor’s Office.

This is not the first time that corruption and espionage scandals have shaken the republic. In October 2015, the then head of the LPR Ministry of State Security (MGB), Leonid Pasechnik, ordered the arrest of the Minister of Fuel and Energy, Dmitry Lyamin, over suspicion of the illegal sale of coal to Ukraine. According to the MGB, from January to September 2015, Lyamin had illegally sold more than 3.3 million tons of coal to Ukraine, which is more than 88% of the total coal produced and processed in the republic. The MGB estimated the damage caused by the minister’s actions to amount to 350 million rubles. Within several days, however, Lyamin was released on the personal order of Plotnitsky, and MGB head Pasechnik was dismissed.

In September 2016, my sources in the republic supplied me with insight into the real underpinnings of the “coup” alleged to be underway, parts of which were published by Fort Russ. Today’s statement by the Ministry of Internal Affairs reads similarly to the one from then: “As a result [of a coup d’etat], ex-Prime Minister [of the Lugansk People’s Republic] Gennady Nikolaevich Tsypkalov was killed and the deputy commander of the People’s Militia of the LPR, Vitaly Kiselev, was sentenced to a long prison term.” Tsypkalov’s murder was initially framed as a suicide – he allegedly hanged himself in his cell. We now know that Tsypkalov was beaten during interrogation and then hanged. This strongman, who was one of the founding figures of the LPR, never would have committed suicide.

According to Kornet, the officials among the higher leadership of the LPR arrested on Plotnitsky’s orders were behind this mock coup d’etat and Tsypkalov’s murder.

At the moment, conflicting information on the events in Lugansk continues to come in. Therefore, it is worth waiting before rushing to conclusions or making forecasts. What we can say now, however, is that in numerous articles for Fort Russ and The Greanville Post, we have repeatedly pointed out the negative, sometimes revolting instances of statecraft in the republics of Donbass, a point which is partially due to the infection of the Ukrainian experience of statehood. The situation in the LPR is particularly deplorable in this regard.

I just returned from a several-day trip to the Donetsk People’s Republic, on the experience of which I’m currently preparing a lengthy article. In a nutshell, I can say that the situation in the DPR is not impervious to criticism, but, first of all, the republic is developing and the standard of living is higher than in Ukraine despite the war and mass destruction, and secondly, the same cannot be said about the much smaller LPR. For example, roads in the DPR are equivalent to the best Russian standards (at least the central highway from Donetsk to the Russian border), the republic’s industrial enterprises are regularly running, and new factories are being opened. These are real achievements in light of the war. This is not the case in the LPR, where the state of roads (or what’s left of them) has not changed since the battles of 2014. No industrial plants in the LPR have been churning, and only talks of launching the first factory are underway.

In light of recent events, perhaps the backwardness of the Lugansk People’s Republic might in large part be due to the presence of a strong network of Ukrainian agents of influence hindering the development of the LPR. This is but one possibility. There are still many questions for the head of the republic himself, Igor Plotnitsky. For now, follow Fort Russ for further updates.

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