Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

The echo of the blockade

Expert: “The Kremlin strives to divide our nation from inside and make any attempts at domestic integration in Ukraine impossible”
15 March, 2017 - 18:34
Photo from the website MVS.GOV.UA

On Monday, the situation around the so-called blockade of the occupied territories aggravated again. “During counter-diversion operations in the villages of Toretske, Shcherbynivka, and Kurdiumivka in the ATO zone the SBU revealed a group of armed individuals. Overall 43 persons were detained due to their refusal to hand over their weapons to the police,” reports the Anti-Terrorist Center.

In response to this, activists occupied oblast administration buildings in Lutsk and Chernivtsi and rallied in Lviv and Vinnytsia demanding the release of the detained. The latter fact is quite alarming: suffice it to remember that similar seizures of buildings in Kyiv and other cities in the winter of 2014 became a prologue of the Russian occupation of Donbas. The Kremlin dressed it as a domestic conflict and was preparing the soil for seizing buildings in Crimea and the east of Ukraine. And while in Kyiv activists were trying to remove Yanukovych and not to split the nation, in Crimea, Luhansk, and Donetsk the “guerillas” were a cover for Russia’s specific interests as an occupier.

“The dispersing and detentions of participants of the ‘blockade’ of the certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts [Ukrainian abbr. ORDLO. – Ed.] quite predictably evoked a backlash in Lviv,” said Oleh ONYSKO, editor-in-chief at ZAXID.NET. “Some 30 activists of various public and political organizations came to the Lviv Oblast State Administration (LOSA) and were easily able to speak with the LOSA head, Oleh Syniutka. Among the participants of the conversation were also the oblast chief of police Valerii Sereda and SBU oblast director Viktor Andreichuk. The activists demanded that all the detained be released, the LOSA head promised to bring the message over to the leaders of the state. This reaction is expected and probably the most acceptable in this situation, as it is critical to prevent tensions from building up. In general, in Lviv oblast there is a lot of popular support for the ‘blockade’ of trade with the ORDLO in principle. However, the concrete methods of carrying out this blockade and its most iconic characters (like Yehor Soboliev and Semen Semenchenko) are often subject to criticism. Fortunately, everything is happening in a civilized manner: in Lviv there even were no attempts to hold active street protests with burning tires. Most political forces in Lviv oblast are very well aware of the dangers which the situation harbors and are trying to act as careful as possible. Yet the top leadership must also clearly realize the threats and try to find a civilized solution to the situation.

“Given that the war in Donbas has been going on for almost three years and almost every day we receive tragic casualties statistics, the seizure of administrative buildings and provocations around the blockaders create a favorable background for the enemy’s activities at our home front. On the one hand, from the very start of Russia’s aggression there has been a lack of clarity in the government’s actions (why ATO and not war). For instance, it never gave a clear definition of the status of the occupied territories. Until now there has never been a clear-cut explanation for the population as to why Ukrainian enterprises should buy coal and other goods in the occupied territories. At the same time another things are clear: that in the so-called ORDLO the Ukrainian hryvnia is absolutely ousted, the ruble is in circulation, Ukrainian goods have been replaced by Russian, and all of this is generously seasoned with aggressive Russian propaganda.

“On the other hand, certain politicians have been using this situation for their own ends to organize all sorts of provocations and ‘blockades.’ Of course, the Kremlin began to say that Ukraine gives up on Donbas. Meanwhile, the role of law-enforcement authorities in this situation is also not always unambiguous: for instance, in the episode with the dispersing of the blockaders’ checkpoint in Kryvyi Torets. However, one can only sympathize with the police, since formally the blockaders indeed act outside the limits of law. And now they demand resignations of the SBU Director Vasyl Hrytsak, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, and chief of the National Police in Donetsk Oblast Viacheslav Abroskin. The latter insists that the detained threatened law enforcers with weapons and chainsaws. The website of the National Police in Donetsk Oblast reports that 5 of the 43 detained men have a previous criminal record.”

“My opinion of the ‘blockade’ is that its goals are fair, but the methods of its realization are destructive,” said MP Dmytro TYMCHUK in his comment to The Day. “The blockade should be initiated by the government and it must be done within legal framework through state structures and mechanisms. When activists assume this function, even with the best of intentions, it is hard to justify: our goal is the rule of law, isn’t it? One positive effect of the blockade, in my opinion, is that it triggered a discussion around this problem, and it must stimulate the government to pass relevant legal decisions. I have co-authored a draft law on occupied territories initiated by Oksana Syroid. This draft law stipulates a total blockade of the occupied territories including Crimea. Unfortunately, the draft has not yet made it to the session hall of the parliament even though it was completely finished past December. Now we are developing another draft on the basis of all the arguments used in the ongoing discussion. His principal difference from Syroid’s draft is that it stipulates a total blockade after the completion of certain steps. Namely, the Cabinet of Ministers gets a deadline to develop a plan for diversification of supplies now coming from the ORDLO, which have a strategic importance for Ukraine’s energy sector and economy in general. I mean anthracite. Besides, the draft provides a de-occupation plan. Now the Cabinet is bending the truth saying that it is a matter of Russia’s ‘effective control’ rather than occupation. Effective control is nothing other than occupation, so why not call a spade a spade?

“What concerns the seizure of administrative buildings by activists, I totally agree that this is inadmissible. The experience of 2014 teaches that the Russian Federation uses such developments to its advantage. A law-governed state cannot have double standards, that is why we cannot say that when pro-Russian scum seized buildings, it was bad, but when the same is done by patriots, it is good. People who consider themselves patriots and strive for the unity of the nation must realize that such actions bring them over the boundaries and help promote provocations by certain forces.”

“The blockaders’ actions are nothing short of sabotage,” according to Oleksandr KIKHTENKO, former head of the Donetsk Military-Civilian Administration. “A handful of individuals calling themselves ‘heroes of ATO’ undermine the work of authorities and the functioning of Ukrainian enterprises. I do not see anything heroic in that. In the conditions of war this can be qualified as sabotaging at the home front and undermining our defense capacities. Of course, the Interior Ministry must react adequately. For this, no violent dispersion is necessary, it should be enough to cut the blockaders’ access to those who finances them and provides them with victuals, fuel and so on. Disguised as patriots and war veterans are agents who virtually are fighting against Ukraine and are effectively playing into Russia’s hands. Russia’s goal is to divide our nation from inside and make any attempts at domestic integration in Ukraine impossible. Some Self Reliance MPs have openly said that Donbas is a cancer tumor in Ukraine’s body. I am strongly against such a view and such logic. What is going on now can have irreparable consequences. Illegal methods will never help achieve a noble goal. Moreover, we have the sad experience of 2014, when the aggressor used the Maidan practice of seizing administrative buildings and police precincts, complete with weapon stocks etc. What do we see now? The occupier state seized one owner’s enterprises. These enterprises had been paying taxes to fill Ukraine’s budget and ensured smooth work of entire industries. Those who think that the separatist fighters used the money from coal trade to buy tanks are wrong. Not the mines but Russia is the chief sponsor of the fighters. Thus the ‘blockade’ will never reach the goal set by its organizers. For instance, Semenchenko said that the blockade aims at getting our POWs released. No one is going to release them thanks to the ‘blockade.’ This is done in a totally different way. Moreover, the intensity of hostilities has only increased. For us, however, this involves a risk of collapse of metallurgy. If the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant stops, our Avdiivka will be cut off from heating and electricity supply.

“Moreover, let us also not forget how Europe looks at the blockade. The Red Cross is against it. The international community could simply turn its back on us if it appears that the country is being run by obscure forces.”

By Valentyn TORBA, The Day, Tetiana KOZYRIEVA, Lviv