Rostislav Ishchenko: After Poroshenko…

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


“The Minsk Agreements are dead,” said Avakov. Gerashchenko, who spoke after him, stated that they also were never born, like saying: all of this is a great Ukrainian deception.

Avakov is a bandit, but Avakov is a politician. Gerashchenko is a servant-jester of a bandit, who already for a long time felt like an independent clown. That’s why Avakov’s statements are extrapolated into the future. It’s not important whether we love him or not, we will be obliged to reckon with his vision of the future, because he has a defined (vanishingly small in global measurements, but considerable in the scale of Ukraine) resource, allowing him to influence for some time the formatting of the future.

Gerashchenko’s speeches satisfy the need for supporting propaganda of the most marginal – in the social plan – and intellectually limited layers of the Maidan public.

In general, the cannon fodder of Maidan can be put into three categories. The euro-integrated “intellectuals”, like Evgenya Bilchenko. These ones understood long ago that Maidan was a lie from the very beginning. But, firstly, such clever persons are few, and secondly, besides the naive girl Bilchenko, nobody wants to have problems in that open-air cage full of wild monkeys that they turned the country into – that’s why those who begun to see clearly are silent. And thirdly, even these ones – the cleverest – still didn’t understand that the deception of Maidan was created by themselves, because the very idea of Ukrainian European integration was initially false.

The union of euro-romantics with nazis, oligarchs, bandits, and corrupt officials was caused by the fact that without the support of nazis, bandits, oligarchs, and corrupt officials euro-romantics weren’t able to embody their euro-dream – within the framework of normal democratic procedures society successfully resisted it. In turn, euro-romantics created ideological cover for bandits and nazis in the form of the declared desire to acquaint citizens of Ukraine with liberal values and European wellbeing.

The second category – the usual Kiev provincial intellectuals, who, in connection with the change of the State status of Ukraine, suddenly felt its capital character and were puzzled by this fact since they were never a part of it (because this category wasn’t intended for this purpose). The people selected to broadcast and popularise the imperial meanings created by others wanted to become the creators of imperial meanings, adapting them to the fragment of the empire that remained in their hands. These ones understood that Maidan brought them not where it had to, that they found themselves in the kingdom of distorted mirrors. But, owing to their limitations, they don’t trace the sources of the lie reigning around the ideas of Maidan. For these ones Maidan – as a testimony of their ability to decide the destiny of the country – is infallible in the same way that the idea of European integration – as an aspiration to the bright future of all mankind – is infallible for the first category.

Lastly, there is a third category. It is those who were employed to sit in tents, to throw some stones and Molotov cocktails, and then also to do some shooting (both on Maidan and in Donbass). They don’t see problems in general. From their point of view events develop in the necessary direction, but too slowly, because not all “very clever” persons (who doesn’t agree with them or who they don’t understand) are killed. They wait for when at last it will be possible without feeling shame to kill everyone who looks intelligent (not especially those who don’t agree, just simply if they don’t please), when the freedom of the first hours after the February coup of 2014 will return to them, and when they symbolise power everywhere where they manage to expand it to.

And it is precisely this third category that Gerashchenko was speaking to. Maidan intellectuals belonging to the second category, which already realised that things won’t become good any time soon, nevertheless in general believe in the future victory over Russia and in the possibility of establishing correct authorities. But over time this category is being washed away, partly (having elevated themselves to being able to make generalisations and understanding that everything is lost) by migration (mainly to the West, but those who can’t find a place also go to Russia), but in the process of impoverishment the biggest part rolls down into the category of militant Maidan marginality, thus expanding Gerashchenko’s audience.

So although externally it seems that Gerashchenko in this case partially opposes Avakov (after all, if the Minsk Agreements are dead, then they had to be once alive, and if they were initially deception, then there is nothing that can die), in reality this isn’t so. Avakov declares political meanings, and Gerashchenko translates them into the language of the marginality. But they mean the same thing: soon it will be possible to kill.

And even though this concerns the Minsk Agreements – i.e., formally Avakov’s statements and their interpretation by Gerashchenko bear a threat to Donbass, in reality these statements are caused by intra-Ukrainian problems and directed towards their solution.

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What are the Minsk Agreements from the point of view of the global game? They are the recognition by the signatories of the deadlock position that developed on the Ukrainian board (which is one of the many boards that the game is being played on). The West, being in this existing group, couldn’t continue to further stage an offensive, because a real threat of a direct military confrontation with Russia appeared. The Crimean operation, although it took place without the use of weapons, had a distinct military character and showed that Russia won’t recede before the threat of a military conflict. In turn, Russia could not switch to a counterattack because the political-economic means of influencing the situation were exhausted, and the military format (at the rather moderate risk of receiving a similar response from the West, which could be neglected) was guaranteed to lead to the overstraining of the economic opportunities of the country and a loss in the global game in exchange for a piece of the ruined territory, with a considerable percentage of the disloyal population.

In these conditions the sides tried to return to the initial boundaries (with some – Crimea – amendments) and to begin the game anew. Poroshenko in Minsk was given the chance, being guided by the international-legal document cementing the corresponding obligations of Ukraine, to ennoble his regime, having got rid of the armed nazis who were let out on the streets. The full implementation of the Minsk demands would return the Ukrainian authorities to the format of the times of Yushchenko-Yanukovych, with one serious amendment: the country had to be re-established on a federal basis. In such a way the problem of Crimea would be resolved (which simply wouldn’t enter into the newly-created federation) and also the possibility of a new capture of all Ukraine according to the Maidan scenario (due to the establishment of control over the central power). The redistribution of powers in favor of federal lands would simply enclose Ukrainian nationalism in the Galician reserve. Even Kiev (as the capital) would lose value for nationalists, because it wouldn’t provide domination over the South-eastern territories.

If after this the West still had the desire to fight for influence in Ukraine, it could be possible to start the game anew, in political, diplomatic, and financial-economic formats. But, as we remember, in the Minsk Agreements (as well as in the Normandy Format) from the West only the European Union participated. The main geopolitical player on the opposite side of the board (the US) preferred to keep their hands free.

Until the end of 2015 – the beginning of 2016 Washington still considered that it had enough strength to win in Ukraine and in Syria. Or, as minimum, to win Syria, due to the preservation of the Ukrainian deadlock position. Therefore Poroshenko didn’t receive sufficient western support for the implementation of Minsk. While the preservation of the dominating nazi factor in the Ukrainian policy didn’t allow him (however he himself was afraid to make such an attempt) to use the Russian factor in his favor.

As a result, by the end of 2016 – the beginning of 2017 the leaders of the EU, being convinced of Poroshenko’s helplessness in implementing the Minsk Agreements, lost interest in him, gradually giving preference to a format of direct negotiations with Russia on a stage-by-stage settlement of the accumulated problems. By this same time the position of the US in the Middle East seriously weakened, and the Syrian game transitioned into an end-game, in which Russia had such a clear advantage that nobody doubted anymore – the ability of Moscow to bring the game to the final victory.

In the changed global state of affairs the almost-handed-over Ukrainian pawn gained some value for Washington. It already couldn’t defend it any more, but maintained the hope to exchange it for something substantial – for some positional concession of Moscow, which would allow to equilibrate the situation at the higher level of the game (in the general geopolitical game).

The situation that developed in Ukraine was favourable for the American strategy. After the West stopped giving Poroshenko its support, the Maidan opposition – in which practically all Ukrainian oligarchy and radical nationalists united – unfolded the fight for the early removal of Petro Poroshenko. Already in the early spring of 2016 Tymoshenko demanded early parliamentary elections, the moment of victory of which had to become the snatching of power by her. Other political forces gradually joined this demand, and by the middle of 2017 it began to develop into the demand for the President’s dismissal and early presidential and parliamentary elections.

The final victory of the opposition was braked only by one red-line condition – the West refused to recognise the new coup, understanding that external legitimation of the new authorities will be almost impossible, and that Russia’s space for manoeuvre in the Ukrainian field will significantly expand. In turn, Poroshenko, knowing that there won’t be a forceful option, refused to leave in a voluntary and amicable way.

A diarchy developed in Ukraine (in practice, maybe even a nonarchy, but we consider only large groups – Poroshenko and the collective opposition – significant from the point of view of the global game), which gradually, but very slowly moved in favour of the opposition. The opposition could either seize power by force (which the West directly forbade) or still wait very longly for that moment when its advantage will become so obvious that Poroshenko’s consent or refusal to leave will already mean nothing – it will be possible to remove him legitimately, within the framework of the impeachment procedure.

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The Presidential elections of 2019 appeared to be a critical point. It was clear that nobody will give up power voluntarily, no matter how the people voted. The power resource was necessary both for the protection of the results of voting (which the same power resource would provide during calculation) and for the opponent to admit defeat under compulsion. An open confrontation would be dangerous for both sides. That’s why the crisis needed to be solved before the elections.

It is precisely at this moment that the US showed tactical interest in Ukraine. In order to hand Kiev over to Moscow in exchange for serious concessions, it was necessary to stir inside Russia interest in an urgent settlement of the Ukrainian situation. But Moscow was able to wait quietly. After the settlement of the Syrian crisis in its favour, the general global situation changed so strongly that the domination of Russia in the region of Eastern Europe and the Balkans was established irrespective of the desires not only of Washington, Brussels, and the local capitals, but even irrespective of the desire of Moscow. This is like sunrise, which doesn’t depend on whether the rooster crowed or not. How it happens we see now in the Middle East, where the Kremlin isn’t able to beat off requests to place a base on the territory of another State, and the queue for S-400 will soon be reminiscent of a queue for Finnish boots in GUM at the time of the USSR.

Thus, Washington needed to activate the sluggish Ukrainian internal political crisis, to give a dramatic nature to the fight and to accelerate the approach of an outcome. In this case Russia had to understand that it won’t be able to fully deal with Syria before the explosion in Ukraine. Moreover, the acceleration of Ukrainian events led to the fact that local problems could be supplanted on the 2018 presidential electoral campaign in Russia. It is clear that it wouldn’t cancel Putin’s victory, but it would bring a new problem in the scope of the electoral campaign. In turn, the actualisation of the problem during presidential elections would have a considerable impact on public consciousness, and this would limit the Russian authorities’ possibility to manoeuvre in the Ukrainian direction after the elections.

It is precisely for the sake of accelerating processes and making them more dynamic that Saakashvili appeared in Ukraine, who arrived allegedly to defend his right for citizenship in court, but in reality he was immediately engaged in overthrowing Poroshenko. It is also for this reason that the reactivation of Kolomoisky was done in Geneva, who not only has a bone to pick with Poroshenko and a desire to get revenge for the humiliation of March, 2015, but also unlimited financial opportunities to implement his plans.

Nothing changed in Kiev externally. Poroshenko can’t disperse and jail the opposition (the US forbids it), but the opposition also can’t take by storm the building of the Presidential Administration (the US forbids it). Only the dynamics of ongoing processes accelerated. Roughly speaking, everything happens quicker than it would if events had developed by themselves. If in 2014-2015 the development of the intra-Ukrainian standoff was artificially inhibited by the Americans, then at this stage they considered accelerating it to be useful.

They certainly understand that processes in Kiev came already rather far and that their repeated inhibition (and also in conditions where France and Germany withdrew themselves from the Ukrainian problem, and Eastern Europeans inflate the crisis, hoping to profit from the disintegration of Ukraine) is impossible. But, obviously, Washington considered that its arguments will be convincing enough for Russia, or perhaps they simply didn’t see another exit from the critical geopolitical situation that they herded themselves into.

Several meetings between Surkov and Volker, and also Putin’s refusal to hold a meeting with Trump without an accurately designated agenda, showed that Moscow wasn’t impressed by the possibility of another Ukrainian coup, which for sure will develop into Makhnovshchina. Most likely the Kremlin considered that the US exaggerates its possibilities to influence the situation in Ukraine, that’s why even if some compromise arrangement is reached, they won’t be able to implement their part. Moreover, the descending of the situation in Ukraine into Makhnovshchina has been obvious for the last three years, and was inevitable immediately after the coup of February, 2014. That’s why the Kremlin had to consider it within the framework of medium-term planning and to develop actions to minimise its negative consequences, taking into account all possible outcomes.

I think that it’s not a coincidence that Volker recently gave a heartfelt interview about his difficulties during negotiations with Moscow, in which he foggily designated the end of December either as the date of his next meeting with Surkov or as a deadline after which negotiations become senseless.

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Indeed, as of January the electoral campaign in Russia enters into its final (active) stage. If to skip ahead of this moment, after the elections the Kiev crisis will be much less actual for the Kremlin – the President will have six years ahead of him to solve any problems. Saakashvili stated that on December 3rd he starts the procedure of the “people’s impeachment” of Poroshenko, and promised to finish the overthrow process of “this speculator” before New year.

In light of the aforementioned, Avakov’s statement about the “death of Minsk” corresponds very well with the general scheme of events in Kiev. Minsk is Poroshenko – “president-peacekeeper”, the “human face” of the bloody regime, which is allegedly trying to stop war (while he is both prevented and not prevented from doing this). The death of Minsk means that Poroshenko isn’t necessary any more. The possibilities for the peaceful “return of Donbass” are exhausted, Poroshenko’s policy of “conspiring with the aggressor” failed. Now other people have to come to the proscenium who initially supported the forceful option. I recall that People’s Front, and also Avakov personally, with Yatsenyuk and Turchynov, make up the team of hawks demanding war even not with Donbass, but with Russia.

In turn, Gerashchenko’s statement (that Minsk was initially a deception), aiming to mobilise the nazi-bandit marginality under banners of “saviors of the nation” from the “agent of the Kremlin” Poroshenko, obtains an international character. Since nobody disproved him, Kiev admitted that it initially deceived not the DPR/LPR, not Moscow, but Paris and Berlin, which connected their strategic plans to the Minsk Agreements.

If Poroshenko even had any hopes for external (non-American) support, the “death of Minsk” – which was “a deception” – must definitively bury these hopes. But he indeed had these hopes. Medvedchuk, who came tearing along to Putin and agreed about an exchange of prisoners, never acts without coordination. His trip had to be authorised by Poroshenko. This is indirectly confirmed by its result. An exchange of prisoners in the format “all for all” is one of the points of Minsk. And this is the only point that both sides could start implementing without moving from the earlier declared positions. In fact, the Kremlin presented to Poroshenko almost the last opportunity to show that Minsk started working.

Judging by the moods dominating in Kiev, Poroshenko almost has no chance to use this gift. At least, real negotiations haven’t yet begun – the Ukrainian side hasn’t provided an exchange list, but time passes.

In turn, the recent speech of Ekhanurov, in which he demanded to carry out ethnic cleansing in Donbass, having expelled to Russia (to Siberia) all those who are discontent with the Ukrainian order and deprived the rest of their civil rights, is striking evidence that in Kiev even the most moderate politicians place a stake on radicals. Of course, all of this can be an attempt by the US to strengthen the pressure on Moscow, for the purpose of forcing it to take a more concessional position in negotiations. But, nevertheless, it looks more like the start of the preparatory stage of Poroshenko’s overthrow using the hands of the “indignant people”. When revolt “suddenly” breaks out, politicians will say: “It has nothing to do with us. It happened just by itself”.

Anyway, each following step towards the radicalisation of the Ukrainian standoff reduces the space of accessible decisions, consolidating them into one: “Who will eat who?”. Having pushed a little stone from the mountain, it is easy to cause an avalanche, but if is starts to rush, it is almost impossible to stop.

Does Poroshenko stand a chance of keeping power? Whilst at least someone continues to obey him, there will always be this chance. To prevent any coup it is always sufficient to arrest, intern, or kill some tens (at most – a couple of hundreds) of key figures. If there are two dozen guards, it’s sufficient. And even then, at night it’s minimised, and according to the Ukrainian tradition, nothing bad is expected. Only 300-400 people can solve the problem of controlling Kiev, 2000 can decapitate mutiny across all of Ukraine.

It is only necessary to decide on it, understanding that, firstly, it is possible to lose (then you will be killed), and, secondly, that the quelling of the current creeping mutiny will become a prelude to the next one, the organisers of which will be far from the developed rules of Ukrainian politics, and will spit on the opinion of the ambassadors of the US and the EU. This is this same marginality nurtured by Gerashchenko, which still isn’t allowed to live a fully-fledged life – to completely indulge in the passion for robberies and murders. But these humanoids won’t need anymore either Poroshenko, Avakov, Tymoshenko, Kolomoisky, Saakashvili, the “intellectuals of Maidan” – with pale faces, four foreign languages, and five higher educations, “euro-integrators”, nor even Gerashchenko himself. All of them are “ideological guys”, so it means that they will plunder everything.

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