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‘Kiev envisions regional feuds ruled by oligarchs with private armies’

Published time: April 24, 2014 03:52
Rinat Akhmetov.(RIA Novosti / Irina Aleksandrova)

​Kiev's vision of democracy – creating a feudal state with regions under full control of oligarchs using their power over local jobs and salaries to suppress any kind of popular unrest – is backfiring, international relations expert Mark Sleboda told RT.

RT: The protests in Eastern Ukraine are not dying down – is there a particular sector of society that is driving them or where is this phenomenon coming from?

Mark Sleboda: Up to this point I would say that protests across the east and south Ukraine have been a good cross section of the society. Certainly the most active members have been a number of the ex-Berkut riot police officers, military veterans, particularly from Afghanistan and a number of police.

But a new phenomenon has emerged that one of the most important working sectors, working class industries of the eastern Ukraine, the miners have begun to participate in protests in increasing numbers. In Donetsk we saw about 200 join the protest many of them quitting their jobs in order to do so. As the oligarchs that the regime in Kiev has imposed to control the area have been threatening to fire their workers if they participate in the rallies. And just most recently, within the last two days the protests have broken out in the city of Krasnodon in the Lugansk region.

Miners have gone on strike and taken control of the local mining facilities and have started building barricades. And one of their first demands which was since increased was the reinstatement of 30 miners who have been fired for joining nearby rallies in support of this anti-putsch movement.

RT: The eastern part of Ukraine is known as the industrial area, what kind of unique challenges or conflict does it present for authorities in Kiev if the strikes and protests continue?

MS: The majority of Ukraine's exports come from the east Ukraine. In many ways it is the real bread winner of the Ukraine in terms of industry. It has a large metals and mining industry and it also has a large defense sector industry which is intrinsically locked together with the Russian defense sector. In particular this mining industry which is starting to come forth, it employs about 500,000 people throughout the region, it provides about 15 percent of the country's GDP and coal alone is 30 percent of Ukraine's energy consumption. Therefore if this unrest continues and this regime that has taken power in Kiev is not able to control this region, both in terms of economics and in terms of energy, would make it almost impossible for this regime to last very long.

RT: So shouldn't Kiev do everything it can to keep control and keep order in this very vital region?

MS: Well you would think that they would respond more diplomatically then they have. Their idea of diplomacy so far has been to install the oligarchs throughout the regions to directly control the regions as governors. Kind of like feudal kingdoms and with the assumption which has barren fruit that these oligarchs would fire people who participated in the protest, and also hire their own little private armies of thugs to help to discourage people from participating. And this so far has been their idea of democracy but unfortunately for the regime it seems to be backfiring completely and only seems to be fueling unrest.

RT: Do you think the miners will protest and what do you think will be the government's response?

MS: Like I said, the miners’ participation so far has been slight. These developments in the city of Krasnodon is a major development. And we should watch in the coming days if this miner strike in this one city extends throughout the region of Lugansk and more importantly the neighboring Donbass region, to other mines in the area.

If that happens than the entire east will be up in arms and we would really be looking at Kiev losing complete control of the area, an increase tension and the threat of a civil war.

RT: Do you think the government will resolve that, or will just a threat of losing the region lead to cool heads prevailing?

MS: I'm all hope that that would be the case, but we have not seen any indication of that. Just within a few hours of vice president Biden's leaving, we saw in Kiev yesterday the acting self-appointed president Turchinov declared that the anti-terrorist operations to repress the people in east and south Ukraine would recommence.

And just in the last few hours, we heard that the Right Sector leader, Dmitry Yarosh is sending 1,000 Right Sector paramilitary to the east to start to re-establish order on his terms. This certainly is not going to reduce tensions in the area.

RT: Do you think the West and the US in particular should push Kiev to engage in greater diplomacy?

MS: They certainly should but the indication of Biden, the Ukrainian regime has said publicly that they have the support of Washington to take action, to use military force, whatever they can manage, to repress the people in the east and south of Ukraine. So it does not seem that Washington is willing to back down or to consider the interest of the people of the east and south Ukraine.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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