Lugansk People’s Republic
The terrain of the self-proclaimed LPR is a hilly lowland. The average elevation is 200 metres above the sea level, the highest – 367.1 m (Mogila Mecetnaja). In north, the LPR has a border with Ukraine; in west – with Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR); in east and south – with Russia. The territory of LPR developed due to the warfare in 2014 and 2015. Now, representatives of the LPR are controlling approximately one-third of the Luhansk Oblast, or 8300 km2.
The territory of the self-proclaimed Republic has large reserves of coal, as well as raw building materials – limestone, sandstone, chalk and clay.
LPR has a rich soil, mostly topsoil, where the fertile layer can reach up to one metre in depth.
In the beginning of 2014, the largest cities in the LPR territory were Luhansk (population of 424 100), Alchevsk (population of 110 500), Krasnyi Luch (population of 82 200) and Stackhanov (population of 77 200).
According to the LPR State Statistics Committee’s data, 1.5 million people live in the self-proclaimed Republic. According to rough calculations, before the beginning of the armed conflict in the territory of Luhansk Oblast, controlled by LPR, lived approximately 1.57 million people, or 70% of all the Luhansk Oblast’s population.
According to the data from the Ukrainian 2001 population census, approximately 52% of the population in the LPR controlled territories are Ukrainians, 44% are Russians, 0.9% – Belarussians, 3.1% – representatives of other nationalities.
The constitution of LPR states that the self-proclaimed Republic has two official languages – Russian and Ukrainian. However, only Russian is used regarding documentation.
LPR is divided in 6 districts and 11 cities that are under the control of the Republic
• Antrarsyt Municipality
• Krasnodon Municipality
• Lutuyne District
• Perevalsk District
• Slovianoserbsk District
• Sverdlovsk District
• Antratsyt District
• Brianka Municipality
• Kirovsk Municipality
• Krasnyi Luch Municipality
• Luhansk Municipality
• Rovenky Municipality
• Stakhanov Municipality
• Sverdlovsk District
Until 2014, the coal mining, metallurgy, heavy machinery, chemical industry and agriculture sectors were developed in the Luhansk Oblast. However, with the start of the armed conflict in April 2014, in accordance with the information given by the former Luhansk Oblast’s governor, Heorhiy Tuka, industrial production decreased by 85% in the Luhansk Oblast by the end of 2014. It was mainly due to the breakdown of traditional production cycles and export networks, as well as the uneconomic policy of the LPR government, in the result of which, several factories were scrapped for metal or exported to Russia. In May 2015, LPR leader at the time, Igor Plotnitsky, announced that almost 40% of the companies have renewed production
A negative effect was made on the LPR economy by the decision of Ukrainian authorities to begin economic blockade in the occupied territories; thus, a considerable increase in foodstuff prices was witnessed. In reality, the blockade, implemented by Ukraine, is only partial. First of all, part of the Ukrainian suppliers of goods are trying to retain the market in Donbas, including, getting involved in contraband schemes. Second of all, Russia delivers natural gas and electricity to LPR for free, but ask Ukraine to pay for it.
Since April 2015, LPR are paying citizens pensions. LPR authorities have pointed out that there are 497 000 senior citizens in the self-proclaimed Republic, however, they have not specified the amount of the pensions, they are paying them.
From November 21, 2018 (from October 24, 2017 to November 21, 2018 working in the post of the head), the leader of the Luhansk People's Republic is Leonid Pasechnik. He was born on March 15, 1970 (place unknown). In 1975, L.Pasechnik's family moved to the Russian Far East (Magadan), and later to Ukraine, where he graduated from the Donetsk Military Political School. At the end of his studies, L.Pasechnik served in the Anti-Smuggling Department of the Luhansk Region Administration of the Security Service of Ukraine.
According to information in the Mirotvorets database, which is unofficially linked to the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior, L.Pasechnik was recruited in 2006 by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which staged the smuggling operation to promote his career.
In 2010–2014, L.Pasechnik held the position of the head of the SBU Stahanova interregional division, but in October 2014, he became the Minister of State Security of the LPR.
The Prime Minister of LPR since December 2015 is Sergey Kozlov, who was born in 1963 in Krasnodon. From 1985 to 1994 he served in the armed forces of the USSR and Ukraine, and from 1994 to 2005 – in the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Ukraine. In May 2014, he joined the LPR battalion Zarya as a volunteer, but in June 2014, he became the first deputy commander of the LPR People's Militia.
Since September 12, 2017 (until December 29, 2018 in the status of substitute), Vladislav Deinego is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the LPR. According to one version, he was born on March 12, 1964 in the village of Gornjack (Luhansk region) and, according to another version, in Romnos (Sumy region). V.Deinego has secondary education. In 2006 and 2010, he was elected a member of the Alchevsk City Council from the list of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, and later joined the Party of Regions. In 2014, he became a member of the LPR Parliament, in November 2014, he became the Deputy Chairman of the LPR Parliament.
Since November 25, 2018, the Minister of National Security of the LPR is Anatoly Antonov. No publicly available information can be found about the person, but the Security Service of Ukraine SBU claims that A.Antonov is a staff officer of the Russian Federal Security Service FSB, whose real name is Rashid Sadikov. According to the SBU, he was born on November 6, 1966 in Nakhodka (Primorsky Krai, Russia).
The home policy system in LPR can be characterised as especially unstable, several specific phases can be divided in its formation that mutually overlap and that can be characterised by battle for power and resources of various groupings.
The first phase contains the period between March and August 2014 that is characterised by the so called armed takeover of power, implemented by the separatists, and the process of foundation of new power structures.
By trying to legalise the process of armed power takeover, in May 2014, the separatists organised a referendum about the foundation of LPR. They later announced that 75% of the Luhansk Oblast’s population took part in the referendum, 96% of them voted for the foundation of LPR. Taking into account the fact that the referendum took place without the presence of international observers, it is difficult to define the real number of voters, but, according to the April 2014 survey data of the Kiev International Sociology Institute, the separatists were supported by the smallest part of Luhansk Oblast’s population (24.4.%).
Representative of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Aleksandr Kharitonov became the first leader of the separatists. In March 2014, during a separatist demonstration, he was announced as the People’s Governor of the Luhansk Oblast. In May 2014, he was replaced Valery Bolotov, the chairman of the Veteran Union of Luhansk Paratrooper forces. However, in August 2014, Bolotov escaped to Russia and handed over the power to Igor Plotnitsky, who had several people, connected to the former Luhansk Oblast’s Governor, Aleksandr Efremov, in his team.
The second phase is characterised by the contradictions, observed since Summer of 2014, between field commanders of different separatist units that had divided the influence areas in the Luhansk Oblast and fought not only against the Ukrainian forces, but also against one another.
Until the beginning of 2015, there were four main competitive groupings established in the Luhansk Oblast. Firstly, the Plotnitsky’s grouping that controlled Luhansk, Krasnodon and territories around them. Secondly, Kazak ataman’s Pavel Dermov’s grouping that controlled Stahanov. Thirdly, Aleksey Mozgovoy’s grouping Prizrak that controlled Alchevsk. Finally, Russian-Kazak grouping Kazacja Nacionalnaja Gvardija, led by Nikolai Kozitsyn, that took over south cities of the Luhansk Oblast (Antratsyt, Sverdlovsk, Krasnyi Luch, Rovenky, etc.), Dremov and Mozgovoy also formally complied with the grouping.
Since 2015, Plotnitsky managed to gradually establish complete control over the region by neutralising and eliminating all the main competition.
Firstly, in November 2014, after the shooting taking place in Antratsyt that happened between fighters controlled by Plotnitsky and Kozicin, the latter was forced to leave the Luhansk Oblast. Secondly, in 1 January 2015, the leader of rapid reaction force Batman, Aleksandr Bednov, was eliminated; he had huge Luhansk separatist authority and had political ambitions to become the leader of LPR. His influence was ensured by the units Batman, led by him, that mostly consisted of Russian citizens with a rather high battle ability. Thirdly, in 23 May 2015, not far from Alchevsk, on the road Luhansk-Perevalsk, Mozgovoy was killed, his car essentially drove into a mine and after the explosion, the car was shot with a machine-gun. Finally, in 12 December 2015, Dremov was eliminated after a bomb that was attached to his car, went off.
After the murders of the mentioned field commanders, a part of Kazaks that were under their control, joined Plotnitsky’s side and were incorporated in the People’s Militia, another part of them returned to Russia. Plotnitsky and people connected to him, without trying to advertise the contradictions within the LPR, accused the Ukrainian commando groups for every murder, however, according to the statements from the field commander confreres, the murders were actually organised by the representatives of Russian power structures.
The third phase is characterised by the battle for resources and influence, where involved were Plotnitsky, Pasechnik and the Russian trustees under them. October 2015, is considered as the beginning of the open conflict between Plotnitsky and Pasechnik. Then employees of the Ministry of State Security arrested the LPR Minister of Fuel and Energy, Dmitry Lyamin, by incriminating him with corruption and cooperation with the oligarch Yury Ivanyushchenko, who is connected to the former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych. Plotnitsky was strictly against the detention of Lyamin and that created a power crisis, during which several leaders of LPR armed units stood on Pasechnik’s side. In May 2016, the LPR document copies that were republished by Russian mass media, affirm that the conflict then was settled with the support from the Russian trustees. Lyamin and Plotnitsky represent the interests of the advisor to the President of Russia, Vladislav Surkov. The Ministry of State Security is under direct control of FSB and when the institution turned against Lyamin in October 2015, it happened with a direct approval from the director of FSB, Alexander Bortnikov.
It is important to note that there has been a long battle between Surkov and FSB regarding actual influence in LPR. It is confirmed by the document copies that were published in 20 April 2016, in the Donbass separatist publication Lugansk-1, that is connected to the FSB. It follows that Surkov controls the issues regarding the Donbass self-proclaimed Republics and sacks part of the financial aid from Kremilin that is meant for Donbass. One of the ways how to adopt money from Russian budget is to embezzle energy resources that are primarily meant for military use (fuel and grease). If people, close to the Russia’s Minister of Defence, Sergey Shoygu, embezzle the aforementioned by using the war taking place in Donbass and military training in their advantage, then the people, responsible for the fuel and grease deliveries, in the Russian government and Presidential administration earn due to the money from mediation and fake deliveries. It should be noted that shortly after this publication, Lugansk-1 was abolished.
In the end of 2015, conflict between Plotnitsky and Pasechnik was settled with the help of Russian trustees, but soon after that people involved with both parties started to die. For example, in March 2016, Dmitry Kargayev, advisor to Plotnitsky, was shot to death; in 6 August 2016, there was an assassination attempt on Plotnitsky in Luhansk; in 20 September 2016, Russian mass media informed about the deaths of Plotnitsky’ parents due to a mushroom poisoning.
In 21 September 2016, Plotnitsky announced about preventing an attempt of state revolution, pointing out that it was anticipated to involve teenagers in the revolution that were previously detained in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. In the connection to the revolution in LPR, employees of power structures detained the Prime Minister Genadiy Cipkalov and the Deputy Head of People’s Militia, Vitaliy Kiselov. According to the LPR officials, during the arrest, Cipkalov committed suicide and Kiselov, during interrogation, announced that the main organizers of the revolution were Cipkalov, and the former Parliament chairman, Aleksey Karyakin. At the same time, Kiselv named Pasechnik, the Minister of Agriculture and Food, Sergey Litvin, the Head of People’s Militia, Oleg Anaschenko (in February 2017, he was killed by explosion) as accomplices in the state revolution execution plan.
According to the Kiselov’s testament, the planners of the revolution wanted to replace Plotnitsky with the former LPR leader, Valeriy Bolotov (in 27 January 2017, he died from heart failure). It is important to point out that shortly before that (27 December 2016) Litvin also died from heart attack.
In Autumn of 2017, relations between Plotnitsky and representatives of the Republic’s power structures aggravated yet again, when Luhansk’s entrepreneur, Aleksey Serebryakov, complained to friends in Russia that are connected to the Kremlin about the attempts from LPR General Prosecutor, Zaur Ismailov (Plotnitsky’s confrere) to extort from him money. Regarding this situation, Moscow’s trustees insistently asked Plotnitsky to control Ismailov and leave Serebryakov alone; however, Ismailov, out of revenge, arrested Serebryakov’s brother, Sergey. This action made the Kremlin angry, so Ismailov was forced to write his resignation at his own free will, explaining the choice to focus on scientific work.
Ismailov’s resignation was a harsh blow to Plotnitsky as the former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Vitaliy Podrobiy, was appointed as the new General Prosecutor, in the result of which, Plotnitsky lost the only power structure that was under his control.
Due to an actual dead-end situation, Plotnitsky decided to strike the representatives of power structures. In 21 October 2017, he accused the Minister of Internal Affairs, Igor Kornet, in the unlawful capture of Luhansk citizen’s house and covering up for an employee of Ministry of Internal Affairs, after the latter was accused in torture. At the same time, the State Television and Radio company, that was controlled by Plotnitsky, began an information campaign against Igor Kornet.
In 20 November 2017, Plotnitsky decided to give the representatives of power structures a crucial strike and announced about Kornet’s firing from the Minister of Internal Affairs position. However, Kornet refuse to obey Plotnitsky’s order and in 21 November, Luhansk’s centre was taken over by fighters that were loyal to Kornet; they were all in masks and had no signs of identification. At the same time, Kornet released a video announcement, where he dismissed the statement of his discharge, calling this information as gossip. Kornet also pointed out that employees of Luhansk power structures have detained an Ukrainian commando grouping that was planning to organise acts of terrorism in the self-proclaimed Republic, he also announced that they managed to reveal a pro-Ukrainian conspiracy in which the director of LPR State television and radio company, Anastasia Shurkaeva, Head of Plotnitsky’s administration, Irian Teicman and Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Government Security Service, Eygenij Seliverstov, were involved in. Plotnitsky dismissed Kornet’s announcements and accused the latter in trying to destabilise the situation in the Republic. In the evening of 21 November, it was made clear that Plotnitsky has lost the support from both, the representatives of local power structures and the Moscow’s trustees. Plotnitsky’s press conference was broadcasted only on Youtube, but Kornet’s press conference was widely displayed by Russian media – news agency RIA Novosti, television channel Rossija 24 and publication Komsomolskaja Pravda.
In 22 November 2017, Kornet’s loyal forces took over the General Prosecutor’s office of the self-proclaimed Republic and detained its employees.
In 24 November 2017, Plotnitsky ran to Russia, but Pasechnik release an announcement that Plotnitsky, due to health issues, has decided to resign from this current position and has asked him (Pasechnik) to become the acting leader of the Republic. In 24 November 2017, Parliament voted unanimously abut the change in Republic’s leaders. Shortly before the voting, parliamentarians change the paragraph 62 of the LPR constitution that in case of LPR leader’s termination, Parliament’s chairman performs his duties.
Since the replacement of Plotnitsky, Moscow has decided to eliminate the bilingualism in LPR that has been there since the beginning (2014). Due to the bilingualism, the Republic’s political government and power structures had separate trustees (as it was previously mentioned, Plotnitsky was controlled by the Russian Presidential administration, but the Ministries of Internal Affairs and State Security were controlled by the Russian Federal Security Service).
Documents, belonging to a German publication Bild, allow to see inside the process of Donbass governance, and they show that the political processes in Donbass are controlled by a Russian Interdepartmental Committee for providing aid to the affected Donetsk and Luhansk Oblast’s south-east territories. In December 2014, the committee was established, and its meeting take place once every two or four weeks.
Russian Vice Prime Minister, Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Minister of Economy, Sergey Nazarov, and Deputy Minister of Finance, Leonid Gornin, are members of the committee. The committee is divided in six working groups: finance and taxes, renewal of industry, social issues and public services, energy trade, energy and transport infrastructure. The working groups are closely cooperating with Russian Ministries and their activity is coordinated by the FSB. Leaders of the separatists do not participate in the committee meetings, they are informed about the committee’s decisions only post factum.
25 March 2015, during a pro-Kremlin expert discussion in Moscow organised by leader Political Situation Centre, Aleksey Chesnakov (he is connected to Surkov), Russian political scientist, Sergey Markov, acknowledged Donbass self-proclaimed Republic’s total political, economic and military dependence from Russia. According to him, representatives of Donbass self-proclaimed Republics do not make their own decisions, but only follow Moscow’s orders.
Taking into account the internationally unacknowledged status of LPR (at the moment, only self-proclaimed South Ossetia and DPR have acknowledged LPR independence) and the fact that Ukraine has proclaimed LPR a terrorist organization, as well as the total dependence from Russia, it is practically impossible to speak of any kind of LPR foreign policy activity.
24 May 2014, representatives of LPR and DPR announced about an intention to establish a People’s Republic confederation, Novorossia, but no practical steps have been made towards its development; between LPR and DPR exists a customs barrier.
11 June 2014, LPR turned to Russia with a request to admit them in the Russian Federation, the same way they did with Crimea; however, since 2015, representatives of LPR have repeatedly announced about the readiness to honour the so-called Minsk Protocol and return to Ukraine.
Since September 2014, representatives of LPR and DPR are participating in the so-called Trilateral Contact Group meetings (Ukraine, Russia and OSCE) taking place in Minsk, where they discuss issues concerning the regulation of the Donbass conflict. According to Ukrainian diplomat, Roman Bezsmertnyi, during the meeting LPR and DPR does not have a constant position, but instead repeat (sometimes word for word) information said by Russian Vice Prime Minister, Dmitri Kozak, who is Russia’s representative in the Trilateral Contact Group.