What next in the People’s Republics?

May 13, 2014

Yesterday I wrote about the referenda taking place in eastern Ukraine – The Donbas and Luhansk.

Legalities aside I stated – “Suffice to say the live-streams, photographs already made public, comments made to journalists, not to mention reports of men with guns making various threats at various polling stations, severely undermine the entire process – even if it were a lawful vote. Whatever the vote results, due to the process they will always been deemed suspect – even if they were accurate. The small number of voting stations makes for mayhem and very long lines for those who want to take part and vote, whilst with it being an illegitimate vote, most who would vote “No” will stay away rather than take part and be seen to give it any legitimacy. – A mess.”

That being so, the result as such was destined to provide a resounding “Yes” to whether the ambiguous single referenda question actually means those taking part were voting for more local autonomy, for far greater (unspecified) autonomy, or indeed a step toward the annexation of The Donbas and Luhansk by Russia.


The provisional indication is 89% in favour of “Yes” – whatever “Yes” truly means.  But that 89% was known to be the result since 6th May.  No surprises.

Considering what will be formally announced by those who administered the referenda – despite the mess it was – I later tweeted:

A valid question I think – or of course I would not have posed it.

Are the Ukrainian military to be  instructed to withdraw and thus de facto recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic is established despite robust and repeated refusal to recognise it de jure ?  It will certainly give Mr Akhmetov’s new paramilitary a significant new role in the Donetsk People’s Republic whether he support the idea of the DPR or not.

Are the Ukrainian military to be instructed to carry on with its current mission and thus being seen as legitimate de jure invaders by those who voted the Donetsk People’s Republic into existence?   For now Ukraine will probably continue with its current operations in eastern Ukraine – but for how long?  Long enough?

What will The Kremlin decide in either case?  “Moscow respects the will of the population of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and hopes that the practical implementation of the outcome of the referendums will proceed in a civilized manner, without repeat outbreaks of violence and through dialogue between representatives of Kyiv, Donetsk and Luhansk,” does not imply action one way or another, or provide a Kremlin interpretation of the referenda question and answer – for now at least.

How will Kyiv (and the Europeans/USA) react to any Kremlin decisions? – They remain, after all, reactionary.

If Kyiv takes a far more forceful stance, will the Europeans/USA support that?  How long will they support the current stance?

How will either course of action effect 25th May elections?  Can they truly be called national if Luhansk, Donetsk and Crimea cannot vote easily despite Kyiv and almost all of the planet insisting they remain Ukraine?  There will be no prizes for guessing The Kremlin position and subsequent statements.

Can The Kremlin afford not to annex these regions given the expectations of Russia’s domestic constituency after Crimea and months and months of expansionist rhetoric?  Let’s not forget Kremlin foreign policy is often crafted for domestic constituency reasons.

If we are to follow the logic an unruly and potentially volatile eastern Ukraine is and will remain far more useful to The Kremlin than simply annexing it into Russia due to the leverage over Kyiv, where does that leave the currently de facto Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic and those within who thought they were voting for annexation?

What of the de facto Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics?  They must now be seen to curb criminality swiftly and restore order.  If they fail to do so, how to remove those in charge?  They are not elected into their current position.  What of the inevitable power struggle within to assume control of the DPR and/or LPR?  How will that manifest itself?

Of the several possible interpretations, who decides on what the question and answer of the referenda actually means within Donetsk Oblast?  Or Luhansk?  How will those who voted react if that interpretation is not what they thought they were voting for?

In the event of Kyiv doing the very sensible thing (unlikely) of detailing its constitutional plans for decenteralistion immediately – how would that tame or alter the mood?

Will such constitutional changes make the events in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblast a complete nonsense with most if not all that was sought granted to all regions anyway?  How much and how swiftly will that undermine the support for “People’s Republics”?

After all there is not an Oblast in the country that does not seek far greater local control, though most seek the decenteralisation of power without the need for a formal federalisation of Ukraine.

What will be decenteralised and how will it change things in the regions?  What will not – and why?  This needs to be brought into the public realm soonest.

How much would it defuse the situation to be told in detail and understand the proposed constitutional changes that will achieve significant increases of power to the regions now?  Is there a significant reason not to put this to the Ukrainian constituency immediately in the current circumstances?

Some very difficult questions to be asked and answered over the next few days.




  1. 24 question marks and not one answered. What is your opinion on matters Mr Holmov???

    • First and foremost Kyiv should orate its proposals upon decentralisation and what will and will not become the responsibilities of the regions. That will either help defuse or raise tensions over local governance.

      As for what Russia will do? Difficult to say. From the statement from the Russian MFA it appears annexation is not particularly desirable – though events home and in the east may force a reconsideration.

      The Europeans and USA will continue doing what they are doing for the foreseeable future – though a major unwelcome event may change that.

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