People’s Republic of Donetsk: The path of an unrecognised state outside the borders of globalism

by Miroslava Dimitrova*

At midnight on 27 July 2020, a complete and comprehensive ceasefire began in Donbas. This had been agreed on by Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE within the Trilateral Contact Group. The ceasefire is to be maintained, until the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has been fully resolved. The People’s Republic of Donetsk (DPR) called this step a breakthrough. Russia also reacted positively to the negotiation of the measures. For the first time, this agreement was also signed by Ukraine.

Is the fulfillment of the Minsk agreements the final goal that the republics in the Donbas are really striving for? What visions do they have for their future? About these and other issues we had talks in Donetsk with the “Donetsk Republic” social movement Central Executive Committee chairman, Alexei Muratov, with the Minister of Economic Development of the DPR Alexei Polovyan, and with the Chairman of the People’s Chamber, Alexander Koffman.
    The People’s Republic of Donetsk declared itself an independent republic in 2014, after the national referendum held in the same year. Since then it has been held in international political economic blockade and isolation. Although the republic has created its own constitution based on the principle of popular rule and although it has begun building its own social system, the international community does not accept its choice. Despite the fact that the Republic has all the characteristics of state control over its territory, an administrative system with an efficient state apparatus and de facto sovereignty, it does not have international diplomatic recognition and thus cannot de jure become a subject of international relations. As in the case of the other post-Soviet unrecognised states, the international community takes a harsh stance and places the principle of the inviolability of borders above the principle of the right to self-determination.

Socioeconomic upturn of
the People’s Republic of Donetsk

Despite international isolation and ongoing military conflict, the People’s Republic of Donetsk has not only established its rule of law with independent institutions and the separation of powers during its six years of existence; it has also developed an economy based on the principles of the welfare state, a development that makes the unrecognised republic a pioneer of today’s resistance to globalism. The political model of government of the People’s Republic is democratic, but has no party participation. It is a nation state that functions outside the system of globalism with economic success despite war.

Political Model of the
People’s Republic of Donetsk

According to the constitution adopted on 14 May 2014, the People’s Republic of Donetsk is a democratic social republic under the rule of law. The form of government can be described as a presidential republic. There are no active political parties in the DPR. The functions of political parties are performed by social organisations. There are two larger than the others – “Republic of Donetsk” and “Free Donbass”.
    The leader of the “Republic of Donetsk” movement is the head of state of the People’s Republic of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin. The role of social movements in the Republic’s political life is described by Alexei Muratov, head of the Central Executive Committee of the public movement “Republic of Donetsk”, in the following interview.

Miroslava Dimitrova: Mr. Muratov, would you briefly explain the government model of the DPR for us? In modern Europe we are not familiar with a government without participation of political parties. What are the advantages of this model over the political model of liberal democracy?
Alexei Muratov
: What are political parties for? Political parties mainly fight for power. We need no power. The public movement differs from political parties in that it is an association of people who have come together to find a common solution for the goals and tasks of a society. When we united in 2014, social movements came into being, to decide what our future path should be. This was the time of the military coup and the Maidan. People appeared in public and decided that our future, our way should be the integration into the Russian Federation. Today the social movement “Republic of Donetsk” has more than 210,000 activists, that is first of all people with an active attitude towards life, who create order with their own hands, who build the state and build bridges to the Russian Federation, in accordance with the decisions we made in 2014.

Do you have a model, an example from the past that you would like to emulate, or is the republic’s model of government the first pioneer in world history?
There are enough examples of popular rule. Today we have a People’s Republic. According to the constitution, the people are the source of power. Within the movement we have a variety of activities, but above all we give to the people the tools of self-regulation, i.e. the instruments of democracy. We also have interesting projects such as the control by the people, where the people themselves have the opportunity to participate and control the authorities. We cooperate with all categories of citizens – with elderly people as well as with young people, with students, with soldiers, with all others. We have a constitution, and therefore the power, the government, lies with the people. In the West, power is in the hands of the political parties, so the people are not at the center of the decisions. Political parties represent the interests of certain categories in society. There the decisions are made in the leadership circles. We have a social movement. In our country all citizens participate in public organisation and can actively make decisions on all issues.

The economic Development of the Republic

The People’s Republic of Donetsk is an industrially highly developed country. The events of recent years have led to a sharp decline in industrial production. Problems related to the destruction of infrastructure and lack of working capital hinder the technological development of the economy. At the same time, however, the metallurgical industry, the production of coke and coke products, the manufacture of certain types of technical products, the food industry, the chemical industry and certain types of building materials remain competitive. According to a number of economic indicators, the Republic recorded economic growth in 2019. The People’s Republic of Donetsk is a welfare state. Health and education are free, mineral resources and agricultural land belong to the state and the municipalities. The international economic blockade is an obstacle to the development of the national economy. However, efforts are being made to increase economic growth, to attract foreign investors in order to secure jobs, to maintain and develop infrastructure and to develop the country.
    We also discussed the plans for the development of the economy of the republic with Alexei Polovyan, Minister of Economic Development of the DPR:

What are the main objectives of the strategy of economic development of the DPR?
Alexei Polovyan: Under the present conditions, the main goal of the Republic is to improve the population’s well-being. Consideration should be given to increasing the economy’s productivity, to an efficient use of human capital, innovative, technological and natural resources for production of goods and services, to solving the problems of modernisation of production as well as ensuring sustainable development of the Republic’s economy as the main source of an increase in competitiveness of the DPR economy.

What is the role of the welfare state in the DPR’s economy?
The idea of the welfare state is at the center of the formation of our republic, and this fact is confirmed by

  • stable tariffs for housing and communal services for the population during the last five years, and
  • the increase of the average wage by more than twice over that of 2016, including the wages of workers in education and health care.

In addition, the Republic’s leadership plans to further improve the well-being of the population. Starting this year, the salaries of public sector employees, pensioners and other socially disadvantaged groups will be gradually increased.
    Much attention is also paid to young people in our republic and they are guaranteed the right to higher education. The republic also demonstrates the functions of a welfare state in its programme of humanitarian aid and environmental protection for the Donbass regions controlled by Ukraine. Free medical and educational services are provided, benefits are paid to veterans and separated families, invalids, children with disabilities and their families are supported. Human capital is an important resource of national wealth and a source of positive state transformation. The People’s Republic of Donetsk is in an active phase of rebuilding key sectors of the national economy and of increasing production rates.
    Positive changes are made possible precisely because of the high labour and intellectual potential of our citizens, their love for their homeland and their desire to preserve and increase the wealth of the Don land.

Life in times of crisis

On 12 February 2020 five years have passed since the signing of the Minsk Agreement, Minsk II. In the past year, numerous proposals for a solution to the conflict in the Donbass were discussed, such as the Steinmeier formula and the Munich resolution. Earlier this year, the situation in the region and the progress of the Minsk agreements were discussed in the UN Security Council, and there were talks in the Normandy format – Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine. On 21 July, both sides reached another ceasefire agreement.
    However, during my stay in Donetsk, daily shelling from the front line, which is about 5 km from the city, can be heard. The city itself is quiet and safe, but the daily news from the front as well as reports from the OSCE show that not a day goes by without shelling and damage to houses, infrastructure, injuries to civilians and soldiers.
    When asked about the effectiveness of the Minsk Agreement, our interlocutors replied as follows:

Alexei Muratov: For us, the Minsk Agreement is first and foremost a civilised divorce from Ukraine. We already made our choice in 2014. In order to gain recognition in all other countries, we now have the location in Minsk. With this algorithm we confirm our right to self-determination and our decision, which we made in 2014. Our choice is Russia.
Alexander Koffman: Did you hear the explosion this morning? That is the sound of the current Ukrainian government. During the period of Zelensky’s leadership, there have been more victims among the population than in the same period last year under the leadership of Poroshenko. Therefore, I do not believe in the peaceful rhetoric of Ukraine, and I do not believe that we would be able to agree on anything with them.
    Zelensky is a puppet, he does not make independent decisions. He had everything: the highest confidence level of 72 %, the majority in the Verkhovna Rada, a government formed by himself, everything. He would have been able to end the war. But he did not do so. Therefore, we cannot consider Zelensky as relevant to international processes.

The Minsk Accords were needed in 2014 because they halted the advance of Ukrainian troops and put an end to the massive losses of the civilian population. However, the implementation of the Minsk Accords is not possible for Ukraine, as this would lead to a complete dismantling of Ukraine.

The Donbass election

The number of unrecognised countries in the world is growing, and at the same time there is a lack of active discussions in the international community to solve the problem. Will the People’s Republic of Donetsk become a central point of attraction for the anti-globalist forces of the world and a precedent as the first recognised self-proclaimed republic? According to Alexander Koffman, Chairman of the People’s Chamber of the DPR, Europe is called upon to recognise the choice of the DPR: “The use of unconventional weapons such as gas, nuclear weapons and phosphorus bombs is prohibited worldwide. In view of the Europe’s defeat due to National Socialism 75 years ago,
I am convinced that Europe would never return to this kind of weapons, but we must clearly understand that Ukraine is using this kind of weapons - genocide against its own people. And as long as Europe or the USA do not realise this and do not consider it criminal, they will become criminals against humanity themselves”.
    A large part of the DPR population already has Russian passports, Russian is the official language in their republic, and the Russian ruble is their official currency. Donetsk has chosen Russia, and the country has deliberately taken this path. Donbass has itself determined its affiliation to the Russian sphere of influence. The Russian value system is based on principles such as historical continuity of generations, conservation, dissemination and development of national culture, education for patriotism, and a democratic and social state. All these values have already been forgotten in a large part of Europe.
    Negotiations for a cease-fire are underway, but the recognition of a people’s choice of civilisation is the remaining and the essential question. A choice that makes it impossible for a people to be integrated in a pro-liberal and global political and economic system such as the one currently in force in Ukraine. From today’s point of view, it is rather unlikely that Europe will accept the choice of the people in Donetsk. But this unrecognised republic’s success could become a step forward in the victory over globalism in the world.    •

(Translation Current Concerns)

Miroslava Dimitrova, born in Sofia (Bulgaria), graduate in economics, journalist, president of the association “Oplot Bulgaria”, currently in Donetsk, where she is denied departure until further notice due to the closing of the borders of the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

“The LPR* and DPR** deserve a chance”

cc. We asked a Swiss expert on the situation in Ukraine and the Donbass to comment on the text by Miroslava Dimitrova. On 13 August he formulated the following points for us:

  • “Promises to honour the ceasefire negotiated in Minsk have been made several times in the past, and they have hardly ever been observed for more than two weeks. The new commitment of 27 July has now lasted for more than three weeks. There is no doubt that the Ukrainian army is also responsible for breaks in the ceasefire. However, with reference to the uncertain security situation, Kiev had always delayed the implementation of the political provisions of the Minsk agreements. Now Zelensky is under pressure to act.
  • The absence of political parties in the Donetsk People’s Republic is the result of the deep mistrust of the established party system, which emerged in Ukraine well before 2013. The omnipresent corruption and the political circus of the oligarchs were the cause for this and still exist today. There are also forces that advocate direct democracy. Alexander Zakharchenko, former president of the DPR, who was killed in an assassination attempt at the end of August 2018, had shown sympathy for this.
  • The Donbass is very rich in mineral resources, especially coal and steel. There is also a lot of know-how in the field of metallurgy, especially in the production of advanced alloys. Mechanical engineering is also a strong industry. Even before 2013, the people of the Donbass criticised that their region generates a considerable part of Ukraine’s tax revenues, but that the bulk of the financial resources flow to Western Ukraine while the infrastructure in the Donbass is neglected. In the meantime, a large part of the economic enterprises are in great need of renovation and are unprofitable. The destruction of industry and commercial enterprises has become part of Ukraine’s war against the Donbass. The total economic blockade of Ukraine against the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk severely hinders economic development.
  • In particular, the Petrovski and Trudovski districts in the southwest of Donetsk, which were built around a number of mines, were under artillery fire almost daily until 27 July 2020. The Ukrainian government’s routinely circulated claim that the rebels were shelling their own residential areas or that an alleged third party was responsible was never credibly substantiated.
  • The shelling of residential areas, the interruption of water and electricity supplies, witch hunts against “unpatriotic elements” and other measures taken by the Ukrainian government make a return of the People’s Republics under Ukrainian control very unrealistic. Ukraine’s corrupt and politically determined judicial system also gives rise to fear that anyone from the rebel republics could be arrested at any time on political grounds and dragged before a judge. The catastrophic human rights record of the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies speaks for itself here.
  • With its fighting in the Donbass, the Ukrainian army tends to operate close to the border of war crimes every day. In some cases, war crimes can be proven. Blows against companies that supply the population with vital goods also give rise to the suspicion of systematic war against the population of the People’s Republics. In this light, it is difficult to understand how the West is courting Selensky today and how it courted Poroshenko in the past.
  • Whether the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (DPR and LPR) are doing better than Ukraine in their efforts to promote democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and more, as well as in the fight against corruption, crime, and other evils, can hardly be answered conclusively due to a lack of information from the country. However, the yardstick is not exactly high in this comparison. The LPR and DPR deserve a chance”.

*  Lugansk People’s Republic
** Donetsk People’s Republic

(Translation Current Concerns)

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