Vladimir Putin has declared martial law in the four regions occupied by Russia, which he announced the annexation of last month. Martial law - a measure from the arsenal of domestic politics - is introduced in territories that no one in the world, except him, considers Russia. This brings to mind another episode with his participation.
Back in November 2016, during the presentation of the prize of the Russian Geographical Society, Putin threw the phrase: “Russia’s borders do not end anywhere.” Today, his words have come true: the borders of the country, after the declaration of the territory of Russia as some occupied, and even not captured areas, have become a conditional category - no one in the world recognizes their legitimacy. And instead of an imaginary border, there is a dynamically changing front line, and not in favor of the Russian Federation. A map of the “new borders of the Russian Federation” cannot be found in official sources even a month after joining: apparently, it does not exist, just like the borders themselves. This was confirmed by the Kremlin speaker Peskov, evasively answering : "We will continue to consult with the population of these regions on the borders."
Such a map was published by RIA Novosti on October 5, on the day Putin signed the laws on the entry of new territories into the Russian Federation (however, ten days later, the Russian Center for Geodesy and Cartography answered media inquiries that “the borders have not passed the final approval”):
The agreement on the entry of the Zaporozhye region into the Russian Federation states in a confused way: “The limits of the territory of the Zaporizhzhya region are determined by the boundaries of the territory of the Zaporozhye region that existed on the day of its formation and the day the Zaporozhye region was accepted into the Russian Federation and a new subject was formed as part of the Russian Federation.” Similar wording is in the contracts with the "DPR", "LPR" and the Kherson region.
Suicide leaders and a penal battalion for officials
As a result of the so-called referendums, a bizarre conglomerate of "acquisitions" was under the authority of the Russian Federation. The territories of two quasi-states of Donbass (“LPR” and “DPR”), as well as the partially occupied Kherson and Zaporozhye regions and two districts of the Mykolaiv region, which the invaders hastily did not even come up with any intermediate status, joined the Crimea seized in 2014. A predictable chaos of administration arose in the annexed territories: military authorities, “military-civilian administrations”, and the state apparatuses of the “people's republics” that took shape during the eight years of their unrecognized existence, simultaneously exist here.
Different areas have different levels of governance. Over the past eight years, the “LDNR” has formed its own managerial cadres, which have absorbed the surviving field commanders of the “militia”, local politicians from the Party of Regions and the Communist Party of Ukraine, as well as Ukrainian security forces who have gone over to the side of the separatists. Recently, the local elite has been saturated with Russian personnel. The “DPR” can serve as a good example here - the head of the “republic” Denis Pushilin belongs to the veterans of the “Russian spring”, the local parliament is headed by the former deputy of the Verkhovna Rada from the Communist Party Vladimir Bidyovka, and the Russian official Vitaly Khotsenko, a finalist of the Kirienkov contest “Leaders of Russia”, is in charge of the government ". A similar situation is in the “LPR”: the head of the “republic” is a former SBU career officer Leonid Pasechnik, the government is headed by a field commander in 2014-2015 Sergey Kozlov (his first deputy prime minister is the former vice-governor of the Kurgan region Vladislav Kuznetsov), and The People's Council is a former activist of the Party of Regions Denis Miroshnichenko. The administrations in the areas of the Lugansk region captured after a full-scale invasion are also occupied by former local figures of the Party of Regions.
In the newly occupied Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, the presence of direct Russian appointees is more visible, and there is a significant lack of local personnel. Regular assassination attempts on occupying officials do not add those willing to occupy these posts, although at first part of the local elite saw collaborationism as a way to maintain their power - “just” under a different flag. The occupation administrations of both annexed regions are headed by local businessmen, former people's deputies from the Party of Regions Volodymyr Saldo (Kherson) and Yevhen Balitsky (Zaporozhye). However, the actual power is concentrated in the hands of the heads of the “governments”: in the Kherson region it is led by Russian official Sergey Eliseev, the former vice-governor of the Kaliningrad region, in Zaporizhzhia by another Russian Anton Koltsov, the former head of the government of the Vologda region.
Sending to the occupied territories sometimes becomes a kind of "penal battalion" for the guilty Russians. The fate of Colonel Alexei Katerinichev is indicative: in 2021, as an official of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, he accompanied the head of the department, Yevgeny Zinichev, on a fateful trip to the Kitabo-Oron waterfall, where the Minister of Emergency Situations died. After this incident, Katerinichev was sent to the reserve and surfaced again as the first deputy of the occupation administration of the Kherson region, and already on September 30, 2022, he died as a result of shelling by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Another example is the “commandant” of Energodar in the Zaporozhye region, Russian Alexander “Volga” Molokov, the former head of the housing and communal services department in Alushta, who was sentenced in 2019 to four years for taking bribes.
The official of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Katerinichev, who accompanied the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Zinichev on a fatal trip to the Kitabo-Oron waterfall, was exiled to the Kherson region, where he himself died under the shelling of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
To make up for the shortage of personnel in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, they are launching an analogue of the Leaders of Russia competition - Leaders of the Revival . The winners will receive one million rubles each, and the finalists will be included in the personnel reserve of the regions, "from which, following the results of training, they will be appointed to senior positions in state authorities and local self-government." With grim irony, this event is called a “suicide contest” on social networks.
The question of creating a new federal district remains suspended - there were reports in the media either about the unification of new territories into one Crimean Federal District (with Dmitry Rogozin at the head), or about joining the Southern Federal District, which included Crimea. Since the interests of various clans of Putin's elite obviously stand behind this, a quick solution should not be expected here.
Compulsion to Citizenship
On the territory of the "DPR" and "LPR" for several years, there was a process of administrative assimilation of the local population. Since 2018, after Putin’s decree on the simplified granting of Russian citizenship to residents of Donbass, there has been active passportization here. On the eve of the 2021 Duma elections, residents of the “DPR” and “LPR” began to receive SNILS en masse, which is necessary for electronic voting (the votes of Donbass residents assigned to the Rostov region then greatly helped the United Russia candidates).
After the annexation announced by Putin, according to the agreements on the "entry" of the Ukrainian regions into the Russian Federation, "citizens of Ukraine, the LPR and the DPR, as well as stateless persons permanently residing in these territories, are recognized as citizens of the Russian Federation." It is assumed that Russian citizenship will be automatically recognized for all residents of the occupied territories, as was the case in 2014 in Crimea. It is worth mentioning one administrative inconsistency: the high-profile campaign for obtaining republican passports, which was conducted in the "LDNR" for several years (obtaining them was a mandatory step before obtaining a Russian passport), turned out to be meaningless - with the entry of the republics into the Russian Federation, these documents, as well as automobile license plates have lost their validity (although they were de facto legalized in the Russian Federation).
Nevertheless, the occupying authorities are dissatisfied with the pace of passportization, especially in the territories of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, captured this year. The Insider's sources in the region report that local authorities are forcing residents to urgently obtain Russian documents, threatening otherwise with the loss of social benefits, the inability to get a job or do business. “This blackmail has been going on since pre-war times, when the holders of Ukrainian passports were required to receive either a passport of the “republic” or a Russian one at once, they warned that Ukrainian passports would soon be invalid. If the police stopped him on the street and only had a Ukrainian passport with him, they could take him to the police station for identification. Now they set a deadline for changing the passport until the new year,” says a resident of Lugansk. The Pension Fund of the LPR, for example, issued an appeal to “citizens of the republic” with a recommendation to issue SNILS before January 1, “as it may be needed in various areas of life in connection with the gradual transition to Russian legislation.”
Local authorities threaten residents to urgently obtain Russian documents
The head of the Ukrainian Lugansk military-civilian administration, Serhiy Gaidai , confirms : “From January 1, any payments - salaries, social, money transfers - will be made only if you have an individual personal account. However, to open it, you need to have a Russian passport. They don’t force them directly, they just leave them without money.”
However, according to our sources, the active issuance of passports on the territory of Donbass has been suspended since the launch of the Armed Forces of Ukraine into a counteroffensive, according to official data , “for technical reasons.”
In the territories of Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, the situation is even more disappointing for the occupying authorities: a significant part of the population is openly hostile, and even pro-Russian residents are in no hurry to obtain Russian citizenship, since the region can be liberated by the Armed Forces of Ukraine at any moment.
Even before the annexation, on May 25, 2022, Putin signed a decree on the simplified admission of residents of the annexed territories to Russian citizenship, and on July 11 of the same year he extended this right to all residents of Ukraine.
According to local residents, passportization covers primarily pensioners, whose personal data the occupation administrations receive in the course of applying for social benefits. In addition, the occupying authorities put pressure on local businesses. Kherson political scientist Vladimir Molchanov (who left Kherson after the occupation) describes the coercion to Russian citizenship as follows: “At first, entrepreneurs paid for the so-called business permits, received them, and worked. And then suddenly they were required to register with the Russian tax authorities… Accordingly, they have to open accounts in Russian banks, and this requires a Russian passport.”
In Ukraine, passports issued in the occupied territories are not recognized . Moreover, for officials who force Ukrainians to transfer to Russian citizenship, criminal liability has been introduced. Do not recognize the "simplified citizenship" of the Russian Federation and in Europe.
“With these SIM cards, we can only call each other”
On the territory of the "LDNR" there are their own mobile operators - "Phoenix" in Donetsk and "Lugakom" in Luhansk. At one time, these mobile operators were created on the basis of the "requisitioned" equipment of the Ukrainian communications company Kyivstar. Mobile numbers in Donbass, along with Russian ones, still use the phone codes of Ukraine +38.
However, not all residents of the occupied Donbass can use the services of local mobile communications: after the start of the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Kharkiv region, as a result of which they reached the administrative border with the Luhansk region, the local occupation authorities turned off mobile Internet throughout the Luhansk region. Locals report that the authorities attribute the lack of internet to technical problems or work to connect to Russian networks, but few people are convinced. Telephone communication in Lugansk also works poorly, it is impossible to reach the numbers of local operators from Ukraine or third countries, and communication with Russian mobile numbers is intermittent.
After the start of the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Kharkiv region, the occupying authorities turned off the mobile Internet throughout the Luhansk region
In the south of Ukraine, in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, the occupiers turned off Ukrainian mobile operators in the summer of 2022, although communications remained in some territories. As an alternative, the occupying authorities began to distribute SIM cards with Russian numbers. These mobile packages are called "In touch" and, apparently , issued by the Crimean mobile operator "K-telecom". The owner of the Crimean mobile operator K-telecom is a Lebanese investor Pierre Michel Fattoush, a longtime partner of MTS in Armenia.
The quality of communication leaves much to be desired, local residents say : “We can only call each other around the city using these cards. Moreover, the Internet speed of this provider is so low that you have to go to the city center to B. Khmelnitsky Avenue or the 50th anniversary of the Victory and look for a point where this Internet catches. In the private sector, it is impossible to call back with this card on WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber. Nevertheless, the demand for these SIM cards is high, speculators sell them for 1,000 hryvnias (the official price is from 75 to 200 hryvnias).
Sanction banks and roadside checks
In the occupied territories, the Ukrainian hryvnia is being replaced by the Russian ruble (this has already happened in the territories of the “LDNR”). The head of the occupying "government" of the Kherson region, Sergei Eliseev, promised to make the transition from the ruble to the hryvnia gradual. But it seems impossible to withdraw the hryvnia from circulation before the end of the year, although all social payments are made in rubles. At the same time, the exchange rate of the Ukrainian currency is artificially underestimated both in the south and in the Donbass. Kherson journalist Konstantin Ryzhenko, in a conversation with The Insider, noted the specifics of the monetary policy of the occupying authorities: “They are trying to motivate the population with money, handing out 10-20 thousand rubles in the form of ‘aid’. At the same time, there is a car right there, where this money is exchanged for hryvnia (looted from local banks).”
The strengthening of Russian influence also occurs through the appearance of the first Russian banks. In June 2022, it was announced that a branch of Promsvyazbank was starting to operate on the territory of the "LPR" and "DPR". This state-owned Russian bank (100% owned by the Federal Property Management Agency, until 2018 it belonged to the Ananyev brothers, but then was sanitized and transferred to the treasury) since 2019 has become a support bank for servicing the military-industrial complex of the Russian Federation. It is led by Pyotr Fradkov, the son of the former prime minister and head of foreign intelligence, Mikhail Fradkov. After the start of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, Promsvyazbank came under US, UK and Singapore sanctions and was disconnected from the SWIFT interbank transfer system. Since that time, it was decided to use it as a financial instrument in the annexed territories: in April it began to work in the Crimea, in June on the territory of the “LDNR”, and then in the occupied territories of southern Ukraine. The history of the bank's work in the occupied part of the Kharkiv region ended ingloriously: on August 15, its branch was opened in Kupyansk, and a month later, on September 16, the city was liberated by the Ukrainian army.
Now PSB issues payment cards of the Mir system for occupied customers, from which you can withdraw cash and make transfers to them from cards of other Russian banks. The same financial services are provided in the Donbas by the International Settlement Bank, registered in South Ossetia. This commercial structure has been working with the "LPR" and "DPR" since 2015, it played a key role in building the shadow financial system.
Other Russian banks have so far refused to work in the occupied territories of Ukraine. However, after Putin announced the annexation of the Donbass, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, one can expect that the state-owned banks of the Russian Federation will gradually begin to abandon this taboo - they have nothing to lose, Western sanctions have already led to their isolation from the leading markets.
Russian banks have so far refused to work in the occupied territories of Ukraine. But now they have nothing to lose
However, residents of Donbass in their financial transactions with Russian relatives, until recently, relied more on "folk" methods - through trusted drivers of regular buses or through the office of Nasha Pochta (a transport company organized by Donetsk businessman Eduard Kibok to connect Russia, Crimea and "LDNR").
By the way, about transportation. Despite the fact that officially the border between the Russian Federation and the former "people's republics" was abolished, de facto searches continue on it. Even the former People's Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada and one of the leaders of the "Novorossians" Oleg Tsarev complained about this: "All people arriving at the border crossing are sent to the" filtration "procedure. A thorough check of the documents of citizens of new regions is still understandable, although this should also be avoided, but the same check of residents of other regions of Russia is completely absurd. Искусственно созданное многочасовое ожидание людям позитива не добавляет…» С 5 октября административной стала и граница, отделяющая Крым от Херсонской области, однако, по данным очевидцев, многочасовые проверки здесь также продолжаются — ищут украинских диверсантов. Похоже, что, несмотря на всю «бесконечность» границ России, которую недавно воспел в своем поэтическом перформансе один из херсонских «гауляйтеров» Кирилл Стремоусов, особого доверия к своим территориальным приобретениям у российских властей нет, и реальная, а не воображаемая полицейско-таможенная граница России проходит там же, где и до войны.