“Donbass can’t be ‘exchanged’ for Crimea, in this case, a huge number of people will simply die”

Rule of five bankers and war for property redistribution awaits Ukraine, thinks campaign manager Marat Bashirov

“Donbass can’t be ‘exchanged’ for Crimea, in this case, a huge number of people will simply die” Photo: Maksim Platonov

The situation in Ukraine and around it is changing — this is linked with the launch of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline early next year and future losses of the big Ukrainian businesses. In an interview with Realnoe Vremya, campaign manager, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Luhansk People’s Republic in 2014 Marat Bashirov is talking about it and if we should trust the investigation team from the Netherlands that named the guilty of the Malaysian Boeing crash in the sky over Donetsk Oblast in July 2014.

“Economic and military motives for maintaining the conflict in southeast Ukraine are simply disappearing

Mr Bashirov, you claim that the situation for Ukraine is going to get tougher with the launch of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, while Russia is going have completely different opportunities. The construction of the gas pipeline is to be in six months, right? Should we expect any gesture from same Ukraine in this respect?

To start with, the geopolitical conflict of Russia and Ukraine was staged for two purposes. Firstly, it is the gas market in Europe. Americans are fighting for it, they would like to supply their own LNG (Editor’s Note: liquefied natural gas) to Europe, which neither the US president nor gas companies are hiding any more. The pressure put on European countries in this respect isn’t hidden any more. And it is clear that the creation of tension in southeast Ukraine was, in fact, clogged Russian gas supplies to Europe 5 years ago. Then there were made decisions to accelerate the construction of Nord Stream 2 and, completely unexpectedly for the West, the construction of South Stream via Turkey. And another decision, about accelerated development of full-scale LNG production in Russia, first of all, the port of Sabetta where Novatek liquefies gas and supplies it to northern ports of Europe in tankers.

And this situation in which we conserved pipeline gas supplies to Europe and simultaneously entered the LNG market in Europe with the Americans (though at first there were set only tasks linked with LNG supplies to Southeast Asia) makes the ultimate goal of the USA unattainable.

There is another difficulty there since the gas supply system of Ukraine itself has fallen into despair over this time. First of all, it is worn out in itself, secondly, pipeline system management technologies have become obsolete. This results in big losses of gas, the necessity to create very big reserves plus to use gas to maintain the system itself. In other words, zero efficiency.

Ukraine will be provided with the same terms provided for Bulgaria, Romania and so on: give your domestic markets, reduce domestic production. You will consume what is produced in developed countries of Europe and America

For this reason, when our authorities and Gazprom say that we are ready to pump gas through the Ukrainian system, they impose certain conditions because they need someone to guarantee the payments. Now the option of swap is being discussed when we sell gas, in fact, on the border with Ukraine, and somebody else guarantees that after this gas will go outside Ukraine. So that Russia isn't responsible for it any more. But everything comes down to ineffectiveness and unprofitability of transportation through this system that is full of holes. This is why the Russian side says they agree to transport gas through the Ukrainian territory if it is economically profitable. And there is another factor: a lion’s share of Ukraine’s industry can’t function without Russian gas. It won’t survive with reverse gas supplies, it is more expensive. LNG is also more expensive, and, most importantly, it doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure there at the moment.

And the second goal of the USA was linked with an attempt to approach NATO bases to our borders. In this sense, Ukraine is more interesting than Poland because the flight time from Crimea to Sochi for the simplest rocket is a minute, not to mention the navy and so on.

We untangled these knots, and now there is no sense for the West to invest money in the geopolitical project named Ukraine further. And this gives foundation to presuppose that the Ukrainian elite will have to start thinking about its future. They are already certainly losing direct subsidies, which were designed to maintain the conflict, but, most importantly, they will begin losing their businesses. Ukraine will be provided with the same terms provided for Bulgaria, Romania and so on: give your domestic markets, reduce domestic production. You will consume what is produced in developed countries of Europe and America.

That’s to say, indeed, there is hope for what you cited in your question, but not because somebody’s conscience wakes up, not because of the “enlightenment” but economic and military motives for maintaining the conflict in southeast Ukraine are simply disappearing.

Should the USA already put all effort to at least postpone the launch of Nord Stream 2 if everything is panning out so bad for Ukraine and so good for Russia?

It is unprofitable for Germany because it is the main beneficiary of the Third Energy Package (Editor’s Note: a package of reforms in gas and electrical energy adopted in the European Union in 2009 and aimed at liberalisation of the electrical energy and gas market). This package isn’t very profitable for Russia, as it makes us divide businesses — separately production, separately transportation and separately sale in local markets. Yes, we gave it to Germany but at the same time saved the European market.

In my opinion, the Ukrainians’ vote for Zelensky is a vote for peace. It is very important, but, from my point of view, Zelensky doesn’t act on his own

In addition, we see that the number of nuclear plants, the launch of energy efficiency programmes, the transition to e-transport are reducing in Europe. It is necessary to generate electrical energy to have it. Renewables don’t give the necessary volume that would be profitable for the e-car market. In other words, Europe will be purchasing gas more and more.

By the way, how long will it be purchasing it more and more? How long will Russian gas be in demand in Europe?

Eternally. Eternally unless someone invents a small battery that will run for 50 years. But then everything will become senseless. Everything will change in general. You can take the battery and build a huge hotel on an abandoned island and you will have heating, water, the drainage system, all you want. It will be another world. But we don’t have such a battery at the moment.

“Poroshenko is going to face what happened to Yanukovich”

Poroshenko has recently accused Zelensky of getting ready to recognise Crimea Russian in exchange for the solution of the Donbass problem. Firstly, is it true? Secondly, are the Ukrainians themselves inclined to such an exchange now? Didn’t they choose Zelensky accidentally?

In my opinion, the Ukrainians’ vote for Zelensky is a vote for peace. It is very important, but, from my point of view, Zelensky doesn’t act on his own. We are going to see it during the formation of the next government. I think several groups of businesspeople will define the composition of the cabinet. They aren’t really interested in geopolitics, Europe, America, their relationships and so on. They are interested in several issues that are key to them.

Firstly, the price of electrical energy and the electrical energy market in general. Secondly, the gas price. And, thirdly, property redistribution. They will be fighting against each other. It will be the rule of five bankers like our rule of seven bankers in the middle of the 90s.

Poroshenko’s statements can’t be taken seriously now, he will say whatever only to protect his property. For this purpose, he will compulsorily have to get to Rada and have his own faction there. This is why he says he is going to become a European Parliament deputy. He probably has Americans’ guarantees for external assets, it is profitable for them to provide them to him, but nobody can provide him with such guarantees inside Ukraine.

The favourite Ukrainian tradition is to gnaw the previous president. Poroshenko is going to face what happened to Yanukovich.

The Donbass factor hasn’t influenced the domestic political situation in Russia so far, but as soon as you allow slaughter according to the Yugoslavian script, this will cause serious leaning

“As soon as you allow slaughter according to the Yugoslavian script, this will cause serious leaning

Nevertheless, Zelensky promises that foreign investments will flood Donbass soon. Won’t an investor go to the region that is at war?

No. Everyone understands that this rhetoric is designed to be consumed by an unqualified listener. No investor will invest there — there is no guarantee of return, no arbitration. There is no capillary system a business needs — a banking system and so on. It is impossible.

Is it impossible because they have to come to an agreement with Russia first?

Russia is the third party here. It performs humanitarian function. Yes, it has its own geopolitical motives, something is profitable for it. But from a perspective of management, it is a humanitarian project. The money spent there as humanitarian aid doesn’t pay back.

In other words, isn’t Donbass an element of bargaining? Can’t it be exchanged for the recognition of Crimea?

It is impossible. In this case, a huge number of people will simply die. This will hit the domestic situation in Russia. The Donbass factor hasn’t influenced the domestic political situation in Russia so far, but as soon as you allow slaughter according to the Yugoslavian script, this will cause serious leaning. Absolutely all political forces will have to react, moreover, those who call themselves patriots, not to mention nationalists. And such people exist, and their number is quite big. It is the so-called sleeping people, at the moment they just have no reason.

If our Dutch friends cared about evidence, data of detected radiolocation was the first thing they would request. When a plane is located, the plane sees it

You were the chairman of the Council of Ministers in LPD in July-August 2014. It was a time that was quite rich in events. In particular, the Malaysian Boeing was downed over the territory of DPR at that time. But an investigation group from the Netherlands has recently named four suspects, thus declaring the Russian side guilty. How will you comment on it?

I am not a lawyer and will say what I think. Firstly, I don’t believe these people because they didn't bother to provide any technical evidence of the Russian side’s guilt during this time. Secondly, I was in Luhansk then and saw what people used for protection. They protected themselves with Berdan rifles. They couldn’t protect themselves even from those planes that bombed the local administration.

Any military will tell you that Buk is a technically complex thing. It is impossible to shoot and hit something, it requires radiolocation, three commands are needed. If our Dutch friends cared about evidence, data of the detected radiolocation was the first thing they would have requested. When a plane is located, the plane sees it. It always sees that it has being shadowed. If there were any radiolocation system, the Dutch would have provided this evidence at the Ukrainian’s behest.

By Rustem Shakirov. Photo: Maksim Platonov

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