Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Power Vertical

Russia's Second Crimean Invasion

In Crimea, the honeymoon is over.
In Crimea, the honeymoon is over.
By Brian Whitmore

More than a year after the anschluss, Crimea is about to experience what a real Russian invasion feels like.

And this time it won't be "polite people" arriving to lead a virtual liberation of the peninsula from the clutches of mythological Ukrainian fascists.

According to a report in Kommersant, the Kremlin is preparing to dispatch an army of political commissars to de facto run Crimea's affairs and oversee the local authorities.

"Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak has instructed federal departments to draw up a list of candidates from among their high-ranking officials for appointment to posts as first deputy chiefs of the peninsula's executive bodies," the daily reported, citing unidentified Kremlin officials.

You have to wonder whether all those pro-Moscow Crimeans who celebrated last year's annexation had any idea what they were getting themselves into. If they didn't then, they sure do now -- because the honeymoon is definitely over.

"In effect we are talking about a revival of the institution of commissars," a Kremlin official told Kommersant, referring to the Soviet-era institution of Communist Party political officers dispatched to ensure ideological discipline and purity.

"All decisions on key issues relating to the life of Crimea will be made exclusively in coordination with the officials sent from the center," Kommersant quoted one official as saying.

Put another way, the Crimean elite is about to feel the crushing embrace of Vladimir Putin's power vertical. And it is about to learn that being part of Russia means being colonized and cannibalized by Putin's cronies.

Let The Purges Begin

And before Crimea's new commissars arrive, Moscow is already beginning to clean house.

Over the past month, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Investigative Committee have launched criminal corruption cases against three top Crimean officials: Industrial Minister Andrei Skrynnik, chief tax inspector Nikolai Kochanov, and Yalta port chief Dmitry Petrov. 

Meanwhile, federal officials have accused Crimea's Construction Ministry of misappropriating approximately two-thirds of the funds provided to rebuild the peninsula's roads.

Russian media has naturally presented the cases as evidence that the Kremlin is determined to combat corruption and suggested there would be more to come. 

But corruption investigations in Russia are almost never really about corruption; they're almost always about power struggles and battles over resources.

Political analyst Yekaterina Schulmann told The Moscow Times that the cases signal that Crimea is no longer "sacred" and will now be subject to the same pressure and clan battles as any other region.

"The Crimean elite has little chance in this fight because it was built under a completely different system of government -- the Ukrainian system," she said.

"The question is not whether the Ukrainian government was more or less corrupt than Russia. Its system of corruption was built on different lines, and connections led to different people and structures. Now, these connections are no use to anyone and don't offer protection from anything." 

Under Ukrainian rule, Crimea was spectacularly corrupt, enjoyed broad autonomy, and local clans were largely left to run the peninsula's affairs. And now Moscow wants a piece of the action.

'Crimea Has Come Under Attack'

Sergei Aksyonov, the reputed former gangster Moscow installed as Crimea's leader, initially appeared to accept the new order. In a statement posted on the official government website, he said officials "do not have immunity" and "should be held accountable for their actions." 

But days later he changed his tune, saying the cases were "fabricated," calling the FSB "provocateurs" and accusing it of trying to discredit the Crimean authorities.

"Some characters from the mainland came here and claim that Crimeans are useless idiots and they are heroes who will change things. I guarantee you, this will not happen," Aksyonov said.

Likewise, the chairman of Crimea's legislature, Vladimir Konstantinov, said "Crimea has come under a serious attack."

And it is not just the Crimean elite that is about to get a hard lesson about what it means to be a subject of the Russian Federation.

The daily Noviye Izvestia reported that the Russian armed forces plan to draft 2,500 Crimean men in the autumn, a fivefold increase over the spring draft. 

Leonid Grach, the former head of Crimea's legislature, noted that anti-Moscow sentiments are rising on the peninsula and the Kremlin could face a rebellion if it is not careful.

Perhaps. And if so, it would likely be suppressed as ruthlessly as it would anyplace else.

If Crimeans are experiencing buyer's remorse, it's coming a bit late.

Especially now that the commissars are coming.

Tags: crimea

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: P.W. from: USA
July 22, 2015 22:57
A friend left last fall for the life of a refugee because he has a 16 year old son. He had heard that conscription would soon be coming for the boy.

by: bamboo
July 22, 2015 23:11
What's wrong with fighting corruption? Even if the prosecutors are corrupt themselves it’s still better then not fighting it at all.
In Response

by: Arthur Nichols
July 23, 2015 12:20
Think the author is suggesting Russian corruption is simply replacing Ukrainian corruption.
In Response

by: Brian Whitmore from: Prague
July 23, 2015 14:36
No, the author is suggesting that fighting corruption in Russia isn't about fighting corruption -- it's about power, control, and access to resources.
In Response

by: Brent from: 30000 feet above Earth
July 23, 2015 17:33
Russia??? Fighting corruption???

You'd be incredibly naive to think Russia was doing anything more than just making sure they get their piece of the 'take'...

by: nestor
July 22, 2015 23:36
Imperialist Russia is showing her true nature!

by: posts from: Ukraine
July 23, 2015 01:12
It's surprising only in that this has come before the Donbas was effectively taken, It clearly indicates that, Putin needs to feed his jackals sooner rather than later and that, for now, Putin's expansionism is being placed on the back burner as it was after the sacking of Georgia. It's a clear wake up call to the war lords in Donbas but will any of them hear it?.

by: saabrules from: N. America
July 23, 2015 01:16
Simply: BS.

by: Denise
July 23, 2015 05:43
Sure, the fascists are so mythological.. Like nothing have been happening in Mukachevo or in Kiev right now?! Get yoyr facts straight, before publishing your propaganda rubbish.
In Response

by: Naive
July 23, 2015 10:53
Hello, Russia Today fan.
In Response

by: Patrick O'Toole from: Cork, Ireland
July 23, 2015 13:40
Denise, you are a useless, brainless Kremlin troll. Your service to a dictator in Moscow is quite ironic given your idiotic comments about fascism in Ukraine. Speaking of rubbish, tell your worthless handlers in St. Petersburg that you trolls actually serve to improve the West's resolve to help Ukraine; public opinion in the free world is shifting to send weapons to Ukraine, since they have been fighting the russian nazi's with one arm behind their back until now.
In Response

by: Caaps2
July 24, 2015 00:34
Denise: no of course "something" has been happening in Mukachevo and Kiev. In Mukachevo the FSB in connivance with local corrupt Yanukovich cronies staged a shoot out in order to try to discredit the Right Sector (they also set off 2 bombs in Lviv which injured two service persons). In Kiev a lot is happening, but I think that you are referring to the peaceful march by the Right Sector where they peacefully and lawfully expressed their disagreement with the Poroshenko government. Of course the latter event is beyond your understanding "Denise" because you live in Russia.
In Response

by: Maria Los from: Toronto
July 25, 2015 20:39
GORDON editor-in-chief Batsman: Articles eulogizing Putin and his regime are an extremely profitable business in the West
GORDON e-edition has turned one year. The editor-in-chief of the "GORDON" said who of the colleagues became models for her when she was launching the project, what is the difference between the secret kitchen of her site and Savik Shuster’s program which Alesya was an editor, and what the Ukrainian politicians and journalists need to do first of all to save Ukraine......"

Denise, are you, too, being paid to say such things?.

by: Liza123
July 23, 2015 12:43
Mot of us know the saying, 'What's good for the goose, is good for the gander', or something to that effect. Have some forgotten USA's bombing of Kosovo to extract same for its Camp Bondsteel. What changes if it's Russia doing the same re Crimea? Besides it's in Russia's sphere.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Brisbane
July 23, 2015 17:49
Enough with the Whataboutism already! you do realize that it's a logical fallacy right?
In Response

by: caaps2
July 24, 2015 00:35
Your memory is faulty "Liza123" the US did NOT bomb Kosovo.
In Response

by: asdf
July 24, 2015 04:37
Camp Bondsteel was built after the bombing. Kosovo is not part of the US and was never annexed by anybody, not even Albania. It's independent. There is very little correlation or comparison between what happened in Kosovo, the last of four Yugoslav wars btw, and Crimea.
In Response

by: Rightful Finn
July 24, 2015 07:33
Be careful, "liza123", or your own home might be considered the "sphere" of some official in your home town. Although you are telling us now that is ok, he has the right to take it.

Which one is it where you live, Moscow or St. Petersburg?

by: elmer
July 23, 2015 13:18
Before Putler, Crimea was an autonomous area within Ukraine.

Things operated quite nicely - the stores were full, the tourist industry was vibrant.

Now - as is typical whenever Kremlinoids take over - Crimea is a wasteland.

Brian, you are quite right about Rashan "corruption investigations" never being about fighting corruption, but only who gets what.

Here is an article that exactly illustrates your point - it is highly instructive:

by: rwilkins
July 23, 2015 13:19
two things are funny:

1. buyers remorse? is this the first example i have read that the people in question actually chose to join russia?

2. "..claim that Crimeans are useless idiots and they are heroes who will change things. I guarantee you, this will not happen,"


by: elmer
July 23, 2015 13:23
Crimea was, and legally still is, an autonomous republic in Ukraine.

The Rasha has passed a law that prohibits autonomous republics and secession from the Rasha.
In Response

by: Neil Goforth from: Irvine Ca
July 23, 2015 15:30
Crimea is part of Russia now. That is like saying Puerto Rico still belongs to Spain.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Brisbane
July 23, 2015 17:55
Only, it's not. Because 2014 isn't 1898 is it?
In Response

by: elmer
July 24, 2015 00:07
When I last checked, Spain had the decency and humanity not to try to reclaim and invade Puerto Rico based on some sort of "historical claim" that Columbus claimed it for the Kingdom of Spain and therefore it has "always been Spanish."

Unlike Putler Khuylo and his sovok mafia thug Kremlinoids, who think they can just declare whatever borders they want, and then have other people die so Putler and his thugs can keep their palaces.

Come to think of it, the next thing I expect is for Putler Khuylo to invade Puerto Rico because it is part of US territory, and the US is "hell-bent on destroying the Rasha."
In Response

by: caaps2
July 24, 2015 00:38
Neil: there is not a single country in the world that recognizes Puerto Rico as a part of Spain. Similarly, there are virtually no countries in the world that recognize Crimea as a part of Russia. So in fact, saying that Puerto Rico is a part of Spain is actually quite similar to saying that Crimea is a part of Russia.
Comments page of 2

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or