Original written by Yurasumy and published at Politrussia.com; translated from Russian by J.Hawk
Controlling the border and the streams of cross-border traffic is one of the most profitable forms of business. The right to extract duties at the border has always been an unalienable right of the seigneur, the king, the emperor, the state. As soon as the state grows weaker, bands of various types attempt to take advantage of that.
It all began on September 8, 2015, when the leadership of the Crimean Tatar emigre diaspora announced it was preparing for the action. It was planned by active Verkhovna Rada deputies from the Poroshenko Block, and it was obvious that all of it is under Kiev’s patronage as part of a plan of some kind. Right Sector “activists” joined the action only later, as did the Azov Regiment and other “patriots” who did not know what to do with themselves in “peaceful” life, and who badly needed both PR and…money.
It so happens that the “grey trade” along the Donbass line of contact were taken under control by the most powerful organized crime groups in Ukraine: the SBU and the old oligarchic and financial clans. They were easily able to squeeze out the small fry of the “volunteer” kind.
Remember the infamous case of the Tornado battalion stopping a train proceeding from the Donbass to the Dnepropetrovsk Region with cargo from the Alchevsk Metal-Working Combine? This resulted in more than 10 members of the Tornado battalion finding themselves behind bars and the battalion itself being disbanded. It is very profitable to manufacture metal products on DPR/LPR-controlled territory. The owners are not paying most of the taxes due to Ukraine’s government and don’t have to index salaries for the impoverished local population. Therefore one ton of cast iron gives up to $100 of pure profit. One 20-car train (of the kind stopped by Tornado) brings its owner over $100,000 of profit. And there are more than 10 such trains going from Alchevsk alone every single day…
All the “volunteer” units established a profit-making scheme of some sort during the past year. For example, Azov successfully established itself as a PMC, taking under its protection oligarch properties and earning good money from it. The regiment specializes with working with former Party of Regions officials. It’s no accident Mariupol became its main base. This city was always the jewel in Akhmetov’s crown. There has not been a single conflict for over a year between Biletsky and Akhmetov. And as soon as Akhmetov decided to reassert control over Zaporozhye, Azov units went there. Coincidence? Perhaps.
By the way, I have information suggesting that Azov entered into agreement with another former Regional, Levochkin. That would explain the unsinkability of Ukraine’s main Nazi, Rada Deputy and the honorary commander of Azov Regiment, Belitsky. He simply successfully found a spot in the “new” Ukraine. Unlike his less successful Right Sector and volunteer battalion brethren.
In addition to all that, Ukraine is now in a very complex internal political situation. The “heroes” of the war are forced to return to peaceful life where they can’t find a place for themselves. Yesterday’s incident in Sumy where a former criminal and Right sector fighter who returned from the war blew himself up with a grenade, is already typical. Maidan activists are openly seething at the “treacherous” position of the government concerning the Donbass, and they are demanding action. The events of August 31 at the walls of the Rada in which four National Guard troops were killed and dozens were wounded speak for themselves: the “mainstay of the regime” is growing restive and it is demanding…bread and games. And if the authorities won’t provide that somewhere on the periphery, they will seek it at the capital.
Poroshenko added even more clarity to the situation. He already expressed his opinion on Crimea’s blockade:
“The blockade is an action by civic activists of the Crimean Tatar nation, and the state services–Border Guards and the MVD–received orders to ensure order and prevent provocations during the action…
The objective behind Crimea’s blockade is exactly what I told Ukrainian TV channels last Sunday: Ukraine will do everything in order to ensure the swiftest possible re-establishment of state sovereignty over the ‘occupied peninsula’.”
What is he talking about? It would seem that the “activists” action just happens to be consistent with the president’s statements and the country’s official policies. Poroshenko is supporting that action in every respect and sees the government’s role only in ensuring order.
What kind of order does he have in mind? Preventing Ukrainian citizens from moving about the country? And what about the Constitution? What about the Civil Code? The right to travel is not limited to walking and driving cars.
Poroshenko has it tough. On the one hand, he must show his support for peace, but on the other he must maintain the belligerent rhetoric so that the “patriots” don’t suspect “treason” too soon. Poroshenko is trying to satisfy everyone and is therefore walking the tightrope.
From that vantage point, the time for the action was picked very well. The tourist season is over. There are no crowds of tourists heading for Crimea. And the peninsula does not need food deliveries in great volumes. But in early 2014 a blockade of this kind could have hurt Crimea badly. So why now and not then? Why did the “activists” declare a blockade when, as a means of coercion, it makes no sense? Coincidence? Perhaps.
The election campaign currently beginning in Ukraine left is mark on the events as well. Radical parties and their “combat” organizations must restore the damaged image of the fighters for Ukraine. The events of the last few months have damaged their popularity. Therefore they gleefully joined the “Crimean Tatar activists” in their action. With two left hands.
The first day of the blockade was the funniest. Everything started with a mistake by the “activists.” There are three roads to Crimea. Oddly, but at first the “national control” was established on the least trafficked road through Chongar. Having stood there for a few hours and then being tipped off by the locals they have nothing to wait for, the “activists” also closed the other two roads.
All of this was done with Right Sector forces which has a paramilitary battalion structure. What was its intelligence doing? Was it so hard to send a few people with a notepad and a pen to every road? I guess I’m asking too much of that organization.
Why is it bad for Ukraine?
Exactly so. It’s bad for Ukraine as a state. I’m not talking about the drop in exports and people losing work. Kiev couldn’t care less about such trivia, especially since the level of trade toward the end of the tourist season is not as high and it will continue to decline.
I’m talking about corruption. On the second day of the action Lenur Islyamov, the director of the Crimean Tatar ATR TV channel who is one of the blockade’s initiators, made a few interesting statements:
“Cargoes from the mainland will have a special sticker in order to be able to proceed to Crimea. Those who don’t have them won’t get through.”
“There will be a list of food suppliers to Crimea.”
That is interesting indeed. It turns out that the “activists” are simply taking control of the process of issuing permits for conducting business with Crimea. We’ve seen a similar system established elsewhere. On the Donbass. Exactly the same.
Just to make things clearer. Crimea today is much more dependent on Ukraine when it comes to other types of products, but not food.
For example, construction materials, which are expensive to bring from Russia. If one were to ban them, it would cause a sharp rise in prices.
What about deliveries of special electronics which are not subject to duties in Ukraine? Already during the Yanukovych era there was a heavy stream of such products being smuggled to Russia. Crimea’s firms are still trying to re-establish it today.
But now everything will be even simpler. Both sides of the border are being serviced by former comrades from the SBU. And so forth.
So my understanding is that the leaders of the “action” will take under control this type of trade and…also issue permits. For free, of course. Coincidence? What, does anyone still believe in coincidences?
About the leaders. The already mentioned Lenur Islyamov is the owner of the SimSitiTrans trucking company. He bought it in 2005 as a Russian citizen, whom he still remains today.
Lenur Islyamov is also the main owner of the Dzhast [Just?] Bank, which fell under Poroshenko’s sanctions because Lenur decided to try to take control of Crimean trade.
I think it’s now clear who and why is getting permits to cross the border from Ukraine’s side? And who will sit on the financial streams crossing that border? Patriotism? What are you talking about? Nothing personal, just business.
Considering that the SBU is providing cover for the blockade, we can safely say that the corrupt officials from the SBU are using patsies to establish control over new markets. If the authorities continue to ignore this process, the organized crime under SBU leadership will also place its paws on the Crimean borders and Transnistrian, just as they did on the Donbass.
In general, the longer this process continues, the more Ukraine resembles the “cossack” republic of the 16th and 17th Centuries when various bands were seeking their own piece of action.
To be honest, the Zaporozhyan Sich was an ordinary pirate and bandit zone whose interests sometimes coincided with those of the population living on the territory which later became known as Ukraine. Nothing has changed since those times.
These bands unite depending on the situation, but sometimes fight each other. They carry out joint raids against their neighbors, receive “privileges” from the supreme authority located in Krakow, Warsaw, or Washington. In a word, they live as best they can.
Sometimes it seems we are living in a transitional period of some sort. The most monstrous images of the Middle Ages are being captured by iPhone 6s and uploaded to the internet in real time. And in the meantime, the newly minted “cossacks” are going to the Perekop, old truck tires in hand, to collect tribute.