A Surprising Flare Up In Ukraine's 'Frozen' War Could Reveal An Internal Rivalry Between The Kremlin And Russia's Security Agency

LUHANSK, Ukraine -- Though snow now covers the ground of Ukraine's Donbass region — and the war there is in a kind of "frozen" state — last week saw a heat spike that caused a lot of change in the area.


Armed men loyal to LPR Minister Igor Kornet block off a street in the centre of rebel-controlled city of Luhansk during a coup, Ukraine November 22, 2017.

Last Monday, the head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) Igor Plotnitsky fired his "interior minister" Igor Kornet, allegedly for corruption.

Luhansk is a separatist-controlled city in eastern Ukraine.

The two leaders had been at odds for some time, and they had clashed on issues before — Plotnitsky once forced Kornet to give away a luxury home he took for himself, and to further embarrass him, filmed the entire episode on national TV.

Kornet, however, refused to stand down, and the next day armed men without insignia were reported by local media milling about outside government buildings and on the streets of Luhansk.

Kornet later released a statement saying that the Interior Ministry had taken control, that the LPR government was full of saboteurs who were working for Ukraine, and that he had effectively saved the LPR.

His claims to power were bolstered when soldiers from the neighboring self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) arrived in a large convoy, and helped Kornet's men arrest Plotnitsky loyalists. 

Plotnisky was soon seen in Moscow, where it was suspected that he was trying to negotiate a case for why he should be allowed to keep his position.

He eventually resigned as head of the LPR for "health reasons," and the LPR State Security Minister Leonid Pasechnik is said to be acting head until an election.

The entire situation was rather odd, given Moscow's tight control over the separatist leadership.

Kremlin spokesman Dmetry Peskov brushed off questions about the situation, saying "this is rather a question [to be addressed] to the 'republics."

A rivalry in Russia 

Some analysts believe that the coup shows an internal rivalry amongst the LPR and DPR's Russian sponsors, with the Kremlin supporting the unpopular Plotnitsky, and the FSB supporting Kornet, who was popular with the law enforcement and military of the Ukrainian pseudostate.

There is also the fact that the DPR intervened in the LPR's affairs, leading some to speculate that the separatists might try to revive "Novorossiya" — also known as "New Russia" — a unification of the two self-declared republics into one state; an idea that was abandoned by the Kremlin and rebel leadership in 2015.

Luhansk is no stranger to internal power struggles.

It has already seen one "coup" attempt, and a number of leaders of independent militia units who would not submit to the LPR central authority were assassinated or forced to leave the personal fiefdoms they had created amidst the chaos of the war.

Taking advantage of the chaos of this coup, the Ukrainian army made advances and took control of three towns and some "strategically important high points" near an area known as the Svitlodarsk Bulge, a hotspot that sees a lot of fighting.

Separatists forces launched a counter-attack that lasted eight hours, and reportedly resulted in the deaths of five Ukrainian servicemen, and eight separatists.

The moves will no doubt inflame the situation.

Already, the Ukrainian government claims that Russia has deployed thousands of troops and tanks to the country, as the coup was unfolding.

Source: Business Insider

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