The volatile situation in Lugansk gave rise to rumours in the city about a military coup and the displacement of the current authorities of the Lugansk People's Republic on Tuesday.
The situation has been tense in the city-centre since the morning. The streets are flooded with armed men in military uniform with no insignia, and white bandages on their sleeves. There are also employees in the LPR Interior Ministry uniform – the OMON "Berkut" soldiers, BPS, SOBR. In the centre of the city there are several armoured personnel carriers, special buses and special transport of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The military ask civilians to refrain from passing through the cordoned off territories. Several governmental, educational, and office buildings have been emptied today. In addition, in the city there has been blocked Kotsyubinsky Street, as well as the streets adjacent to the Teatralnaya Square and the park of Heroes of the Great Patriotic War, where the administration of the Head of the Republic Igor Plotnitsky is located.
Earlier today, the Centre for Public Relations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs explained this situation in the city as the conduct of planned exercises. At the same time, it became known that an anonymous person had reported on phone on an explosive device planted in the administration of the LPR Head, after which the building was checked, and all employees were evacuated.
At the same time, the local TV channel GTRK Lugansk 24 informs that the streets were cordoned off at the order of the LPR Interior and personally by Igor Cornet, who had been dismissed from the post of the Interior Minister of the Republic on Monday, November 20.
Standoff between power-wielding officials
Referring to different media sources, on the one hand, the views of the LPR Administration and the Head of the Republic are promoted, and, on the other hand, an overview on the position of the Interior Ministry as a whole is given. The situation has been difficult to summarize in a clear manner.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Interior Ministry gave to the public a statement by the department’s former head Igor Kornet, saying that some agreement has been finally reached and standoff settled. In this statement, Kornet confirmed having returned to his position as a Minister of the Interior of the Lugansk People’s Republic.
At the same time, he specified who was to blame for the misinformation, which had led to the current developments in the country, pointing to the individuals who had been involved in creating tense moods in the society by different tools, including the State TV and Radio Company which has recently started spreading shadowy rumours allegedly related to the activities of the Ministry and its Chief.
Later on the day, the Head of the LPR, Igor Plotnitsky, presented his view of the situation, debunking the theses stated in Kornet’s address to the public, at that refusing the accusations put against several top officials. According to Plotnitsky, Kornet has no legal right either to make official statements or put forward charges, as he had been dismissed and a new Acting Minister of Interior was appointed (his name has not been made public yet).
LPR Interior: ‘Fourth force’ runs intimidation campaign against us
On Tuesday morning the staff of the central office and the territorial units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Lugansk People’s Republic published a statement saying that the department is deeply outraged by the actions of a group of people who have organized the real harassment of the department’s chief, the Minister of the Interior, Igor Alexandrovich Kornet.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Lugansk People's Republic possesses reliable information on the pressure that has been exerted by certain political forces on the republican media chiefs, as well as individual journalists, bloggers and active users of social networks in recent days.
The goal of such total pressure, intimidation of the public opinion leaders, is to force representatives of the ‘fourth power’ to launch a large-scale campaign to discredit the bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Recently, a sufficient amount of materials has appeared on the Internet, as well as on the pages of the LPR media, discrediting the activities of the law enforcement bodies of the Republic, and primarily the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
“Such libellous scraps are custom-made and are intended to form a negative image of the police, as well as to inspire social upheaval in the society,” the statement by the Interior Ministry says. “The attention should be drawn to the fact that these publications are being prepared under pressure. This is the result of blackmail, intimidation and threats.”
As the Ministry holds it, “these sweet-tongued liars have presented to the Head of the Republic, Igor Plotnitsky and the respected court inaccurate and unreliable information, completely distorting the reality, thus having deceived the authorities of the Republic. As a result, the court adopted a hasty and unjustified decision on the Minister of Internal Affairs.”
The department’s staff appealed to the Head of the Republic not only as employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but also as ordinary citizens and the electorate who voted in the elections and refer to the Constitution of the Republic, saying that everyone has the right to be heard. After all, the source of power in the young Republic is its people.
“We can not calmly and indifferently watch the business reputation of the Lugansk police being muddled openly and without any grounds, and the working environment in the Ministry being destabilized. We want to protect the honour and dignity of our leader, who devotes his whole life and energy, working for the benefit of our young Republic from the moment of its formation!” the statement reads.
The employees of the entire Ministry of the Interior are asking for an opportunity to work calmly and purposefully in a united, cohesive team, implementing the function of law enforcement and security in the territory of the Lugansk People's Republic only under the leadership of the Minister of the Interior, in the person of Igor Alexandrovich Kornet.
“It was in times of trouble that he managed to unite the personnel of the Ministry to protect the Republic from Ukrainian punishers. But this fact is now being intensely forsaken,” the appeal says. “In such difficult times, the Republic’s officials and staff need unity, stability, support for each other.”
In-the-street situation remains calm – political standoff escalates
After the Interior Ministry had published its official statement, security troops enhanced their monitoring and guarding activities in the city-centre of the LPR capital. The video shot by the State TV and Radio Company Lugansk 24 [linked above – ed.] shows the presence of troops, a representative of which claims to hold planned joint exercises with Berkut employees involved.
No hostilities or violence has been reported in Lugansk. According to the TV overview, the situation is under tough control of the State Security Service, which is ready to react to any developments in order to prevent further intensification of the confrontation between the two branches of the LPR authorities. On the side, there are military units loyal to the Head of State and his Administration, and, on the other, there are police forces under the command of the Interior Ministry.
It should be highlighted that ongoing political standoff in the LPR between the ruling politicians hasn't caused for the citizens of Lugansk People's Republic a reason to choose their side in this engagement and basically conflict is limited between the leading politicians and the security structures they represent.
Unfortunately, the political standoff seems to bear signs of escalation.
The ousted Police Chief Kornet made a video-statement, which provoked immediate response of the Head of the LPR. Plotnitsky urges the rebellious ex-Minister to remain committed to the law and follow the recent court decision of November 20 and the petition of the People's Council Committee of the Lugansk People's Republic on State Security and Defense.
Afternoon statement by Kornet
The previously dismissed Minister of Internal Affairs of the LPR gave the following statement:
“This night, the LPR Ministry of Internal Affairs prevented the activities of a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group attempting to infiltrate the territory of the Republic to commit a series of resonant sabotage and terrorist acts. Most of the saboteurs were detained. The search and detention of the rest of the group and their accomplices continues.
At present, the situation in the Republic is completely controlled by law enforcement agencies. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is working in the regular mode, the staff of the department continue fulfilling their duties.”
At that, Igor Kornet dispelled rumours about his resignation.
“Recently, as a result of the destructive actions of a number of officials, the criticism of the law enforcement agency has been intensified in the media. These persons for a long time purposefully presented to the Head of the Republic inaccurate information about the alleged involvement of the Interior Ministry employees in unlawful activities.
This is due to the fact that irrefutable evidence has been obtained proving the involvement of certain high-ranking government officials in criminal activities to the detriment of the interests of the Republic and the people of Lugansk region. As a representative of the rule of law, I am used to talking openly, so I am not going to shield anyone.
As a result of operational and investigative measures implemented by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of State Affairs of the Republic, there has been obtained evidence of the involvement of Anastasia Shurkayeva, Director of the State Television and Radio Company of the Lugansk People's Republic, in the activities of the Ukrainian special services.
It has been revealed that the chief of the LPR Head’s Administration, Irina Teizman, and the head of the Government Security Service of the LPR Ministry of the Interior, Yevgeny Seliverstov, participated in the coup d’état staged in the country in September 2016. As a result, the ex-Prime Minister and my military comrade Tsyplakov Gennady Nikolayevich was killed, and Vitaly Kiselyov, Vice-Commander of the LPR People's Militia Office, was sentenced to a long-term imprisonment.
These activities were conducted with the direct participation of a number of senior officials of the Prosecutor General's Office, who were engaged in the fabrication of these criminal cases.
After the Interior Ministry had obtained irrefutable evidence of the involvement of these individuals in these crimes, the latter took steps to discredit the agency and dismiss key employees of the Ministry who were directly involved in the disclosure of the organized crime group.
Tonight I have provided all the available materials to the Head of the Lugansk People's Republic, Igor Plotnitsky, who decided to open criminal cases and arrest all the persons involved: the General Director of the LPR State TV and Radio Company, Anastasia Shurkayeva, the chief of the Administration of the LPR Head, Irina Teizman, and the Head of the Government Security Service under the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic, Yevgeny Seliverstov. I repeat that we completely control the situation.”
Statement by the LPR Head, following Kornet’s claims
Just in a few hours after the latest video-address of the LPR ex-Interior Head Igor Kornet had been presented, the Head of the Lugansk People’s Republic made a statement clarifying the official position of the authorities.
“Today, residents of the Lugansk could see a large number of people in military uniform in the city-centre claiming to take part in exercises on the orders of the leadership of the LPR Ministry of Internal Affairs.
This situation comes as a continuation of yesterday's staffing changes caused by the lawful dismissal of the Minister of the Interior from his position.
Today’s events have once again proved that the decision had been taken right. Attempts by certain structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to challenge the decision of the court and the petition of the People's Council Committee of the Lugansk People's Republic on State Security and Defense, the work of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, the rule of law, and the protection of human and citizen's rights and freedoms have has exceeded all limits.
In turn, I assure you that the statement by Kornet I.A. has neither grounds nor validity. Since yesterday, Kornet I.A. has been legally dismissed from his position: there is a court decision, a petition from the relevant Committee of the People's Council. Moreover, a new Acting Minister of the Interior of the Republic has been appointed.
Currently, the investigation is underway, but into another case and with other defendants. There are no grounds for arresting Anastasia Shurkayeva, Irina Teizman and Yevgeny Selivestrov, and the appointed Acting Interior Minister has never issued such orders.
For my part, I would like to assure that the situation is being controlled by the authorities of the Lugansk People's Republic and will be completely resolved in the near future. Attempts of people acting under the influence of illegitimate leadership of the LPR Ministry of the Interior are primarily aimed at creating social tension in the cities of the Lugansk People's Republic and come as a continuation of the personnel changes that took place on November 20 according to the legislation of the Lugansk People's Republic.
However, their actions should not be regarded as a reason for panic, and will be completely eliminated in the near future. Now the authorities of the Lugansk People's Republic are bending every effort to ensure the safety of residents of the cities of the Republic. Therefore, I can say with confidence that attempts by certain individuals to stay in power at the cost of destabilizing the situation inside the state are in vain, and will soon be completely neutralized.”
Unpredictable outcome ahead
We are closely following the situation in the LPR. What we know now is that two powerful sides are trying to find a diplomatic solution to the developed counteraction. Its clear, that troops are needed in the LPR streets to keep any possible emotional reactions under control and secure the public safety against all possible external forces, which could use the volatile situation in their own benefit against the people's republic. Even the struggle remains at the cabinet level, a threat of further escalation is always present in such kind of a situation.
The standoff between the Interior Ministry and the official government has lasted for a while already. Now we are following the outcome this disagreement may lead to. But, as we know, the people of Lugansk haven’t been forced to take any sides in this political battle and unity of the state is not threatened. We can expect that the republic stays united against external threats.
We should remember, that in the conflict there always rise inner and external enemies, posing threat to the society and aiming at destabilizing the situation by all means, taking advantage of the week points of government which emerge within the confrontation inside the country.
The upcoming evening and night will certainly show where the political struggle may lead. At this moment, one can be sure that someone will undoubtfully be held accountable for such a dramatic turn of the situation.
The independent Lugansk People’s Republic is now experiencing its moment of strengthening from inside. We can just hope that even though it’s a war time, the state will manage to overcome this crisis in a peaceful and diplomatic manner. This is what we can expect and there is no reason to fear the loss of common sense and will to reach settlement in a constructive way.
DONi News Agency continues following the developments and reports the ongoing situation.
DONi News Agency, editorial article, Janus Putkonen, director