Akhmetov's Steel Factory and Kolomoisky's Port
In a series of first, second, third, fourth and fifth essays on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, published before the conflict had started, we asserted that the geopolitical basis of this war was internal Russian business: that is to say, the Russian President reigning in the long errant, crude and violent Ukrainian oligarchs.
Those five essays were published in short chapters, each comforting to the eye and the mind on its own. But properly they are read as a whole text that seeks to explain why the Russian Federation began her monumental assault upon Ukraine. Nobody in the media is discussing why this was started or what Russian objectives really are; western analysts are at a loss.
To anyone sharing this sense of miscomprehension, we urge you to reread those five essays in sequence.
We are not passing moral judgement on the reasons Russia went to war over Ukraine or the methods she has used and will continue to use in doing so. Judgements of that nature are for the historians, not for those of us immersed in the contemporary cry of battle and hysteria of human loss of life.
Nevertheless we maintain that the events playing out support our central thesis, namely that the various Ukrainian oligarchs had crossed the Russian President politically and, they imagined, financially and even militarily. That was their hubris.
We respectfully invite the reader to review the following article, about the troops holding out in Mariupol to defend the world's largest steel factory.
Why is the Mariupol steel factory being held onto in such desperate circumstances? The answer is because Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's wealthiest oligarch, is paying soldiers to fight for it. Why is he doing this? Because he knows that the Russian President, deeply unhappy with Mr Akhmetov's funding of pro-western movements in Kyiv and elsewhere, intends to deprive him as punishment of his biggest asset, whereupon his oligarch's fortune will collapse and he will go the same way as all the other oligarchs who stepped out of line: like Boris Berezovsky, throwing himself off the side of his luxury yacht.
Kolomoisky is the closest of the Ukrainian oligarchs with the west, having paid to put the actor-comedian Volodimir Zelenskiy in power in Kyiv, and since then ever further encouraging foreign clandestine military forces to infiltrate southwest Ukraine to compile a military force adverse to Moscow's interests. The pinnacle of this piece of hubris was the Neptune subsonic cruise missile attack upon the Russian flagship destroyer the Moskva yesterday 14 April 2022.
Everyone knows that the Ukrainian army, a conscripted militia, is not capable of sophisticated attacks upon a destroyer armed with the latest sentry gun technology to knock out contemporary missiles. The Neptune missile is, after all, subsonic. It is proffered as a Ukrainian design updating Soviet cruise missile designs but actually it is nothing of the sort. The Russians do not use subsonic cruise missiles. The Neptune is a rehashed Tomahawk cruise missile, a now venerable American creation re-badged to appear ostensibly like a Ukrainian domestic invention.
To suggest that the Neptune is a recent Ukrainian military invention is as much nonsense as is the idea that skilled Ukrainian troops fired the weapon with such devastating accuracy at the Moskva. The ship's sentry guns were diverted by a series of drones, the first ever case in which sentry guns have actually been tested in naval theatre against a hostile opposing force and using an experimental mechanism to decoy the sentry guns towards irrelevant drones that must have relied upon careful computer programming with an idea of the computational algorithms that Russian sentry guns use.
Kolomoisky paid for all of this, in lobbying or in money, because he too is firmly in the sights of the Kremlin. He has acted with disdain towards the Russian President at least as far back as 2009, in his egregious 'privatisation' using his private military forces of Ukraine's Kremenchug oil refinery that until then was a Russia-Ukraine state-to-state joint venture.
Then he took the Ukrainian state airline and Ukraine's biggest bank. He thought he had got away with such thefts; but upon the Presidency of Petro Poroshenko, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman-cum-politician who understood much more strictly the Kremlin's writ, those assets were re-nationalised and Kolomoisky had to flee to Israel pending corruption investigations. The USA still has an international warrant out for him.
Poroshenko tried to seize control of Odessa and its essential port from Kolomoisky by appointing the eccentric Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of Odessa oblast, but Kolomoisky managed to oust him using his private military forces.
There is no democracy in Ukraine as we in the West understand the word.
Now Kolomoisky has fixed a Presidential election to elect a comedian with a political party that came from zero; he hides behind foreign powers in his battle with the Kremlin, and he sinks a Russian destroyer using foreign technology. But this is a mark of his desperation, not of Ukrainian strength.
What the West does not understand about the war in Ukraine is that Russia has no strategic goals except making ceaseless war to ground down the Ukrainian oligarchs until they personally go bankrupt. Russia is never in a hurry; she is so huge that her cogs and wheels whir only slowly. When the Kremlin recently said it was re-focusing its military priorities in the east of the country, it meant that it was now maneuvering to finish off Akhmetov, before turning its attentions back to Kolomoisky. Pick your battles one at a time
Russia survives loss of vessels, armour and personnel because her resources are limitless and due to higher hydrocarbon prices as a result of sanctions, she is in ample liquidity to keep going. The idea that one, two or even a small group of rich Ukrainian men with criminal backgrounds in seizing state assets and robbing the Ukrainian people of their economic resources, could beat the Kremlin, is madness. That is no doubt why the Russian oligarchs all keep their own counsel.
Finally, let us ask the question: does the Russian President believe in his oft-pronounced historical narrative of the unity of Russian and Ukrainian peoples, as exemplified in the following long essay unusually authored by him? (He does not normally take to writing at length.)
The answer is that the Russian President does believe this narrative; and everyone versed in the region knows this narrative to be substantially true if somewhat selective. Nevertheless these historical lessons are not the principal motivators behind his actions; the Russian President is far too ruthless and calculating a politician of pure expediency to be driven by emotive historical ideals.
Instead he is motivated by an immediate need to discipline and, in all likelihood eliminate, Ukraine's oligarchs who have foolishly tried to combine forces to beat him. And he is determined that those persons' private empires will die. The war may take twists and turns; it matters little. The longer it goes on, the less the West will subsidise these criminals and the more they will be bled dry. Whereas aside from some disconcerting Ruble currency fluctuations, now seemingly over, Russia has everything to gain from this war Sanctions are not a downside; they just drive up the prices of Russia's primary exports.
The final goal of the Russian President is to re-nationalise Ukraine's stolen infrastructure and industrial assets, robbed from her people by criminals taking advantage of the political and economic chaos that tore through Ukraine in the early 1990's. Although we in the West may not approve of his brutal methods (Russian politics were always so), it is hard not to have any sympathy at all for this goal.