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Focus Ukraine: The evil unleashed by the Russian regime is beginning to return to the place where it was born – Russia

Ihor Petrenko, Dmytro Levus, Petro Oleshchuk, Oleksiy Kushch

22 mins - 11 de Mayo de 2024, 07:00

Agenda Pública and United Ukraine Think Tank present Focus Ukraine, a weekly article series analysing how the military conflict in Ukraine and the political and economic situation in the country will evolve. The articles are written by Ihor Petrenko, Dmytro Levus, Petro Oleshchuk and Oleksiy Kushch, experts of the United Ukraine Think Tank.

Ukraine is waging a just war of defense and is attacking military targets on the territory of Russia, which is the aggressor state, as part of its legitimate right to self-defense. Like any crisis, war changes the dynamics of a country's development. It is important that the positive part of the changes becomes systemic.

At the moment, Ukrainian attacks on legitimate military targets in Russia are carried out with Ukrainian weapons and ammunition. This is due to the requirements of the partners who provide the weapons. For a long time, the West has believed that the use of Western-made weapons against targets in Russia could draw the countries that provided the weapons into a direct confrontation with Russia and lead to an escalation of the conflict. This position is controversial. After all, the course of the war proves that the Kremlin does not implement a significant number of its threats and fears escalation itself. For example, the Kremlin has even threatened to use nuclear weapons if Ukraine attacks Russian facilities on the temporarily occupied Crimean peninsula. However, since the summer of 2022, Crimea has been under constant powerful attacks by the Ukrainian Defense Forces. Nevertheless, Ukraine adheres to agreements with its partners on the non-use of Western weapons to attack targets in the Russian Federation. However, the use of modern Western weapons against targets in the Russian Federation could significantly affect the success of the Ukrainian Defense Forces. British Minister of Foreign Affairs David Cameron's visit to Ukraine on May 3 may have changed the situation. David Cameron said that Ukraine has the right to use weapons provided by London to strike targets in Russia, and that Kyiv should decide whether to do so. Ukraine expects that other partners will also reconsider their position and the terms of military assistance.

At the front, Russia is trying to implement its plans for an offensive on several fronts. According to the Commander-in-Chief, the situation at the front has escalated. In an attempt to seize the strategic initiative and break through the front line, the Russian invaders have focused their main efforts on several areas, creating a significant advantage in forces and means. The intensity of the fighting is very high. Ivanivske and Chasiv Yar remain the hottest spots in the Kramatorsk sector. In the Avdiivka sector, which is now the main one for the invaders, Ukrainian defense forces repel up to 50 attacks by the Russian occupiers per day. The Russians are also constantly attacking in other areas. For example, in one day, they attacked 22 times in the Bakhmut sector, 16 times in the Novopavlivka sector, 12 times in the Kupiansk sector, 15 times in the Lyman sector, and 2 times in the Orikhiv sector. On the left bank of the Dnipro River, Russians are trying to drive our troops from the footholds they hold. There are about 10 attacks by the Russian occupiers every day. The losses of the Russian invaders consistently amount to more than a thousand manpower units and several dozen tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery systems and vehicles. Russia's heavy losses are confirmed by many different sources. For example, the Russian Defense Ministry plans to cut down 17 hectares of the Pirogovo Forest Park, which is adjacent to the so-called Pantheon of the Defenders of the Fatherland near Moscow. Russia's 52-hectare main military cemetery near Moscow has run out of space. But when it was opened in 2013, Russian officials claimed that there would be enough space for at least 200 years. Given the Russian offensive, Ukraine continues to strengthen its positions. Fortifications are being constructed in five regions, taking into account the possibility that the enemy may try to launch another offensive from the territory of the Russian Federation and Belarus in the north of our country. Fortifications are being built in Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson regions.

May 2 marked the tenth anniversary of Russia's attempt, after the occupation of Crimea, to undermine the situation in Odesa and seize the city with the help of pro-Russian organizations. It ended in Russia's defeat and the tragic deaths of several dozen people in the streets and in the fire of the Trade Union Building, which is clearly Russia's fault. But Russia blames Ukraine for its crime. The Kremlin is furious and taking revenge on Odesa and its residents for destroying the myth that Odesa is a Russian city in 2014. Odesa turned Russian dreams of empire into ruins in 2014 and 2022, and the city resists the aggressor. Since 2022, the Russian Federation has been conducting horrific strikes on the city with missiles and kamikaze drones, killing children and entire families. On April 29, Russia fired an Iskander ballistic missile at Odesa from the occupied Crimea in the afternoon. The area by the sea, a popular vacation spot for city residents, was hit, and there are no military facilities there. The missile's warhead was a cluster munition designed to kill as many people as possible. Six people were killed and about 30 injured. A part of the Odesa Law Academy on the seashore burned down. Among the wounded was its rector and politician Serhiy Kivalov, who had previously actively promoted the "Russian world." Once again, it became clear that the Russian world does not spare its adherents. On May 2, a Russian missile hit the cargo department of Nova Poshta. 904 shipments worth almost UAH 3 million were destroyed. 15.5 tons of orders from online stores with clothes, appliances, children's toys, pet treats, medicines, and other packages were destroyed. The Russians are hitting parks, residential buildings, and the historic center of Odesa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Through terror, Russia seeks to sow disbelief and fear.

Russia continues to blackmail the world with the help of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the city of Enerhodar, which was seized at the beginning of the full-scale aggression. At the same time, it is brazenly and absurdly lying. On April 25, the Russians submitted a note to the IAEA claiming to have shot down 97 Ukrainian UAVs over the past week that allegedly attacked the plant. Instead, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine provided convincing evidence that the occupiers were using kamikaze drones over the nuclear reactors of the Russian-occupied ZNPP. The video from the enemy fpv drone, obtained with the help of electronic intelligence, contains markings indicating that the drone was supplied to the occupation forces by the Russian Ministry of Defense. The flight path of the Russian kamikaze drone runs over the ZNPP power units towards the Ukrainian-controlled Nikopol and Marhanets communities, which are under constant enemy attack. The Russians are using the territory of ZNPP to launch drones, taking advantage of the fact that the Ukrainian Defense Forces cannot retaliate in the 1.5 kilometer zone around the plant. The occupiers have equipped launch pads for their UAVs near the sixth reactor of ZNPP. The Russians also use the territory of the seized nuclear power plant to train pilots of fpv drones from the so-called Archangel school, the Russian military intelligence service. The Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the IAEA sent a note to the IAEA about the Russian violations. Obviously, in the case of the ZNPP, the threat to peace from a possible nuclear disaster will cease only after the plant is returned to Ukrainian control.

Victory in the war with Russia is impossible without strikes on the aggressor's territory. Since this country lives mainly on the sale of oil, and the money from this trade is used for weapons, it is natural that the oil production and refining sector is the Achilles' heel, and a strike on it will help stop the monster. Drones have once again successfully attacked an oil refinery in Ryazan. This is the third largest refinery in Russia with a processing capacity of 17 million tons of oil per year. There was also a fire at the Kamaz automobile plant in Naberezhnye Cholny, Tatarstan. These are the Kamaz trucks used by the invading army. So this is not the last such fire. Drones have also disabled several power substations on the Russian railroad in the Kursk region. Ukraine also strikes at the rear of the occupiers in the temporarily occupied territories. They were intensified after the arrival of ATACMS missiles. In particular, the strikes were carried out in Crimea, where local residents counted more than 10 explosions near Simferopol, Dzhankoy, and Hvardiyske. It is likely that ATACMS missiles were used to strike enemy airfields and warehouses. On another day, the occupiers' air defense positions on Cape Tarkhankut in Crimea were attacked. At the Kuban training ground in Luhansk region, a triple strike of Ukrainian missiles on the place of concentration of the Russian occupiers killed and disabled at least a hundred people.

Predictably, Russia is facing a wave of crimes from former prisoners who were released and pardoned to participate in the war against Ukraine. According to incomplete data, Russian army soldiers who returned from the war in Ukraine have killed at least 107 and injured more than a hundred Russian citizens over the past two years. These crimes were committed by 175 Russian soldiers, including 91 ex-prisoners pardoned by Vladimir Putin, as well as 84 volunteers or soldiers of the Russian army. In 2023, at least 190 criminal cases were opened against the pardoned mercenaries of the private military company Wagner, which recruited the prisoners. Among them are 20 cases of murder or attempted murder, as well as rape, robbery, drug-related crimes, and others. Russians claim that the prisoners pardoned by Putin for serious crimes who returned after six months of fighting are causing terror. Many of them later began to sign contracts with the Storm Z unit, which reports directly to the Defense Ministry. Moreover, former prisoners who went through the war in Ukraine have been hired by the Rosgvardia. Wagnerians are invited to give so-called "lessons of courage" in schools. At the same time, it became known that among them are those convicted of pedophilia and the former coordinator of the Blue Whale suicide groups for teenagers. Currently, many criminals in the Russian Federation are being offered by investigators to sign a contract to join the Russian army in order to avoid punishment. Naturally, such an "army" is also committing terror and crimes in the temporarily occupied territories. Recently, it became known that in the occupied part of the Kherson region, two Russian soldiers killed the head of the occupation administration of the village of Abrykosivka. But as it turned out, these two Russian soldiers, one of whom had been convicted several times, including for murder, committed five murders that night and burned down several houses not only in Abrykosivka but also in another village. The case was such that the occupiers could not hide it. All this evil will return to Russia, to the place where it was born. And it will intensify all the usual Russian gloom. The punishment according to the crime.

Russia puts Ukrainian president on the wanted list and reiterates the theme of "illegitimacy" of the Ukrainian government

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has put current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the wanted list. The information about the wanted list was posted on the website of the Russian Interior Ministry, however, it is not known when exactly. The Russian Interior Ministry did not specify which articles and criminal cases it was referring to. Later, it became known that the Russian Interior Ministry had also put the commander of the Land Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Oleksandr Pavliuk, on the wanted list.

Of course, from the point of view of the Ukrainian legal system, such actions have no force and meaning, but they obviously pursue clear political goals. In general, all of this fits into a scheme that the Russian side has already begun to work out. It is about the "termination of President Zelenskyy's powers" on May 20 this year and his alleged "illegitimacy" in the future. The Main Intelligence Agency of Ukraine had previously reported that the Russians would be working on this scheme.

Obviously, by putting Zelenskyy on the wanted list, the Russians are trying to show that they do not consider him to be the president, and they plan to proclaim this more actively in the future. At the same time, the fact that this topic is being worked out at the level of the Russian authorities will not help to spread the relevant sentiments in Ukraine. Especially since the Russian president's press secretary, Peskov, has previously stated that Zelenskyy is "illegitimate." Such an open demonstration of the cards may not only fail to facilitate the implementation of the scheme, but also make it as toxic as possible for Ukrainians. It is clear that the position expressed by Putin's entourage and Russian repressive bodies will immediately become marginalized in Ukraine.

It is important that the positive changes caused by the war become politically crystallized in the form of realistic and effective programs for the country's development

Structural transformation of the Ukrainian economy in almost 20 years (2005-2023). Rapid progress on the ladder that leads down or why the leap from the world of modernity to the world of archaism, rather than to the modern world of post-modernity.

Over the past decades, Ukraine has created a competitive world of the service economy: a number of modern companies have emerged that can compete with even European businesses in their business segment: Monobank, Nova Poshta, and many others.

At the same time, the industrial core of the economy has been almost completely lost, and raw materials, such as agriculture, are gaining importance.

Until the war became full-scale, deindustrialization was an "invisible phenomenon" for most people and politicians: only closed factories in Ukrainian cities forced professional workers to look for work somewhere in the strawberry fields in Poland.

We can observe a gradual loss of the ability to produce more or less complex products and a simplification of the economy to simple raw material cycles.

A drop in the economic complexity index, a flatter model of productive forces. Loss of technologies, competencies, crisis in education and labor productivity.

In the period from 2005 to 2023, Ukraine exported a total of $880 billion worth of goods abroad.

For comparison, South Korea, with roughly the same population, exports about $475 billion worth of goods per year, including $14 billion worth of weapons alone.

And this was once an agrarian backward colony of Japan, almost completely destroyed by a long war (World War II and the Civil War). It used to export the "three whites": sugar, rice, and flour, plus some mineral resources, such as nickel and tungsten. But now South Korea exports more goods in two years than Ukraine does in nineteen.

If we look at the structure of Ukrainian exports, the first place is occupied by exports of food and agricultural raw materials - 293 billion or 33%. These are mostly raw materials or semi-finished products. Exports of ferrous metals and their products are in second place, amounting to UAH 262 billion or 29.8%. These are purely semi-finished products. The third place goes to exports of minerals. These are primarily iron ore, titanium, and uranium. About $86 billion or 10%. These are pure raw materials. The chemical industry is in fourth place with $66 billion (7.5%).  Fifth is the export of wood and wood products - $31 billion (3.6%). Exports of machinery and equipment are in sixth place: 25 billion or 2.9%. The list is closed by exports of industrial products - $12.2 billion or 1.4%. There is also a "miscellaneous" section, which includes mainly military-industrial products - 25.5 billion (2.9%).

It should be noted that Ukraine exported more wood and wood products in monetary terms than machinery and equipment.

In total, raw materials accounted for 76% of exports or $673 billion.

At the same time, Ukraine is one of the few commodity-producing countries that does not have its own national reserve fund. This means that all these profits were made by a dozen oligarchic FIGs.

Even a cursory analysis shows that the application of an average export duty rate of 5% (with a profitability of raw material exports of 50% and above) would allow the formation of a national reserve fund of almost $34 billion. And an average export duty rate of 10% would generate reserve fund assets of $67 billion.

These funds could be used to restructure the Ukrainian economy, including programs to process raw materials and increase the level of value added in the GDP structure.

Instead, parasitizing on raw material rents has created a rent-based, raw material model of the economy in Ukraine. Flows of raw materials have formed convenient points for withdrawing financial rents, which, in turn, have formed rent-seeking political elites.

During previous political cycles, the task of these political elites was not to develop the country in a project-based manner (political development), but to capture raw material rents, protect them from political competitors, and invest rent profits in the purchase of new rents with a parallel withdrawal of capital abroad.

It is not for nothing that Ukraine, according to tax auditors, was among the top 10 countries in the world with the largest capital outflows over the past 30 years, which can be estimated at $200 billion over the period (more than $60 billion is actually money stolen from society by oligarchs through political lobbying).

Statistics also allow us to assess the dynamics of changes in the structure of exports.
A number of factors, both internal (endogenous) and external (exogenous), influenced the level of the share of certain sectors of the economy.

The endogenous factors include total deindustrialization and the absence of an industrial policy as a basic element of the "reform policy."

Relying on absolute competitive advantages instead of relative ones: ("we have fertile land, so we will specialize in exporting corn and sunflower oil").

But it should have been: "we have cheap raw materials, logistics, transportation, energy, and human capital, so we will be engaged in processing, constantly deepening its level."
Exogenous factors include external geopolitical influences and war.

As a result, in 2023, compared to 2005, only raw agricultural exports grew in Ukraine ($22 billion, despite logistical problems). There was also a slight increase in industrial production, but the figures were meager: $0.4 billion in 2005 and $0.56 billion in 2023.

But to eliminate the war factor, let's take two points: 2005 and 2021.

Thus, in 2005, agricultural products were exported for $4.2 billion, and in 2023 - for $27.7 billion. Mineral raw materials: $4.1 billion and $7.88 billion, respectively. But chemical products decreased from $3.4 billion to $3.17 billion. On the other hand, exports of wood and wood products increased: from $0.8 billion to $2.5 billion (there were fewer forests and exports were three times higher). Industrial products fluctuated at a lower level: from $0.4 billion to $0.95 billion. Ferrous metals: an increase from $13.78 billion to $15.72 billion (taking into account global inflation, this is a drop, not an increase): in 2023, exports of this group of goods decreased to $3.89 billion (we are now probably exporting almost the same amount of iron ore as metal).

The most complex products with a high level of added value in the structure of our exports (equipment, machinery, and appliances) fell from $4.3 billion in 2005 to $3.82 billion in 2021 ($2.15 billion in 2023).

In terms of the "miscellaneous" indicator, deliveries in the period 2005-2021 increased from $1 billion to $1.4 billion. Judging by this indicator, Ukraine exported the most weapons in 2013 - up to $2.51 billion, i.e. on the eve of the Russian aggression that began in 2014 with the occupation of Crimea (it should be noted that the "miscellaneous" category includes not only weapons).

The change in the structure of the economy from modern, industrial to archaic-service, pre-industrial, has led to significant transformations of all the fundamental elements of society, the state, productive forces, relations to the means of production, the nature of national income distribution, and the systemic interaction between the base and the superstructure.
The archaic economy has also shaped the archaic character of political elites, with a developed clientelism, when the government is a client of oligarchs, and expert groups are clients of both of these driving forces.

A deep crisis of the productive forces of the economy began, manifested in such destructive processes as deindustrialization, the crisis in the energy sector (even before the war), transportation systems, and critical infrastructure.

The domino effect of this led to labor migration and a demographic crisis: the system was actually "pushing" "excess" labor out of the economy.

The urban crisis in the large megacities of the East and South, which were focused on industrial development, was also intensifying.

Structural transformations covered almost all components of national life: ecology, ideology, cultural codes, information flows, and most importantly, they led to an archaic positioning in the global coordinate system with inexorable consequences of such changes.

In this context, the raw material model of the economy has entered an irreversible spiral of transformation: the stronger the raw material specialization, the deeper the industrial and urban crisis, the more toxic the new factors of archaization, and the stronger the raw material specialization.

War, like any crisis, can change these developmental dynamics. A natural process of deoligarchization has already begun, so to speak. Problems with port logistics are forcing businesses to look for ways to process raw materials domestically. A number of projects have already been launched to produce biofuels and biogas.

The army's need for weapons has given a significant impetus to the development of the military-industrial complex and industry in general. The government has also created demand for industrial innovations. Now, the main thing is that all these changes become politically crystallized in the form of realistic and effective development programs that will be implemented.
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