I don’t follow the conflict very closely nowadays. I have no special “inside,” there is no progress, and what little does happen is depressing more often than not. The events of the past few days in the Lugansk People’s Republic hew to this same pattern.
The best account to date is probably that of Alexander Zhuchkovsky at Sputnik i Pogrom: Very Strange Happenings [in Russian].
It actually isn’t all that strange at all.
Igor Plotnitsky was a highly unpopular figure with a reputation for raiding and credible allegations of murdering separatist commanders who wouldn’t kowtow to him (Bednov, Mozgovoy, Ischenko, Dremov). Later, a year ago, he conducted an internal purge against chief of the People’s Council Karjakin and the head of the Council of Ministers Tsypkalov; the former fled to Russia, while the latter committed “suicide” (widely viewed as a murder even back then, and all but confirmed now). However, there was not much that anybody could do about it, since Plotnitsky’s was supported by elements of the Russian military establishment.
However, he ended up overstepping his authority when he dismissed the Interior Minister, Igor Kornet. As it so happened, the people at the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of State Security, who were directly “curated” by Russian intelligence services, had more “pull” than the hapless volunteer batallion commanders whom Plotnitsky offed in 2015. More pull than the people behind Plotnitsky, at any rate. Soon enough a coup was in the works, with support from Kornet’s colleagues in the DNR and even “little green men” from Russia streaming across the LNR border to seize control of the republic’s administrative centers.
As of the time of writing, Plotnitsky has resigned, his cronies are getting cleared out, and the new head of the LNR is Leonid Pasechnik, who at least appears to be a more upstanding fellow (he is known for refusing a large bribe as chief of anti-contraband operations in the Lugansk oblast back when it was in the Ukraine).
Not to mention a much more telegnic one.
Initially, there were some hopes that this could lead to the union of the LNR and DNR in the form of a resurrected Novorossiya project, whose separate existence – up to and including tariff borders – is quite absurd. This inevitably ended in a zrada. After all, it was Plotnitsky and Zakharchenko who had signed onto the Minsk Accords as leaders of the LNR and the DNR, respectively – nowhere was Novorossiya mentioned there – and those Accords remain at the center of the Kremlin’s Ukraine policy to this day and for the foreseeable future. Consequently, Plotnitsky new, entirely formal role, announced yesterday at the same time as his resignation for “health reasons,” will be as the “authorized representative of the LNR for the implementation of the Minsk Accords.”
Still, I think this is a positive development, in net terms, if only because Lugansk will no longer have to suffer Plotnitsky at the helm.