OCCUPIED: Local self-government under the yoke of the aggressor

27 June 2022, 10:12 | Policy
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At the beginning of the deployment of full-scale military operations against Ukraine, the Kremlin junta repeated the mantra that it had no intention of establishing an occupation regime in the occupied territories. Behind the screen of frank cunning in these words was a completely pragmatic calculation. Even a limited occupation of foreign territory is unreasonably expensive, and from a logistical and managerial point of view, it is an extremely complicated undertaking.

An effective and long-term occupation requires a sophisticated management system and a well-trained staff of professional administrators (not from among local collaborators). In addition, direct occupation causes a number of restrictions and prohibitions that are unnecessary in the understanding of the Russian Federation, according to the Hague (1907) and Geneva (1949) conventions.

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Putin's junta planned to avoid these extremes by using a tactic that was successfully tested and more organic in the context of a hybrid war - an invasion to escalate controlled chaos.. Putin's military aggression was supposed to plunge Ukraine into a state of instability with its subsequent normalization on the terms of the Russian Federation. A purely occupational scenario in the Kremlin began to be feverishly worked out when it became obvious that the original plan for a “special military operation” was collapsing on the go..

However, does Ukraine have a counter-scenario for maintaining the manageability and functioning of cities Is there a clear line drawn between helping the city survive before the arrival of the Armed Forces and collaborationism? And why should all this be mandatory if we plan to de-occupy our territories? with our people.

The failure of Russia at the start of the occupation.

Absorption of the Ukrainian system of local self-government was seen as a priority for the Russian Federation during the transition to a strategy of long-term occupation. Therefore, the Ukrainian local governments were the first to take the blow of the temporary occupation. The savage murders of officials and deputies of local self-government were supposed to convince all dissenting or neutral employees that there was no alternative to collaboration with the " Kidnappings of local deputies and municipal employees became a separate form of pressure and intimidation. Since the beginning of the invasion, 53 local government officials have been kidnapped (of which 23 are heads of communities). To date, the Ukrainian authorities have managed to release most of the mayors, but three are still illegally detained by Russian troops..

Dreams of takeover were shattered by the position of local deputies and mayors, who categorically did not accept the idea of \u200b\u200bcooperation with the enemy. The second bar turned out to be a misunderstanding even by local collaborators of the effect of the decentralization reform. There are no levers of centralized influence on local self-government bodies of the basic level in Ukraine, unlike the Russian Federation.. The budgetary and political dependence of the communities on the regional and district administrations has sunk into the past, so it was impossible to swallow all the communities in one sitting without choking.

Then the rashists headed for the dismantling of local self-government and its replacement with the so-called military-civilian administrations or fake " However, the occupation structures immediately showed their complete inability to somehow control the situation and maintain the life of the communities even at the minimum acceptable level..

By advertising humanitarian aid from United Russia, the Gauleiters are trying to compensate for their inability to establish elementary social security and the provision of public services.. Instead of restoring the public transport system, they are developing schemes to seize trolleybuses as trophies (for example, in Mariupol). The “restart” of the healthcare system according to Russian standards takes place in the format of plundering expensive medical equipment. Of course, against such a background, the accomplices of the rashists position the supply of water to the city fountain of Kherson as the highest manifestation of care and managerial skill.. That is why the Russians did not dare to completely eliminate local self-government, although they removed Ukrainian flags everywhere.

Forced bet on local government.

The approach of the occupiers to work with local self-government changed once again when it turned out that neither complete absorption nor dismantling had the desired effect.. Local proteges of the Kremlin put forward a new condition for the heads of communities: you can work according to Ukrainian laws, and we will not touch you if you ensure the life of the community (garbage removal, provision of utilities, improvement of settlements).

It cannot be said that this option is the worst of all listed.. After all, municipal workers, avoiding formal cooperation with the enemy, can fulfill their main mission - to deal with Ukrainian settlements and work for Ukrainian citizens under temporary occupation.. Yes, by their actions they indirectly help high-ranking collaborators create the “correct” propaganda picture about the “normalization of life” in the occupied territories. But it is clear that this is a chewed information feed exclusively for the domestic Russian audience.. Oleksandr Slobozhan, executive director of the Association of Cities of Ukraine, correctly noted in one of the conversations: “Let them PR, our citizens see and know very well who thanks to whom the city continues to live”.

In addition to the usual functions that municipal employees perform in the temporarily occupied territories (ensuring the operation of public utilities, educational institutions, current infrastructure repairs), they record destruction, crimes and damage caused by the occupiers. It is the presence of Ukrainian local self-government that makes it possible to regularly replenish the evidence base, which will form the basis of future reparations, compensations and court verdicts..

The slightest restriction of the activity of Ukrainian public authorities in the temporarily occupied territories will hit Ukrainian citizens harder, and not the occupiers or their henchmen.. This happened when some Ukrainian institutions were forced to curtail their activities: the departments of the Pension Fund, social protection left, most banks closed, the treasury was transferred to remote service.

Due to the threat of reprisals, the vast majority of mayors of cities and villages in the territories occupied by the Russians evacuated to safer places and continue to work remotely. The Ukrainian structures of management and service delivery, which remained under occupation, continue to work, pay taxes in Ukraine and receive budget funding, with the exception of institutions where the leaders directly expressed support for the occupying authorities.

Problems to be solved daily.

As in peacetime, although not as disciplined, citizens continue to pay utility bills. However, for two months now, the Treasury has been unable to deliver electronic payments, and utilities have no access to these funds.. The situation is critical, because utilities operate mainly due to payments from users of services, as well as their own savings. In parallel, the occupation administrations are trying to pull off the trick of lowering utility rates in order to force residents to pay collaborators, not legitimate suppliers..

The main problem is the circulation of cash, which is sorely lacking.. Salaries and pensions received on card accounts cannot be withdrawn, they cannot be paid cashless. Sometimes Ukrposhta works miracles — it manages to deliver cash to branches in the occupied territories. Due to the blocking of communications and the Internet, terminals in retail chains do not work at all or work intermittently. The cash-out service is flourishing: for a 7-10% margin, you can get real money (hryvnia) in your hands, after transferring the amount to the proposed card. Residents continue to avoid using rubles in every possible way.

Invaders climb out of their skin to take control of financial flows and tax calculations. The pressure is on the heads of utility companies the most - they are forced to re-register with fake " So far, these actions have been unsuccessful, but, as the leaders themselves admit, it will become impossible to resist looting and blackmail very soon.. Of course, time in this situation does not work for Ukraine, opening up the possibility of a creeping seizure of real power in the communities before the occupier..

Entrepreneurs who are offered official patronage by Putin's self-proclaimed deputies are subjected to the same harassment.. Now spontaneous trade is developing in the temporarily occupied territories, caused by a shortage of goods and products and the collapse of logistics links.. Bazaars remain the only place where jobs appear and opportunities for additional earnings open up.. Newly minted speculators are required to register a fake sole proprietorship, experienced entrepreneurs are also forced to “re-register” their business and refuse to pay taxes to Ukraine.

Until July 7, Ukrainian FOPs and enterprises must register with the tax service of the occupiers and open accounts in rubles. Those who cannot be intimidated are bribed with benefits and reduced tax rates.. People evade expropriation and tax experiments in every possible way, hold on as best they can. In order to instill hope and optimism in the souls of the inhabitants of the occupied territories, Gauleiter Balitsky suggested that they not fulfill their loan obligations to financial institutions. The main rule is there are no rules. And here Ukraine should count on the consciousness of its citizens. And, therefore, continue to support them in any way.

Help and law from the state, which are expected.

Local officials emphasize that they will work in their positions and provide services to residents for as long as the situation in the occupied territories allows. As long as they receive proper funding from the Ukrainian budget. “Our main task is to keep the system working as long as there is such an opportunity,” says Alexander Yakovlev, mayor of Skadovsk.. Accordingly, the pressure of the occupiers is not as critical as the ability of Ukraine to fully fulfill its obligations to state employees in the temporarily occupied territories..

It is equally important for the Ukrainian authorities to clearly indicate to the employees of municipal institutions the permissible limits for the exercise of their powers under the conditions of temporary occupation..

Now the following scheme is working: the heads of enterprises and institutions suspected of collaborating with the aggressor due to an open demonstration of his support are immediately fired, and state funding is frozen or redirected through other institutions in order to retain staff.

In addition to obvious collaborationism, the red line for the leadership of municipal institutions is the decision to open a bank account in rubles and register with the so-called tax authorities created by the occupation administrations. For ordinary workers, the line of what is permitted is not so obvious.. Whether they continue to work if they start paying salaries in rubles, they do not know.

At the same time, they are well aware that there is a law on collaborators, and about the direct risks of being in this category.. Unbearable psychological burden for many. Whereas the Ukrainian state, on the contrary, should make life as easy as possible for people experiencing occupation. How?

Having legislated criminal liability for collaboration activities, the state defined a list of categorical prohibitions, but did not outline the boundaries of permitted and desirable behavior.. And it is precisely in this plane that the most questions arise for those who want to preserve dignity and law-abidingness under occupation. Everyone more or less understands how not to turn into a stale collaborator. Because there are clear norms of the law and template role models like Saldo or Balitsky. But no one really knows what is an acceptable image for the state of a respectable citizen under occupation. In addition to the role of a partisan. The main question of an ordinary employee or state employee is how not to inadvertently stumble and do the right thing when you work, being in fact in the status of a hostage of rashists. It is extremely useful that state officials share their thoughts on clear signs of collaborationism, but people expect formal instructions and clarifications from the government.. Not just media comments.

Personal Ways to Maintain Citizenship.

Employees of Ukrainian public institutions are being pressured not only by increased control over the exercise of their powers, but also by compulsion to publicly demonstrate loyalty to the illegal regime. For example, involvement in various kinds of public events organized by the occupation administrations. Most have so far managed to avoid direct self-discredit.

For the duration of the occupation celebrations and pseudo-patriotic orgies, cultural and educational workers take vacations so as not to give them the opportunity to compromise themselves. And school principals in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, having narrower room for maneuver, receiving criminal orders, massively write letters of resignation.

However, not dismissal, but sabotage remains the main weapon of Ukrainian officials and state employees under temporary occupation.. Stremousov, a protege of the Rashists, is hysterical, because in the villages of the Kherson region, “officials sabotage work on the ground and do not convey to the population the position about the future of the region as part of the Russian Federation”. In his video messages, he threatens to remove such employees from work..

It is difficult to overestimate the courage of officials who continue to stay at their jobs under the blockade.. Such actions have a genuine symbolic effect and are a manifestation of solidarity with those who are left behind.. However, it should be understood that during the occupation, Ukrainian officials are maximally limited in exercising their legal powers.. They are also constantly at risk of being "

A timely decision to evacuate local government officials from the temporarily occupied territories protects them from kidnapping and arrest. For those who personify legitimate power and can support the life of communities remotely, saving their own lives should come first.. To stay or leave for deputies or local heads is not so much a matter of personal choice for everyone, but a marker of responsibility to the community. It must be taken into account that local officials and employees are carriers of information valuable to the enemy.. Therefore, guaranteeing their safety is the responsibility of the state, and not just a matter of individual preferences..

Today, local self-government remains the last surviving bridge that unites free Ukraine with free people in the temporarily occupied territories..

In the event of a complete blocking of the activities of municipal institutions, the state will always have time to decide on the introduction of military administration and the actual termination of the powers of local governments. So recently it was in Genichesk, even earlier - in other communities. However, it is important to keep this bridge as long as possible.. In any case, a full-fledged de-occupation of the liberated territories will begin with the restoration of local self-government.

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Read more articles by Alexander Neberikut and Alexander Klyuzhev at the links.

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