Eurasia note #47 - UK PM Says Russian Victory 'Realistic'
Moscow wants to take full control of southern Ukraine, with access to Transnistria
Russia confirms objective of talking all of Donbas as land bridge to Crimea.
Wants a route to Moldova breakaway region of Transnistria.
Kherson, Zaporizhia could be next ‘people’s republics’, with referenda possible.
UK PM says ‘realistic possibility’ that Russia could triumph over Ukraine.
Parade of Western leaders through Kyiv continues. UN chief will visit Moscow first.
President Zelenskiy says Ukraine’s economy needs $7 bn per month to survive.
The deaths of two Russian gas tycoons are only the latest connected to the industry.
Fires break out at missile research lab in Tver and chemical plant east of Moscow.
Russia admits one dead, 27 missing from sinking of the cruiser Moskva.
Ukraine ‘planning another staged video’, this time of looting in city of Nikolayev.
Pentagon sends extra $800 m; 72 howitzers and tow-trucks, shells and drones.
(2,100 words, 10 minutes’ read.)
Tbilisi, Apr 23, 2022
The British prime minister Boris Johnson conceded that Russia could win the war in Ukraine but said it was a “realistic probability” that fighting would last most of next year.
The comment blindsided many NATO allies as well as Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmyhal, who said he was “absolutely sure” his country would win in a “very short period."
Visiting India, he said that Britain might send tanks to Poland to replace those that Warsaw had sent to Ukraine.
Johnson visited Delhi to try to persuade India’s prime minister Narendra Modi to loosen ties with Russia. The nation is dependent on Russian energy and also buys its weaponry. The UK offered technology and help to build Indian aircraft if it agrees to buy less Russian equipment like Grad rockets and T-90 tanks.
Another sore point for the U.S.-led sanctions against Russia: Japan said it would not withdraw from the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project over fears that a third country would steal its place. Russia’s Gazprom owns a controlling stake, Anglo-Dutch Shell has about 27 percent, Mitsui 12.5 percent and Mitsubishi 10 percent. Shell is negotiating to sell its stake to a Chinese company.
Latest developments from Ukraine include the seizure of a school in Kherson that Ukraine forces had turned into a fortress, complete with ammunition stores and a medical treatment centre, according to Russian military.
More separatist regions
According to the Ukrainian army, ethnic Russian politicians could hold a referendum in Kherson oblast as early as this month. The Kherson region, along with Zaporizhia provides a land route connecting Donetsk and Lugansk to Crimea, as well as to the North Crimean Canal, which sources water from the Dnieper. Ukrainian authorities have restricted the flow of water via the canal into Crimea.
Ukraine’s SBU state security has previously arrested pro-Russia separatists for promoting the creation of a “Zaporizhian People’s Republic” (ZPR).
At a briefing on Apr 22 Deputy Commander of the Central Military District Rustam Minnekaev confirmed the objective to seize the whole Donbas region and southern Ukraine to provide a land bridge to Crimea — and a future capability to advance toward Transnistria.
Together Kherson region along with Zaporizhia contain the Kakhovka Reservoir and form part of the M14 highway, the Black Sea Economic Association transportation corridor from the breakway Moldovan region Transnistria, via Odesa. 
As previously reported, the rouble has been introduced in the region which effectively integrates it into the Russian economy.
The existing “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk may vote on joining the Russian Federation, according to LPR leader Leonid Pasechnik. The Rozovsky district of Zaporizhia will vote to link up with DPR, according to its leader Denis Pushilin, both quoted by Izvestia.
Fires and threats
A fire a the Central Research and Development Institute of Aerospace Defense Troops in Tver killed at least six people on Apr 21. It is thought to have taken place in an administrative building. Tver is 100 miles or 150 km northwest of Moscow on the line to St Petersburg. The research centre is involved in missile research including the S-series and Iskander.
A few hours later fire broke out at Russia’s biggest production center for solvents, the Dmitrievsky Chemical Plant in in Kineshma, between Yaroslavl and Nizhny Novgorod, 250 miles or 400 km east of Moscow.
The propaganda war continues. Defence of Ukraine, a government body, tweeted that “corruption and irresponsibility in Russia has dealt another insidious blow to its war efforts.”
It also threatened to target the Crimean Bridge spanning the Strait of Kerch from Taman Peninsula of Krasnodar Krai. Ukrainian Armed Forces would strike at the first opportunity, said the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Alexey Danilov.
Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, said the Kiev regime is preparing a staged video in the village of Voskresenskoye of the Nikolayev.
Gas industry murder mystery
Police in Russia and Spain are investigating the deaths, one day apart, of two Russian oligarchs. Both were supposedly murder-suicides and both men were connected to the gas industry.
In Lloret de Mar, Catalonia, Sergey Protosenya, 55, was lying outside their villa. Spouse Natalia, 53, and daughter, 18, died in their beds of axe wounds. Protosenya was the former chief accountant and deputy chairman of Russia’s largest independent gas producer, Novatek, co-owned by Putin's friend Gennady Timchenko. According to the oppositionist Telegram channel “Mozhem Obyasnit”(We Can Explain) the partner of Novatek and Timchenko is Pyotr Kolbin, a childhood friend of Vladimir Putin, who is regarded as a possible “shadow holder” of assets attributed to president Vladimir Putin.
In Moscow, Vladislav Avayev, 51, spouse Yelena, 47, and his daughter, 13, were shot to death. Avayev was a former vice president of Gazprombank, which manages the pension fund for Russia’s main gas exporter Gazprom.
These aren’t the first deaths related to the tightly-controlled Russian gas industry.
In January, Leonid Shulman, 60, the head of the Gazprom Invest transport service, was found dead and the next month Alexander Tyulakov, deputy general director of the Unified Settlement Center of Gazprom for corporate security — both in the village of Leninsky, Leningrad region.
As Bond author Ian Fleming of British Naval Intelligence said: “once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.”
It could also be an internal dispute. Rivalry tends to break out at times of economic crisis in the corporate world as in the criminal. This happened in 2008 and 2013, with the sniper kiling of Aslan Usoyan or Ded Hasan, as individuals struggle to hold on to wealth, or seek to replace lost income by trespassing on the territory of others.
The political scientist and former Putin speechwriter, Abbas Gallyamov, has said the most powerful institutions, for example the FSB, will compete with the “boyars” or wealthy political-business elite.