Who rules in occupied Ukraine?

90 percent of state officials in Russian-controlled Ukrainian regions are Russian citizens

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 36 people have been appointed for government roles in the self-proclaimed “DNR” and “LNR,” as well as the occupied Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and Kharkiv regions. Only three out of 36 were citizens of Ukraine. The rest, close to 92 percent, were all Russian citizens. These conclusions emerged from the study conducted by the Proekt media project.

Proekt’s journalists have analyzed the biographies of 112 people, all appointed by Russia for various public-service roles in the Ukrainian regions controlled by Moscow.

Among the 24 ministers of the self-proclaimed “LNR,” five — that is, 20 percent — are Russian. In “DNR,” this proportion is 40 percent (11 people out of 25). In the Kherson region, 75 percent of the Russian-appointed regional administration, set up in the context of the Russian occupation, is comprised of Russian citizens. In Zaporizhzhia, this figure is 100 percent: all five Russian-appointed ministers there are from Russia. In the Kharkiv region, only the head of the would-be regional administration (also a Russian) was appointed before that territory’s liberation by the Ukrainian army.

The average age of Russian appointees on these Ukrainian territories is 42. Most of them had mid-level administrative jobs in Russia’s federal ministries and regional governments. A third of them are graduates of Russia’s School of Governors and past participants of the Leaders of Russia contest. Both programs serve as government personnel incubators, invented and overseen by Sergey Kiriyenko, first deputy head of the Russian President’s Administration.

In addition to regional governments, military commandant’s offices have been set up in Russian-controlled Ukrainian regions. Proekt reports that their main function is to suppress dissenters, suggesting, too, that such offices are probably headed by former employees of Russia’s law-enforcement structures, or similar organs in the “DNR” and “LNR.” The commandants are typically referred to by their noms-de-guerre; their real names are guarded from the public.

City mayors and heads of local districts collaborate with commandant’s offices on civilian matters. Proekt has collected information about 49 people holding these civilian posts. Only five of them had prior mayoral or district-head experience when agreeing to collaborate with Russia. All of these people are former members of pro-Russian parties fostered by Ukraine’s former president, Victor Yanukovich, and Putin’s personal friend Victor Medvedchuk.

The commandants also rely on the support of the so-called “military-civilian administrations” (MCAs) — provisional government organs set up in Russian-occupied regions. The Kherson MCA has a staff of 13. These people’s names are public, and three of them are Russian citizens. Among the known members of the Zaporizhzhia MCA, there are four Ukrainians and two Russian citizens. The Kharkiv MCA had two known staffers, one of them Ukrainian, the other Russian.

Among the 112 people appointed by Moscow to public-service posts in Russian-controlled Ukrainian regions, 12 people had histories of prior criminal charges, convictions, and other “legal problems.”

Earlier, Meduza wrote about Ukrainian collaborators and Russian officials employed in the Russian-controlled Ukrainian regions. According to Meduza’s sources, Russian public servants have difficulty in declining such appointments. “One of the current heads [of a Russian-installed ‘government’] didn’t really want to go, but they made clear that if he declined, his chances of future career growth would plummet. He understood.”

Not only career prospects, but also high salaries are used to encourage Russian civil servants to take such posts. Meduza’s sources say that monthly salaries of up to 1 million rubles (or about $17,000) are offered to those willing to run Russian-installed “governments” in the occupied territories.