Pipeline conspiracies behind Ukraine terror blasts?
Four explosions that rocked an eastern Ukrainian city Dnepropetrovsk April 27 injured at least 27 and have authorities scratching their heads. The usual jihadist suspects have not been ruled out. CNN's Global Public Square blog tells us: "From 2003 to 2008, Ukraine had some 1,600 soldiers in Iraq, and it is one of only two post-Soviet countries contributing troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, though Ukraine's contingent numbers less than two dozen." (Wikipedia puts the number of post-Soviet states with troops in Afghanistan at five: Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.) "Ukraine might also have been a victim due to its close association with Russia, a country on Islamic extremists' list of enemies because of the ongoing Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus..." But Ukrainian conspiracy theorists have been very busy over the past 24 hours concocting theories related to the country's own internal political crisis...
Supporters of imprisoned ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko say the attacks "may have been orchestrated by the government to deflect attention from her plight," AP informs us. The former leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution is currently on hunger strike to protest abusive conditions in prison, where she is serving a seven-year term on charges of abusing her powers in the 2009 energy deal with Russia that ended the "gas war" between the two countries. "The West has strongly condemned the verdict as politically motivated and threatened to freeze cooperation with Ukraine."
Global Public Square elaborates:
[C]onspiracy theories are popular in Ukraine and some may imagine a more direct Russian role in this tragedy, precisely because of the two countries’ strained relations. Ukraine has refused to join Russia's customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, and has erected barriers to prevent Russia's Gazprom from gaining control of Ukraine’s network of transit pipelines. Moreover, although President Yanukovych has taken NATO membership for Ukraine explicitly off the table, he continues to push for EU integration.
Some Russians have argued that the infamous apartment bombings in 1999, on the eve of Putin's elevation to the presidency, were actually orchestrated by Russian security services to drum up public support for the war in Chechnya. If the authorities were capable of such brutality on Russian soil, why not use the same means to pressure and embarrass Ukraine, which might be forced to scale back the upcoming soccer tournament or turn to Russia for help?
...That the attackers targeted a largely Russian-speaking eastern city that has been a Party of Regions stronghold might also stir up fears about western Ukrainian radical nationalism, as in the 2010 bombing of an orthodox church, and the attacks on World War II veterans by radical nationalists last year.
Readers will recall that the 1999 apartment block bombings in Moscow and two other Russian cities did for Putin what 9-11 did for Bush, igniting a new war with Chechnya, propelling the hardline Putin into the Kremlin—and similarly sparking a frenzy of conspiracy theories.
Ukraine's Party of Regions purports to protect and advance the rights of ethnic Russians (mostly in the east), and Yanukovych was the Russian-backed candidate in the 2004 election, which he apparently tried to steal through fraud—and who lost to Western-backed Viktor Yushchenko after the Orange Revolution forced a new run-off. He finally made it to the presidency with the elections of 2010, making the Orange Revolution more of a Pyrrhic victory than the other "color revolutions." But despite the imprisoning of Tymoshenko, darling of the EU and Washington, Moscow may now perceive that their former client Yanukovych has sold out to the West...
We aren't weighing in dogmatically for any conspiracy theory here, and we hope the Dnepropetrovsk blasts were a mere anomaly. But we do note that the blasts come precisely as Yanukovych signed into law a reorganization of the state gas company Naftogaz Ukrainy which will allow "reverse use" of the country's gas transport system (GTS) pipeline. This means that instead of just carrying Russian gas west to European markets, Ukraine's pipeline system will be carrying gas purchased on the "spot market" from the European Union east to Ukraine. Kiev also announced that it is investing 790 million euros in the trans-Caspian gas pipeline now being built—which notoriously by-passes Russian territory for Georgia and Azerbaijan. The investment will be made under condition that an offshoot be built to Georgia's port of Kulevi, allowing liquefied natural gas to be shipped by tanker to the Ukrainian LNG terminal at Yuzhny. The remainder, bound for Western markets, would go through the proposed Nabucco pipeline—which, as its website indicates, also bypasses Russia (for Turkey), and is openly conceived as an alternative to Russia's South Stream pipeline. Ukraine's investment could help shore up the financially foundering Nabucco project. (Kyev Post, April 27; Worldwide News Ukraine, April 26; Worldwide News Ukraine, April 6)
Coincidence? You call it.