KIEV – Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure, Vladimir Oleyan, has announced that Ukrainian authorities are looking into closing Kiev’s railway line with Moscow.
The minister made this scandalous announcement live on a Ukrainian talkshow – a platform which Ukrainian politicians typically use to float controversial policies – where he claimed that the Moscow-Kiev railway is “worth one hryvnia” (the equivalent of the English saying “not worth a dime”), and that 2018 may be the year that Kiev effectively severs the transport line.
In fact, the Kiev-Moscow line is not only worth a dime, but is one of the major sources of income of the increasingly bankrupt Kiev regime. According to Ukraine’s own railway transport administration, Ukrzaliznytsya, in 2017 it was the single most profitable Ukrainian railway, reaping in nearly six million dollars.
The Kiev-Moscow line was among the only to yield a profit, while the rest of Ukraine’s long-range passenger lines lost a massive 3.5 billion Hyrvnia (around 7.5 billion rubles, or just under $118 million). When leaks surfaced in 2017 claiming that Kiev was planning to close the Kiev-Moscow line, Ukrzaliznytsya denied them, which now leaves Kiev’s government in an uncomfortable position.
The Kiev-Moscow line is one of the only direct routes left for travel between Russia and Ukraine. Besides the Moscow-Chisinau line, all other railways connecting Russia and Ukraine belong to the railway administrations of CIS countries.
At the same time, since October 2015, on Kiev’s initiative, all direct air travel between the two countries was prohibited.
The closing of the Kiev-Moscow line would be a massive blow to the disintegrating Ukrainian economy, and this daunting announcement comes just on the heels of Kiev leader Poroshenko’s declaration that Ukraine will sue Russia for the “damages” of the war in Donbass, which Kiev initiated against the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics in spring 2014. Both the railway closure and the “Donbass lawsuit” can be seen as highly problematic political moves – not to mention suicidal economic gambles – aimed at satisfying the Kiev regime’s increasingly powerful yet growingly discontent radical “nationalist” base, and presenting fait accomplis to bolster Kiev’s faltering negotiation positions with its “European partners” and Moscow.
Indeed, this news is part of a long chain of incidents in which Ukraine has committed what experts have called “economic suicide” for the sake of “spiting” or “asserting independence from” Russia, which still remains Ukraine’s single biggest economic partner nearly five years after the US-NATO backed Maidan coup d’etat in Kiev brought a radical Russophobic regime to power. Ukraine has habitually tried to compensate for its unsustainable policies towards Russia with aid from European Union, United States, and IMF.
However, as leading experts on Ukraine such as Eduard Popov and Rostislav Ishchenko have argued, these countries and organizations are increasingly disinterested in keeping the failed Ukrainian state afloat, especially as the EU and US have to deal with their own crises.
If Ukraine goes through with severing its last railways with Russia, this will likely lead to heightened discontent with the Kiev regime among both ordinary Ukrainians and Kiev’s foreign patrons.