War. Politics. Business. Where these three intersect, strange things can happen.
It is, on the face of it, bizarre that after three years of war, Ukraine is still buying coal from mining companies in areas of Ukraine that have been overrun and seized by Russian-backed forces.
Some companies in the occupied territories that mine the coal pay a 47-percent tax to the pseudo authorities that are in control of parts of Luhansk Oblast, according to Ukraine's SBU security service. Some of that money goes to pay the Russian-backed fighters who almost every day kill Ukrainian soldiers.
The Ukrainian government is, effectively, helping to pay the salaries of the enemy’s troops.
On the other hand, by continuing to buy coal from the occupied territories, Ukraine is helping to support thousands of Ukrainian miners there who would have no other means of support. Without work at the mines, some of them could well end up on the front line, drawing a fighter’s pay for battling the Ukrainian armed forces.
On top of that, Ukraine at present may have no other option but to buy the coal – which is of a type that half of Ukraine’s coal-fired power stations must use, for technical reasons. The owner of many of the power stations is billionaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who adds his political influence to this strange mix of war and business.
How to untangle this Gordian knot of competing goals and interests? Ukraine’s energy sector is still non-transparent, corrupt and monopolized – sweeping change is needed there.
The country’s power generating capacity has to be modernized, to reduce reliance on unreliable, even hostile partners.
Shady schemes from which both sides profit have to be shut down – that people are profiting from Ukraine’s war is unacceptable.
But all that will require stability, investment, and political will.
And these, just like coal, are in short supply in Ukraine right now.