Head of Donetsk Republic interview: We had to buy time to adequately prepare for war (Part One)

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January 15, 2015
Exclusive interview with the head of Donetsk People’s Republic Alexander Zakharchenko – Oplot, Youtube
Translated from Russian by Kristina Rus


Q. Today is Monday, January 12. What happened yesterday in Donetsk?

A.Z.: This didn’t start yesterday, it started January 7 [Russian Orthodox Christmas]. Ukrainian authorities showed how ready they are to fulfill their agreements and what their word is worth. This was expected, though. They showed it with massive shelling of Donetsk, Gorlovka, Dokuchaevsk. Nevertheless, we were expecting it and we were prepared.

Q.: I am afraid to ask this question, but is this the end of the ceasefire?

A.Z.: Ukraine unilaterally broke the ceasefire without declaring it officially.

Q. What will be the response of DPR?

A.Z. First of all I would like to address an important issue. The militia and the citizens of Donetsk Republic have the rightful questions about why we allowed rotations, supplies of food and the removal of the wounded by the Ukrainian side at the airport. It is a failure of the Ministry of Defence, the Security Council, and my own to explain this situation to the public.

I cannot expose all the details, but I can say that it is the only concession that we had made. The reality is that we desperately need each extra day of the ceasefire: to rebuilt a normal life, to prepare for inevitable future military operation. If we take unpopular, even embarrassing steps, it is because they are essential for our army, for our economy, and more importantly for a chance to solve this crisis peacefully and to reach the people who had lost all conscience. And not to spill any extra drop of blood. But yesterdays events proved that talks with these people are fruitless. If it was up to me I would continue to allow rotations as long we could continue to strengthen our army and our economy. However, the response of our army had shown that we have prepared well so far. But I want to apologize in front of our people for failing to explain the importance of this. I would like to address the various rumors. No one is dumping anything. War is not only about “Hooray, lets attack!” People think they can shout “Hooray!” and march to Lvov. It couldn’t be further from the truth. No, you cannot march to Lvov or anywhere without certain technical capabilities. You will only unnecessary spill blood and damage infrastructure, housing and industry. Dear military, do not forget that behind you are the peaceful citizens, who you should also worry about. The training and preparation of the army needs time. All our efforts were directed to maximally stretch the time so we can adequately prepare.

Q.: Was the rotation part of the ceasefire agreement?

A.Z.: Yes it was. We had to abide by it to ensure the ceasefire. Unfortunately (or luckily) the Kiev authorities took off the fake masks of humanism and peacemaking, and showed their real face.

Q.: We know that Poroshenko used the ceasefire to prepare for war. And did well. Did Donetsk Republic use this time well?

A.Z.: Yes. We had to train the fighters to use the equipment, and most importantly to improve combat coordination of divisions. I would say, we needed this time, just like USSR needed every day of 1941 before the war.

May be I will open a little secret, but you may have heard that we own 55% of Ukraine’s coal. Ukrainian economy cannot survive without our coal. They can talk all they want about buying coal from South Africa, Australia or Poland. But, in USSR all the power plants were designed to operate on Donbass coal.

Q.: Are you selling coal to Ukraine?

A.Z.: Yes, we sent the first 554 cars of coal. But we haven’t received payment for all of it.

Q. So Ukraine owes money to Donetsk Republic?

A.Z. Yes. But you have to understand, we cannot abandon Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, Mariupol. These are all our countrymen. If we consider all of  Donetsk region our land, we have to support our people.

Q.: Yatsenyuk said that Ukraine delivered gas and electricity worth of one billion to DPR. Is it true?

A.Z.: The problem is our banking system is not yet recognized world wide. Our large companies pay Ukraine for energy. They also pay taxes and into the pension fund in Ukraine. If Yatsenyuk says they are subsidizing us, then we can just ask them to pay to DPR instead.

Q.: Can Ukraine cut off DPR from energy, like Crimea?

A. Z.: No, Starobeshevskaya GES provides 15% of electricity of the entire Ukraine. It can fully provide DPR with its own energy, except for some areas near Gorlovka, which will be solved by installing some new lines. Ukraine does supply us with gas. You have to understand, this was one country, one empire – USSR, all energy systems were designed for feasibility. Yes, there is a problem with gas, but it is solvable. I think specialists in Ukraine will know what I am talking about.

Q.: Can residents of Donetsk expect a firm resistance to Ukrainian army?

A.Z.: I can guarantee that no Ukrainian soldier will set foot in Donetsk Republic. Even today the areas under fire are the same areas as before. The rest of the city is living a peaceful life. Children are playing outside. This is why I would not cease to negotiate to get the rest of our territory peacefully, while I can, to spare the lives of the elderly, women and children and my friends on the front lines, as a citizen of this city. And any one of you would do the same in my shoes – would exhaust every opportunity to pursue peace first to avoid as many victims as possible. We were frankly hoping that the Kiev authorities would realize the futility of their efforts and  the endurance of our resolve, and would gradually replace their desire to fight with us with a desire to talk and trade with us.

Q.: So is there a chance for talks?

A.Z.: The problem is there are many vectors of influence in Ukraine. There is a “war camp” and a “peace camp”. Both of them are further divided into radicals and moderates. One side in the “peace camp” wants peace tomorrow, another – wants to continue with current course. The “war camp” is divided between those who want to push ahead, and those who want to hold the current positions. Then there are battalion commanders, who each have their own opinion and a couple thousand men at their disposal. So its hard to tell which way the wind will blow.

Q. What were your hopes for Astana talks?

A.Z.: POW exchange, stopping the fire. To be honest, when they wanted to exchange the airport for Dokuchaevsk, I didn’t sign it on September 19. Because it is our land, our fate, our children. I would not give up an inch of our land. Just the opposite – all these talks, all these efforts were directed to buy another month, another two, three or four months to prepare our army to be able to deal with the task at hand – to liberate the rest of our territory. Do you think it is easy to see what they write online, in the papers, to hear what they talk about on the buses or at the market about Zakharchenko? But I have to stay focused on the task at hand, and this is how we will achieve our victory.

Part 2 – coming soon

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