January 15, 2015
Deputy Head of National Council of Donetsk Republic, Denis Pushilin’s interview with Info Front (Youtube) – published January 12, 2015
Translated from Russian by J. Hawk
Sergey Veselovskiy (SV): Good to have you here.
Denis Pushilin (DP): Thank you.
SV: Tell us about the situation which is currently developing around the Donbass, specifically perhaps the overly balanced statement by Sergey Lavrov, in which he says that they have information that Ukraine is mobilizing, it’s assembling forces, and wants to carry out another military operation against Novorossia. Likewise Poroshenko had a few things to say before he went to the march in Paris. What do you think is going on, why did they dehumanize all of us, the Russian-speaking people in Ukraine, and now they are turning us into a boogeyman comparable to ISIS? What does it all mean, and what can we look forward to here in Lugansk and Donetsk?
DP: Yes, we are indeed seeing the situation becoming more acute, it’s apparent they are carrying out provocations, both intentional and unintentional due to the uncontrollability of individual punitive formations, national guard battalions. Literally the day before yesterday we conducted a video conference with the Minsk contact group, and during the meeting we heard actual artillery strikes against the city of Donetsk. We witnessed the bombardment live. There was an attempt to break through into the Lugansk PR from the direction of Stanitsa Luganskaya which we reported even as it was happening. And we see no reaction to the problem, no attempts to deal with the situation, no decisions, no telephone calls to clarify what is going on, to check, to establish what happened.
Literally yesterday we saw a mass bombardment of Donetsk, more than 70 bombardments, 6 wounded, 2 killed, electric power lines damaged, this led to a coal mine losing electricity which meant 390 miners were trapped below ground.
All of us could see that, and we even captured it on video. OSCE began to panic and started to call for evacuation, but we were on the spot and managed to calm them down, since we can provide for their security. But we are ready for many eventualities. We want to end it at the negotiating table even if it means doing things which are unpopular with the population, namely negotiating. We know the cost of human life, we know what one day of war can do, how much damage it causes, and the irreversible consequences, in terms of loss of life and health, so it is very important to us that we find compromises. Seeing the situation which is unfolding in Ukraine, the sad situation in economy, energy, nuclear energy, for us this is not a cause for joy, just a reflection of the fact that Ukrainians are our neighbors. Likewise I need to comment on the rumors concerning the supposed abandonment of Novorossia. I want to quash these speculations, including from our supporters concerning incorporation into Ukraine. These are simply impossible for political reasons.
We will not have a single political space, though obviously economic ties will remain which are very important. Plus communal, societal ties. They are necessary for both sides. We have learned our lessons and we do not intend to allow any nationalities to dominate others, to favor some languages over another, and I want to underscore we are not fighting against Ukrainians, but only against the government which came to power as a result of an armed coup and which is now committing violations. We are risking our own skins in this, and we are looking for a civilized, peaceful means of resolving it. We are more civilized and suitable for negotiations, contrary to what Kiev is saying, which makes us very much unlike terrorists. We want regular meetings in order to receive information about the progress toward peace, including from the international community, because when it comes to prisoner exchange, the numbers are astonishing. Of the 225 people which were freed, no more than 30 were militiamen, the rest simply civilian population. Some of them were actually turned out to be saboteurs which were supposed to infiltrate us. We have arrested and neutralized them due to their lack of professionalism. Nevertheless I could have crossed out any of the 225 people, I had that right, but I hadn’t done that, whether they were civilian or military. We’ll see how that situation develops.
Moreover, we see pressure developing on us at all levels and the situation is explosive. In some so called liberated areas we are receiving information from the police of Slavyansk, where the Ukrainian authorities force them to speak Ukrainian. If they speak Russian they are sent to the front line. For any ideological deviation they are likewise sent to the front line. This causes lots of displeasure. They sent a die-hard nationalist to be the mayor of Slavyansk from Western Ukraine.
VS: You mentioned the theme of exchange, and yesterday we talked to a woman right here on the air who turned to both DPR and the Ukrainian leadership. Day before yesterday her 22-year old son Eduard Privalikhin was detained by the National Guard at the Drushkovka checkpoint. According to her information he was taken to the police station where they beat him, tortured him, accused him of DPR loyalties, terrorism. He was put on some list. He is young, never fought, still a peaceful citizen, but still stands accused. It’s entirely possible they simply pick random people off the street, then they exchange them, beaten, ill. Would it be possible to get Privalikhin out of the torture chamber of the Ukrainian gestapo?
Also, I see an analogy—you took up a good strategic position. The Ukrainian government is standing on a chair, its neck already in the noose. So you are simply waiting for the Ukrainian people to kick the chair from under the government? Then one could talk to the neighboring Ukraine. West understands that. That’s why they try to get Yatsenyuk to attack the Donbass.
Also, a question—who do you negotiate with? Who is Kuchma? Why talk to him? Any of his signatures can be disavowed. What would you say to that? These are the arguments that one hears, I’m just passing them along.
DP: Very well, concerning our position, it is based on the fact we are not aggressors, occupiers, we’re not about to force anyone to become part of us, support us. We don’t think it’s proper to force any group of population, Zaporozhye for example, to join us, because then we’d become just like Ukraine. If a Zaporozhye People’s Republic is formed and turns to us to join the union of LPR and DPR, we’ll accept them and support them. But the first steps must be taken by the people who live there, by the majority of who live there. If we didn’t have a referendum, a majority, our words would be worth nothing. Thus our position is that we don’t want Ukraine to collapse economically, this would be a negative development for us, if Ukraine were to go into chaos, but we are watching how the situation is unfolding, and are building our own internal state, our ministries, agencies, organizations on our territory. But it’s a new order, without influence of oligarchs. Right now we still have corruption, but it’s an ongoing process, and there’s less of it. Concerning our officials, our ministers, irrespective of their position, if there is any information, any facts suggesting that they violated laws, even if they are military or security or police, they’ll be arrested, no doubt about it.
But that’s something that can’t happen overnight. It’s a process of building a republic and of a lengthy clean-up. We lived in that system for a long time. People still give bribes because they got used to it, and don’t think it’s unusual, such is the mentality. They give bribes on various levels for various privileges. One has to fight against those who give bribes, then we’ll have results. Concerning negotiations, Kuchma has authority to conduct them, there are other representatives, including from international organizations, who serve as intermediaries. The Russian Federation also participates. The problem is that we don’t have mutual understanding, they are placing demands on us that we cannot fulfil, but we are continuing the process.
SV: Ok, I’ll stop torturing you now. I know about the humanitarian convoys from Russia, I see them with my own eyes, and how they are checked on the border by OSCE and other organizations. For my Ukrainian viewers, explain with your own words how it’s impossible to send heavy artillery rockets such as Grad, Uragan, and Smerch because one often sees claims on the Ukrainian media that the humanitarian convoys send weapons from Russia.
DP. Let me dispel that myth: they are checking them very thoroughly. And the photos alleging weapons on humanitarian convoys are fakes, just look at the vehicles from which they are being unloaded, not the white Kamaz trucks that come from Russia. I can tell you that right now we have plenty of weaponry to repel any Ukrainian attack. As to humanitarian convoys with white Kamazes, they send whatever we we need badly, construction materials, food, medicines, hygiene products, anything that’s needed most and we get it. I can tell you that its stupid to send such stuff in white Kamazes, everything is checked by international organizations. So I have to disappoint, no ammo. But we have everything.
SV: Maybe the Ukrainians ought to take a look at their own leaders, at Poroshenko who ordered the isolation of Donbass, which is equivalent to genocide, such a leader had no right to go to Paris to commemorate the victims of terrorism, since the first victims were killed in Odessa for freedom of speech.