“Ukraine understands only the language of force”–Zakharchenko interview given shortly after the destruction of a streetcar in Donetsk and his denunciation of the ceasefire.
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
Q: Aleksandr Vladimirovich, the meeting with the mother, it
seems you are still under the influence of that meeting.
Zakharchenko: Yes, of course, it influenced me greatly. It’s
not the first nor the last time, and it’s very difficult to talk to people like
that. You know, they start to understand where they are once they arrive. I want
them to come here as parents. One mother took her son back and told her
relatives this is something like a radio station, Ukraine will be able to learn
the truth through him, because when I talk to them I understand that Ukrainian
media is not showing what is happening here, they show only what is convenient
for them to show. Victorious “cyborgs”, armed only with one grenade held in
their teeth are defending the airport for 241 days, which we practically did
not attack. But once we started our attack, it turned out that the victorious
cyborgs could not stand against us for even two days, but only because we were
wrong in our estimate of the number of units defending the airport.
Q: You spoke to one mother face to face for 15 minutes. What
are your impressions? Do you think they believed you? Or did they want to leave
your office as soon as possible?
Zakharchenko: I think they understood something, I think I
was able to plant a kernel or two of truth in them. The most important thing
was that I was able to look into the soul of the son who came here. I think it’s
worth doing even at the cost of your nerves and time. Every meeting has an
influence on their consciousness, slowly but surely. I think that it is possible
to do bad things in life, but when you open someone’s eyes to the truth, they’ll
do the same for a thousand people. It is worth the effort.
Q: Can you tell us about the difference between our and
Zakharchenko: Their spirit.
Zakharchenko: You know, the people who are fighting on the
Ukrainian side usually don’t understand what they are fighting for. They have an
ideology: defending Ukraine from Russian invaders. But when they come here they
understand there are no Russian forces here, only people just like themselves who
are defending their land, weapon in hand. That’s what makes us much stronger.
Secondly, we are fighting for a just cause. You may know a saying, “whoever has
the truth on their side is the strongest”. It doesn’t matter how much
artillery, tanks, aircraft, BMPs, mortars they have. I’ll tell you this much,
if you remember the movie “Brest Fortress” and the attack of the border guards
armed not with rifles but with chairs, engaging in hand-to-hand combat. They
faced death against a more numerous enemy and won that battle. The moral force,
the willingness to sacrifice oneself to save others, those are our main
advantages. We have glorious ancestors and many examples in history.
You know, I’m very glad. Many of our liberals and
intellectuals cry about lost generations.
Q: That turned out to
Zakharchenko: The call of the ancestors, the blood, all of
that has been hidden within us on genetic level, and the moment those qualities
are needed, they make themselves known. One can be an egotist, a villain, an
alcoholic, living a worthless life, but then you realize that you did something
good, that your children and grandchildren will be proud of you, because their grandfather
fought at Ilovaysk or captured the New Terminal, or fought in Karlovka,
Slavyansk, Dokuchaevsk, and Snezhnoye. We grow our heroes with time. Our
soldiers will visit schools and tell about their battles, but especially about
the purpose of this war. They will have something to say to our children.
Q: We invited to our studio a 16-year-old boy who went to
fight at the age of 15. We also invited an 18-year-old who was wounded twice,
and who has a Cross of St. George, and they are not the last ones. Don’t you
think we are repeating the events of the Great Patriotic War?
Zakharchenko: You know, this is the most terrible aspect of
the war. We are not only repeating the war, but also an entire period of our
country’s history. In the space of six short months since the beginning of
combat operations, we have seen the awakening among our people of a spirit that
has been forming since ancient times, since the time of Kievan Rus, of Igor, of
Oleg, of Svyatoslav, these noble warriors who defended Kiev against various
foreign conquerors. Remember the Battle of Kulikovo Polye, the people who
defended Sevastopol, those who defeated the Swedes at Poltava, those who fought
for the Brest Fortress, who captured Berlin. The blood of all these people
boiled up within us. I have a 17-year-old kid in my security detail who fought
in Slavyansk, Starobeshevo, but he is no longer a child, for all intents and
purposes. It is terrible to watch how our children become adults. We still
consider them to be little. But when you
look into the eyes of a 5-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy who starts
telling you about terrible things with the look of a wise old man, and says “not
I, but we, we must win.” He perceives himself through the prism of the society,
as its part. On the one hand I am proud of such children, they are more like my
battle comrades than children. But on the other hand they lost their childhood,
it was a rapid journey into adulthood. Many thanks to Poroshenko for that, he
who won the election under pro-peace slogans. “I will stop the war”. That’s why
people voted for him. They voted for him because he promised to end the war. But
instead of fulfilling his promise, he only intensified the confrontation.
Q: Right now it’s quiet in the city. There is unusual
silence after yesterday’s terrible tragedy. Is there something I don’t know?
What is the situation at the front line?
Zakharchenko: It’s not quiet at the front, today’s quiet is
the result of earlier victories. I will say this plainly, yesterday’s tragedy
motivated the troops to such a degree that they are angered. Our intelligence
is searching for the attackers, destroying everything in its path. Our faith in
victory, in a just cause, the desire to avenge the civilian casualties, those
are the main emotions which are motivating our soldiers. Thank God, our
soldiers are precise and the shells are striking where they need to.
Q: You made two announcements today. One was the end of the
Zakharchenko: Honestly, it wasn’t much of a ceasefire. I
know many people are taking me to task because of the Minsk Agreements, friends
are asking me many questions, why? What for? But once I start to explain, they
agree. Now we understand that Ukraine understands only the language of force.
When we speak the language of force, they understand us. When we try to resolve
our problems through peaceful means, like civilized people, when we try to meet
them half-way, they view it as a sign of our weakness. I am not a prophet, but
I am certain that in the near future the Ukrainian president will be howling
and demanding a ceasefire. I’ll tell you why. He understands his army is worn
down, equipment is destroyed, ammunition stocks are running low, they need time
to replenish and restore themselves, regroup and receive reinforcements, or
rotate units. This is the policy of a liar, not of a soldier. I fully
understand who he is and what is is planning to do.
Q: And secondly, you said that you will return the bodies
only to parents. What is the sense in that?
Zakharchenko: You saw my exchange with the Ukrainian
officer, he did not even want to look at his dead soldiers. Believe me, I am
the head of state, I came and I said that I am returning….I went there to
return the flag and see that colonel because we had a certain disagreement
concerning life in Donetsk. And I did that. But the attitude of Ukrainian
officers toward their charges completely shocked me. I don’t know how that’s
possible. Let’s take Givi, for example, he is a battalion commander, he took a
tank and freed his two prisoners, he stopped a breakthrough, this is a feat
worthy of a man. He deserves respect, he takes care of his people. Concerning
Motorola, for every one he loses he takes three. He never leaves his troops on
the battlefield, which is as it should be. I can’t figure out where the officer’s
honor and bravery, which existed for so long in the Ukrainian army, vanished.
Givi and Motorola are not officers, they have no special education. They are
simply of the people. But they are unquestionably talented. They have
sufficient leadership qualities, they have charisma, they are commanders
because of their conduct. I feel pity for such Ukrainian officers. The only
thing I felt when transferring the flag was squeamishness. Mothers and fathers
never abandon their children to their fate. They will take them back and bury
them. I don’t know the fate of these dead, but I am sure that their parents
will bury them with dignity. I promised help with the transport and
identification of the bodies. We will help in any way we can, it’s the
humanitarian way, it’s God’s way. We kill our enemies, but never dishonor their
bodies. That is the main indicator of our treatment of people in this war. That’s
why we are stronger than our enemies, we don’t beat those who have been
defeated. It’s our honor code.