Interview with Odessa’s number one wanted “pro-Russian terrorist”, Alena “Viper” Babinina: “The whole Odessa is resistance”
|Alena “Viper” Babinina, photo by Marina Perevozkina (MK.ru)
May 1, 2015
Translated from Russian by Kristina Rus
A Woman considered by Ukraine the head of Odessa terrorists, talked about the background of the events of May 2.
We were able to have a detailed conversation with “Viper.”.
I look at this woman and try to understand: is there something in her that would justify that nickname? An ordinary woman, mother of two children. There are many like her on the subway, on the streets, in supermarkets. Only her slim figure and black hair color indicate any connection.
– Why are you called “Viper”?
Viper: It’s my callsign. But not in a terrorist organization or in the militia of Donbass, but in the Odessa police. I’m still a student of the University of the Interior Ministry in Odessa, unless I was expelled. Last spring we held “Antimaidan” protests, to one of which on April 13 came about 30 thousand people. We were guarding the rally. But I’m not a law enforcement officer, but merely a student. Therefore, I had a shirt with the words: “Public Police Assistant”. I was given a walkie-talkie, so we could communicate if anything happened and prevent provocations. I asked our chief, police lieutenant: “What’s the callsign for the radio?” He looked at me and said, “Viper”. Well, Viper is Viper. So it stuck.
– How did you become a student at your age?
– It just happened. Since my childhood I dreamed to become an investigator, but my family talked me out of it. And now in my forties I realized my dream: enrolled where I wanted since youth … Even before I had practiced in the courts, engaged in human rights work. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to finish the University. On May 5th of last year, I was just about to start exams for second session of the second year of study. But it so happened that on this day I was already in Moscow..
Alena is now wanted by the SBU. Ahead of the visit to Odessa by Petro Poroshenko (April 10, the day of the liberation from Nazi invaders) there were mass arrests of “terrorists and saboteurs”. The exact number of detainees nobody knows. First, SBU announced about ten, then about 27. “Subversive group” of 27 people were the activists of the local Orthodox Cossacks. They were detained right in the gym of Odessa Theatre and Art College hostel, where they met regularly. Besides them, on charges of plotting an explosion were detained the female activists of the public organization “Voice of Odessa”.
As Poroshenko’s visit was approaching the number of arrested grew. In Odessa, the head of the Kiev authorities had declared that “Overnight on April 9-10 a large terrorist organization was disarmed: more than 40 terrorists detained, hundreds of weapons seized, dozens of kilograms of explosives, grenade launchers, grenades, plans of terrorist operations”. If you add up those who were previously detained, it comes to about a hundred. Among them, according to the head of SBU, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, there is even one diver. And the head of this powerful terrorist network, according to the Ukrainian secret service, is a woman nicknamed “Viper”. My current companion.
– I was declared a terrorist before the entire world. On one hand – I am thankful for the PR. But I don’t like this PR. Because I am a law-abiding person. I like law and order. But what is happening now in Ukraine – it is all illegal. And the witch hunt goes on. We are not saboteurs, we are ordinary Odessans. But for some reason we were presented as citizens of the Russian Federation. I ask them: “SBU, what are you smoking?” Do you think before you make your announcements? It is clear that there are foreign advisers. How do they know who is Babinina? But our Odessa SBU agents know me, know what I was doing. Judges know me. During one trial with my participation the judge was fired for incompetence. After that, everyone already knew: if Babinina participates in a trial – you should not take bribes! There is a saying: “do not give an excuse to those looking for an excuse”. They gave me an excuse to tell the truth about them. We can say, gave me a deck of cards with all trump cards.
– Tell us about yourself. What were you doing before enrolling at the MIA University?
Life was interesting, changed many occupations. Finished sewing school, for some time worked as a seamstress. Engaged in social activities. In 2005, after the birth of my second daughter, I was offered to join the socialist party of Ukraine. So I went into politics. Was an election activist, a human rights activist. I like law, like helping to rescue people from unpleasant situations.
In 2008 the crisis came, and all credit unions collapsed across the country. We tried to help the investors to recover funds. I was accepted to work at the Credit Union of Ukraine as head of Department on Public Relations. In 2010 the supervisory board appointed me as the chairman of the Board of the Credit Union. Then I headed the city branch of the all-Ukrainian party “Rus” (leader – Denis Shevchyuk). But we lost the elections, and I left party activities.
What is the ideology of this party?
The party advocated for a union of friendly states – Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. I personally have never vouched for the disintegration of Ukraine. I advocated against repressions of Russian-speaking population, for human rights, for society’s control over the authorities.
– You were an activist of Kulikovo Pole?
– Tell us, how this movement started.
This movement began in Odessa after a coup was staged in Kiev in February 2014. I myself have taken an active stance at the moment, when I saw Maidan. It was then that I realized that Ukraine will be no more. People came out on Maidan against corruption. And the result was: bandits were replaced with other bandits. Bandits and fascists came to power. I was also moved by the arrest of Igor Markov [Ukrainian politician, the Chairman of the party “Rodina” – M. P.]. He was arrested even under Yanukovych. All of us, the citizens of Odessa, helped him get out of the dungeons.
– Was he a popular leader in the city?
– Of course. Odessa put high hopes in him. He was simply pushed aside due to his uncompromising position, because he defended the rights of Odessans.
– How did the events in Odessa unfold after the victory of Maidan?
– We all came to the Kulikovo Pole (field). Created groups in social networks. We had a leader – Anton Davidchenko. No one paid us, the people organized themselves. People believed that there is a chance to change things for the better. Our group of 11 people on March 1 collected signatures for a referendum and went to Crimea. Why there? On the Internet there was information that the government of Yanukovych will gather in Crimea. Unfortunately, neither Yanukovych nor his government, we didn’t see there, so we handed the lists to the Embassy of the Russian Federation.
– What referendum did you want to hold?
We wanted to hold a referendum in Odessa so Odessans themselves could decide in which state they should live. The entire Southeast was supposed to hold their referendums and to choose the direction in which to proceed. We wanted to join the Customs Union. We didn’t want to “go to Europe.” Yes, we agree to cooperate with Europe, but Russia is closer to us, we have the same mentality with our Russian brothers. It all started in Western Ukraine – there they stared capturing the military offices, military bases, district administrations. But they are just children, and we are “separatists-terrorists”. Why they can, but we can’t? We were not allowed to hold a referendum. On May 2 we were simply murdered and burned alive.
– You say “our group”. What was it doing?
– Our group are lawyers. On the Kulikovo field, at the headquarters, we had a legal department. We wrote complaints, petitions to the prosecutors office. We wanted to hold an election to elect our representatives into the territorial communities, which were supposed to control the authorities on the ground. We took a civilized path.
Did you set a goal to secede from Ukraine?
This issue was not raised at the Kulikovo field. We wanted to build brotherly relations with Russia. Practically, the South-East is the same as Russia, only in the format of another country.
What ideology united you?
We are anti-fascists. My grandfather fought in WWII. I remember word for word what he told me about the war. Recently, I called my mom at home telling her: “Hide our books”. We have the books “Great Patriotic war”, 4 volumes inherited from grandfather. Large, priceless, with maps. I said to my mother: “Hide them, or else you may get arrested”. Now for this kind of literature you can go to jail.
For historical books?
Of course. There is no more history in Ukraine. Banned everything. You can get arrested for a St. George ribbon, not just books. The Verkhovna Rada has banned all communist symbols. Veterans are afraid to wear the medals, especially with St. George ribbon. I was told by my friends from Odessa, how on April 10 veterans were forced to remove their medals. It was painful to watch.
Where were you on May 2?
At the Greek square. On May 2 we were again called up to help the police, to participate in defending the order in the city. Because on that day there was supposed to be a soccer game, we were awaiting the arrival of soccer fans. We were worried that the same thing as in Kharkov, were there was crackdown, would happen in the city. So our legal department was at the Greek square, there also gathered other active Odessans, Kulikovo activists, Odessa militia.
On the eve of the event we learned that a provocation was being prepared, that militants will come to Odessa and will burn the Kulikovo field. We have received this information from two boys who came from Kiev to Euromaidan, but got lost and stumbled on us. On April 25 a deputy of regional council came to Kulikovo field with a proposal to move out of there. Otherwise, he said “it will be hot”. We had an idea to remove the tent city, leaving only the tent with coffee-tea, the information tent and the stage. Therefore, the Odessa militia and the legal department moved to “Battery 411”. That’s where we were, until the call came to move to Alexandrovsky Prospect to strengthen the law enforcement.
What have you seen on May 2?
Enough to be wanted in Ukraine. I had the feeling that we were taken for a slaughter. It was terrifying… there were about 300-400 of us, and much more of them. They had firearms. Right next to me guys were dropping like flies… And the victims at the Greek square were only on our side. From the side of Maidan and the ultras there were no corpses.
I can prove it. It all began “with the first body on their side”, right? They show a video with a body. At that time I was just at that same spot. We went for a ride just to see how many ultras [Maidan radicals/banderites/maidanites – tr.] gathered at the Cathedral square. At first there were 200-300 people. But when the bells of the Cathedral rang, they, like cockroaches, began to gather. From different sides. In one minute thousands came running. Then the “14th hundred” of Maidan lined up. I filmed all of this. We just stopped at the intersection between Deribasovskaya, Preobrazhenskaya streets and Cathedral square. This is the place that everyone showed. And there were no bodies, which were filmed and showed by the Ukrainian TV channels. It was a staged scene, filmed previously. It was not blood, but paint. Later this [dead] man appeared elsewhere. From our side there were no firearms at all [the opposite side claims that the first killed on May 2 in Odessa was the Right Sector member Igor Ivanov – M. P.].
What about the footage, which clearly shows how some people with red arm bands are shooting from behind the police?
You are talking about Botsman [nickname a famous Kulikovo field activist Vitaly Budko — M. P.]? You know, what’s paintball? Botsman had a paintball gun which shoots balls. Also there were traumatic weapons. We had no clue that we will be shot from real firearms. When bullets and Molotov cocktails flew at us, I broke through from “Athens” [shopping center] to the Primorsky district police department. Shouting to the policemen: “Why are you standing, they have real firearms, there guys are dying, reservists …” All the dead were ours, “kulikovtsi”. And law enforcement officers, information about whom is classified.
Who were the people with red bands?
I also had a red armband. They put it on from the start to identify our own. But I saw on Admirala Zhukova street 4 people in black uniforms running with red armbands. And they were not our own. Later I received information that there were specially planted provocateurs.
You said there were police officers killed…
Yes. But there is no information about it anywhere. I knew three of them, one studied at MIA University in a parallel class. Others – armed forces reservists, officers, guards of the detention center. They all died from gunshot wounds. I’m not going to name names. They have families left.
Did you witness how it all began?
I have a video of this moment. I sat in the car and watched as the 14th hundred was lining up. Suddenly they turned around and marched towards the Greek square, towards “Athens”. And there were our people. Suddenly: smoke, fumes, what’s happening? I jumped out of a car. I looked near the “Gold” shop, there was a box of Molotov cocktails. Men were distributing these cocktails. In front of my eyes they began to put on body armor. I saw their eyes: they were really deranged. I think it was the same group of para-military provocateurs, who operated in Kharkov and other cities. I went to “Athens”, the guys said: “They attacked us, we fought back.” It all happened so quickly. Shots were fired, then came a fire truck. They killed the driver. No one talks about this.
What was his name?
I can not say his name. I am giving you information from unofficial sources. From people who are now there. From current employees of the SBU. Not all of them are scum. This video was also sent not by ordinary people.
What did the police do?
They were confused. Fuchedzhi (then deputy head of the Odessa regional police — M.P.) had the same shock as everyone else. I’ve never seen him like that. You could see despair on his face. There were very few of our Odessa cops. The others were brought from other cities: Ternopil, Rivne [Western Ukraine – tr.]. That day I saw Andrey Yusov surrounded by a group of SBU agents near the branch of “Privat-Bank” [Andrey Yusov was an activist of Odessa Euromaidan, then the leader of the Odessa branch of “Udar” party. In February was appointed adviser to the head of SBU in Odessa region – M. P.]. I saw a barrel of a gun peaking out of the window of the bank, and Yusov was facing the window and making some signs to the person holding that gun. There were snipers at “Privat-Bank”.
When did you leave Odessa?
On the same day, May 2. I did not even go home. I arrived to Moscow just with my passport. When we broke out of the encirclement of pravoseki [the Right Sector – tr.] on the Greek square, I drove to the House of Trade Unions. And there everything was already burning. I watched the scene: cops just standing there, and around them a total mess, people being killed, finished off… I ran to the cops: “What are you doing?” A familiar girl from Odessa militia ran up to me, screaming: “These are not our cops! It’s Ternopil. Get out of here, or else you will stay here forever too!” We drove to “Battery 411”. Then a phone rang that a group went there to shoot us. Just as we were, we headed out of town, and the next day we were in Lugansk. Put up Ukrainian flags on the cars, that’s how we passed the checkpoints. When we saw a checkpoint with Novorossiya flags, breathed a sigh of relief.
Why do you think they are bringing such accusations against you in your homeland?
They started hunting me when on March 2 I posted a video of the events of May 2, where there were faces of current SBU agents. SBU agents are filmed there from ours, and their side. They walked around and watched, gave out orders. They really could have prevented the killings, but did not do it. Although they should have. I have the names of these people. Now SBU made me the chief terrorist to pay for this. I believe that this was an operation planned by special services. They went for it because they failed to provoke us. They saw that we did not attempt to capture the SBU building, the regional administration building, that we were operating in a civilized and lawful way. So they set it all up. All these arrests that occur in the city – it’s called a “witch hunt”. They themselves set up all of those explosions in the city. Maybe with a small exception. You can tell what was done by professionals and what – by amateurs.
Are you heading any organisation here?
I am not heading anything and represent only myself. Recently the female activists of the public organization “Voice of Odessa” were detained. They were kept in the SBU for 15 hours. Now they want to charge them for allegedly carrying out the terrorist attacks in Odessa under my leadership.
“Voice of Odessa” – are the people who after May 2 did not break down and continue the work of the Kulikovo field. Using only legal methods. They were attacked, they were able by law to open a criminal case. It turned out that at a time when the president of the organization came to investigators, the attackers were in the regional investigation department on Shevchenko prospect.
That is actually the “Voice of Odessa” was attacked by law enforcement officers. We are the undesirables only because we demand following the law. Thus we need to be dragged in mud, blamed for what we didn’t commit, crushed. All these searches, arrests, harassment. SBU knocks out all the testimony under torture.
I know the person who gave his testimony against me while he was hung up by handcuffs, stuffed needles under fingernails. People come out of there crippled. The woman who allegedly gave testimony against me, some Teresa, I don’t even know her. People agree to sign anything just to stay alive. At my friends house they found a St. George ribbon, broke his ribs, now he is in the hospital.
Odessa – is a big village, we all know each other. I was a public figure, held rallies, pickets, protests. We fought against corruption, initiated legal proceedings concerning the Credit Union of Ukraine, exposed criminals, were able to return a lot of property through the courts. People know me, know my position very well. People are arrested just for knowing me, want to shut me up. Since I now express my position on social media, mocking the laws that they pass. The “Voice of Odessa”operated in the same manner. We carried out the investigation of May 2.
Has the SBU personnel changed a lot?
According to the latest information, in Odessa SBU practically everyone was replaced. Working there mainly Kiev and NATO people. For the most part – poles. One man recently came out of there and immediately fled here. He said: “We understand the Ukrainian language, but many there speak not Ukrainian. With a clear Polish accent. We heard that American, Polish advisers work there. In Odessa all the phone conversations are fully tapped. People who came out of the dungeons of the SBU, said: Skype conversations, all social networks, any statements – everything is used as a basis for evidence in criminal cases.
What can you say about the recent arrests?
It was pure window dressing before the visit of Poroshenko in Odessa. A chieftain of the Orthodox Cossacks Anatoli Kolomiytsev was arrested. He had a kids club of combat sports. Golden soul, always spoke for justice. The idea that he is involved in terrorist attacks is nonsense. Those people whose photos were shown on TV as a captured Russian subversive group are all native Odessans, my friends. They were arrested in connection with me and released. Actually in the basements of the SBU there are now 20-25 people. There are people who simply disappeared. Of the seven people who were taken on April 1, three are in jail, and four have disappeared, among them one woman. Their fate is unknown. The worst thing is that lawyers are not allowed to see them.
There were allegations that one of the objectives of your “terrorist group” was allegedly the murder of Odessa deputy Alexey Goncharenko. What do you think about that?
Who cares about him? Please… Let Goncharenko think about how to save his soul. He is an accomplice to the murder of Odessans. At that moment he was the right hand of the governor Nemirovsky, what do you think, was he aware of what was being prepared?
Is Odessa resistance completely suppressed today?
No. Nobody has the power to suppress entire Odessa. For Poroshenko’s arrival they brought buses, unloaded the boys lined them up and they shouted “Glory to Ukraine”. Even before the events of May 2, Odessa Euromaidan numbered 150 people, the Right sector – 15. Today, the whole Odessa is – resistance, just silent for now. But sooner or later everything will fall into place.