Fort Russ, Feb. 16th., 2016
Strelkov played an important role in recent events in Ukraine. Perhaps no other figure of the “Russian Spring” evokes so much passionate debate and controversy. Although the views if Fort Russ editors may not coincide with the views of Strelkov, we want to provide our readers with original sources, such as Strelkov’s account of events, so that you can draw your own conclusions.
Preface by Tatzhit:
In summer 2014, #1 militia commander in Donbass was also #1 news source for bloggers.
Igor Strelkov was better than American or Russian mass media for two
simple reasons: he had a lot of info, and he lied as little as possible
(generally just saying “No comment”).
So, there would be unclear fighting going on, journalists and
propagandists on both sides would claim “we won, enemy decimated and
fleeing” – and Strelkov would give his version of what exactly happened,
who won, how and why. And a few days later, we would always find out
his reports were far closer to the truth that propaganda from either
That time period is actually when I gave up on mainstream media
coverage: if Reuters/CNN/BBC, put together, are doing a far worse job
than one of the militia leaders, what is the point of listening to their
drivel at all?
It wasn’t even about different coverage of the same basic facts – MSM
were getting their stories from the UAF spokesmen, which meant their
connection to factual reality was tenuous at best. Despite repeated fiascoes, mainstream media kept doing that, ostensibly for ideological
reasons, all though the encirclements of the summer 2014 (“UAF are not
cut off, what are you talking about?!”) and winter 2015 “Debaltsevo
cauldron” (“There is no cauldron, militia selfies with captured UAF
soldiers are fake!”).
At the same time, even after his removal from Donbass, Strelkov gave
much more accurate assessments than other Novorossiya sources, and did
not mindlessly support militia’s optimistic claims (e.g. he explained
that Donetsk airport and Debaltsevo were far more drawn-out and bloody
than the optimists would like you to believe, something that was also
proven true later).
All of this makes his interviews very valuable as historic documents. Three caveats, though:
1) Strelkov is mostly focused on military details – his judgments of
popular opinions and local politics are not as astute as those of some
2) He tends to be very harsh in judging others and himself
3) His predictions are generally very pessimistic. When compared to the
boundless optimism of many “official” channels, the real events tend to
fall in between theirs and Strelkov’s predictions.
However, with the may “information war” is these days, Strelkov is still one of the best sources you could get. Enjoy.
Oh, and check out his biography first – it’s pretty unbelievable, Donbass was his 5th war, and he volunteered for all of them.
MILITARY BIOGRAPHY [originally compiled here]
I’ll briefly list my military biography (again).
18 June – 30 July 1992 [War in Transnistria – ed.] – volunteer rifleman,
2nd platoon, Black Sea Cossacks. Koshnitsa, Bendery [urban fighting,
came there with his friend couple days after they graduated college.
Both armed with Mosin rifles dug up on WWII battlefields. His friend was
killed – ed.];
[Picture of Strelkov’s Cossack ID. Below are papers about his service in Transnistria:]
– 30th October 1992 – 24th March 1993 [War in Bosnia] – volunteer in 2nd
Russian Volunteer platoon (first within 2nd Podrina light infantry
brigade, then within 2nd Maevitska brigade of Respublika Srpska Army).
First – grenadier in a scout group, then – 82mm mortar gunner.
[Russian volunteers were considered an elite, motivated unit, and constantly fought at the frontlines.]
[picture of 2nd Russian Volunteer platoon, Bosnia]
[More info can be found by auto-translating the links below]
– June 1993 – July 1994 года – Mandatory military service in the Russian
army, unit #11281 (190th supply base of Moscow district AA). Rifleman
in guard company. Started as private, promoted to sergeant.
July 1994 года – demobilized.
– March – November 1995 года [1st Chechen war] – volunteered for army
service, unit#22033 (67th separate self-propelled artillery unit within
166-the Guards motorized company), deputy platoon commander –
self-propelled artillery commander (2S3 “Akatsia” SPG).
July 1995 promoted to “Guards sergeant”.
26th March to October 10th, took part in combat missions in Chechnya.
– August 1996 to March 31st, 2013 continued military service as a field
agent and planner in various departments of Federal Security Bureau
[mostly counter-terrorism, from what I understand, but a lot of it
inside Chechnya. Like if an FBI guy was tasked with hunting insurgents
in Afghanistan – ed.].
Started as detective, 2nd lieutenant. Finished as deputy Department head, colonel.
1997 – finished training, promoted to 1st leutenant.
1999 to 2005 served in Dagestan and Chechnya (46-47 months over this
period spent on deployments to these regions), worked exclusively on
countering terrorism and banditism.
[Strelkov in Chechnya, 2002]
Awards: Suvorov medal, Personal Courage award, 3 FSB medals (Excellent
service, Counter-Terrorism medal, etc.), 4 personal citations for merit
from FSB director.
2005 to 2013 – worked in Moscow, sometimes other regions of Russia.
July 2012 – moved to reserve, March 2013 – laid off due to
reorganization [officially – due to reaching retirement age, since
combat deployments are counted as triple age, i.e. Strelkov has 16.5
years of actual time served in FSB, but for pension purposes it counts
– From end of February 2014 – advisor to Head of Crimean Parliament Aksenov S.V.
Initiated and carried out the forming of a special volunteer battalion,
which took part in many missions aimed at giving power back to the
people of Crimea.
Later this battalion was re-formed as a special “Crimean” volunteer
company, with 52 fighters total, which slipped through to Slavyansk at
night of 11th-12th April 2014.
– 12 April to 12th August 2014 – Donetsk People’s Republic militia
commander (nominally), from May 16th – nominally, DPR Defense Minister
(in reality, the Defense Ministry only started forming towards the end
Left DPR territory on the morning of August 15th.
[Next, we have three interviews. A few notes before we get into them:
First, Strelkov’s interviews tend to be rather similar, because people
keep asking him roughly the same questions, and he keeps giving all the
same answers. So if you’ve seen other big interviews (some of the ones published elsewhere are
linked at the end of this article), some things may seem familiar. But
there are always a lot of new and interesting details.
Second, this interview was to some Communist YT channel, I think, so
they ask quite a few questions about communists, although communists did
not play a central part in the events.
Third, I also made voiceovers for the interview, but as I am pressed for
time right now, they’re a bit rushed. Overall, I suggest reading the
text (where I managed to correct a few minor translation errors I made
in the v/o), but videos are at the bottom. I also suggest speeding up videos if you watch them.
Fourth, this article only covers parts 1 and 2 of the interview. Due to
time constraints, part 3 is coming later (it also requires some
discussion of Strelkov’s political views, which is a whole separate
subject – some of it can be seen in other interviews, linked at bottom).]
1st INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
Interviewer: Hello Igor Ivanovich,
Could you please tell us – who gathered at the Maidan Square in November 2013 and what did they want to change in Ukraine?
Strelkov: As I’ve said many times before, Maidan was simply a
smokescreen for a palace coup carried out by oligarchs from Yanukovich’s
own clique, whose goal was to completely rip Ukraine away from Russia
and move it into the so-called “European sphere of influence”.
Also, we need to separate Grushevskogo street and the Maidan Square. On
Grushevskogo, there were ultranationalists, essentially neo-Nazis, and Maidan Square was a curious mixture of students, intelligentsia, and
relatively moderate nationalists.
I would like to point out that most people in Kiev at that point were
against Yanukovich, the people that I talked to at least. They did not
understand what this is going to lead to, and when I told them that this
would rip the country apart and start a civil war they thought I’m
kidding. Many – taxi drivers, etc. – were completely sure that
Yanukovich is the supported by Russian special forces, because it was
obviously force fed to them off TV screens. And since all the mass media
were controlled by Yanukovich opponents… Even the state-owned media
channels, when they half-heartedly spoke the official statements, they
still only showed the riot police beating the protesters and did not
show the riot police being attacked and killed themselves.
If we look at the situation historically, the events in Kiev are roughly
similar to the Moscow events of 1991 – the naïve intelligentsia who
falsely believed their aspirations matter, the provocateurs among the
government that purposely escalated the violence, and a small number of
extremists that provided a show for the mass media. The same exact
scenario, with some cosmetic changes, but the same results. A fairly
large part of the population acted like a donkey running after a carrot
tied in front, not even able to explain what exactly are they hoping to
Interviewer: Who was interested in escalating the protest, and starting the bloodshed?
Strelkov: Obviously, the masterminds – US State Department, European
politicians doing their bidding, and their proxies in Ukraine. The goal
was to overthrow Yanukovich, completely rip Ukraine away from Russia,
and bring a rabidly Russophobic regime to power in Kiev – just as it
Interviewer: How could it happen that Ukraine, [where 6 million fought
the Nazis, and only 1/60th of that number joined Bandera’s Nazi
collaborators – ed.], was taken over by groups shouting Nazi
Strelkov: First off, they were always there. After World War II, the
country has lost so many men that even Stalin did not want to exacerbate
the losses, and Banderites simply received lengthy prison terms. Most
of them survived until Stalin’s death, when they were unconditionally
pardoned by Khrushchev [it is worth noting that the death rates in
gulags were very high during WWII starvation years, but afterwards
stayed around 3% – 5% mark, not too different from general population –
ed.]. They kept quiet, but they kept the ideology alive, and after 1991
they received full government support – because every Ukrainian
government eagerly supported nationalists as insurance against the
population overthrowing them and returning to the prosperous times of
unity with Russia.
And you have to understand that every last Ukrainian government was
nationalist. Yanukovich and Yarosh are not opposed – they are two wings
of the same movement, only Yarosh is more radical and Yanukovich was
more of a simple thief who used the ideology and, in the end, was hated
by both sides for it.
So when a new generation grew up that did not remember the Soviet Union
personally, they learned everything they knew from TV and textbooks –
and considering that nationalists completely dominated the media and
education and there were essentially zero alternative opinions present –
by now a lot of the youth simply do not know what really happened and
are completely oblivious to the fact that their ancestors for the past
300 years considered themselves Russians, fought and died for a united
Interviewer: Those neo-Nazi groups – were all of their actions planned, or did they at some point become uncontrollable?
Strelkov: No, they were always puppets. The Maidan was completely
controlled by a group of oligarchs the whole way. I personally know that
Poroshenko spent half a million UAH per day [over 70,000 USD – ed.] on
Maidan! He wasn’t the only one, of course – in fact, pretty much all of
them financed it, maybe except Ahmetov and his team.
Interviewer: Did the people go to Maidan to earn money, then, or did they go there for ideological reasons?
Strelkov: On Grushevskogo street, most were paid, although there were
quite a few ideologically driven Nazis too. On Maidan, most people were
not paid. There were some people that had to stay there round-the-clock –
because the vast majority left at night, but a small crowd was needed
to keep up appearances – those were paid a bit for staying at night, but
it’s not like they came there to earn money.
But you have to understand that’s how Ukrainian politics work. The
anti-Maidan crowd next to them was getting paid to a man, 500 UAH per
day – good money at the time, about 70 bucks for doing nothing and
hanging out with free food and tea. And I personally saw some people
from anti-Maidan get their money for the day and go join the Maidan
crowd for the evening, for free.
Interviewer: When the protest became more radical and neo-Nazis became
the driving force, why wasn’t there a single political organization that
could stand up to them?
Strelkov: And what about USSR in 1991? How many Communist Party members
were then – 18 million or so? Over 25 million in the Communist Youth
Union, too. Did anyone stand up against the so-called “glorious
democratic revolution”? Nobody did anything, because nobody believed in
the system anymore, starting with the people at the top. I grew up back
then, and I remember. Maybe in the provinces it was different, but in
Moscow nobody believed in the Communist ideas. At least among the young
people. It was just a ritual by that point. Idealists were few and far
between, and people laughed at them.
Interviewer: USSR had one party and what happened was a change within
that party. But Ukraine had a multiparty system – couldn’t one party
stand against what another one was doing?
Strelkov: Imagine that tomorrow some kind of fascists riot and take over the Kremlin.
Of course, it’s not possible – at this point, our country can not have a
color revolution, only a palace coup disguised as yet another Maidan or
Bolotnaya, just like Ukraine. Or maybe even undisguised – remember
2000, when Yeltsin said “I’m tired, I’m leaving” [and handed over the
country to Putin – ed.], that wasn’t a democratic transfer of power
Imagine that such a coup happened. Do you seriously think that Zuganov
and his “Communists of the Russian Federation” would really fight it? I
see you shaking your head – yes, I don’t think so either. They are quite
happy being the “official opposition”, and at this point essentially
operate as government bureaucrats who have zero interest in “rocking the
boat”. A bureaucrat only acts when given an order – if he doesn’t get
one, he stays put.
Interviewer: So the situation in Ukraine may be what happens to Russia down the road?
Strelkov: Ukraine is Russia. All the processes underway here are also
underway there – some faster, and some slower. As I said, Maidan is 1991
events happening two decades too late. And, of course, that scenario
could very well be repeated in Russia.
Interviewer: When did you understand that, unless the spread of fascism
is checked, it will take over and destroy Ukraine and then, likely, also
Strelkov: Let me be clear – what came to power in Ukraine wasn’t classic
nazim. It was a plutocracy, the rule of oligarchs, using
ultranationalist ideology for their own ends – which were completely
breaking ties with Russia. Poroshenko is no different from Yanukovich.
They are virtually the same, except that Yanukovich is somewhat dumber.
But they are of the same class of plutocrats who don’t give a damn about
the country or the people. The person who came to power wasn’t Yarosh
or one of the other Nazis, but one of the plutocrats who were using
neo-Nazis as cannon fodder. Obviously, I have little love for Ukrainian
Nazis, or any other kind of Nazi, but they are merely tools – that’s the
objective truth. Their ideas happen to be convenient. If they stop
being expedient, they will be replaced.
As for why I acted – because I had an opportunity to change something,
to stand against [plutocrats further ripping apart and robbing a country
– Ed.]. Previously, I never had one – in 1991, I was very young, didn’t
support either side because they were obviously corrupt, and back then
there was no third option. In 2014 it could happen, at least
As for 1993 [fighting between the Parliament and the president], I was
serving in the Army, away from Moscow. Although many of my friends at
the time supported the Parliament, defended the White House, stormed the
Ostankino TV station, etc. I only met people who were on the other side
when I started serving in the Federal Security Bureau.
But in 2014, it so happened that I had a choice – take a stand, or go
home. And I took a stand. After all, this is something I’ve been
preparing for my whole life.
Interviewer: Let’s now move on to March, to the events in Crimea. What
was the overall atmosphere during the reunification with Russia? Were
the people scared, unsure, glad?
Strelkov: I can mostly speak for Simferopol, because that’s where I did
most of my work. I’ve only been to Sevastopol for a few brief visits,
and only worked with some of the districts elsewhere in Crimea. So I’ll
only speak for what I have seen personally [Simferopol isn’t quite as
“Russian” as Sevastopol – ed.].
The initial atmosphere was that of uncertainty. Imagine this: the
morning after the administrative buildings were taken over. It’s
slightly above freezing temperature, but the night was cold so
everything is covered in ice, everybody is constantly slipping. The
people are coming to the Parliament building and City Hall to support
the uprising, even though they still don’t know who exactly took them
over, but there are rumors that it’s our guys.
The police [except Berkut – ed.] were still following orders from Kiev
at that point, so they are blocking the streets and turning people
around, and people obey. But there are some streets that are not
blocked, and the police know that they aren’t blocked, but they turn a
blind eye, so some people come. In the end, there was a rally of a few
hundred in front of the Parliament, some number in front of the City
So in the very beginning, there wasn’t yet this overwhelming popular
support. There were mostly political activists, also some spectators.
Modern people [have been turned into “consumers”, who] are quite
childish and come to such events to enjoy the show. Most people were
simply passive, and continued with their daily lives. There were a few
thousand political activists, but the other [~200,000 adult locals]
simply kept going to their day jobs [worth noting that the core of
Maidan, assembled from 52 million Ukrainians, numbered about 10,000 –
ed.]. What I’ve seen in Sevastopol during my trips was more “universal”,
but in Simferopol the movement was mostly political activists –
Cossacks, lots of Communists, monarchists, patriotic organizations, etc.
Basically, the people who cared about politics participated, and the
rest did not.
Interviewer: Did the people self-organize, or did someone put it together?
Strelkov: In Simferopol, it was all organized by the [local movement]
“Russian Unity”, headed by Aksenov. They gathered the most people,
because the Communists brought a few hundred, and Aksenov gathered more
than 3000 on the second day. I wasn’t there when they clashed with the
Tatars, I came back that night, but during the takeover of the airport
and the train station, they gathered a huge number of people for
[relatively small] Simferopol. That wasn’t simply due to will of the
people – you can’t do anything big without some organization.
Interviewer: What did you know about the events in East Ukraine – Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa?
Strelkov: Crimea started first, [right after Maidan], so initially they
were behind us and not doing much. Later, actually, I knew a lot because
I was Aksenov’s deputy for these matters. I even had an ID, still with
Ukrainian trident seals because there were no other ones yet – right now
it’s hanging, framed, in one of my friends garages. Aksenov was busy
with local government and organizing things in Crimea, so when delegates
from other cities and other “Russian Unity” branches came to Crimea, he
sent them to me. I talked to them, and the one question everyone had
was – “When are you guys coming? What do you need us to do?”. So I was
quite aware of how the protests developed. I even made a map showing
where the majority of population supported reunification with Russia, or
independence from Kiev.
Interviewer: So Crimea was an example for East Ukraine?
Strelkov: Absolutely. All of the self-determination activists were very
much encouraged, and the nationalists in Kiev, as well as police, army,
and such were very demoralized. Everybody was expecting the “Crimean
scenario” to repeat all over East Ukraine. It was literally like a
thunderbolt from a clear sky – [in the areas that supported us] the
people were encouraged, and [nationalist government forces] were
Interviewer: And who supported your desire to help those people?
Strelkov: Sergei Valer’evich Aksenov, of course. We were completely in
agreement that it is necessary to liberate East Ukraine, simply because
it is required for the well-being of Crimea, if nothing else
[nationalist government recently cut food, water, and power supplies to
Crimea, which successfully caused a blackout, ostensibly in an effort to
“punish” the population that has been much more prosperous than the
mainland – ed.].
He supported me as much as he could, and we had the exact same views.
But the problem was that both of us had very little in terms of
resources. Well, personally, I had next to nothing, and he had some
administrative capacity, but that didn’t count for much. We managed to
create the so-called “Crimean Special Forces Battalion” [from the
locals] and it even carried out some missions in Crimea. We got the unit
to 200 men with 160 captured weapons, but it was disbanded very
quickly. To the new powers that be, it was an “illegal armed group”.
Since we were a disciplined outfit, we carried out the order – handed
over the weapons and disbanded. If we were able to go to East Ukraine at
least with those 200 men, instead of 52 [volunteers that I assembled],
the events may have developed quite differently.
Interviewer: When you moved to East Ukraine with your group, from
[Crimea] and to Slavyansk, were you supported by the local
Strelkov: You mean in Donbass, right? We were not supported by local officials at all. Initially, in Slavyansk, the mayor Nelya Shtepa
thought that we are Russian soldiers – you know, she didn’t know what
was going on, nobody really knew what was going on – so she called on
the population to support us, but when she realized we are not Russian
soldiers but volunteers, she started dealing with the nationalist side.
But she already did what she did, and the fact that they are trying her
right now is a good example for all traitors. She tried to deal with
both sides, as a result right now she’s on trial, and that’s exactly
what she deserves.
Interviewer: Did you communicate with the resistance in Kharkov and everywhere else?
Strelkov: Yes, I was dealing with other resistance groups since working
in Crimea [as explained above – ed.]. Those in Odessa, Kharkov,
Mariupol, Kherson, etc.
I’ve have already said in one of past interviews that I had the choice
to go to Odessa, the people from there really were begging me to come
and help. But I my choice [of Donbass] was because Donetsk, Slavyansk
etc. have already risen up, [had their own militia units – ed.], in
Lugansk they have already captured the [armory at the] State Security
HQ. And Odessa was still having protests, you know, gathering, talking,
walking around with sticks, but didn’t actually do anything substantial.
And my thinking was that you should help the people who have already
risen up – that gave a higher chance of success. And the second thing is
that even though theoretically we could have reached Odessa [by sea]
due to the collapse of Ukrainian Navy and the nationalist border
security, but there was the question of supply and support. Because we
counted on the popular uprising leading to reunion with Russia, Russian
troops walking in and, without a single shot fired, disarming the
nationalist troops or nationalist troops mostly switching sides, like it
happened in Crimea. But it would have been hard for Russian soldiers to
move to help Odessa – it’s quite far away. But the main thing was that
Donbass has already risen up.
Interviewer: So, in Kharkov, there were the largest protests, so why did it all fizzle?
Strelkov: On TV, you can see one Mr. Konstantin Dolgov, now he is
working for Vladislav Surkov, an official in president [Putin’s]
administration, you should ask him all the questions about the failure
of Kharkov resistance. Because he had the most assistance, he had some
funding from us, and he actually got the least done.
Of course, there was a role played by the local oligarchs and the local
mayor – as we know, they did go to the Kremlin, flew to Moscow and
consulted [and ostensibly got a negative answer – ed.]. and maybe they
were indecisive themselves. We don’t know what exactly happened, but in
the end they didn’t support the popular movement. So there was [no
support], no real leaders who could organize it fast enough, even though
tens of thousands of people have risen up they had no leaders [and were
unable to stand up to heavily armed State Security SWAT teams – ed.].
Interviewer: How about the communists that you met on your way, how did the communists participate in the resistance?
Strelkov: Well, it’s not like we marched like Caesar through Gallia, and
had local communists came out in crowds to greet us… I don’t think we
should sink to such satire. You know, we were 50 men. Let’s not
exaggerate things, let’s not the talk like Tartarin of Tarascon
– you know, the satirical book in which the main character exaggerates
everything and makes elephants out of flies in every little thing. So
let’s not exaggerate the fact that 50 men drove though Donetsk. You
know, those events were merely tactical. They only mattered
strategically because the other side was ruled by complete incompetents
and totally demoralized.
So let’s not paint it as this heroic saga, that historians would laugh
at later on. You know, I wanted to be a historian, I really wanted that
to be my main occupation, so to me it somewhat matters that later
historians don’t laugh at me, like people laugh at Chapaev and make up jokes about him [a Red Army
cavalry commander, chiefly known for larger-than-life
portrayal in cinema – ed.].
But to answer your question specifically, there was a small communist
organization in Slavyansk. Initially they tried to act independently,
but later their leader – I won’t name him because some harm may come to
him or his family, although of course they fled [when nationalists took
the city] and are currently in Russia – at some later point he came to
me and said that he’s disappointed in trying to accomplish things on his
own, so he volunteered for the militia and was working under my
command. Because he was quite aged, he worked in the rear units.
I can’t give you the details of what exactly happened, because back then
I didn’t really do politics, I mostly dealt with military questions,
but I suppose what happened is they didn’t get enough help from the
communists in Russia and Ukraine, and maybe he was disappointed with his
comrades in Slavyansk. But what I can say is that the local communists
did help the militia, they all worked preparing food, brought
humanitarian aid… I didn’t ask them to do scouting activities, but
they did bring us some reports when they could. But they weren’t a large
political party by any means.
And I wouldn’t have let them form a separate entity within the militia –
that’s something I have mentioned in other interviews, too, that I was
categorically against any political units and formations within the
militia. Even if monarchists came to me and asked me – “Igor Ivanovich,
you are a monarchist, let’s form a monarchist unit” – I would have
offered the same terms to them as I did for anyone else. Only the same
conditions as everybody else, you do what you’re told, no separate
detachments, separate banners, separate slogans. I was strictly against
Cossack detachments for this reason, and I have seen many times that
this was the correct position.
If you have any sort of ideological or national unit, even if they are
the best, the most brave, the most organized, they have two sets of
goals and values – the overall goals of the movement, and their own
values and their own goals. So at some point those two can conflict, and
they would usually take the side of their own values and their own
ideology, the goals of their “corporation”, and not of the larger
The example from our action is the behavior of the Cossack commandant
company [“police”-type militia units] in Kramatorsk. When there was a
retreat order, they assembled their Cossack’s Council and decided to
continue defending Kramatorsk, but when everybody else followed the
orders and pulled out to Gorlovka, they understood the they went too
far, so to speak. But they understood that they would probably be
punished – well, their commanders, the common soldiers didn’t really
know what was going on – the commanders understood that I could declare
them deserters and… Well, I probably wouldn’t shoot them, but they
would be sent to dig trenches or something, in the penal company. So
they lied to their soldiers and said they had the order from me to
retreat to the Izvarino border checkpoint [by Lugansk – ed.]. So that
company relocated there, with the attached mortar platoon that they had.
There the commanders again had a Cossack’s Council and, because many of
them were from Russia, including the well-known “Babai” – the very
“picturesque” guy that we picked up in Crimea, because we were really
short on men at that point, and we just had to take whoever came – so
they did their Council and decided to go to Russia, leaving their men
[Babai and other cossacks from Kramatorsk can be seen in this video – ed.]
But as the saying goes, “the bad luck turned out to be good”: up to that
moment, the border crossing was defended by 30 men, and all they had
were SKS carbines that I sent them from Slavyansk, on the complete
opposite side of the resistance.
So, you see that I had to divide whatever little arms I had [throughout
the Slavyansk siege, there were fewer rifles than volunteers – ed.] and
send it as far as Lugansk people’s Republic. That Kramatorsk company,
after their commanders deserted, joined the 30 men holding the last
border crossing [to Russia] and held it – if not for them, [the
rebellion] would be completely cut off from the border.
But that’s an example of why I was categorically against forming
national or political units within the resistance – because one day
monarchists of communists are together with us, following us, and the
next day they make their own decisions.
The same thing with Kozitsyn’s Cossack detachments [in LPR]. Those…
gangs, as soon as crap hit the fan, they would say “we’re Cossacks, we
need to be preserved, we are the proud memory of a nation” and they
would retreat. The common militiamen could be left to die, but they
needed to survive [to be fair, Kozitsyn’s men always had very little
weapons – ed.].
So when people online blame me that I stopped a communist resistance
from forming – and you know, I read what people write online, not
because I’m a masochist or anything like that, but a because I want to
see whether people are saying something true about my failings or
whether it’s something false, so I’m checking myself constantly – so the
claims about the me shutting down the communist movement, that’s false.
You know, if there was a real “popular communist movement”, as a
monarchist, I would have come there and joined it. Not because I’m a
communist, or like Trotsky, or anything like that – but because, when
you are resisting Nazis, you have to join the overall movement that’s
resisting them, regardless of what banners it’s marching under. But
there was no “communist movement”, so I tried to make… banners that
everybody could join.
Yes, I have introduced some monarchist awards – the St. George Cross,
Nikolai the Saint award; but the same time I introduced “Bravery in
Combat” medal, very similar to the Soviet one. So we tried to unite
people under the banners of everything that was good in Russia – both
before the Communist revolution, and after. So nobody made people
follow Orthodox Christian ideals, or any communist or monarchist ideals.
Even when some monarchists did come from St. Petersburg as a monarchist
unit, they were sent to a regular infantry company as common privates.
Interviewer: Did you have communication with units in Lugansk People’s
Republic, and the Prizrak brigade? Specifically the communist unit
Strelkov: I first heard about the communist detachment within the
Prizrak brigade already after I leaving Donbass. As for the Prizrak
brigade, you have to understand it was formed with a lot of assistance
from me, and partly because of my assistance. Mozgovoi, its leader, came to Slavyansk, and for a week joined us in guarding one of the
checkpoints. After that I talked to him, he said he wants to organize
defense in Lisichansk, so I gave him weapons and he went there. And
after that, every time I managed to secure some arms, I would send some
to Prizrak. Up until my exit, Mozgovoi received all his heavy machine
guns, all the mortars and anti-tank rifles from us. Well, he did capture
some things, he did repair some damaged weapons secured from the enemy,
but most of the heavy weapons and a lot of the light arms he received
So Mozgovoi followed my orders – he declared that he will voluntarily
follow my orders, we communicated with his headquarters over an
encrypted line, and overall he was subordinated to me. But because of
the distance and the lack of organization, his subordination was more or
less nominal – mostly he did what he wanted, what he thought was best. I
haven’t heard about any communist detachment within his brigade back
Alexei Borisovich [Mozgovoi] did come to me after we left Slavyansk,
because one of his platoon defense points was destroyed, almost a
platoon of soldiers died [facing armor without anti-tank weapons] and he
was asking me what to do. And I ordered him to leave Lisichansk.
He was against it, sharply, he was saying “How can we leave Lisichansk,
people believe in us, people consider us their protectors, they trust
us”. So I brought him to a map and showed him that for now they are
holding, but in 2-3 days Lisichansk will be cut off by heavy armor – and
behind it were Pervomaysk, Alchevsk, Bryanka. And each of those areas
was defended by about 30 militiamen armed with light weapons. Yes, in
Lugansk there was Bolotov, and he did have arms, but he never sent them
to the rest of the LPR. I do know what he did with them, if he sold them
or what, and I don’t want to know.
So Mozgovoi understood that if the brigade is surrounded in Lisichansk,
then there will be nobody to defend the center of the frontline. Just
like the nationalists took Popasnaya, where we had a garrison of 50 men
that was kicked out in a few hours – because they had no experience, no
[heavy] weapons, and the Cossacks there also retreated without fighting.
So he did take my order to retreat, and did it in the nick of time and
they managed to hold the center – Pervomaisk, Alchevsk, Bryanka, that
Interviewer: So then there’s the [usual] question of “Why did you
retreat from Slavyansk?” Other than the encirclement, I mean. Did you
have any other reasons, to protect Donetsk or something?
Strelkov: There were no factors other than the impending encirclement.
People now talk online that I “went to rescue Donetsk because I thought
it will be handed over to the nationalists”. Yes, when I came to Donetsk
I realized that it was completely unprepared, and nobody was even ready
to really defend it, but I left Slavyansk purely because of tactical
considerations. We didn’t have antitank weapons, and the antitank
weapons that we had did not work.
The anti-tank weapons that the nationalists showed, abandoned at my
headquarters – those were the ones that failed to fire, the dud ATGMs
and RPGs. We had a very strict system of following all the ammo,
everything issued, so everything that didn’t fire was brought back and
stored at the headquarters. [skip]
[captured anti-tank weapons and ammo in Slavyansk. By military
standards, this is enough for a platoon, maybe – but this was the
brigade’s central ammo reserve]
Nikolaevka [last town protecting Slavyansk supply routes – ed.] was
taken by the nationalists because there was nothing to stop them with.
Our defenders had 28 single-shot antitank launchers, every last one
failed to fire. Our guys were machinegunned by APCs and
couldn’t do anything. Unfortunately, we only had [around a dozen]
antitank rifles, and those were mostly in Semenovka. And even if the
[WWII-vintage] AT rifles could take out their armored personnel
carriers, they were nearly useless against tanks.
We had almost no shells – for two tanks we had one and a half combat
loads, for the two Nona mortars we had two loads, and for the nine
infantry mortars we had 57 mines, so less than seven mines per mortar.
So we would be stuck, shelled from above, from the Karachun Mountain
[also lost due to lack of anti-tank weapons – ed.]. According to my
calculations the enemy had approximately 80 artillery systems and plenty
of shells. Up until our retreat, for the preceding couple weeks,
Slavyansk was hit very hard, especially the residential areas like
Himki. So we would be sitting surrounded, we would be constantly
shelled, and we wouldn’t have any shells to answer them. The
nationalists would not attack…
In the preceding weeks, I actually expected and wanted a full-on urban
assault – because, considering that nationalists had overwhelming
superiority in armor, numbers, and heavy weapons, we could only think
inflict defeat on them, or at least make [a good last stand], if the
fighting was within a city. Up close, we could use the fact that we were
much more willing to fight. But they weren’t going to assault the city –
at the same time as they were cutting the last of our supply lines at
Nikolaevka, they started deploying minefields and barbed wire all around
Slavyansk. So their plan was obviously to turn it into a big
“concentration camp”, pound it flat with artillery, and then we would
still have to break out – without ammo and without food, but through
minefields, and with much, much higher losses.
And there was no unit that could relieve us. Entire Slavyansk brigade
had about 2000 fighters, counting with Kramatorsk, Konstantinovka,
Druzhkovka. Plus about 1000 supply guys – you know, cooks, doctors,
family members etc. The main unit, 1200 soldiers, was in Slavyansk,
Semenovka, that agglomeration. If it was surrounded, the other large
group of about 500 soldiers was in Kramatorsk led by Hmuryi [“Gloomy” –
callsign], but he understood very well, and I understood very well, that
he will not be able to break through to us. Bezler in Gorlovka – at the
time he had about 350 active soldiers, two tanks, and two Grad trucks.
And that’s nothing – the heavy armored group that was cutting us out off
at Yampol, that group alone had about 100 armored vehicles and at least
30 tanks. Yes, maybe their tanks weren’t in the best condition, but our
armor wasn’t running very well either. My largest concentration of
armor was in Slavyansk, it was 11 armored vehicles – two tanks, two
Nonas, two BMDs, two BMPs, and some armored carriers with antiaircraft
guns on them or something. And that was very little, considering what the
nationalists deployed. Apart from that heavy armored group, each of
their checkpoints had four tanks! So all of our armored forces could
probably beat one checkpoint, and then we would run out of armor, and
they would have 99% of their armor still left.
So knowing that nobody could relieve us, I had no other choice but to
save the men, save the weapons and vehicles, retreat in an organized
manner and establish a new defensive position elsewhere.
But the same night that we retreated from Slavyansk, two hours later we
had a message from Artemovsk that [yet another] heavy armored group has
entered Artemovsk and taken it. That was deep in our rear, that was
essentially a second encirclement that would cut off the entire
Slavyansk-Kramatorsk area – after taking Artemovsk, all they had to do
was cut the undefended road between Konstantinovka and Gorlovka, and
we’d be surrounded again, [so we had to pull out to Donetsk
END OF PART 2 OF “RED TV” INTERVIEW
“RED TV” interview as voiceover videos:
[Tatzhit: Here’s another piece I wrote for an unrelated forum. It’s
written from memory, so not word-for word translation, more like a
summary of what Strelkov says.]
DETAILS OF RETREAT FROM SLAVYANSK
Some communication was done by cell phones, but nationalists could
listen in on them, and also jammed them during attacks, so all
coordination was lost. We had hand-held radios, but those had short
range and could also be jammed.
After a month or so, we managed to secure some WWII-model field phones,
these reached to the outskirts of the town, from there the messages were
relayed by courier. So, WWI level of command and control, really.
Thankfully, we stopped a State Security “listening car” in Kramatorsk
very early on, and the crew defected to our side, so we knew their
capabilities and could also intercept some of the nationalist’s
Plus, we managed to catch all the government agents in my HQ rather
easily – the locals are unsophisticated people, and it was rather easy
to spot those who asked too many questions for no reason. Sure, there
may have been some people who were simply too curious, but the suspects
ended up sitting out a couple months in our HQ basement, nothing too
So, given these conditions, this is how we organized the evacuation:
By then we only had one dirt road open, and even that had an enemy
platoon on it the previous night, but for unclear reasons they retreated
during the day. We sent scouts from Slavyansk and Kramatorsk to post up
along the road, [due to lack of comms] there was some friendly fire and
The hospital and the wounded left during the day – I told them the city
was preparing for siege, said our heartfelt goodbyes, those guys were
really tearing up because they thought they will never see us.
I called up a LifeNews crew and made a fiery interview saying we will
defend the place to the death. By the way, all other journalists left
the city, which was also a sign it will be encircled and turned to
rubble. Lifenews guys were expecting another interview – that night,
when they found out we skipped town and nationalists are moving in, boy
were they pissed.
We had a meeting with all the unit commanders, and I explained the
decision to break out. Everyone agreed, even the guys slandering me for
it now – I was discussing the situation with company commanders every
day, so they knew it was necessary. Everyone left their cell phones in
the HQ, to show that we are still in session.
In the evening, the units on the outskirts got the order to pack up and
go. Couple platoons were left in Semenovka to keep up distracting fire,
they later came out on foot. Everyone was told to leave “detected”
phones at the positions, so that the nationalists “see” a manned
The units in the center only got orders to move around nightfall. Up
until then, everybody thought we’re digging in – looking out of my
window, I could see the militiamen digging trenches around the center of
the town, with resigned faces – preparing to die like heroes.
The only failure I had was moving with the 2nd column, to come out and
organize the units as they arrived in Kramatorsk. As a result, I
completely lost command and control as soon as HQ packed up, and that
lead to the armored group attacking without orders and perishing, when
they were just told to fire on nationalist checkpoint to create a
distraction. If I commanded the evacuation personally and came out last,
that would have been prevented.
[Finally, an older interview. It covers both the Slavyansk period, and what Strelkov did afterwards.]
STRELKOV AND OTHER CHESS MEN
“I pulled the trigger, started the war.
Initially, no one wanted to fight” – a famous quote by the historian
Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, also known as the former Defense Minister of
DPR Igor Ivanovich Strelkov. Those who believe that the war in Ukraine
is “Russian aggression” think so, in part, due to Strelkov’s candid
That he started the war is, certainly, an exaggeration: armed conflict
started [a week] before he arrived and the events [all around Donetsk
and Lugansk districts] were obviously not set in motion by any one man.
But in any case, Strelkov’s name has already gone down in history. At
the same time, we still have the opportunity not only to read about him,
but to talk face-to-face. A prominent character of future history books
on this conflict – who is he, really?
HUMANITARIAN AID FROM A DICTATOR
In an industrial area in the outskirts of Moscow, we find the office of a
humanitarian social movement “Novorossiya”. It helps the people of
Donbass with medicine, clothing, food. Inside – desks with computers,
men in khaki busy at the keyboards. White bags with gingerbread cookies
neatly stacked against the wall. The place smells newly renovated,
everything is still being fixed, something is being drilled in the
hallway, the receptionist can not find another chair for me.
– Cross out the question about Russian troops. – the press attache
Nastya forbids me to ask Strelkov if he hoped for the aid of Russian
troops when he went to Slavyansk.
– If he doesn’t want to answer, he can simply say no comment – say I.
– No, the problem is, he will likely answer. Therefore do not ask him that one.
Yes, Igor Strelkov is the former commander of the armed forces of the
People’s Republic of Donetsk. It was he who decided to go to Slavyansk
with a group of [52 Crimean] volunteers to lead the defenders. Then it
was he who decided that militia had to retreat from Slavyansk. And after
that he was declared a dictator, the supreme military commander of the
DPR. But in our, Moscow reality, beautiful Nastya is scarier than
The office is gloomy. At an office desk, Igor Strelkov, with a nose
reddened by a cold, looks forlorn, like a hostage. He is across from me,
in a gray jacket – press attache to his left.
– Why did you, a combat leader, create a humanitarian movement?
– You know, I really had no other way of helping Novorossiya. I mean …
nobody would let me build an army of some sort. And neither would I be
allowed to create a political movement.
Pause. He slowly drops his head forward and slightly to the left, his
characteristic movement, like his neck suddenly broke at the base. Or if
someone had released the rope that pulled his head up. Everyone knows
that he was forced to leave Donetsk, back when Minsk-1 truce was being
– And I do not want to go into politics, anyway.
– But you did not consider the option of not helping Novorossiya?
– No, I did not. Because my friends are there. My men. To whom I have a
great moral obligation. I did, and still do. To completely abandon
everything happening there – it would be the same as … well,
– I hear your reputation helps the humanitarian movement greatly.
He makes a long pause.
– Actually, this is the only thing I’m doing here. Since I do not have
any professional skills as a supply manager, I do not have any business
skills, or desire to get them. Therefore, in this movement I mostly play
a role, of … a talking head. – pause – Yup. As a the person who got,
through a past PR campaign, a certain weight in society. And is
perceived as such. As a kind of, well … celebrity. And this really
does help the movement quite a lot. People think of me – and I hope they
are right – as a person who will not embezzle humanitarian funds.
– But it’s not PR – you really made decisions that affected the lives of
so many. I have questions for you, not because you’re a celebrity, but
because you are a man who at some point changed our common history. And
your answers can help an ordinary person better understand their
– Okay, let’s do it … – Strelkov takes a deep breath, then smiles
wryly. – Our conversation with you goes like this – he shows spirals and
wiggles with his hand, that is, the conversation goes around in
circles. – Let’s go by a more direct route.
He straightens his palm for a karate chop and shows how.
In a suburban resort “Verbilki”, in a summer house made of fiberboard, a
large dark living room. There, four militiamen in khaki sit behind a
table covered with plastic. They are all missing one or both legs. Some
have already received prosthetics with the money raised by “Novorossiya”
movement, someone are still waiting. They are eating a meal and
watching a large plasma TV.
Red carnations are standing in vases in front of the soldiers.
– Strelkov brought those, – says Alexander the militiaman. – When he
came to congratulate and award us, on the 23rd of February [Veterans Day
Holiday]. And look, they still did not wilt!
We step out to smoke.
– We are from Donbass, from Lugansk, – says Alexander. They live in this
resort since summer, recovering, waiting for surgery, getting used to
the prosthesis. Alexander is already able to walk quite well. – And this
is our summer camp … … – he gestures with his hand.
– Are you sad here? Can’t you leave by now?
– And where do we go? Our houses are under the Nazzies. Slavyansk,
Druzhkovka, Konstantinovka, all the way to Donetsk – it’s under their
regime. Our families are there. If simple activists got seven years in
prison just for wearing St. George ribbons, what will they do with us?
With our families, if they find out? How can we tell? – He asks me.
– How can we go back? – He says, when he sees that I have no answer. –
We talk with our families every day on Skype, they’re okay for now. But
will they be okay tomorrow? How do I know?
– You can go to Donetsk.
– If we go to Donetsk, there is nothing to eat. Who needs us these – parasites, cripples?
– So, you must somehow try to live here?
– And who needs us here? We’re kind of like veterans, but not of this
country. Our families, homes – it’s all there. We can return only if the
former borders of Novorossiya are restored, if pro-Kiev forces are
pushed back. We watch the news every day. What if they make peace now?
With the borders as they are now, giving up our houses. What do we do
then? Why did we go to war then?
Militiaman Igor lies in his room, with the door closed. Two of his
friends, roommates, were taken to surgery. Crumpled empty beds. A chess
set and backgammon on one. Chess are set up for some reason, although
nobody is playing. Some pieces are on the board. White pawns, an officer
(bishop), a queen and a knight are laying to the side, on the blanket.
Chessmen, removed from the board, that still can not go back in the box
until the party is completed.
– Which piece is the most powerful?
– The Queen – says Igor. – But I like the bishops or “officers”. They
are easier to work with. Because the queen is constantly being watched.
Players pay less attention to the officers.
– Yes, the queen immediately flies off the board if it makes one false move.
– And it can sacrifice itself for benefit, as well. Create a numerical
advantage, kill more enemy pieces. They say chess was created as a
simulator for the generals.
– And which chessman were you?
– In the sense of which role I played? I was a pawn.
– And how is it, being a pawn?
– In a sense, it’s pretty good.
– You don’t have to worry about the lives of others as much.
– I prefer knights to all other pieces – says Alexander the militiaman.
– How so?
– They are more crafty. They can cover each other, protect one another.
That’s how they start circling, circling around. And the officers – they
never meet, because they can only go in straight lines.
FREE WILL (pt. 1)
Strelkov wrinkles his eyebrows and presses the fingers of his left hand
to his forehead, as if he has a very bad headache, maybe due to cold.
– When was the first battle in Slavyansk, who attacked first? How did it happen?
– It depends on what you consider a battle … The first local skirmish
occurred the day after we took over State Security building and declared
that Slavyansk passes under our control. I received information that
some government special forces appeared in the area of the abandoned
DOSAAF airfield. So I sent a scout group that way, in cars. From the
first platoon, the ones who came with me from Crimea. They were going
along a road and ran into a convoy of three cars, which was the
government military, State Security SWAT. That is, the clash was very
unexpected. But since almost all of our scouts were veterans of one war
or other, they reacted first, and destroyed most of the enemy column
with rifle fire.
He leans on the table and starts talking – as reading out of a book.
– … Then, when three government armored personnel carriers came to the
rescue, they were forced to retreat. So that’s what happened. In the
course of this battle, the commander of State Security “Alpha” special
unit was seriously wounded. The Ukrainian side has acknowledged only one
State Security officer KIA and three wounded, but I was told they lost
eight to twelve people killed and wounded. And I am inclined to believe
this figure, because the Kiev government has always hugely
under-reported losses so it would be … quite surprising if they gave
the true casualty toll.
What happened after that … The next clash was at a checkpoint, local
militiamen were involved from our side – so-called Bloody Easter. At
night, four jeeps with a group of armed Right Sector militants tried to
break through and capture the Karachun broadcasting center. In that
night battle, we lost two militiamen and killed one Right Sector
fighter. In addition, they had at least four seriously wounded, two of
their cars burned down. We captured a machine gun and several other
Strelkov leans on the table, looks slightly to the side:
– And if we talk about the first serious battle … that was May second,
when the Ukrainian military tried what is usually called the “first
assault on Slavyansk”. That is, they attacked our checkpoints on
different sides. Virtually on all sides. They dispersed our garrisons
there, as the checkpoints were very small and poorly armed, with only
one or two Kalashnikovs per checkpoint. Kicked out our garrison from the
television station. From Mount Karachun. Our militiamen, the ten men
there, armed only with small arms, repelled the first assault. But the
second attack was supported by four armored personnel carriers, which
they could not fight off because they had no anti-armor weapons at all.
They did not suffer losses, but were forced to retreat to the city. So,
on some checkpoints there were losses, killed and wounded local
militiamen. I kept most of the forces in the city – in the expectation
that they will start a general assault, and we will be fighting
house-to-house. But after our soldiers managed to shoot down two
helicopters, the Ukrainian side did not dare to continue attacking.
Moreover, they destroyed some of the roadblocks, but did not storm them.
Which we were waiting for. We were concentrated in the city center – I
waited, from which side will the attack come. It never followed.
Then they proceeded to lay siege to the city. The next day, battles started in Semyonovka …
He stares into space in front of him and monotonously narrates – what battle was the next day, and then some.
– So, – suddenly he leans back in his chair and changes the tone. –
That’s how it was. As for some striking episodes that would be
interesting … Well, all of it was quite well-reported. For example,
during the battle on June 2nd two anti-tank men were real heroes. They
occupied leading positions in front of the bridge by Semyonovka, and
were armed with [ancient WWII-era] anti-tank rifles. Although there was
no way they could penetrate government tanks, they held their ground and
kept firing until the very end. Trying to break the aiming optics.
Trying to damage the cannon and machineguns. And they partially stopped
the attack, but … In the end both of them were killed on the spot, shot
point-blank with tank guns.
[end of translated part]
Interview by Yulia Gutova
More interviews with Strelkov on Slavyangrad:
An optimistic article about the military problems of both sides in summer 2014: http://www.fort-russ.com/2015/08/kungurov-war-ends-in-peremoga.html?m=1
Old Strelkov briefing (not mine, but a decent translation):