Is Kiev preparing the new military operation in the East of the country? What are the disadvantages of the current government of Novorossiya? Has West declared its war on Russia? The former Minister of Defense of DPR (Donetsk People’s Respublic) Igor Strelkov has answered these and other questions in the live broadcast interview to the journalists of “Kommersant FM” Anatoliy Kuzichev and Konstantin Eggert.
AK .: You obviously understand the internal processes that occur in the conditional area called Novorossiya. The Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said that Ukraine should prepare for the combat operations in the Donbass, and it seems preparing it Then his words were disavowed. Later he said that the information about the impending of the attack was premature, but nonetheless, something is happening there, some kind of movement. Can you comment on this? What are your comments of this situation from the height of your understanding?
IS .: First of all, I noted that you call Novorossia a “ onditional territory”. For you it’s a”territory”, but for me it is a real state, which at the moment is composed of two regions, the two republics. I hope it will not stop there. Regarding the statement of the Kiev military commanders, and the government officials, they haven’t stopped producing such statements since March. First they were going to get back Crimea, now they are going to return Novorossia.
The war did not stop even for one day, so nothing has surprised me in their statement. The shelling didn’t stop for one day even after the Minsk truce. Recently the scale of it has noticeably increased. For example last week in Donetsk in some areas the shelling became hurricane-like. Kievsky and Petrovsky districts are shelled practically daily. Not practically, but literally daily, several times a day. For example on Friday I received an information that at least four houses have been burned down in Donetsk from direct hit. The reports about broken glass-windows or bombed garages are not even counted. So nothing is surprising here.
Kiev is openly preparing for the war and continuing an urgent repairing of its military equipment, recruiting troops and strengthening their positions.
K. E.: Igor, you say that for you it (Novorossiya) is a country, and it is an important part which will be expanded. Then why you are not out there but here in Moscow?
I.S.: You’re asking me a rather difficult question.
K. E.: We don’t ask simple questions anyone.
I.S.: I have repeatedly said that I’ve resigned.
K. E.: But you could go there as a volunteer, as a simple soldier.
I.S.: The situation there is not easy, as I already said. My appearance there may lead to undesirable consequences. Despite the fact that I’m very skeptical about the Minsk truce, and to some other activities of the new government, but I still believe that it is unacceptable to bring a disorder in the rear of the People’s Republic of Donetsk.
A.K.: Do you think your appearance will cause a confusion out there?
I.S.: I think that my presence may lead to a concentration around myself all sorts of discontent. This is unacceptable.
A.K.: In other words you don’t want to allow deconsolidation of the unity of monolithic structure of the DPR?
K. E.: What kind of discontent, if it’s not a secret?
I.S.: A lot of it. I think that in certain issues some of this discontent is rightful. But in some cases it is due to the fact that the guerrillas, who make up most of the volunteer units, are reluctant to be united into one regular army.
K. E.: So you’re saying that the banditry is dominating there, huh?
A.K.: There are different approaches…
I.S.: I want to say that the discontent takes place there. There are some objective reasons for it. There are reasons that do not deserve respect but overall my appearance there may served as a magnet that will attract all sort of discontented people.
A.K.: I know what you mean. Evidently it is not on a basis of some concepts but on a basis of specific individuals, specific persons. One gravitates to one thing, the other – to the other. I understand you. I associated your refusal to go back with your intention to be engaged in politics. Firstly, please tell me, is it so that you really decided to be seriously engaged in politics? Secondly, we have all read, sorry to quote Boroday’s words again, about how suitable would it be for you to be engage in politics? You’ve probably seen it.
I.S.: I’ve seen this interview. The only thing I can say – I’m very negatively evaluate the actions of Boroday during my stay in Donetsk towards myself in particular. As for his statements about me trying to be engage in politics there, they do not correspond to reality. On the contrary, I was trying to avoid dealing with politic, and tried to deal with military matters only. That’s what I was actually engaged with.
I put everything into Boroday’s hands first, and then into hands of Zakharchenko. And to begin with, I didn’t even take political matters on my shoulders. As for the comparison me with ballerina, I leave it on his conscience. I don’t claim any political role. If we talk about the movement, “Novorossiya”, which I now head, it does not set any political tasks. It sets targets to provide a maximum assistance to people there who are on the verge of a humanitarian disaster.
K.E.: From one hand, you say that you’re not engaged in politics, but I remember that last summer, if I’m not mistaken, you made a statement, that if President Putin will not give a compulsory military assistance to the separatists and to Novorossia, he will repeat the fate of Slobodan Milosevic. What is it, if it’s not a political statement?
I.S.: This is just an opinion of a person who is well aware of the history, including modern history. Especially that I was there, in the former Yugoslavia and could trace all the stages of Milosevic’s retreat, started from Knin Krajina and ended, through Bosnia and Kosovo, in The Hague.
K.E.: Did you fight there for a long time?
I.S.: Yes, I have fought in Bosnia for a long time in 1992-93 as a volunteer and as a part of the Russian volunteer corpus.
K.E.: Are you not afraid that now, after you have such publicity, you will attract attention of all sorts of international courts, and you will be featured there in international context as a war criminal?
I.S.: Shortly: No, I am not afraid.
A.K.: You yourself outlined that Novorossia is not just some kind of region, not just formation, that for you it is a serious ideologically important concept, it is a country. But these people, whose names have already sounded in our previous broadcasts: Zakharchenko Boroday, Pushilin – are they the right people to implement this extremely ambitious project, a concept?
I.S.: In this case I don’t want to discuss with you the actions of Zaharchenko and Boroday or anyone else, because I do not want to turn our conversation into an extramural squabble. As for Novorossiya, the only thing that I can say is that this is rightly emerged Russian state, inhabited by Russian people, the same people as you and me. And I believe that it has all the rights and all the possibilities for its further existence. Although initially people clearly rebelled to join the Russia, and I hope the time will come when Novorossia will be a part of Russia again as it always been since its inception in XVIII century.
K.E.: Igor, the history of Novorossia is currently being discussed very actively, and even its geographical concept is under attack from all sides. It is quite obvious that if this tendency you dream about will be implemented, Russia will get into a tough international isolation. There will be more sanctions, more stress, and some more very serious blows to Russian economy. You are the Russian citizen, doesn’t it bother you? Doesn’t it disturb you that these ambitions which so far have been realized only on a certain level, could force the 140 – million country to face very serious problems?
I.S.: In 1812, when Napoleon led the “12 languages” army to Russia, it also could be said about the general isolation. However, no one was going to give up.
K.E.: Yes, but nobody has invaded Russia now.
I.S.: What makes you think that nobody invaded Russia? In fact, by organising the revolution in Kiev the West put a gun to the Russia’s head, by creating an anti-Russian regime. Do you suppose that the present Kiev’s regime is not anti-Russian? If you think so, then you are very much mistaken. In fact, the war has been declared to us, or rather the next stage of it was performed.
K.E.: But how can you compare the invasion of Napoleon, the armed invasion of the best army in the world to the territory of the Russian Empire with the emerging of Poroshenko as a president, for example? To me it’s an absolutely incomparable things.
A.K.: Igor says, and in fact, I’m totally agree with him, that the methods and the possible existence of Ukrainian nationalism – it is a harsh Russophobia, aggressive, radical and unequivocal.
K.E.: Well, let’s assume …
A.K.: It is a fact, Kostya.
K.E.: Suppose it is so. But to compare it to Napoleon’s invasion ?
I.S.: I’m not going to draw a historical parallels here.
K.E.: But you’ve done it!
I.S.: Yes, I did. I’m just saying that Russia, throughout its history was a subject of a fierce international isolation, more severe than the present one. Let’s remember the Crimean War for example. There it also began with the invasion of the Western powers into Crimea, and a few years later the war had started. I think, two or even three years later.
K.E.: In one year approximately. But Crimea was the territory of the Russian Empire. Again, it is incomparable things: the emergence of President Poroshenko, however russophobic he is, with the invasion of Napoleon
I.S.: We will not argue here about the history because to parse the history of the Crimean War or War of 1812 in the context of the Novorossiya is incorrect. I’m just saying that Russia has repeatedly found itself in the mode of international isolation and even direct invasion.
A.K.: In general, we will endure.
I.S.: If to be afraid of any isolation, then you can give up your sovereignty entirely.
Translation by Larasdvatri