by Karl Pomeroy
June 17, 2015
Igor Strelkov has gone beyond the brink of reason. A Russian citizen, former DPR Defense Minister, and Novorossiya Armed Forces commander who fought for the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR/LPR) in the spring and summer of 2014, he has grown increasing isolated from the daily operations of the Donbass Republics, as well as from the inner circles of the Kremlin. Despite his pretense to the contrary. Strelkov does not represent Moscow. He plays no role in the DPR/LPR governments, has no function in the Minsk talks, bears no influence on the course of the Ukraine war, and lacks the authority to possess any knowledge of alleged bargains on Crimea.
In May 2014, at the outset of the Ukraine war, Igor Strelkov came to Donbass apparently on his own initiative. According to knowledgeable sources, Vladimir Putin did not send him, and Strelkov had never served in the regular Russian army. He gave the impression of being an agent of Moscow, and a good thing that he did. The ploy empowered him to lead a successful military campaign against the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which were launching fatal attacks on Donbass civilians.
Strelkov however made a grave miscalculation. Expecting Russian military support to arrive any day, he overextended his army in Slavyansk, and when the Russian troops never came, he and his men were forced to retreat. Strelkov obviously had no idea of Putin’s real intentions, and was not even privy to inside Kremlin intelligence. According to Strelkov’s own statements, Russian authorities then forcibly removed him from Donbass in the summer of 2014. There were various stories about why he was removed. The most credible, I believe, is that he committed mortal crimes against his own fighters, who were local volunteers from Donbass. This story was corroborated by several witnesses.
Strelkov was a hero in his day. He has boasted, no doubt rightly, that without his intervention, there would be no Novorossiya. Many Donbass supporters feel indebted to him for this.
But our indebtedness has come to an end. Igor Strelkov is no longer a credible spokesman, and his discourse has become politically destructive to both Russia and the DPR/LPR. He makes nonsensical pronouncements, such as the statement “Novorossiya is dead”, a claim DPR Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko and Minsk envoy Denis Pushilin have refuted. (See our commentary Novorossiya: A Project with a Future.) He alludes to the DPR/LPR leaders as Moscow “appointees”, a false accusation that discourages recognition of the Republics.
But worst of all, he promotes propaganda favorable to Kiev, such as the absurd claim that the Russian government is involved in the Ukraine war, a notion that lacks any substantiating evidence, and which the Russian President, Defense Ministry, and Foreign Ministry as well as Alexander Zakharchenko, have repeatedly denied. Foreign journalists in Donetsk, including Graham Phillips of Britain and Joshua Tartakovsky, originally from Jerusalem, have attested to the fact that there are no regular Russian troops in Donbass.
Why is this claim destructive? It misleads Western officials into placing pressure on Putin, as if he were the cause of the war, while deflecting pressure from the real aggressors in Kiev, like Poroshenko. It foils the Minsk process, for example, by encouraging Angela Merkel to blame Russia for the ceasefire violations, a totally ineffective tactic, when she should be blaming Ukraine and restraining Poroshenko. It escalates tensions across Europe, as threats are launched at Moscow, and nuclear weapons are brought to the fore by Russia and NATO.
I would not quite accuse Igor Strelkov of working for the Ukrainian oligarchs, but if he considers his efforts constructive, he must be mentally ill.
The following article lends insight on Strelkov’s current thinking. This is an edited autotranslation of a report from the Russian news outlet vlada.io. Phrases that were unclear in the translation are marked [sic]. The original article, with video, is based on Igor Strelkov’s opinions presented at a meeting of his “New Russia” project.
Strelkov: We Are Ready to Exchange Donetsk and Lugansk
Autonomy under Ukraine in Return for Crimea
Edited Autotranslation by Quemado Insitute
June 17, 2015
The fact that Russia is in Ukraine and “Novorossiya” [the “New Russia” project] is a colossal failure. This was stated by Igor Strelkov during a meeting of the movement “New Russia”. According to him, he previously had a bet on what to negotiate with Ukraine, and the plan was laid. “It was that we return the autonomous regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, headed by our appointees, to Ukraine. For that, Ukraine de facto recognizes the transition of Crimea to Russia. Then we begin to gradually return to normal. The sanctions are gradually lifted. Everything becomes as plus Crimea [sic],” says Girkin [Strelkov].
According Strelkov, the plan is viable because if Donetsk and Lugansk return as autonomous regions, Ukraine becomes a federal state. So put Strelkov its entry into NATO [sic]. “Russia receives, in the form of regional allies, leverage over Kiev. And again things calm down, you can continue to travel to Nice, you can continue to fly to London, you can withdraw money and then sell the resources of cut paper [sic], which can be sent back to the Swiss banks,” says Igor Girkin.
But, he said, the plan overlooked the agreement of Kiev. In Ukraine, correspondingly, the idea is all or nothing, with Russian capitulation and complete surrender of “New Russia” and Crimea in the bargain. “Four months ago, the offensive was stopped as part of the plan. During this time the Ukrainian troops have increased threefold. We have the same situation as in the fall, only three times worse. It is a failure,” summed up Girkin. Prior to this, Strelkov said that the “militia” thrives on drunkenness. Strelkov has been actively criticizing the DPR and LPR.
Ischenko Gives Detailed Persective on
Dubious Figure Igor Strelkov
Rostislav Ischenko, in his lengthy editorial about Strelkov’s dubious background and political ineptitude, outlines a viewpoint somewhat different from that of Quemado Insitute, but casts the question into a new and valuable perspective, with incisive information we were heretofore unaware of. Ischenko says at the conclusion of his detailed piece:
“In general, my assessment of Strelkov is that he is highly ambitious but rather limited, which makes it easy for him to be used. He was very lucky not to die in Yugoslavia or Transnistria, he managed to get out of Slavyansk, and he is not merely free but engaging in politics. He is a politician, though so far without any standing.”
Perhaps with this expose, the world can be done with Strelkov as an icon. For full Fort Russ commentary see “Surkov’s Propaganda”, by Rostislav Ishchenko (June 16, 2015).
For an excellent commentary about Rostislav Ischenko, see Russia Now in ‘a State of War for Survival with the US,’ Russia Today Commentator Says (May 29) by Paul Goble.
Two Versions of the Same Event
See NEWS FROM NOVOROSSIYA
SATURDAY JUNE 20 HEADLINE STORIES:
Commander “Viking” Inteview to Come!
Terrible Truth About Ukraine’s Tornado Battalion
Igor Girkin was not a Novorossiyan commander except in his own mind. He was Minister of Defense. The Military Commander of the DNR, appointed by the Supreme Council on May 16, 2014 immediately after the declaration of the republic and publishing of the constitution, was Alexander Zakharchenko.
Alexander Borodai, who has known Igor for decades and is godfather to one of his children, is breaking his silence and I recommend that anyone who can read Russian or Yandex should search his interviews in the “ultra” magazine Zavtra and elsewhere. Search in Cyrillic. Among many other things, he describes how the field commanders of Slavyansk formed a parallel general staff to work around Girkin — it is reminiscent of the days when the British army was commanded by younger sons with bought commissions. In one video interview which I can’t find Borodai says of Igor “He tried to be a political leader. It fit him like a tutu.”
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You have presented some interesting information about Strelkov. During May-July 2014, I was under the impression he was at the front, leading the militia in battle, in addition to being Defense Minister. There were many reports to this effect, as I recall. Some prominent observers, such as Slavyangrad.org founder Gleb Bazov, consider Strelkov a great hero, and lament his forcible removal from Donbass, contending that Novorossiya would have a lot more territory if he’d been allowed to stay. What is your opinion?
Links to the Strelkov interviews would be interesting. We can manage a translation but lack the expertise to do a search in Russian. Thanks for your contribution.