by Karl Pomeroy
August 10, 2015
Revised August 12 & 13, 2015
What is the Donetsk People’s Republic without Alexander Zakharchenko? Is it a tiny regional puppet state left over from the Soviet Union, populated by residents largely apathetic to its fate? Is it a small struggling nation caught in a frozen conflict, a region in which the world has lost interest? That would be a tragedy for what has been, to many observers, the “Great World Hope.” Yet Alexander Zakharchenko, who has been a major force in building the Republic, seems recently to be fading from the public eye, at least in comparison with months past, when his proclamations were daily news.
What has really happened? Perhaps a combination of developments. He has not yet fully recovered from the injury incurred in May. There are also security concerns, particularly since the July 14 car bombing attack, believed conducted by Ukrainian sabateurs, against his secretary Elena Filippova, who was hospitalized but survived the incident. it is also possible Zakharchenko is in temporary retreat while planning the next NAF counteroffensive, especially in light of overwhelming evidence that Kiev is preparing an all-out offensive, perhaps to bolster Petro Poroshenko’s image prior to elections.
The darker interpretation is that Zakharchenko been sabotaged by the Kremlin, undermined by the “fifth column”, or subverted by local oligarchs. Rumors abounded in July about plans to have him replaced, sinister predictions I refused to believe at the time. The enemy news source “Kyiv Post”, for example, wrote on July 15, 2015:
“As Moscow continues to deny its involvement in eastern Ukraine, a high-ranking Russian security officer who led an armed uprising last spring in Donetsk Oblast [Igor Strelkov] said the region was visited by Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin aide who has been dubbed ‘Putin’s puppet master’ for his role in shaping foreign policy. The Kremlin-backed separatist press service refused to comment on Surkov’s alleged visit by phone. No information on Surkov’s visit could be found on the Kremlin’s website, and an emailed request for comment on June 2 to Russia’s presidential office went unanswered. Igor Girkin, who told Reuters he was a colonel in Russia’s FSB security service until quitting in March 2014, announced the visit on his Vkontakte page on June 2, saying Surkov arrived the previous day to ‘hold a meeting with the republic’s leadership.’ Also known as Strelkov, Girkin implied that the meeting may signal an impending realignment in the occupied region’s Moscow-backed leadership. He said Surkov had ‘yelled and swore a lot’ while meeting with separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko. A native of Donetsk who worked as a mine electrician, Zakharchenko had led the local militant group Oplot branch that helped the former Ukrainian government led by Viktor Yanukovych clamp down on the EuroMaidan protests in Kyiv. ‘About the fact that Zakharchenko refuses to merge Donetsk with the same readiness and speed with which (Igor) Plotnitsky is doing it in Luhansk. At this point, I don’t know the results of Surkov’s yelling,’ Strelkov wrote. ‘They can’t remove Zakharchenko. He is the living embodiment of the Minsk (peace) agreements.'”
This was not the only such report. Rumors ran rampant in the social media. On July 15, Denis Pushilin seemed to put an end to the nonsense. As reported in TASS:
“Vice Speaker of the [DPR] People’s Council Dennis Pushilin refuted rumors about the possible disbandment of the DPR Ministry of Defence or a change of leadership of the republic. A statement was posted on the policy at Donetsk News Agency. It notes that ‘over the past few days there has sharply increased the number of rumors, gossip and provocation by various characters on the political life of Donetsk People’s Republic.’ For example, talk about disbanding the Defense Ministry, according Pushilin, can come from a ‘man far from the understanding of the military situation in the region’, or hostile to Donbass. Pushilin also commented on the rumors about changing the head of the republic. ‘I want to say to all responsible escaped ‘heroes’ of Donbass – … unlike them, Alexander Zakharchenko is at all times operating in Donetsk and shares adversity with the people of the Donetsk People’s Republic.'”
And on July 16, Novorossia Today also laid the false reports to rest, saying:
“Rumors in regard to liquidation of the Ministry of Defense are not true and are spread with the aim of destabilization of the situation in the Republic, Deputy Commander of Corps of the DPR MoD Eduard Basurin said today. ‘This is called deliberate destabilization of the situation, — Deputy Commander of Corps said. – the Ministry exists, all the workers are at their jobs’. Earlier the number of provocative acts in the sphere of information, aimed against the DPR authorities, remarked Vice-Speaker of the People’s Council Denis Pushilin. He pointed, particularly, to the statements of the ‘so-called ex-chief of Republican intelligence Sergey Petrovskiy’ in regard to the alleged dismantling of the Ministry. According to Pushilin, such deceitful statements of the former DPR officials, including Petrovskiy and ex-Minister of Defense Igor Strelkov, are prompted by the success of the present-day authorities of the Republic and play in the hand of Ukrainian Security Service.”
Despite my denial at the time, now I am beginning to wonder if there wasn’t some truth to Strelkov’s dire prophesy, as Denis Pushilin increasingly seems to assume the functions of DPR Head of State. Pushilin is an excellent spokesman, and a strong player at Minsk. But Alexander Zakharchenko, like none other. stands with Vladimir Putin as a powerful and charismatic national leader.
Zakharchenko remains the official Head of State. But we’ve seen fewer reports of him lately. It is nothing like the old days, when his pronouncements were almost daily news on many alternative platforms. The last major press conference I know of took place on July 11 (available at The Saker). An approximate transcript of the subtitles shows Zakharchenko’s continuing resolve for Donbass freedom:
Question: Alexander, today is the anniversary of the withdrawal of forces from Slavyansk. After one year, do you think it was right or wrong? Or maybe something could be done in another way.
Zakharchenko: In any case it is hard to judge, because the war always gives a big number of excuses, and any decisions which are made by on eof the commanders are on his conscience. All this territory is the Donetsk People’s Republic. My personal opinion is the following: From the first day when I became the head of state, I said one thing: I don’t divide the territory of the DPR by what is occupied or controlled by us. All this territory is Donetsk People’s Republic in the administrative borders of the former Donetsk region. That’s why one year ago there was, probably, a historical event which resulted in, let’s say it this way, on one day we lost Slavyanks, Kramatorsk, Konstantinovka, Artemovsk. A group of forces in Gorlovka was put in danger. In 3-4 days we lost Debaltsevo and Uglegorslk. It was done in almost one week. That’s the reason for everything which took place afterwards, and that the number of vicitims — this was a consequence of the exit by one of our famous field commanders from Slavyansk [Igor Strelkov — QI editor] — we suffered by releasing these cities. His subordinates knew about that, the main thing is that he knows about it as well. Any denial that the rest of the territory is not occupied, is not ours I consider as a personal treason, treason of all militias, soldiers. we insist on only one thing, that all territory, both Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, Krasnoarmeysk and Konstantinovka, and all the rest, and Mariupol, are cities of the DPR. I would like to address those people who live in this territory. Sooner or later we will be together. It can’t even be discussed, i. I say fully assured that sooner or later we will be together. And all punishers, all contractors who kill our civilians, rape our women, plunder our houses, sooner or later will bear responsibility. They will be charged wherever they will be, in Poltava, in Sumy, in Lvov, in Kiev. Nobody will escape or hide anywhere.
Some, upon watching the video, misinterpreted Zakharchenko’s statement to mean he was accusing Strelkov of treason. But in fact, Zakharchenko did not say that. He said, “Any denial that the rest of the territory [Kiev-held Donbass] … is not ours, I consider as a personal treason.” This indicates the strength of his conviction, a pronouncement Strelkov would no doubt agree with.
What is the DPR without Zakharchenko? This is a sobering question.
After his July 2014 withdrawal from Donbass, concerned observers asked what Novorossiya was without Igor Strelkov. The answer: a fraction of what it might have been. Strelkov was a visionary leader, the Father, as it were, of the Nation. In a David and Goliath maneuver, he led the tiny Novorossiya Armed Forces in a stellar defense against the Ukrainian Army. But some accuse Strelkov, an uncompromising commander, to have executed some of his own volunteer militia for stealing humanitarian aid, probably to sell. Moscow forcibly removed him, according to his own testimony. It was Strelkov’s moral error that made his removal necessary, and Novorossiya suffered the loss. Donbass fought on without him, albeit at a lower capacity.
The nation was starless for two months, until the rise of Zakharchenko. Elected DPR Head of State, his title was officially “Prime Minister.” For reasons I don’t understand, this title fell out of use. I continued to call him “PM”. Yet strangely, despite his stature, he is universally referred to as simply “Head of the DPR”, even by the Donetsk News Agency. Denis Pushilin and Eduard Basurin have long official titles. But Zakharchenko’s title is never mentioned. What is the explanation? Is the Kremlin trying to brush him aside? Or could it be his preference?
Zakharchenko, like Strelkov, is a stellar visionary leader. He brought his country to the world’s attention, and made the Donetsk People’s Republic a global concern. The daily struggles of that fledgling nation consistently made headlines. It was the enchanting story of a tiny country whose leader defied the world elite.
Zakharchenko knows the meaning of independence. He has set an unwavering course toward that goal. He has a profound grasp of the Minsk Agreements, whose implications elude many analysts. (See our post: Minsk 2.0 Chess Match: Has Zakarchenko Outplayed Kiev?) He charted a path to independence via those Agreements, flouting the contradictions, by applying to the provision of constitutional reform a brilliant and subtle meaning, an interpetation that transcended the implied restrictions while adhering to the literal words. For him, Minsk was no obstacle. It was a path to sovereignty for the brave young nation.
As Zakharchenko said in Debaltsevo on February 17: “We regard the Minsk agreement a victory, paradoxically, in that we will be able to change Ukraine itself. Ukraine’s constitution and political processes are controlled by us. The Minsk agreement is vague and open to interpretation…. We will regard any attempts of Ukraine troops to break out of the [Debaltsevo] pocket or deblockade it as a violation of the Minsk ceasefire…. We will follow our own election law, already adopted by the People’s Council. Local elections will be governed by this law…. This allowed us to understand the Minsk agreement in this way. We understand it as de facto independence…. This is the way we signed it and the way we understand it…. Minsk allows for providing us with special powers. If our demands of de facto independence are not met, we will keep insisting the territory held by the Ukrainian army is illegally occupied and the borders of the Donetsk People’s Republic are the borders of the Donetsk Oblast.”
Perhaps it was Zakharchenko’s boldness that scared the European and Russian elite. Freedom, after all, is not something the elite can tolerate. Merkel’s “Order of Europe” must be upheld.
What is Donbass without Zakharchenko? Is it just a puppet of Moscow, or a vassal of the Normandy Four? Does it still have relevance to observers in America, when sometimes its own people seem hardly to care? DPR citizens complain about loss of pensions, ignoring the fact that freedom from their murderers means independence from Kiev, which in turn means self-sufficiency. The DPR is working toward that goal.
On June 15, Zakharchenko, addressing the protesters on the street in Donetsk, explained some of these principles. (Two videos of the event are available at The Saker: Zakharchenko, on Crutches, Speaks His Mind.) But many people fail to grasp that perfect government is not automatic, that hardworking finite human beings just like themselves have to make every detail happen. Often people expect peace and prosperity handed to them as a matter of course, while neglecting even the simple gesture of giving support to their leader.
This is not the time to change the Head of State of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Few could have succeeded in defending and building the nation as well as Zakharchenko. We hope he is reinstated by a large margin in the upcoming elections, and look forward to his recovery and re-emergence in the world discourse.
Zakharchenko: Novorossiya Will Be Created Very Soon
A Graham Phillips Video
June 30, 2015
British journalist Graham Phillips interviews Donetsk People’s Republic Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko about the existence of Novorossiya. The abridged transcript, summarized from the subtitles, is as follows:
Graham Phillips: We read a lot of news about Novorossiya. Strelkov especially speaks about Novorossiya. What about the relationship between the DPR and Novorossiya?
Alexander Zakharchenko: You can see what my opinion is. Novorossiya is a union of the Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, and maybe some other republics. It is possible to create Novorossiya on the territory of these republics. But it must be created, it will be created. Now, unfortunately, Novorossiya is not yet in existence. There are the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics. They are the two cornerstones of the foundation of Novorossiya, which will be created for sure. And we will be trailblazers, the first to live in the great Novorossiya, in which we all of course believe. This is my personal opinion…. We discussed with Borodai the establishment of Novorossiya when he was here. I know his vision, and I even share some of his views. I believe in Novorossiya. I believe that it will be. I even know that it will most likely be created very soon. Our opponents and enemies don’t expect how soon it with will happen. However, it will happen. We will see it very soon.
See Graham Phillips video at Off Guardian: “Novorossiya will be created soon” — Zakharchenko (June 30).
Zakharchenko is a brilliant, independent thinker. Never have I heard these words in all my research on Donbass, and certainly never spoken with such conviction. The DPR leader’s ideas are new and unique to him. He cannot be Moscow’s agent or middle man, as some analysts who don’t understand him have speculated, by virtue of the originality of his thoughts.
The missing link. After over a year of searching, the missing puzzle piece has finally dropped into place. The questions, over and over again, have been: Why is Putin trying to appease the West? Why does Moscow recognize the illiegitimate government in Kiev? Why does the Kremlin seem to sabotage Donbass?
Speculations on “fifth columns” and Putin’s acquiescent character have abounded in my writing, along with that of others. The answer isn’t far from what we imagined. The wealthy Russian elite, unsurprisingly, has “connections.” There exists an emerging single elite of the world.
The following article from Fort Russ lays it out:
Poroshenko’s Close Ties with Russian Elites / By Christina Melnikova, translated by J. Arnoldski / Fort Russ / August 12, 2015 / “State-owned [Russian] banks don’t just support the Kiev regime. As I understand it, the lion’s share of the Russian governing class is very closely linked to Poroshenko,” says economist Vladislav Zhukovsky. / Visible manifestations of Russia’s support for the Ukrainian economy and, as a result, the Kiev regime, are really present, but on the question of how much they are capable of significantly affecting the economic situation in Ukraine, experts’ opinion diverge. Many political analysts, writers, and simply indifferent observers blame the Russian government, convicting it of evil intent and aspiration to maintain good relations with the West protecting the Kiev authorities who are waging war against the rebellious Donbass. So by what ways and, above all, for what is Russia, albeit indirectly, contributing to the maintenance of the positions of the hostile powers of the puppet and criminal Ukrainian “elite?” Granting discounts on gas and electricity supplies at preferential prices: In order to justify here the policy of “Gazprom,” the argument can be made that, first of all, Ukraine is a transit territory for Russian natural gas, and . . . MORE>>
I think your conjecture that Zakharchenko is spending more time on military preparedness these days is correct. I remember Kononov disappearing for about six weeks, to my alarm, before the last one.
Igor Girkin (who found he had been renamed “Colonel Strelkov” on the false identity papers he picked up from the FSB station on one of his missions in Chechnya) is not an appropriate source for anything, even his own name, unless you take an immersion course in his style and have a knack for semantic analysis. He was educated as a librarian, classified unfit to serve by the draft board in 1988, and thinks you can get the coordinates of a potential artillery target by seeing it on TV. His war experience is not in combat but in interrogation on FSB missions under military cover. He is believed by most Novorossiyans to have left Slavyansk after negotiating a “green corridor” for himself. Borodai, Kononov and Zakharchenko have said so publicly.
I will answer politely phrased questions and requests for sources. They are mostly Igor himself in unscripted moments. firstname.lastname@example.org.