Introduction by Quemado Institute
September 11, 2015
Andrei Purgin, until Friday, September 4, held the important position of Speaker of the People’s Council for the Donetsk People’s Republic. His sudden dismissal and arrest on September 4th by the DPR Security Service, while he was attempting to reenter the Republic with Alexei Alexandrov after a visit to St. Petersburg, was a surprise and disappointment to many. Detained without charges, Purgin was held in isolation for four days before his release on Tuesday September 8.
Andrei Purgin is highly regarded by the people of Donetsk as well as by many analysts and observers. Prominent as a founder of the Republic, Purgin remains outspoken on DPR politics and is a strong advocate of the people’s interests.
Former deputy speaker Denis Pushilin, who is said to have arranged Purgin’s arrest, was voted permanent Speaker of the People’s Council in today’s session of September 11, thus consolidating his power in the DPR government. We question the wisdom of this move. (See our commentary at the end of this post.)
Vladimir Suchan, well-known Donbass observer and political analyst, posted yesterday on his vk.com page the following interview with Andrei Purgin;
Interview After the Arrest of Andrei Purgin
September 10, 2015
Edited Autotranslation by Quemado Institute
September 11, 2015
Question: Andrei Alexandrovich [Purgin], what are the conditions in which you held?
Purgin: Normal conditions. All that the MSS (Ministry of State Security of the DPR. – VK Editor) can provide. In this regard, I have no complaints.
Question: What was it? Detention? Or were you, as he said, “Fontanka”, so Denis Pushilin took custody so that you would not be attacked by Ukrainian saboteurs?
Purgin: Detention of course. I could not leave the room, I conducted searches in the evening to find out if there was a phone or not, I was not able to contact anyone. My phone and all other electronic devices were all taken, I was isolated.
Question: How do you explain this?
Purgin: The working version was to protect me from Ukrainian DRGs (sabotage and scouting groups. – VK Editor).
Question: Do you agree?
Purgin: Yes of course! And they released me because they phoned the Ukrainian DRG and found that they had left, so you can go!
Question: I am glad that you are joking. How do you explain what happened to you? Why did it take this to remove you from power in such a way?
Purgin: I dont know. I think maybe there are some very serious political ambitions … Denis (Pushilin. – VK Editor), We collect posts. He’s the head of the executive committee of the public movement “Donetsk Republic”. He is the head of the Minsk Group. He heads the football. He decides on humanitarian missions and the movement of “humanitarian aid”. And so on. What is missing is coke and agriculture. Now he needed a post as the head of the parliament.
Question: For a simple job of collecting posts, is this not a tall price? After your dismissal, everyone saw that the DPR leaders squabbled.
Purgin: For me, the whole story was a surprise.
Question: What is the fate of Alexei Alexandrov – former chief of staff, with whom you were detained at the border?
Purgin: I do not know where Alexei Alexandrov is. His son [was with — QI editor] me. But if you look closely, Alexei Alexandrov is one of the most influential people in the Russian movement of Ukraine, deputy head of the party of “Russian bloc” for many years, creator of the “Russian world” in Ukraine. This is someone who has a very high credibility. Ukrainian nationalists back in 2006 smashed his head with a hammer. He was then barely saved.
Question: How is it that now your colleagues do not accept him in the Parliament?
Purgin: I do not know. He has held technical positions. You will find him very seldom in public.
Question: Few, but expressive. I read his statement.
Purgin: He gave his opinion on one of the scenarios, not more.
Question: Pushilin says that you “fell under the influence of Alexandrov.” You came under his influence?
Purgin: We are adults, I have a lot of baggage, I’m even a little insulting. I have a very respectful attitude towards Alexey, very largely I agree with him, and somewhat disagree, We have known each other a long time. “I came under his influence” – this I do not understand. I “came under his influence,” so I was removed from the post of head of the National Council?
Question: It is not I say, as your colleague Pushilin.
Purgin: Do you know that the position of the Speaker of Parliament is more technical, organizational? I mean, what I have in my head does not affect the work of the Parliament. The Agenda is formed by the Coordination Council, which includes Denis (Pushilin. – VK Editor) And three other people.
Question: Moreover, why it was necessary to remove you?
Purgin: For me, the logic is slender. An explanation for the action of Denis and those who helped him? No.
Question: Pushilin says that you had been warned: it is necessary to dismiss Aleksandrov.
Purgin: Some patsanskie [sic] statements. Someone warned me? We recorded all sessions. Even without the closed meetings recorded on video. Can he provide a record that I was warned?
Question: He probably warned you unofficially.
Purgin: Oh, unofficially! You know, this is the inscription on the fence. Parliament may vote on any order, such as the removal or appointment of the head unit and the change of the structure. And I cannot do it without a parliament.
Question: Why, then, did they have to detain you at the border and keep under guard?
Purgin: You ask questions to which I have no answer. For me it was a complete surprise.
Question: Maybe it had something to do with the next round of talks in Minsk? You would have had to participate in them, they eventually passed on September 8 without you, and now you are released.
Purgin: No I do not think so. That is, it is possible to make that link, but I strongly doubt it. This is a long process. Of course, it is very important who is in a working group, but these people do not sign the final documents.
Question: They say that you are more popular in the country than Denis. Can you use that to recover the post?
Purgin: I, frankly, do not really want this. It is understood that I am not going to fight for it. It is more important to regain the confidence of the people to form a positive agenda than to build horizontal links, to somehow break through the social strata. We have a war, we have a very serious situation. We have people living here from Kharkov, Odessa, Zaporozhye. From Kharkov alone there half a thousand political refugees. They have to work. We must understand the common ideological canvas …
Question: Sorry, I did not understand: the refugees from peace Kharkov and Odessa in Donetsk?
Purgin: Yes! Many from Kharkov fight with us in the army, worked in government. These people cannot return home. They [Ukrainians – QI editor] are killing people, extrajudicial persecution, imprisoned for distributing newspapers.
Question: What do you plan to do now?
Purgin: I still plan to be engaged in social and political activities, ideological projects. As the founder and builder for many years of “Donetsk Republic” as an online organization that virtually created and Donetsk People’s Republic and wore the flag that now bears Donetsk People’s Republic. “Donetsk Republic” ofitsionalizirovana [sic] in 2005, and established even earlier …
Question: Yes, after the “Orange Revolution.” Then you had help? Who, for example, funded it?
Purgin: “Financed” our criminal volumes [sic]! This is not a party structure, it is a network structure of a horizontal nature. They are practically not funded. This network of horizontal structures, endless conventions, endless consultations, it is hard-won public and experts concept, we have created a system discourse, which is actually the right time broke the situation, we were able to set up public opinion in such a way that when the events took place in 2014, the whole layer of political structures had been set up so that we were able to do what we could.
Question: Excuse me, that you could have done – it is known. And now you’re going to do that?
Purgin: The State is not the border and law enforcement agencies, it is first of all people who feel a sense of ownership of the state, of the territory. We had a negative agenda. Today the society is tired of it. People need to understand what we are fighting for.
Question: And still fighting for what?
Purgin: I have already told you: we need a positive agenda. Power is often in the framework sometimes even an alien system of discourse. It focuses on what the people want, what people think. A structure needs to invest, to show [offer – tr?] the people what they want.
Question: You did not yet invest and show people what they want?
Purgin: No, no and NO! We ended up with a negative agenda. We urgently need to generate a positive one. Otherwise people just do not forgive us. The formation of a positive agenda – an ideology in the form in which it is.
Question: I think now in Donbass the agenda is very clear.
Purgin: What, in addition to war?
Question: You have no money for pensions and salaries, the company does not work, the economy is not even destroyed – it just is not [nonexistant – tr?]. You are completely dependent on the neighboring state …
Purgin: You propose to use the conjunction “or”, and I suggest – “and”. In addition to the recovery of the economy and everything else, we need to understand overall where we are going, [what] we are going to build. Even about restoring the economy, we are seeing a lot of questions. Regaining ownership of the oligarchs that we do with it? Will they, the state – or both? What do we do with the entrails? And so on.
Question: So you’re going to do the ideological part?
Purgin: Of course. It is part ideological, but with the transition into the actual.
Question: You called the head of the executive committee of Denis Pushilin. Did you not intercepted your “Donetsk Republic”?
Purgin: Well, it is a social movement, I do not understand why it is investing in the party sense, it cannot be a party structure.
Question: “Donetsk Republic” do you still or Denis Pushilin?
Purgin: He has been [involved in – tr?] a social movement “Donetsk Republic”. I’ll do the same movement, also “Donetsk Republic”.
Question: It will be called the same?
Purgin: The movement “Donetsk Republic” rightfully belongs to me. I do not see any sense in giving up the name of the structure, for which people died.
Question: You’re planning to create a different structure – the “People’s Front”?
Purgin: “Popular Front” was perceived by me not as a political structure, but as a narrow-Corruption Bureau [sic]. I understand that in Russia now it becomes a kind of “people’s control.” It is very much in demand in our poverty, the distribution of humanitarian aid and other problems.
Question: You planned it as something connected with the Russian Popular Front?
Purgin: The plan was to do it together with some representatives of the “Popular Front” from the neighboring regions of Russia. It would be foolish to create something different when a powerful movement is already on the territory of the Russian Federation. But because of what did not happen, this idea is shelved.
Question: At what point it became clear that the idea should be postponed indefinitely?
Purgin: I would not like to comment on it.
Question: Yet for some reason, it had to be postponed?
Purgin: Well, it currently has too great a political hue. Too many layers to get political and speculation. And it is wrong.
Question: I ask because Khodakovsky connects your suspension with plans to create a “People’s Front”, which could become a competitor to “Donetsk Republic” in the struggle of Pushilin for influence.
Purgin: Maybe, maybe. I do not know much about these twists and turns, I’m an inexperienced person.
Question: Are not you afraid that without your personal involvement, the project “New Russia” will, as is sometimes said, “merge”?
Purgin: I do not think that everything is so sad. A lot is decided among the people. If people lose faith in the fact that we are building, if people stop understanding what happens when people do not get a positive agenda, if they do not get the idea for which we fight, for which we stand for freedom and justice, if they do not get the understanding that we are building, then all of this will lead to an internal civil war.
Question: You mean the – the civil war have now in the DPR?
Question: If you go down talking about the reintegration of Donbass and Ukraine, how do you feel will concern?
Purgin: I do not think it will happen. If Donbass is returned to Ukraine, the country will have different boundaries and will be called by a different [name], and Poroshenko and Turchynov will be in prison. For this to happen, Ukraine should take place [sic], and drastic changes in people and within the state itself.
Question: What would happen if Russia stopped helping Donbass?
Purgin: It would be a disaster. Because Donbass today is totally dependent on Russia. On its goodwill. In fact, Russia saved us from the cold of death, when Ukraine blocked the gas. The Russian Federation is in fact the savior of the people of Donbass.
Question: And yet … if Russia stops help ing, Donbass will be forced to turn to Ukraine?
Purgin: In Ukraine, the changes that occur are very bad. Absolutely in winter there will be a lockout – emergency power outages. Ukraine is flying into the abyss, it is already in default.
Question: Your colleague Khodakovsky said diametrically opposite things: that we underestimate the vitality and buoyancy of Ukraine.
Purgin: No, Khodakovsky meant that Ukraine can take a long time to decompose and rot!
Question: Actually, he spoke quite differently. And yet, if Russia stops helping, and [by itself] Donbass, as I understand it, cannot exist, you think that should be done?
Purgin: Yes, we do not give Ukraine! No-thing! Market Engineering is located in the Russian Federation, energy resources are located in the Russian Federation, cultural, mental, all the links are in the Russian Federation. We can not create the machinery and sell it to Ukraine, where it is not needed.
Question: I understand that your machinery is needed only in the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, if Donbass is left without support, it will survive?
Purgin: Well, your’e too much of my need [sic]. I’ve been at home just a day.”
Quemado Institute Commentary on Purgin’s Dismissal
We deplore the dismissal of Andrei Purgin and believe the step was politically motivated. Our suspicion is not just that Denis Pushilin was seeking power for his own sake. We also suspect Moscow was behind Purgin’s replacement. Denis Pushilin is thought to be more amenable to Kremlin influence, in its ongoing campaign to force Donbass to rejoin Ukraine under an interpretation of the Minsk 2.0 Agreements that may be too favorable to Kiev, a campaign apparently supported by Putin himself.
We clarify that Minsk 2.0 is open to broad interpretation. This is what enabled its signing by the polarized representatives of Ukraine and Donbass. DPR Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko adopted a literal interpretation of Minsk 2.0 that guaranteed de facto independence for the DPR, in keeping with the stated provision that DPR and LPR representatives must agree to Ukraine’s constitutional reform. Kiev regime leader Petro Poroshenko adopted an opposing non-literal interpretation, which ignores the brief parenthetical mandate for Donbass agreement, and allows for Ukrainian constitutional reform on Kiev’s terms alone. This is an inaccurate reading of Minsk, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly pointed out.
We are concerned that through the removal of Andrei Purgin, the DPR government has both sacrificed diversity and lost a powerful spokesman. But our fears do not end there. As of today, Alexander Zakharchenko has made no public statement, at least as published by DAN or dnr-online, about Purgin’s dismissal. One might imagine Zakharchenko chooses to remain above the squabble. But avoidance is not leadership. Our biggest concern is that Zakharchenko, since the fiasco of the Shirokino withdrawal in July, has adopted more and more the role of a figurehead, and that Denis Pushilin, whom some Donbass supporters call a “traitor”, has taken the helm.
We see this as dangerous. Zakharchenko uniquely understood Minsk 2.0 according to a brilliant and subtle interpretation that guaranteed de facto independence. The key is that Minsk 2.0 requires DPR/LPR approval on Ukraine constitutional reform. Thus, Zakharchenko saw that if the DPR approved nothing short of de facto independence, this stance would not contradict a literal reading of the agreement. Zakharchenko’s strong leadership, however, is required to accomplish this goal. Were he demoted to a figurehead, and we certainly hope he is not, Denis Pushilin might cave to Kremlin pressure.
Zakharchenko’s silence on Purgin’s dismissal suggests to us that the DPR Prime Minister is playing a secondary role at the present time in the leadership of the country. If true, the Minsk 2.0 Agreements have become a threat to the self-determination of Donbass, where previously they were not. We have suspected, from both direct and indirect evidence, that the Kremlin is undermining Zakharchenko’s leadership.
One last clarification. The West purports that Moscow is running the show in the DPR/LPR. This belief is destructive,. It encourages sanctions on Russia, and perpetuates the myth that Russian forces are fighting in Donbass. Our perception, reinforced by Purgin’s statements above, is that Donbass is economically dependent on Russia, but that the Russian military is not involved in the conflict. In fact, Moscow appears to have played a negative role in the conflict by sabotaging Novorossiya’s military advantage, as well as derailing its efforts to gain independence and/or join the Russian Federation. This we believe is due to Putin’s irrational obsession with maintaining “Ukrainian territorial integrity” regardless of the cost in human terms, despite, or perhaps because of, his adoption of Crimea.
Some pro-Donbass news platforms have tried to put a positive face on Purgin’s dismisal. Most have ignored it. Knowing what we know, and believing what we believe, we feel there is still time for the DPR to correct its course, and that it is constructive to longterm DPR survival and self-determination to publish the truth as we see it.