On the Donetsk People’s Republic–3 Aug 14

Trouble in the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Interpreter | July 28, 2014

There are reports that Igor Bezler or Bes (Demon) has fled his stronghold of Gorlovka yesterday as the city suffered significant damage and deaths in a battle between separatists and the Ukrainian armed forces. There are rumors that Col. Igor Strelkov may have fled, but we have no confirmed information about him or other rebel leaders.

Obviously, ever since Strelkov fled Slavyansk and tried to take over Donetsk, there has been a drive not only to prevail against Ukrainian forces but to prevail in power struggles within the “militia” as the Russian-backed forces euphemistically call themselves.

Last week on 25 July, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) uploaded an intercept of a long conversation between Aleksandr Boroday, the self-declared prime minister of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” with Aleksandr Chesnakov, deputy secretary of the United Russian General Council, indicating that this party has been directly involved in helping the pro-Russian separatists which they say “proves direct involvement of Russia in inspiration and escalation of the armed conflict in Donetsk and Lugansk regions.”

In the conversation, Boroday creates a neologism out of an old Russian term, bemoaning the semikommandirshina — “seven commander rule,” a term improvised from the Russian word semiboyarshina, which was the “seven boyar rule“.

By an eerie coincidence, it was July 17 — the same date as the downing of the Malaysian airliner MH17 — in 1610 when seven boyars, or Russian princes, toppled Tsar Vasily Shuisky and forced him first into a monastery and ultimately to prison in Poland where he died. At that time it was the Polish advance into Russia in the Time of Troubles that led the boyars to rid themselves of an unpopular and ineffective ruler.

When Boroday used the term, he both meant the rivalry among different separatist leaders and their implied threat to President Putin as they get out ahead of his covert support of their armed insurrection. Earlier we had seen Strelkov complain about Putin’s behavior similar to Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in not supporting nationalists sufficiently — ending up dead in a jail cell in the Hague.

Writing in the Daily Beast, Anna Nemtsova cites an essay by Strelkov’s associate Ivan Druz’ with the same message:

“Putin, thank God, is much more intelligent and decisive than Viktor Fyodorovich [Yanukovych]. That’s clear. And some of his decisive measures instill hope that the tragedy of Ukraine will not become a tragedy for Russia and Putin’s personal tragedy. As DPR Defense Minister Igor Strelkov justly said, by taking Crimea, Putin essentially began establishing order throughout Russia, and he cannot back down from this. However, it is also clear that a significant and influential part of his entourage is trying to come to an agreement with the Kiev pro-Western terrorists. Although the examples of Yanukovych, Qaddafi, Milosevic would seem to make them wider. But no, history teaches us that it teaches nothing.”

Some believe Putin’s enabling of the separatists to cause the tragedy of MH17 could be Putin’s downfall, and there has been a lot of discussion lately of a “palace coup,” as Paul Goble has covered here in Windows on Russia.

Boroday complains bitterly in the intercepted phone call, calling the situation in Donetsk “a total mess” and “absolutely rotten”. The DPR is now like “a dick with a head shaped like Donetsk” with “quite weak prospects, to be honest.” He complains about relations with Aleksandr Khodakovsky, head of the Vostok Battalion, and explains that he is the only one that Khodakovsky will talk to now, as the other leaders like Strelkov and Bezler don’t trust him. This conversation came two days after Khodakovsky’s admission to Reuters that he had heard the Lugansk separatists had a Buk, a claim he subsequently retracted. Boroday says he doesn’t trust him “very much and alludes to a “bunch of different crappy factors” — these may be a reference to the association with Rinat Akhmetov or his failures in battle.

Of course, the anti-Strelkov forces see this situation differently, as this meme with contrasting lists circulated by the blogger Colonel Cassad, claiming that Khodakovsky has held on to the strategic Saur-Magila mound and Strelkov has retreated from a number of battles — but omitting reference to the chief beef against Khodakovsky, that he lost the battle of the Donetsk Airport by attempting to make a deal with Ukrainian troops that fell through. (To get a feel for what is involved in defending Saur-Mogila, see Noah Sneider’s report from the area in the New Republic; Ukrainian forces reported took over Saur-Mogila this morning, 28 July).

Contrast between Strelkov and Khodakovsky via colonelcassad.livejournal.com

Boroday describes holding a meeting with businessmen to introduce a 5% tax to support the war — what Putin already contemplates introducing in Russia, as if he were already an extension of the Russian Federation — and he even makes reference to expecting a call from the Russian presidential administration. But he fulfills his order even as he realizes “there are no economic prospects” and the businessmen are worried because of constant shelling. He complains of running out of money — he had to pay Strelkov his 1 million hryvnias ($85,000) — but Chesnakov assures him he can draw down more.

Chasnakov has another order for Boroday — and invokes the name of Archimandrite Tikhon — Putin’s personal father confessor — with whom he is traveling. He urges him to get Strelkov to express his loyalty to Putin and affirm him as the “commander-in-chief” and as a great leader — the seven boyars’ issue — although he can’t directly fulfill his orders because he is in “another country.” He stresses the importance of Strelkov performing this gesture – oddly, just as Kurginyan did in his press conference that caused the Pavel Gubarev and other separatists to walk out. Boroday yesses him as if he is merely there to fulfill Moscow’s command.

The second half of the SBU tape contains a conversation between separatists “vice prime minister” Andrei Purgin and Denis Pushilin, who was recently forced to resign from the DPR. Purgin criticizes Col. Strelkov as a “f**cking mad colonel” for telling the mayor (who he forced to leave) “let’s stop public transport and blow up 9-storey buildings on the outskirts.” Pushilin complains that Strelkov has stopped normal trade in the city so people were going hungry and wouldn’t let the coal be delivered, even stopping the mines; Reuters has reported that the separatists have confiscated all the explosives from the mines, forcing them to a halt.

“He’s a f**cking great fighter, but shit, it turns out fewer enemies die than the civilian population he’s supposed to be liberating,” says Pushilin — which about sums up the entire premise of the DNR. Pushilin complains of Strelkov sitting and receiving petitioners for 10 hours like a Soviet bureaucrat, and getting involved in trying to run banks. Pushilin wishes he would stick to fighting and stay out of economic affairs.

“He’ll ruin a million-strong city for the sake of killing ten thousands Ukes,” wails Pushilin. And that sounds like what is happening now in Donetsk.

Boroday also held a press conference regarding the MH17 recovery effort and gave an interview to BBC.

Boroday denies flatly that he and the separatists kept international inspectors out — calling it “a lie” and claimed he found it a “horror show” to allow bodies to remain in the open for days.

But one has only to see the tweets and press interviews from Michael Bociurkiw during the crisis, and watch this video that shows how a rebel leader waving a gun and telling OSCE officials that the area is unstable and they can’t stay to understand that it’s Boroday who is evading the truth — he even concedes in the interview that they couldn’t guarantee full security.

Max Seddon of Buzzfeed evoked the Soviet-style culture of the separatists when he explained how they met for hours with the Malaysians when they were finally allowed in, and then insisted that they agree to recognize the DPR and LPR — something not even Russia has done! — before being allowed to receive the black box from the airplane wreckage.

In his BBC interview, Boroday claims the separatists get all their weapons and military vehicles from raids on Ukrainian storehouses or in battles. He also claims “we didn’t get a Buk” — although there is ample evidence of the presence of Buks in the region and pro-Kremlin media has reported repeatedly that separatists have themselves announced that they used Buks to down Ukrainian airplanes — including on the day of the MH17 tragedy when they bragged about downing what they thought was an AN-26. Boroday dismissed this as “Photoshop.”

“We get support from the Russian people,” says Boroday, side-stepping the question from the BBC reporter as to whether he gets aid from Russia formally. Boroday denies he was an officer of the FSB or any other intelligence agency, although he admitted “many acquaintances” in the agencies. He then mentions a “very good friend” who is a “former” intelligence agent — Strelkov, whom he has known for 20 years, even while he was still employed in intelligence. Boroday portrays such connection as “normal” for “any state’s elite” in a corporative sense — just as their are business people and government officials, there are intelligence agents with whom one deals if one is in the elite. Despite such ties, Boroday denies that the Russian government has any influence over him.



‘Strike Him with an Axe’
A pro-Russian separatist’s how-to guide for terrorizing eastern Ukraine includes advice on robbing banks, sabotage, and staging drive-by shootings
Alexander J. Motyl
Foreign Policy | JULY 18, 2014


With each passing hour it looks increasingly likely that pro-Putin militants are responsible for shooting down the Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine. (President Obama said today that the missle that destroyed the plane came from "territory controlled by the Russian separatists.") This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. The pro-Russian fighters have already shown that they’re utterly ruthless in their efforts to subvert the Ukrainian state.

A recently released report by Amnesty International charges the rebels with "savage beatings and other torture meted out against activists, protesters and journalists in eastern Ukraine over the last three months." Ukrainian officials accuse the separatists of using local civilians as "human shields" and of shelling apartment buildings. Pro-Russian militants have also firebombed vehicles as well as blown up bridges, mines, and refineries.

Such tactics are not random excesses. To the contrary, they are entirely premeditated — as one can see from a handbook for insurgents recently published by one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, as the leading separatist group in eastern Ukraine refers to itself. Pavel Gubarev, the self-styled "governor" of Donetsk and the leader of the Novorossiya (New Russia) movement, recently posted the manual, entitled "Methodological Guide for Struggle Against the Junta," on his personal website. (The "junta" is the separatists’ name for the Ukrainian government in Kiev.) There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the document.

Gubarev begins the manual by admonishing those who take up the fight against the government in Kiev to maintain maximum operational security. He then outlines how to form a group, train, and obtain weapons and cash.

"Cops have always had a lot of informers, and you won’t be able to just go and recruit volunteers," Gubarev warns, urging his followers to recruit no more than four supporters. "These should be people you know and believe or those who have bloody debts to the junta." He cautions would-be recruiters against ubiquitous "informers," and to remember that they themselves will be regarded as such by potential volunteers for the cause. "Winning people’s confidence will not be easy."

The next step is to find money, transport, reliable communications, and weapons. Robbing banks is dangerous, says Gubarev, so smashing ATM machines is the way to go. Access to a large number of used cars and throwaway cell phones is also advisable. As for weapons, "the best way is to acquire them from criminal acquaintances." He bemoans the fact that "idealists well-disposed toward the partisan movement are not likely to have such acquaintances." And he warns that "there are many informers among the criminals, even at the top levels of the criminal hierarchy."

Attacking and disarming Ukraianian police forces is risky, he observes, as is buying weapons from Ukrainian soldiers. The most practical approach is to "rob weapons depots. This is also a risky and serious operation, but at least the chances of success are higher."

Of critical importance, according to Gubarev, is that all this be done under the strictest secrecy. "The stable forces of the regime are all around," he counsels. "Your group is in danger." So he offers a series of prescriptions, incuding use of pseudonyms, abstinence from alcohol, and the concealment of identifying marks, including tattoos: "Attract no attention to yourselves; wear gray." Home computers and personal cellphones should never be used for operational purposes. Identifying documents should never be carried. Details of military operations should never be discussed on phones or in front of family members. Gubarev also advises that fellow partisans should wear gloves to hide their fingerprints. "If time permits," he adds, "read books and watch films for tips about self-concealment. In the USSR and Eastern Europe in the 1940s-1960s these things were well illustrated in films."

Gubarev then recommends three primary forms of action: Liquidating individual enemy fighters, shooting at cars, and random acts of terror.

As for the first, these are, in essence, "simple killings." A rebel who happens to see one or two government soldiers leaving their base should shoot them, then "get in your car and run." One particularly effective way of killing soldiers is to target them as they’re tending to their natural needs in the bushes: "Many people have been killed, captured, or robbed in this manner. You don’t have to shoot the man; you can strike him with an axe, with almost no resistance on his part. But it’s better not to use cold steel until you’ve killed a few men: it could be risky if you’re not morally prepared for such an action and your hand hesitates."

Gubarev devotes a brief paragraph to the topic of "shooting at cars," by which he means, essentially, "ambushes" against enemy forces. Acts of terror, meanwhile, are of far greater interest to him. They should, he emphasizes, be directed against "bands of nationalists," "little Nazis," and sundry other civilian supporters of the Maidan uprising and the central government in Kiev. "Use your car to approach these people quickly and suddenly, and open fire on them through the windows of your car. Crush those who try to hide and those who are wounded." Indeed, he advises, "shoot without hesitation, even minors and girls. They aren’t dealing with you in the same manner only because they’re stupid; remember that they wouldn’t spare you." (This section of Gubarev’s manifesto earned him a rebuke from United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay. "Such blatant incitement to violence is utterly reprehensible and a clear violation of international human rights law," she said in a statement issued earlier this month.)

The actions touted by Gubarev have three goals. Fighters should "weaken the rear of the Ukrainian armed forces, the National Guard, and the paramilitary formations, all of which will help the fighters in the East." (Interestingly, elsewhere in the document he advises fellow rebels to abstain from attacking police or Interior Ministry troops, since these are "potential allies in the future" — perhaps alluding to groups such as the Berkut paramilitary police, who were accused of killing pro-democracy demonstrators during the uprising against former President Viktor Yanukovych.)  Next, the rebels should conduct operations "aimed at destabilizing political conditions in the region." And finally, they should aim at "the physical destruction of the fighters of the junta and its leading personnel." In pursuing these goals, fighters are encouraged to engage in outright provocations: "Don’t pass up any opportunity to engage in some atrocity that can be blamed on the junta’s fighters."

Gubarev ends his manual with an upbeat epilogue. Fighting, he notes, has already broken out in cities such as Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Odessa. "The process has begun. The former Ukraine is bankrupt. It won’t survive for long: within a year, or possibly until the New Year, it definitely won’t exist in its current boundaries."

Is compromise possible with the likes of Gubarev? Probably not. He detests Ukraine and Ukrainians, and his agenda consists of little more than terrorism. Can Russian President Vladimir Putin control him? That, too, is by no means clear: fanatics such as Gubarev are by definition uncontrollable.

If so, the Poroshenko government may have no choice but to attempt to crush Gubarev and his militant groups. The bad news, for Kiev, is that Gubarev is implacable and is willing to die. The good news is that his manual clearly, if unintentionally, reveals that the militant groups are isolated, on the run, and in constant fear of exposure. His open admission that "[w]inning people’s confidence will not be easy" hardly reflects deep popular support. As the document stresses, the terrorists cannot trust the local population, not even the local criminals who in the early days of the insurgency actually comprised a significant portion of the fighters. Nor can they rely on their own comrades to remain silent, if captured, for more than a "few hours."

Moreover, their worries about money, arms, transport, and communications are never-ending. Gubarev devotes a large part of the manual to the weary task of replenishing supplies after a terrorist act has been carried out — and have no easy solutions. Worst of all for Gubarev, the Ukrainian security forces appear to be strong, alert, and relatively immune to corruption: "Your chances are slight, and there’s a high probability that the SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] or the cops will eliminate you."

It would be naïve to think that Putin does not know who his proxies in eastern Ukraine are or what sort of means they routinely employ against civilians and soldiers. While the airline shootdown is almost certainly the handiwork of the pro-Russian thugs in eastern Ukraine, ultimate responsibility for the atrocity must lie with Putin.   After all, Russia has been providing the separatists with the very money, arms, transport, and communications they so desperately need. In the week before the shootdown, the Kremlin escalated its intervention in Ukraine to the point that "war" is the more accurate term for Russia’s aggressive activities. Given such a context, it’s hardly surprising that the rebels have declared war on everything Ukrainian — or on everything, such as the Malaysian plane, they thought was Ukrainian.



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