Source: The Automatic Earth
Esther Bubley Greyhound garage, Pittsburgh, PA Sep 1943
Our Canadian friend Marina, who has Russian roots, sent me this video today. Marina has also translated several Automatic Earth articles into Russian (I’ll put up a link in a sidebar), see here. This is a taped August 24 international press conference with Alexander Zakharchenko, Chairman of The Council of Ministers of The Donetsk National Republic (DNR), and Vladimir Kononov, Defense Minister of DNR.
Since we in the west don’t often get to see the point of view of East Ukrainians, I thought it would be good to post it here. What is likely to be new to most is that the Donetsk leaders have not only recently actively started the formation of a state, they have to that end already established an army; and are therefore no longer – part of – militias.
Before I get accused of being partial once again – I get my fair share of that lately when I for instance ask for evidence of what either Russia or the (by now former) militias are accused of in the west -, I’ll just let it stand as is, and add parts of the transcript. At the very least you may find this informative. I did. And if at the end you think these guys are terrorists who don’t have the right to live free and in peace, so be it. But at least you’ll have seen their side of the story.
And I’ll add Putin’s speech yesterday at the Customs Union, where he met Poroshenko, for even more information from ‘the other side of the fence’. If only because whether we like it or not, the Ukraine ‘situation’ is very far from being solved, or over. And if you ask me, far too many people have died in the conflict already.
Our western leaders insist that the resolution is in the hands of Russia, or even Putin alone, but I think we need to ask ourselves if that is really the truth and nothing but the truth.
• As you all know, a week ago we announced our plan to attack. We started it yesterday. Until yesterday we have been preparing for the attack, examining trophy equipment, arming the crews, and testing communication between different military formations. I can now proudly announce that we formed 2 tank battalions, 2 full artillery brigades, 2 Grad divisons, 1 mechanized infantry battalion, 3 infantry brigades and a special purpose assault airborne brigade. All these units have now received Army numbers. The communication system have been regularized and 2 field hospitals and 1 maintenance brigade have been formed.
We have begun testing all these units in battle. Yesterday we began an attack on Amvrosiyivka enemy group. According to our data, in the course of the offensive, the enemy lost about 45 units of military equipment, we captured 14 units of military equipment, and about 1,200 people were killed and wounded. There are two cauldrons at the moment, in Amvrosiivka and Starobeshevskaia. We started to advance at 4 a.m. on Elenovka, where the fighting is still going on. 2/3 of Elenovka is under our control. We hope to clean up these areas before the night. However, the offensive will not end at that. We will continue until we free all populated areas in the Donetsk National Republic. The army is ready and we have the support of the people. There will be more and more prisoners.
• Now regarding the Parade. I deliberately put the trophy equipment on display on Lenin Square. Everything that will come to us from Kiev, will end up in the same condition sooner or later. The more will come, the easier it will be for us to restore our economy. As you may know, metallurgy is one of our main industries.
• You can now ask your questions.
• Does the militia fire on the houses?
Let me correct you right away. We were the militia 10 days ago. Today, we are the armed forces of the Donetsk National Republic. The DNR’s armed forces by no means try to strike on residential neighborhoods and houses. We don’t and never will practice this. This is our homeland, our soil, and our Motherland. This is a war on our territory that we want to preserve. We’re not animals. We are not fighting in Kiev, we are fighting at home.
• Unfortunately, dear journalists, the West tries to invade us with a regularity of 30-50 years. That is, every 30-50 years the Western civilization tries to impose on us their opinion and their way of life. The First World War, the Great Patriotic war, the Crimean war before that and so on well into the depths of history. As a result, the West traditionally gets the fall of Berlin, Paris, etc. There is Maidan every year In Kiev [..] The West comes every 30-50 years to get what it deserves. Now in 2014, they are slightly delayed.
• I will invite several officers of the French Navy, who want to fight with us. They are willing to give an interview. We have Europe fighting amongst us. The European ideals of equality, fraternity, and the French revolution, as in the Marseillaise, resonate with the patriots of France. It means, the nation is not dead, since it has such representatives who are willing to go to the far away place to fight for their ideals, which the Bastille was once taken for. Yes, there are volunteers: the French, the Russians. Is it a bad thing? It’s great.
• Are there regular Russian military units fighting on your side?
If you think that Russia is sending its regular units here, then let me tell you something. If Russia was sending its regular troops, we wouldn’t be talking about the battle of Elenovka here. We’d be talking about a battle of Kiev or a possible capture of Lvov. Now there is a war on our soil for our territory. We have an influx of volunteers from all over the world. Of course, the Russian help would be very desirable, but from a political point of view it is impossible and unrealistic.
• Thanks, by the way, to the European countries. You do not acknowledge this war just as you did not acknowledge the great Patriotic war, didn’t you? You support the anti-terrorist operation against terrorists and separatists.
Have you not developed a Charter of free territory, I believe, in Switzerland? A Territory has a right of self determination and separation after a referendum. Germany lives by the same principles. There will be a referendum in Scotland soon. That is, you call your own principles democratic and carry them out (almost) democratically. The example of Czechoslovakia was peaceful. Yugoslavia, unfortunately, was torn into a thousand little pieces by you.
Using military methods by the way. We have the same thing happening here. That is, if you stop pursuing a policy of double standards and will be able to understand that people live here. What is our fault? The fault of Donetsk, Donbass, our land? That we are asked to live independently? That we wanted to live the way we want? To speak our language? To make friends with whom we want?
• We didn’t want to go to Europe. We have different mentalities, religion. But we have a different religion. We want to go East. We wanted to live the way we want, but we were not allowed to. We were called terrorists and separatists. Please note, we did not capture any regional administrations, nor did we scorch district departments. That’s what the Maidan did. Slogans: “No oligarchy‚ Equality and brotherhood”, “Freedom of religion and language”, “Freedom of choice”. All these slogans are from the Maidan. We want the same thing. So why are we the bad guys? What did we do to deserve being bombed from planes?, shot at from tanks? and have phosphorous bombs dropped on us?
Explain to me what an anti-terrorist operation is?! There police forces and intelligence services are involved, and not regular military units, military vehicles and aircrafts. Dear journalists, please correct me if I am wrong. If we are terrorists, then the police and the security service of Ukraine must fight us. 30, 25, 95, 72, and 76 – the entire Ukrainian army is present on our territory. Three conscriptions, the national guard, territorial battalions, private battalions Aidar, Azov, Shakhtersk, Donbass, Dnieper-1, Dnieper-2, Dnieper-3, battalion Kiev, and now Kryvbas. What have we done? What is our guilt? The fact that we have shale gas, for which you want to erase entire Slavyansk from the face of the earth? Or any other financial interests?
• We are all descendants of the glorious ancestors. We all have ancestors that we are proud of. Between the two of us there are two Heroes of the Soviet Union. We are still able to hold weapons in our hands. We swallowed with our mothers’ milk a pride and desire to live in free and happy Donbass. We’ll tell anyone who comes to harm us on our soil: we will fight tooth and nail for our Motherland. Kiev and the West made a big mistake by awaking us. We are the hardworking people.
While others were jumping on the Maidan for 300 grivnas, our people were down in the mine, mining coal, melting metal and sowing crop. None of us had time to jump, we were busy working. When a person who just yesterday worked with a jackhammer or operated a harvester, today got behind a steering wheel of a tank or Grad, or picked up a machine gun, the line has been crossed and you cannot stop him. The one who left his job knows that he will fight to the end and to his last breath. You may pass it on to others: do not wake the beast. Just don’t. While there is still an opportunity, let mothers spare their sons.
• Now I want to say: I don’t want to fight. It wasn’t my choice, but I’ll fight till the end for my land, no matter who, when and how numerous they were. This is a battle of annihilation. Unfortunately, the Slavs are fighting among themselves and destroying their best people. We want to reach out to all the relatives and mothers: do not send your sons here. Leave us alone. Let us live free and in peace. We didn’t come to you in Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, or Zaporozhye. We are not marauding your villages, raping your women, killing your elders and stealing their military decorations.
Remember decorations for Stalingrad, the capture of Berlin, Gold Star medals, Orders of Glory, Orders of the Red Banner, mixed up with women’s earrings?… We don’t do that. We want to live on our land the way we want. We don’t need you. We are different. Ukraine of the East and the West is an artificially created conglomerate. However, we didn’t start this war. If someone has a political conscience, a will and a courage of a real man, I’m just suggesting to stop this operation. You don’t have to recognize our status, just leave us alone within our borders of Donetsk and Lugansk republics, and we will kiss each other goodbye.
• Do you think the meeting with Poroshenko will bring any positive solutions?
Let me clarify. No federalization can be possible today. There is time for everything. We asked for the federalization 3 months ago, then we asked for a permission to hold a referendum. That time has passed, now we want to live independently. The Ukrainian authorities are using police methods to subdue us: they arrest us, cordon us off, and conduct anti-terrorist operations against us. By now so much blood has been spilled and so many people have died for freedom.
How can we speak of federalization? What is federalization? This is a series of bureaucratic procedures that need to be done. But we want to live independently. We have very rich land. Talks about subsidies is a lie perpetrated by thieves to steal money. Each President understood this very well and always participated in it. We are a self-sufficient region with its agriculture, developed industry, forests, fields, and seas. We have everything from a ‘Switzerland’ to the sea. Resort areas, agriculture, chemical and coal industry, rich minerals, gas deposits, etc.
Despite close ties with the rest of Ukraine, we can and must be able to feed ourselves. If they do not understand it in a good way, then we will ask them in a hard way. I hope that the meeting between Poroshenko and President Vladimir Putin will lead to the taking of our position into account.
President Of Russia, Vladimir Putin:
Colleagues, First, I would like to thank Minsk and Belarus for the opportunity to meet here. The format we are using here – the Customs Union-Ukraine-EU – gives us a good opportunity to discuss issues pertaining to the impact of signing by Ukraine of the EU Association Agreement within the context of its cooperation with the Customs Union states.
Russia has always respected the sovereign choice of any nation to organise its political life and make all sorts of unions, both military and economic, and we will continue to do so. However, we hope that this will not be detrimental to other participants in international communication, and not at our cost. As you may know, Ukraine is deeply integrated into the CIS economic space. Alongside Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, it is actually an inseparable part of the largest economic complex in the world, which took ages, rather than years or decades, to create – and this is no exaggeration.
Our countries’ companies have developed close ties in all the basic industries: in the fuel and energy sector, which includes nuclear power, in chemical production, in aviation and machine building, space, metallurgy and metals processing, in construction and agriculture. We have developed unique production chains and created technological alliances. Russian capital represents about 32% of the Ukrainian banking system. The Customs Union states are Ukraine’s key foreign trade partners. In 2013, mutual trade turnover came up to $50 billion. This is comparable to what is going on the western track. In the first six months of 2014, our trade turnover reached $22.7 billion. The Customs Union accounts for 30% of Ukraine’s exports. We have to openly state that the Russian market takes up most of this volume.
We have developed a good legal basis for our cooperation. In 2011, a free trade zone agreement was signed within the CIS framework. I would like to stress here that Ukraine took a very active stance in this respect. It actually insisted on signing this agreement. We are still drafting agreements on free trade in services, on state purchases and on pipeline transit. We believe that it would be expedient not only to maintain, but also to significantly step up our cooperation. However, the question arises of whether this would be possible if the Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU really starts to work.
Russia has stated on numerous occasions that full acceptance by our Ukrainian friends of all the tariff liberalisation requirements and the adoption of the European Union technical, sanitary and veterinary norms will have a negative impact on the scope and dynamics of trade and investment cooperation in Eurasia. Not to mention the fact that all these norms – the EU sanitary norms and regulations that we do not apply or apply only partially, and the technical regulations will actually close the Ukrainian market for our goods, for goods from the Customs Union and Russia.
The rejection of common CIS technical norms and adaptation to EU standards will cost Ukraine billions of euros. It will lose its partnerships with the Customs Union states in industry, finance, agriculture and transportation. As soon as Ukraine introduces zero import duty on goods from the EU, a step envisaged right after the ratification of the agreement that would apply to 98% of all the goods, there will obviously be a sharp increase in the supply of European goods to the Ukrainian market.
We understand our European partners; they have already developed the Ukrainian market rather well, and would like to get hold of whatever is left and squeeze out everyone else. Besides, less competitive Ukrainian produce will also be squeezed out from its own market. Where to? Primarily to Russia and the other Customs Union states, but primarily to us.
We should not rule out the risk of illegal re-export to the Customs Union market of goods from the EU under the guise of Ukrainian produce, either. Technical regulations and ways of establishing the country of origin are very important here. Nobody ever discussed this with us. Nobody, actually, ever discussed with us any of the issues I have just mentioned. I believe we will take this up in detail later, without press coverage. At some stage, we were simply told that this was none of our business, that they do not, for instance, discuss our relations with China or Canada.
However, let us bear in mind that China and Canada are far away, while economic relations between Russia and Ukraine are a completely different story. Besides, Russia is not the least of our EU friends’ partners. I believe it would be appropriate to have an open discussion of this matter. There has been nothing of the kind, unfortunately. However, we pin great hopes on this meeting, in the sense that it would be frank and substantive.
By very conservative estimates, the total loss for the economy of Russia alone may amount to 100 billion rubles on the first stage, that is $3 billion. This will affect entire sectors of our economy and agriculture, with all the consequences for economic growth and employment rates. Belarus and Kazakhstan will also incur losses, of course. And of course, Russia cannot lie by in this situation. I would like to stress that we would be forced to reciprocate, to protect our market. In full compliance with the provisions of the CIS agreement on the free trade zone and with WTO norms, I would like to stress this, we would be forced to cancel preferences for imports from Ukraine.
I would like to note here that we do not intend to discriminate against anyone, and we will not do it. I simply wanted to make this perfectly clear. We will simply be forced to introduce a regular trade regime for Ukraine. The same one that applies to trade between Russia and the European Union. It is called the most-favoured nation treatment. Sounds good and is exactly to the point. However, no preferences that are now envisaged by the CIS free trade zone regulations.
We will of course take a very careful look at the application by our Ukrainian friends of the phyto-sanitary norms envisaged by the EU Association Agreement and we will mirror them. Our regulations in this area are very flexible now. We will introduce the exact same norms for Ukraine; and as regards the industry, one of the major components here, as I have said, is establishing the origin of the goods. We have a strong suspicion, as I have already said, and there is a great threat that European goods will be brought in through Ukraine. Mr Poroshenko will say what he thinks about this when he makes his address, I can see him disagreeing. Even within the Customs Union, we are already receiving goods from the EU that are banned for import in Russia. In this case, unfortunately, they are coming through Belarus.
The label reads: the country of origin – Belarus. You remove it: Poland. With Ukraine this would increase manifold. We will be flooded, you see? I know that both the President and the Government of Belarus are trying to prevent this negative illegal practice. We at least have an agreement, which we do not have with Ukraine. We expect today to have a constructive discussion, during which our partners will hear our arguments. Overall, we are in favour of establishing closer cooperation between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union, of searching for ways to combine the two integration processes. I hope that all the participants in today’s meeting support the strategic goal of creating a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
I would like to stress that we are ready to consider any cooperation scenarios that are based on the consideration of mutual interests. We are ready to have an exchange on the critical situation that has developed in Ukraine, which, I am certain, cannot be resolved through further escalation of force without due consideration of the vital interests of the country’s southeast regions and without a peaceful dialogue with these regions’ representatives.
Thank you for your attention.
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