‘Novorossiya’ and the ‘Fifth Column’ Around the Kremlin: Novaya Gazeta Interview with Boroday

August 18, 2014
Aleksandr Boroday at a briefing on MH17 19 July 2014. Photo by RIA Novosti.

Pavel Kanygin, special correspondent for the independent Russian online newspaper Novaya Gazeta has been interviewing a number of the pro-Russian separatists and other political figures in Ukraine for some time. [See our translation of his interview with former Yanukovych Aide Anna GermanThe Interpreter).

Kanygin himself was once kidnapped by the Russian-backed separatists and freed on 11 May after a day-long ordeal in Artemovsk in Donetsk Region where he was beaten and threatened with murder.

On 13 August, he interviewed in Donetsk Aleksandr Boroday, the former “prime minister” of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic” who had just resigned from his post.

The Interpreter has provided a translation of most of the interview, with some annotation.

Boroday was furious about another interview (which we translated) given the previous week on 7 August by Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, who revealed that some prominent Moscow media executives had told him that Boroday called them to admit that he knew the rebels had downed a civilian airplane on 17 July.

What was most sensational about this interview for Moscow bloggers was Boroday’s remarks about a “fifth column” of betrayers of the “Novorossiya” idea within the Putin Administration. This captures the way in which the separatist movement both embodies Putin’s aspirations as well as constitutes a force challenging the corrupt nature of his regime. While Boroday didn’t name names, opposition leader Aleksandr Navalny was quick to draw the dotted lines in a tweet:

Translation: Oh-ho, in an interview with Novaya, Boroday reported that the ‘fifth column’ is Timchenko, the Rotenbergs, Yakunin’s children and Zheleznyak.

Navalny attached to his tweet a clip of the interview with Boroday where he has underlined in red certain phrases about “accumulating large material means,” “living abroad,” “yachts, wives” “accounts in Switzerland, townhouses in London or Cote d’Azure” — all references to particular oligarchs and their relatives.

Gennady Timchenko is the former co-owner of Gunvor Group, where Putin is rumored to have investments (Timchenko divested himself right before being put in the US sanctions list); Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, Putin’s childhood friends are owners of subsidiaries of Gazprom such as Stroygazmontazh; Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways, has been the target of investigative reporting on corruption by both Navalny and Reuters; and Sergei Zheleznyak is the vice speaker of the Russian State Duma or parliament. All of these officials have been put in the US sanctions list in connection with participation in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

In Donetsk, Kanygin described how Boroday chain-smoked, paced around his office with a portrait of Putin on the wall, and kept taking his pistol out of his holster during the interview — as artillery shells from the Ukrainian army fell a few kilometers away. He describes how Boroday wraps his iPhone in tin foil to keep spies from geolocating him yet is curiously upbeat about the prospects of the separatists’ cause, despite recent disruptions in their leadership and loss of territory.

Boroday believes that the Ukrainian army is technically outfitted by Western allies. This doesn’t actually square with the truth – the aid giving to Ukraine by the US and other Western nations is largely humanitarian, or consists of items like bullet-proof vests, not weapon systems.

But the belief that NATO is going to invade the Donbass any minute is prevalent among the separatists. “All the equipment of the countries of the former Warsaw Pact. From Bulgaria, from Poland have been put into motion, I think,” he says. He denied that the Ukrainians were managing to surround the city of Donetsk, and denied that he had anything to worry about either from Ukraine or Moscow.

On Whether Putin Will Dump the Separatists

Kanygin: It just strikes me that there’s so little security at a time like this. Most likely you’re aware of the latest rumors that the Russian intelligence agencies intend to remove the leaders of the DPR and LPR.

Boroday: I will remind you that I am a citizen of Russia, and I surely don’t imagine that Russian intelligence agencies have plotted some kind of operations against me. Or against any other leader of the Lugansk or Donetsk republics. That’s sheer nonsense. My security guards me from the enemy, from the Kiev junta, from their mercenaries. And completely doesn’t guard me from Russian intelligence agencies, because I don’t need it.

He has a point. One of the most persistent received wisdoms of Western commentary is that the rebels are going to be dumped once Putin doesn’t need them to keep Ukraine unstable anymore. This is curiously at odds with that other obsession of Western commentary — and rightly so — that these people are themselves all GRU or FSB agents pulling the strings on the “people’s” struggle – and therefore decidedly agents of Kremlin-run institutions.

The fact is, in the 15 years of Putin’s rule, and well before that, these very people were deployed in multiple armed conflicts and ideological battles in the former Soviet Union, in Chechnya, Abkhazia, Transdniestria, even Bosnia. What seems to be happening now as they resign, one by one, is, like any agents, they are being extracted. Why waste trained, seasoned, employees? They can live to cause mayhem another day on another front.

On the “Russian World” Concept Including Belarusian, Moldovan and Ukrainian Territory

Kanygin tries to delve into the issue of the “non-indigenous” nature of the separatist struggle — which of course is now in the process of being changed with the appointment of Aleksandr Zakharchenko, a Donbass native, to replace Boroday as “prime minister.” This method is similar to the Soviet-era custom of appointing an official from the “titular nationality” as the head of a non-Russian republic, and putting a Russian deputy underneath him to keep an eye on him. Now it works in reverse – Boroday has been made “vice premier” of the DPR.

Kanygin: You are a citizen of Russia, I wonder how you communicate and find a common language with the residents of the region, citizens of Ukraine?

Boroday: Why would I have to find a common language?

Kanygin: I mean you’re a leader of the DPR, a citizen of Russia…

Boroday: But we’re all Russian people! Why would I have to find a common language with them? If in their day the internal administrative borders of the Soviet Union, which were already demarcated rather strangely, suddenly became state borders, why would the resident of Donetsk be fundamentally different from the resident of Rostov? I’ll explain it to you: they aren’t different, they’re from one big country. And you should understand a fundamental thing. I’m often called a separatist, but I’m not a separatist, I’m against separatism in general!

Who are the separatists?

The Kiev junta are separatists. Because there is a gigantic Russian world which was formed for a thousand years. This is a common civilization — it is Russia, Belarussian and Little Russian (Malorossiyskaya, a term Ukrainians have always found offensive--The Interpreter). For hundreds of years we had a common state which was forged in sweat and blood.

Kanygin: Alright. But where are the borders of this state?

Boroday: They are well known. Where the Russian language is heard, where Russian culture is on the move, where Russian blood has been shed…

This new feature of DPR propaganda — that we’re not the separatists, they are — was echoed in Vostok Battalion leader Aleksandr Khodakovsky’s recent interview, where he insists that he is for a “united Ukraine” — because he means a united Russian Ukraine that is part of the “Russian World.”

Kanygin persists, asking what it would mean if Russian blood was shed in Estonia.

“Let me finish, if you are making an interview, then you yourself shouldn’t orate,” says Boroday irritably.

Boroday: Here are the borders of the Russian world, they are obvious, and we are fighting against the Kiev junta which for us is separatist. They want to take Ukraine away from our Russian world. Ukraine, which was always part of this world. Kiev, the mother of Russian cities. And the Pereyaslavskaya Rada is not an accidently phenomenon in history which united the Muscovy Rus’ of the time with Ukraine. So we are fighting with separatism, taking part in the latest historical process. It’s they [in Kiev–PK] who took part of the Russian world, grabbed it out from under, and organized a fratricidal mess, where a dozen and a half oligarchs rule which have nothing to do with Ukraine itself. And we are fighting for a global Russian idea. And the center as before is the city of Moscow, and for us, the capital is Donetsk and Lugansk and Rostov and St. Petersburg and other places where they speak Russian and Russians live. It’s very simple.

Boroday conceded that Latvia — even with its high percentage of Russian speakers — wouldn’t want to join Russia and had a different culture. So Novorossiya goes as far as it goes…

On Reports of Disarray in DPR Leadership and Strelkin’s Future

Kanygin then probed on the Strelkov resignation and the reports of disarray among the commanders of the DPR — and we see Boroday’s sanitized remarks are at odds with the frank remarks he was heard to say in a call intercepted by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), in which he called Strelkov “a f**king mad colonel.”

Kanygin: Aleksandr Yuryevich, how do you coordinate all these armed groups. There are these partisan detachments, there is Strelkov-Girkin and his people, there’s Bes (Igor Bezler), there’s [Aleksandr] Khodakovsky. There’s the impression that they operate independently of each other and sometimes war among themselves. There is the famous case of the shoot out of Khodakovsky’s fighters and Bes’ fighters at a police headquarters.

Boroday: It’s total nonsense. Total nonsense! We have managed to establish, to put it mildly, mutual understanding with all the commanders. I have just come from a staff meeting where Zakharchenko and Girkin, that is Strelkov were present, and a representative of Khodakovsky’s (he himself is now fulfilling a special mission, but I talked with him on the telephone, what can you do.)

Kanygin: But who is the commander-in-chief?

Boroday: Today, a system has been built, I won’t say it’s my accomplishment, although it is a subject of efforts, in which the chief commander is Zakharchenko. and the fact that he is a local is important from the political and external political perspective. Since the Donetsk People’s Republic is a place of bifurcation on the map, its external contacts will only increase. And my position remains unchanged: the leader of the republic must be a native Donetsk resident. Now he has been forged. He has proved his ability to manage people and has been in battle. But Igor Strelkov is my old comrade and friend. And it is awkward to speak of some kind of contradictions between me and Igor since we have been friends for many years. Khodakovsky and I also maintain close relations.

Kanygin: How did you meet Girkin?

Boroday: We fought together in Transdniestria, but in various parts of the front, therefore we didn’t cross paths. But we became acquainted already after the war, in the 1990s, I don’t remember how.

Kanygin: You don’t take part in historical re-enactments?

Boroday: No, I don’t. Igor and I often joke about this topic by virtue of our old friendship…I myself regard them with skepticism. In Moscow, I was always a very busy person, therefore his attempts to invite me to re-enactment were fruitless. And he kept inviting me repeatedly — to Borodino, and somewhere else.

Kanygin: Was this a hobby or was he training seriously?

Boroday: Don’t be silly, please. Igor Ivanovich Strelkov is a completely trained military man with us. He’s had more than enough of these trainings. It is a hobby, and no more; some people collect stamps, some people collect butterflies, and Igor Ivanovich took part in re-enactments, a rather fun activity. I hope he’ll go on doing that if he survives after all these events.

Kanygin: But he may not survive.

Boroday: I’m not prepared to discuss that question.

Kanygin: Do you concede the thought that many in Moscow likely don’t need you to return? Neither you or Girkin.

Boroday: Wait. Which forces? The liberal-progressive community?

Kanygin: Oh, no, I mean those around…

Boroday: …who support your newspaper? Now I see the only force that doesn’t need for Igor Ivanovich and me to return!

On the ‘Fifth Column’ of Russian Opposition

Kanygin: Our newspaper is for peace, so that you and Igor Ivanovich would get involved not with war but your favorite re-enactments and media consulting. Write books, you’ve written them after all, take up gardening…

Boroday: Well, let’s write them! Your editor-in-chief, Mr. Muratov, clearly represents that force, and he categorically doesn’t like my return in particular, or that of Igor Ivanovich’s to Moscow. And I understand all that. But I don’t fear Dmitry Muratov and don’t fear the personages of his ilk. Just like I don’t fear Mr. [Sergei] Kurginyan [head of the leftist ultranationalist movement Essence of Time who denounced Strelkov after the rebel retreat from Slavyansk 5 July—The Interpreter] and they are the same type of fruit.

Kanygin: How?

Boroday: Despite their seeming difference in world views, they all represent the liberal wing and work on instructions of the West, on direct instruction. In particular, your editor-in-chief — I won’t say that he works for the SBU but he works for their masters. And his claims [7 August on Ekho Moskvy—PK] that I supposedly called some media manager in Moscow on the day of the airplane crash and reported that we shot down some military plane – now there is a lie and a provocation. That is why I’m giving you an interview so that you have the opportunity to show yourselves as honest people and print what I am saying now. And I want to see what you print. I have such an internal task.

Kanygin: You’re looking for the wrong enemies, I think.

Boroday: None of us want war. Neither I, nor Igor. As for gardening, I’m not inclined. Regarding Mr. Muratov or now Bykov (I read his article “Why Aleksandr Boroday is Dangerous” with interest, so to say) – they are from the group of people who are a fifth column in the Russian Federation and work for the West. For our geopolitical enemy, which does not want the renaissance of our country…

On Rumors of Strelkov’s Ambitions for Leadership of Russia

Kanygin – But I’m not talking about your fifth column, Aleksandr Yuryevich. So surprisingly, it turns out that you and Igor Ivanovich became heroes in Russia. Potentially serious political figures. There is an opinion that the current elite simply doesn’t needs such rivals.

Boroday: I will comment for you on these conjectures. And I will also answer for Igor Ivanovich, as they say here in Donetsk. Igor Ivanovich has zero political ambitions. He is absolutely uninterested in politics in any form. He is a normal, ordinary Russian patriot. And all that Igor Ivanovich wants after the war is one thing: to sit by the lake with a fishing pole and make it so that no one bothers him. Well, maybe he’ll go to a re-enactment with the Romans. No more serious actions from him, no matter how much they are imposed on him, are worth expecting. As for me, I also do not intend to engage in political activity besides possibly consulting which I did earlier. And I know that people know that in Moscow. You see I have a portrait of Putin hanging behind me. I don’t see a better politician for the Russian Federation for the foreseeable future.

While it’s distinctly possible that Boroday is prevaricating, it does seem that most of the discussion about the alleged political ambitions of Strelkov to replace Putin — and then the ensuing drama of expectations that he will be killed or removed as a result of Putin’s anger — seem to come not from Strelkov himself, but various ultranationalist figures using his image as a projection for their own ambitions for how they want Russia to be led.

Kanygin proceeds to ask Boroday about where he gets support, and gets the stock answer that this is from “the enormous Russian people” and “various sources” and “even Australia” and that much of it is “purely humanitarian.”

On Relationship with Russian Orthodox Businessman Konstantin Malofeyev

Kanygin: Do Russian businessmen also help?

Boroday: Most likely. I just don’t know their names and last names.

Kanygin: Konstantin Malofeyev is often mentioned. Does he sponsor you?

Boroday: He is a philanthropist. But I haven’t talked to him about the subject of the Donetsk Republic, to be honest. I am acquainted with this man, I can say honestly he is my friend. He’s a good person. Yes, I worked with him. But again, refuting all kinds of nasty rumors, I didn’t work for him or in his company. I was never in Marshall Capital. I had my own company which worked with 20 clients, including Konstantin Malofeyev, and I provided consulting services for him. And what of it? I also worked with dozens of companies whose names I will not cite. Many of them are well-known and even international Western companies. Yes, yes, and you are surprised? There are such.

Kanygin: And now what? You are after all involved in consulting.

On Denials Regarding MH17

Boroday: I don’t know. I don’t know…Here, I’ll show you (takes a small object covered in foil out of his bag–PK). This is my Moscow telephone, an iPhone, it is covered in many layers of foil, it’s a security measure.

Kanygin: For what?

Boroday: So that GPS satellites are confused and can’t determine my location.

Kanygin: But you turn it on when you come into Russia?

Boroday: That’s completely true. I turn it on when I come into the Russian Federation. But when I’m here, not a single call from Moscow reaches me here in the Donetsk Republic. That’s it. I have also a local telephone with a local phone (shows an ordinary Nokio push-button phone–PK).

Kanygin: I don’t understand. But people can also use it to call from Moscow?

Boroday: They can, too, but they don’t phone. That is why I am showing this to you — I was really angered by the statement of your editor-in-chief about the phone call to the media manager. In fact I learned about the plane not within 40 minutes, as he stated, but much later, when there was a meeting of the Supreme Soviet at the time. It was still continuing after the disaster for two hours, here in this building, on the second floor. Accordingly, as soon as I learned about it, I immediately moved out from here with my security, it was already night, a terrible darkness.

Kanygin spends time trying to get Boroday to explain why the DPR wouldn’t allow the experts in from ICAO, who were reported to have been blocked by DPR fighters. We covered Boroday’s thin excuses at the time, which didn’t track with OSCE monitors’ reports of gun-waving DPR fighters, and his distractions from the issues by blaming the Ukrainians — because they were the ones who ostensibly most benefited. He also denied that the separatists had anti-aircraft systems that could reach to the elevation of MH17, also easily refuted by looking at Russian state and pro-Kremlin media itself, where separatists bragged about their possession of Buks on 14 and 17 July.

Then Kanygin asks Boroday whether the DPR is advantageous to Russia, and Boroday says he is not sure that it is — because it led to Western sanctions. It also wasn’t even good for his own career that he became prime minister, he says, but he did it “because “it was correct from the moral perspective.” Meanwhile, the “fifth column” says that for rossiyane [Russian citizens] (“russkiye [ethnic Russians] don’t exist for them, but only rossiyane,” he adds), it isn’t profitable to support Donetsk and Lugansk.

On the “Fifth Column” Around the Kremlin

Kanygin: But what’s this you’re making up about a fifth column? You yourself said that this is an insignificant minority, that they cannot interfere with your grandiose plans?

Boroday: I’ll explain why. These people, these 14%, unfortunately, have a fairly high degree of social activity. Plus they have accumulated large material means. And along with them, they have acquired substantial influence. Although essentially, this fifth column in general has no relationship to Russia, it even lives somewhere beyond its borders. They have their accounts there, their favorite stores, their yachts, their wives…

Kanygin: So now you don’t mean our ministries and deputies, do you?

Boroday: Yes. As I’ve been saying, the fifth column in our country is great and abundant. Bank accounts in Switzerland, town houses in London or somewhere in Cote d’Azure, that is indeed the fifth column. But there are those in its ranks that sit and cause harm on social networks. By the way, I will note that I do not have an account on social networks. That I’m mentioning because surprisingly, when I come to Moscow I find that it turns out that I have some representatives in Facebook, Twitter. But I state officially: this is not I, this is a fake. I have a negative attitude toward social networks. Because these social networks are a possibility of manipulating public opinion.

Denials of Personal Twitter, Facebook Accounts

Kanygin: Who, if not you, a professional media consultant, would not be involved in them?

Boroday: Yes, I know all this technology but I don’t use it. What don’t I know in general as a professional? The main thing is that this is repulsive to me. I know of the venality of the media, and I’m alluding to you. What of it?

Here we’ll say this reply strains credulity. While it may be true that Boroday personally has nothing to do with the Twitter account under his name (although it sounds quite like him), for reasons of plausible deniability, as a long-time PR person and manager of the “media government” (as the fictional DPR has been called) he surely understands the value of social media precisely for the reason he says — that it manipulates public opinion — and surely is involved in some of the accounts with huge followers and influence. If they didn’t represent his views and his agenda, he would have loudly denounced them and disassociated himself from them long ago. If nothing else, he understands their value in fund-raising.

Asked again about the “fifth column” and what he planned to do about it, Boroday said “nothing,” as a “law-abiding citizen of the Russian Federation,” adding, “I’d really like to punch your editor-in-chief and Sergei Kurginyan in the mugs. I realize that punching people in the mugs perhaps isn’t entirely lawful, but I can’t restrain myself.” [Kanygin later noted that Muratov had no comment on Boroday’s interview—The Interpreter]

Boroday claimed that no one wanted to let him go at the DPR, batting away Kanygin’s question as to why he was putting on the show of leaving then. He remains with an office in Donetsk but expects to be in Moscow more where he is “in demand more,” adding disingenuously, “I hope that there will be more serious movements from Moscow in order to stop this essentially senseless civil war of Slavs against Slavs.”

On Prospects for a Peace Settlement with Ukraine

Kanygin: Are you prepared to make a certain long-term ceasefire with Kiev?

Boroday: For now, all conversations with the consultative group [set up between Russian and Ukraine to discuss a settlement—The Interpreter] are vague. But we are not at all prepared to conclude peace on conditions of capitulation. Although one of the members of the consultative group — Leonid Kuchma — spouts that baby talk to us. Yesterday, we learned that he celebrated his birthday, but today we were supposed to have a television bridge with him. But most likely the wild partying dragged on, because he couldn’t get on the line.

Kanygin: So he proposes that you surrender?

Boroday: Essentially, yes. We surrender, and Ukraine is a unitary state. After that, all the members of the group began to chuckle, including representatives from the Ukrainians.

Kanygin: [Viktor] Medvedchuk? [Ukrainian oligarch and close associate of Vladimir Putin who was appointed by Putin to the consultative group–The Interpreter].

Boroday: Yes, and [Nestor] Shufrych and [Mikhail] Zurabov, they all held back a smile. [Shufrych is a Ukrainian parliamentarian, Zurabov is Russian ambassador to Ukraine–The Interpreter.]

Kanygin: So this consultative group is no longer relevant?

Boroday: Why not? Recently our representatives went to the meeting with the group in Minsk, where they spoke about the exchange of POWs. Plus, we are always ready to speak about establishing humanitarian corridors. But there are no serious negotiations yet. And the Ukrainian government is doing everything so that they do not begin, to cut us off from the world in every way. They didn’t allow in the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization). And the Malaysian experts finally got to us barely alive. They went from Kharkov through back roads in a private car, snuck through all the checkpoints of the Ukrainian army and then Grads and aviation began firing at them. And under fire, they miraculously finally reached us.

Kanygin: Under what conditions, in your view, are peace talks possible?

Boroday: Really, we can start talks only when the troops and the bandit formations of the Kiev junta are already withdrawn beyond the borders of the DPR and LPR. Negotiations mean bargaining and compromises. And I don’t see that Kiev is prepared for them. Kiev demonstrates total lunacy.

Kanygin: Well, then what is your goal? To create two autonomies inside Ukraine?

Boroday: But there is no Ukraine. It does not exist, since the state fell apart essentially. There is no government and there is no longer a country.

Kanygin: But the country elected its president by a majority.

Boroday: How could it elect, when neither Crimea, nor Donetsk nor Lugansk took part in it? Three enormous regions have fallen away from Ukraine. That means the country no longer exists. And the government that has become entrenched now in Kiev came about as a result of an armed coup.

The people eligible to vote in the Donbass, i.e. Donetsk and Lugansk regions and environs, make up about 11 percent of the electorate. Crimea was already forcibly annexed by Russia by the time of the elections for Ukrainian president.

Kanygin: The same may be said about you: that there was a seizure of power in Donetsk, you organized a junta. You have looters and bandits here. That is, between you there is this non-constructive mutual recrimination and no more.

Boroday: There is nothing constructive now. They consider me a terrorist, and I, them. But that is on the level of individual personalities. But in fact, some Slavs are destroying others. And in fact the Slavs on that side are using the tactics of open terror and genocide. And their Western advisors continue to insist that Donetsk and Lugansk republics remain within Ukraine.

Kanygin: But you yourself just recently spoke about federalization. And so did your comrade-at-arms, [Denis] Pushilin [who also recently resignedThe Interpreter]:

Boroday: Nonsense-ilin (smiles) [Literally “Chepushilin” — he is making a play on the name of Pushilin–The Interpreter]. You simply have to understand, that’s it, the times have changed. Yes, not long ago, it seemed that some sort of agreements were possible. But when a bloody war began, the time for such decisions passed irrevocably.

On Prospects for Meeting with Putin

Kanygin: Do you think Putin personally supports you?

Boroday: (Thinks)…You know, I sincerely hope so. I personally have not talked with Vladimir Vladimirovich yet.

Kanygin: But would you like to?

Boroday: Oh, I’m afraid this is a man who is seriously busy.

Kanygin: But you are no less seriously busy.

Boroday: That doesn’t give him a reason to meet with me right away.

Kanygin: For the sake of the cause, which, I think, you very much believe in, you can overlook subordination.

Boroday: I believe in the cause, but to be honest, I don’t dare to impose my person on him.

Kanygin: That is, it is better if you not see him now?

Boroday: No, that’s not it! As I said: I don’t dare impose myself. If he wishes, then I will, of course, be glad to.

On Kidnappings and Executions by the DPR

The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights has reported on 812 kidnappings of civilians by separatists in separatist-controlled areas, and as Slavyansk and other towns have been liberated, more testimonies have come out.

Kanygin: Aleksandr Yuryevich, what to do about the kidnappings of civilians and activists by DPR and LPR representatives?

Boroday: Well, tell me, where have we kidnapped civilians?

Kanygin: There is a well-known case of the kidnapping of the journalists from Ukrainian Public Television in Lugansk. There have been numerous kidnappings of volunteers and activists in Slavyansk and Donetsk. There are masses of cases.

Boroday: Ukraine makes masses of accusations against us, I don’t even rule out that somewhere, at sometime, our fighters, infuriated, could have treated someone a bit indelicately. But what can you expect form an army that consists of partisans? We are already doing a lot now so that the fighters become accustomed to military discipline and so that all their actions meet the requirements of the law. We have created a ministry of security for this. We catch looters, we punish them, whoever displays aggression to civilians, even if they provoke dislike…

Kanygin: But those executions that Girkin sanctioned in Slavyansk with Stalin’s order of 1941 — what’s that about?

Boroday: We have a tribunal in operation — a military field court which periodically sanctions sentences of execution. Why? Because we have martial law declared in the republic with all it entails. Yes, some looters and deserters, thank God, there are few of them, were executed. Or are you interested as to why we are basing ourselves on Stalin’s order?

Kanygin: What to do with “political criminals”?

Boroday: We have a minister of security, but I do not know of a single person arrested or jailed for political reasons. And I would know.

Kanygin: But wait, there are those cases of the activists. Plus, Donetsk colleagues recounted how armed DPR fighters some time ago went around to editorial offices and persuasively asked them to cover events in the right vein. What do you say to that?

Boroday: I only know of one case when one of our commanders did not get along with his acquaintance from the media, they had a political disagreement, and a rumor spread and was distorted. And then it began. Of course, organizational measures of persuasion, so to speak, were applied. Now both are fine and feel just fine. That’s essentially it.

Kanygin: So you have freedom of speech?

Boroday: Well, look, you, a representative of hostile media, are sitting here, and getting an interview, no one is touching you, no one is arresting you, no one is dragging you away in a van. Tell me, does the principle of freedom of speech operate for you or not?

Kanygin: In this office now, yes.

Boroday: All Ukrainian journalists are accredited now with us, they all work, whoever wants to. What else do you want?