Interview with the former Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic

Interview with the former Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic

Enrique Refoyo: Dear Alexander Boroday, thank you very much for the opportunity to interview you so that our global audience can get to know you. I would like to divide this interview into three parts: present, past and future. In this way, I would like to know first-hand the current situation in Donbass, as I know that you visit it often.

1. Present

First of all, how would you describe the current humanitarian and economic situation in Donbass and the circumstances regarding the Special Military Operation (SMO)?

Alexander Boroday: Well, first of all, I want to tell you that it is not entirely correct to use the term “Donbass” when talking about the SMO and the current situation in general, because Donbass is a certain geographical region, which mainly covers the territories of the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic), but not entirely, and parts of the LPR (Lugansk People’s Republic) – this geographical region is called Donbass.

In fact, all political actions and all related military actions – serious, rather heavy, intensive, high-intensity military actions – are now basically taking place on the territory of the Russian Federation. But from a legal point of view, they are not limited to the territory of the Russian Federation, because they are also taking place on the territory of the Kharkov, Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Kherson and even partially Nikolaev regions of the country formerly called Ukraine. I underline the word “formerly”. In general, we are not only talking about Donbass. And we are not going to limit ourselves or stop, I emphasize, in the Donbass as a geographical region or as an economic region. This is the first thing I wanted to say.

Second, what is to be said about the economic situation? The economic situation, as always when there is a war, even if it takes the form of the SMO, where actually there is high-intensity fighting, of course, the war does not contribute to the improvement of the economy, its growth and prosperity. Well, in fact, the war has sometimes hard, sometimes in low intensity lasted for 9 years. Naturally the economy of Donbass has adapted to it and not only the Donbass, but the entire region. That is, the economy of the region as a whole has adapted to it, and above all, of course, the economy of Donbass. I remember that Donbass was one of the ten most industrialized regions in the world and it is not only coal and metallurgy, but also mechanical engineering, which is of high quality. The region is integrated into the Russian economy. What can work, works. Yes, there is a lack of workers. In particular, they are missing because many have been drafted into the army and are fighting in the Russian army for the freedom of our common Fatherland. Our common homeland , I emphasize! Against the collective West that is represented mainly by the United States, of course, while the presence of other countries is also being felt.

But if we talk about a confrontational situation, now we understand that in reality there are already fewer and fewer opponents who would be from the so-called Ukraine, we have almost no more of them at the front. Well, there are some territorial battalions. I understand that they are preparing their corps in the rear, but now our enemy is mostly Polish, German and French. So we understand very well that these are regular units of the Polish Army and regular units of the German and French Armies, who have simply changed the stripes on their sleeves and have suddenly become unknown mercenaries from regular army.

Since 2021 you have been an elected member of the State Duma, that is, you saw firsthand the past months of January and February 2022: How did you live those days between February 22 and 24, between the recognition of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and the start of the operation? In your opinion, was a peace agreement really possible or was there never a desire for peace on the Ukrainian (Western) side?

I wasn’t worried at all about that, because everything that was happening was absolutely predetermined and I knew it perfectly. You must understand that I have been involved in this story since 2014, and I have been involved in Ukraine long before, as a political technologist, and since 2014, when the Crimean spring began, I have been involved in this story first as an assistant to Sergei Aksenov, then as prime minister and actually the head of the DPR, then as head of the Donbass Volunteer Union, which brings together veterans of 2014-2015, of combat operations in that period, and I today, I am continuing my works.

You have to understand that I know this story very well. I know that no one contemplated any other option than a military solution to the conflict. It was pretty obvious to everyone that it would come and all these Minsk agreements, I don’t know whom they could fool. In principle, they were misleading some public in the West, but I can only be amazed at their naivety, that’s all. It is clear that the Minsk agreements were literally squeezed out of Russia to let our main enemy regroup, build up forces, upgrade their weapons, train and prepare reserves, etc. So, the fight will be done in the high intensity form, because in the low intensity form it didn’t end for a minute at all. In general there were bombings, actions by saboteurs, isolated local hostilities in certain areas, in certain directions all the time. They were there! They didn’t go anywhere! They were trying not to notice, but in fact they were there anyway.

So we knew very well that sooner or later this pustule would break through. Then it exploded. Here it is. And now we have an almost general and normal European war, somewhat generally similar to the Second World War. Well, how to put it… Once it was like that, once the West decided with its hands, or rather, not even with its hands… Of course, with Ukrainians as cannon fodder, but on the territory, first of all, with a bridgehead like Ukraine they will discover relations with Russia – “let’s clarify”.

We are willing to raise the stakes to the max, and if Western Europe or the United States thinks they are going to definitely survive the higher stakes, they are wrong. I don’t see anything tragic.

Speaking of the West: What is your opinion about Western countries? What do you think about the US and European sanctions against Russia?

It’s quite obvious, really. In fact, there is no Europe, nor European political will, nor individual will of any country… Well, broadly speaking, they talk. Let’s say, words, speeches of individual European politicians, who somehow still try to justify that they have some kind of their own opinion, their own will and, in general, the national interests of any European country at all. It is a kind of isolated screams that blend into nothingness in the middle of the general noise.

Actually, Western Europe has no political will and goes with the flow. The flow is the policy of the United States, in fact, that is all. There is a political line of the United States. The United States decided to take advantage of the situation to definitively establish its hegemony in the world. Well, “definitely” according to them. And indeed, to achieve it, they destroy Russia. Here, in fact, is a simple, very simple scenario. We all understand it very well. We understand very well whom we are really fighting against.

As you will understand, it does not make us very happy, because it is a civil war, it is a war between brothers and sisters, where old friends fight each other, relatives fight each other, parents fight their children, brothers fight brothers or sisters, it doesn’t matter. It means that all of us have a lot of friends, relatives, old family connections, and when they tell us: “This is not your territory! Leave Moskali*!” – of course we laughed. [Moskali – Muscovites, is the common insult of Ukrainian nationalists with respect to Russians].

There are people like me, for example, who have a typically Ukrainian last name and a relevant lineage on the father’s side, as well as many of my friends, who are fluent in Ukrainian and actually speak it… In general, the natives of all those territories or at least their ancestors were native to those territories. And when suddenly a Jew, Zelensky, appears and says: “This is not your country! No, no, not your country! That’s right, get out of here, you filthy!” Yeah? Is this your country? Maybe it’s time for you to pack your bags and go to your country? That was a long time ago. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to do so. But it won’t now.

For the fourth question, I wanted to ask you specifically, what can you say about Ukraine? What’s wrong with Ukraine? What will happen now in this country?

It is not a country; it is a territory. It’s a colony, you know? A colony of the United States of America, where for a decade or so a rather brutal and still ferocious terror has been unleashed against anyone who even remembers the history of this territory, how it came to be, how it was created, how the people of this territory and what values this people had, because when we say that there are Ukrainian nationalists or Ukrainian patriots, it is, as they say in Russia or Ukraine, a lie! Is a lie! Obvious and cheeky. There are no Ukrainian patriots on that side. We have them on our side, because we, as patriots of Great Russia, are also patriots of Little Russia.

We know very well the culture and history of the part of Russia called Little Russia [Малороссия – Malorrossia], but there are no patriots there. And even the authorities they refer to, whose busts they place in their own offices, like, I don’t know, the bust of Bandera. Yeah? They would just roll over in their own coffins, if they could see what is happening in modern Ukraine and who is walking under their flags and using their slogans, because they would be categorically against it. That’s obvious.

No, they probably would not be in favor of us, but they would be against this entire royal and colonial circus under nationalist slogans that are nothing more than words that formalize real colonialism by the United States itself towards this territory. Well, that’s pretty obvious! And there, they were often real “independentistas” [*самостийник / samostijnyk in Ukrainian: supporter of the nationalist movement in Ukraine, which states its purpose to secede from Russia ], who wanted a real Ukraine, independent or as independent as possible.

And these are not nationalists or patriots of Ukraine. They only work for money. Some for a lot of money and some for the thousand dollars, which they are paid to go to the front. And their main idea is to live without having to pay. Actually, this is the main Ukrainian ideology, which is actively prevailing: That they, together with the West, must defeat Russia, and then they will get all that money from Russia that the West has confiscated at the time.

Yeah? Well, gold reserves and foreign exchange and everything else. In general, they think they will receive a huge contribution from Russia and will live without doing anything. Doing nothing is the most powerful national idea. It is called the free life.

How to comment on the mood of these people? Believe me, I have talked to prisoners more than once. These are people who are not only uneducated, but are practically troglodytes. They know nothing of the world around them. That is, how is it possible that in these times of great accessibility to knowledge, people reach such idiocy, using at least the Internet? Well, frankly speaking, I have no idea! Obviously, a lot of effort has been made. Well, among other things, there are drugs. drugs! They are drug addicts. Zelensky has been killing his own troops since the start of the war by mass injections of hard military drugs. It is possible to take such preparations, as our doctors say, for no more than five days without considerable harm to health, and they have been “chewing” all this, excuse me, “history” for months and forcibly “chewing” it. At first they were forcibly “swallowed” under the control of the agents, now they simply cannot stop. By the way, they quite often “die” from unpleasant diseases related to failure of internal organs. The mortality rate is very high, but they continue to “chew”, because they are already addicted and will never get out of this addiction. If you stop doing it at any point, instantly, very quickly, in a few days, you will be disabled or just die in a very bad way.

2. Past

In 2014, you were for a while the Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, and then you were succeeded by Alexander Zakharchenko. What can you tell us about him and his construction of the Republic for 4 years? (Until 2018, when he was assassinated.). What was the importance of Zakharchenko in Donetsk?

Well, look, obviously in 2014, in August the 14th, there was a situation where Russia was carefully trying to distance itself from what was happening in this armed conflict, which was really taking place exclusively on the territory of Donbass. Therefore, my following existence as head of the republic was not very appropriate, taking into account my Muscovite origin and, in fact, my residence record is in Moscow. Well, the fact that I was from Moscow was well known to everyone, as was the vast majority of the DPR government, which was in fact largely made up of volunteers, especially the power bloc, for so to say.

I mean the Army, the MGB [МГБ – Ministry of State Security], the MBD [МВД – Ministry of Internal Affairs], the Prosecutor’s Office, etc. Not as a rule, but they were all from the Russian Federation, so to speak, but not from the Donbass. So we really needed a local successor. I was well aware of this and started looking for one among my comrades-in-arms about a month before. I confess that my choice fell rather quickly on Alexander Zakharchenko, and I will speak cynically and frankly because he was, first of all, one of the best controlling field commanders. Second, he had obvious charismatic gifts. Yes, he lacked proper training and education, which of course worked against him, but he had two elements: he was from here, he was a lively and agile guy, and on top of that, he knew how to learn and, of course, he had a good relationship with people. This is the kind of thing that was fundamentally important. That’s why, in fact, I gave him the post of prime minister of the DPR, and later, sometime at the end of November [2014], if I’m not mistaken, he went through the national election procedure and the post of prime minister, which was changed to head of the DPR. A kind of analogue, if you will, of the president of a country that was then barely recognized by anyone.

For 8 years the war in Donbass continued with hardly any territorial changes until February 2022. Do you think that peace could have been possible within the framework of the Minsk agreements?

No! Impossible! Everyone who signed the Minsk agreements knew this. On both sides. Everyone was sure of it.

So, next question. Since 2014, Russia has faced Western sanctions. What measures have been taken to alleviate the consequences of these sanctions?

Well, of course, Russia has been dealing with the consequences of the sanctions that came in 2014, firstly, and secondly, it has been preparing for new sanctions. In other words, in fact, it was reinforcing its sovereignty, especially in the field of the economy. And, of course, it established different international ties than before, because Russia has had international, economic, financial and political ties since the 1990s, first of all with Western countries. Since 2014, Russia has begun a rather rapid, accurate, perhaps not quite visible at first glance, but a turn to the East – to the South and to the East, of course.

In its diplomacy, in its economy, in general in all its international movements, let’s say, related to ordinary peaceful life, so yes, indeed there have been many actions throughout these years, a large number of them and it would be very difficult describe them all. But they all have allowed Russia to strengthen its sovereignty in the economic and political spheres.

That is why we find ourselves in 2022, although not perfectly prepared for these procedures, but much more prepared than we were in 2014, when we were still dying from the consequences of the “Yeltsin era”, when, in fact, Russia itself almost ended up becoming a colony of the United States.

I remind you that the Russian government building is not far from here, and in the 1990s, under Prime Minister Gaidai, more than 150 American economic and political advisers sat directly in the Russian government. That building, which is only a mile from here, tops.

3. Future

Returning from Donetsk in January, I observed the construction of a major water canal from Rostov to Donetsk in order to supply all the water the city needs and now lacks due to the Ukrainian bombing of canals and pumping stations. In this sense, what are the economic initiatives or investments that are going to be made in Donbass to reactivate its economy? Maybe we will see the reopening of mines and industries like Azovstal?

I have serious doubts about Azovstal. Azovstal is too ruined, in very significant ways, to make economic sense to rebuild. There are other plants in Mariupol that are much less destroyed, including, for instance, the large Ilyich plant, which, in my opinion, is much more suitable for reconstruction than Azovstal.

Naturally, if you have been to Mariupol you will have seen how much the city has recovered in recent months. I have been to Mariupol and have seen it with my own eyes!

Yes, I was also in Mariupol.

I have been there many times, as you will understand. I was there in March 2022, on the outskirts, because when we were starting to enter Mariupol, I was part of the most advanced unit, which entered a bit, there was still snow, it entered the outskirts of Mariupol, from Sartaná, the Armenian suburb. And then I was there many times and I watched the city fall apart, destroy itself, burn, break apart, its inhabitants die. And it was a Mariupol, where you could stand on the main street and see everything around you except your own fighters standing behind yo. You saw only corpses being eaten by dogs… in a huge avenue. And now I can see Mariupol.

I was in Mariupol, thank God, on the 9th of January, and you know, I was driving from the very south, well, right from the Kherson region, and because we were hungry, we stopped there and we had a hard time finding a place in a restaurant. The restaurant was full, so this is a completely different Mariupol. It is the new Mariupol, the one being rebuilt. Reviving very, very quickly, but the whole country is participating in this process. I see new buildings. Good and beautiful, which I think Mariupol has never had before, but the city really grows like from the ground, springs up through the ruins before my eyes and it must be said… As I have to travel through Mariupol many times, I have stopped… I have nothing of interest there. There is no unit of mine there, but I have to travel through Mariupol often. I have driven through Mariupol in one direction or another dozens of times during the SMO, so I had the whole dynamic before my eyes: first the destruction of Mariupol and then its revival and restoration, and I must say that it is a truly fascinating spectacle, in its own right and manner.

Regarding the economy of Donbass in general, yes, indeed there is a problem regarding the water supply in Donetsk, specifically in Donetsk. First of all, I must say that the situation now is much better than in the summer. Well, it’s very obvious, because when you come to Donetsk and open a tap, what flows the most now is water. Maybe not with a very high pressure, but water comes out of the tap, whereas in summer it practically did not come out. Now, even in the place where I stay, which is the worst in Donetsk, there is water, in general, let’s say often. Not always, but often. So I think that this situation will be reversed, indeed, it will definitely be reversed when we finally destroy the enemy and take the Slaviansk-Kramatorsk concentration. We had been very close to that in the summer, when we were coming from the north, from the Kharkov region, and we had 15 kilometers to our forward positions, to Slaviansk, literally 15 to the outskirts of Slaviansk and we really wanted to pass them, but at that time luck was not on our side, we withdrew from the Kharkov region. From most of the Kharkiv region, because, in fact, our troops and our positions are, of course, in the Kharkiv region.

I myself was in January in the Kharkiv province, in the south of the Kharkiv province. Yes, in the Kharkiv province I did not go far, only 11 kilometers, but still. As for the current situation, actually, by taking Slaviansk and Kramatorsk we will open the spout. The thing is that the water is pumped from the Seversky Donets river and these pumps have to work at full capacity. Right now they don’t work. Our enemies forcibly disconnect them in order to deprive Donetsk of water in the first place. Well, Donetsk and Mariupol, of course.

And now a difficult question: When will the Special Military Operation end? Is there any time or terrain limit for Russia?

Of course. It’s quite simple, if things end up as planned, and if the West doesn’t up the ante indefinitely, then there are two options. Either our victory will happen when we stop at the Polish border… Well, this is more or less how our victory scenario looks like. There is a second scenario, towards which the West, in my opinion, is trying to move quickly: it is a stalemate in fighting.

Well, what remains in the course of the tie, of course, I don’t know, it may be penguins, for example, not all, or it may be that they mutate and become huge penguins, which are not human-sized, and they believe a new civilization, like the one written by Anatol Franz. Do you know that he had a play called “Penguin Island“? With a touch of French history, of course. Well, I don’t know how it will be. It’s hard to predict, of course. Maybe the penguins won’t survive. Or maybe the Australians will survive, and with them the growth of a new civilization will begin? Or New Zealanders and no one else… Who knows… Or the Papuans…

Finally, on foreign policy and Russia: Is Russia isolated and marginalized as claimed in the West? What future plans does Russia have to deal with multiple rounds of Western sanctions?

The answer is very simple: Russia will live, firstly, and secondly, it will live with dignity, like a great country. Just live. Surviving somehow as slaves, zombies, subordinates, as in Western civilization – we don’t want that. We want to live firstly. Secondly we want to live as a great country, as an independent country. If the West disagrees, we are willing to die for our beliefs. By the way, together with the West, because we can do it, so, if the West wants it, then, as our American “friends” say: Welcome!

That’s all, thank you very much for the interview!

Enrique Refoyo
Political scientist, translator and humanitarian activist (Spain)

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December 2023