“Unlike Europe, Türkiye did not take instructions from the US”

“Unlike Europe, Türkiye did not take instructions from the US”

By Özgür Altınbaş, reporting from Donetsk

We met with Denis Pushilin, the President of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), at a university in Donetsk. Despite the war situation, our request conveyed to the press secretary was responded to positively within a day. We asked him about the current situation in the region, the prospects of the war and his views on Türkiye.

Donbas is our home

DPR leader Denis Pushilin explained why people in Donetsk chose not to leave here despite the war, and how they have such resilience. Emphasizing the phrase, “Donetsk is our home,” Pushilin stated, “The people here are deeply connected to each other. This is the basis of our struggle.” The DPR leader pointed out that Ukraine had exerted pressure on the Russians living in Donbas for years and said, “We want to preserve our own identity and speak our language, Russian. No one could take away this right from us till now, nor can anyone in the future. As a result of our fight, we achieved our dream in 2014 and joined Russia.”

Denis Pushilin, the President of the Donetsk People’s Republic in interview with Özgür Altınbaş

Support from all parts of Russia

Pushilin also told us about the situation of the soldiers at the front lines. The DPR leader emphasized that the soldiers and the civilian population are intertwined, stating, “There are very few individuals and families untouched by the war. This war has been ongoing since 2014. It’s nothing new. In one way or another, you become involved and affected by the war through acquaintances or relatives.” Pushilin highlighted the significant support from the people, stating, “The population continuously sends necessary supplies to the soldiers at the front lines. Money and materials are collected not only from Donetsk but also from all over Russia. They even send unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These are to alleviate the burden on our soldiers and to protect our territories. The people here understand the entire process.”

Security concerns are an obstacle for the education

Walking through the streets of Donetsk, you observe that life continues in somewhat its normal course. Pushilin mentioned that they are striving for a complete return to normal daily life. But, for example, the schools are implementing online education due to security risks, as those in the city are still targeted by missile or artillery shells. The DPR leader said: “If schools are close to the front line, we make online education. Distance learning has its pros and cons. Naturally, both parents and we want a return to regular education. As the Ukrainian army targets civilian areas in their attacks, the safety of our people still takes precedence. We are planning to open many schools by September 1st.”

Memorial in Donetsk for children killed by Ukrainian attacks – all photos by Özgür Altınbaş

Ukraine hit our water channel

In the third part of my interviews’ series, I mentioned that water is provided to households in Donetsk only for a few hours every three days. I asked Pushilin about the difficulties faced by the people in meeting basic needs. The DPR leader stated that they don’t have any problems with food supply as their production capacity is sufficient. He also told that they could easily obtain food products from other regions of Russia. As for electricity, when the Ukrainian army hits power stations, households are sometimes left without electricity, but workers repair these immediately, he said.

The leader of DPR stated that the most challenging issue is water supply: “Since the operation began, Ukraine started shutting down our water channels. Severodonetsk was the only channel supplying water to Donbass. Ukraine attacked and mined the channel. Since February 2022, we cannot supply any water from there. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin resolved this crisis, and currently a water channel is being built. Although our needs are not fully met, the necessary level of water is being provided to households from the Don River. This water channel was built in a short time. We do not foresee any other crisis regarding this issue now. We have strict rules regarding water usage. We provide water to households for a few hours every three days. Starting from June this will be every other day at specific hours. By the end of June we will start providing water every day at specific hours again. For now this water channel is sufficient for us. Ukraine is doing everything possible to make the lives of the Donetsk people more difficult. However, since 2014 we have already learned to get by without the Ukrainian state.”

War crimes of the Kyiv regime

Pushilin stated that Ukraine committed many war crimes: “As you know, war crimes do not have a status of limitation. Every crime is reported. This is being carried out by prosecutors’ offices in Russia.” Pushilin said that they formed a commission to identify war crimes before the start of the special military operation, underlining that not only those who committed the crimes but also those who gave the orders for these actions are being identified. The DPR leader explained that they have created a very large database for these crimes.

Türkiye is defending its own interests

One of the most important topics we discussed with Denis Pushilin was his view on Türkiye. But before going into this topic, I would like to summarize my observation about Russians’ view on Türkiye from my 20-day tour of Russia.

Russians are generally very positive that Türkiye is not a part of the sanctions on Russia. The issue of “sanctions” is a decisive one for Russians’ attitude and that is why they describe Türkiye as a “friendly country”. Overall, Russians see Türkiye as more independent than European countries.

Pushilin too, shares the common view of Russian people. Noting that European countries’ sanctions on Russia are related to the US, the DPR leader said:

“Strong states are those that act independently in the interests of their citizens. You cannot be an independent state while taking instructions from Washington and London. It is no secret to anyone that sanctions have a bad impact on those countries themselves. I am referring to European countries like Germany, France and Italy. We are seeing how sanctions, especially on energy, are hitting their economies. These countries are all taking instructions from the US. By following the US they have harmed the interests of their own people.

Türkiye is in a different position from Europe. To us, with no doubt, not all decisions of the Turkish leadership are positive. For example, the sale of Bayraktar drones to Ukraine. Yet, Türkiye should only defend the interests of its own people, not those of Ukraine or Russia. Türkiye is taking a balanced position. The fact that they can take such decisions despite being a member of NATO inspires great respect in us.”

New buildings are being constructed in the middle of the war

Kyiv will be dragged into a counter-offensive by the West

We also addressed Ukraine’s planned counter-offensive that has been in the talks for months.

Pushilin said that the West would drag Kyiv into an attack, whether Ukraine wants to or not. The DPR leader explained this idea as follows: “The government in Kyiv has to find a justification for its own people and to convince Ukrainians who are questioning where the billions of dollars are going. That is why Ukraine will attempt a counter-offensive.”

Pushilin said that they have taken all precautions against the Ukrainian attack: “The Ministry of Defense is getting prepared. And here we aim not only to prevent the enemy from achieving its goals but also to liberate all federal regions as part of Russia. Another goal is to push the enemy far away from our borders because our territory should not be in the range of their weapons. Ukraine has long-range missiles supplied by the British and French. I repeat: there will be a counter-offensive, but it is difficult to predict the timing.”

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April 2024