Interview by Alexander Kots and Dmitry Steshin
(Komsomolskaya Pravda (“KP”))
Translated into English by Gleb Bazov / Edited by S. Naylor & @GBabeuf
“Immediate and wide-scale assistance from Russia is needed”
The Commander-in-Chief of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Militia believes that, if Moscow does not intervene, the self-defence units will be unable to withstand [the onslaught] of the Ukrainian Army.
The Commander-in-Chief of the DPR Militia told us about the massive artillery shelling of residential neighbourhoods in Kramatorsk and offered an unpromising prognosis.
Right now you’re hearing explosions: the enemy is shelling the outskirts of Slavyansk and the city of Kramatorsk with several batteries of heavy howitzers. The massive strikes are directed exclusively at residential neighbourhoods and industrial complexes. While Slavyansk has, by now, become accustomed to constant, unending, day and night artillery strikes, in Kramatorsk there’s now a state of panic. For the first time, apartment buildings and private houses there have been hit with heavy munitions. There are fires, explosions, a multitude of dead and wounded.
This is being done to show all the cities of Donbass exactly what will happen to them in the future. They’ve [nearly] obliterated Slavyansk. Almost half the city’s population has fled to Russia. Now they’ll obliterate Kramatorsk—and Kramatorsk is larger than Slavyansk. We’ll end up with several more tens of thousands of refugees, the major part of whom will end up in Russia. As far as I’m aware, Russia is entirely unready to receive tens, hundreds, thousands and then millions of refugees.
After Kramatorsk will follow Druzhkovka, Konstantinovka, Gorlovka, Makeevka, Donetsk, Lugansk, and then—everywhere else. We can see [perfectly well] how the Ukrainian Army acts: they don’t strike at the positions of the Militia, [they strike] at the infrastructure; they promise to grant safe passage to repair brigades, and then they fire on them; they claim that we hit our own schools and water-purification facilities. As if we do it all, like terrorists, while they’ve got nothing to do [with this destruction].
A brief prognosis: the enemy has transferred its main infantry and tank forces to the north of the Lugansk oblast and to the south of the Donetsk [oblast]. Each day they advance by ten to fifteen kilometres, methodically cutting off the “rebellious” regions from the border with Russia. Cutting [us] off from any and all help; [cutting us off] from arms and ammunition—which, hypothetically, could someday be supplied; from food and medicines. I can assure you that if Russia doesn’t take immediate steps, they’ll achieve success.
Even the several thousand Militia, who are now concentrated along the border (armed with several tanks, a few artillery pieces, and perhaps even a large number of machine guns and grenade launchers) will be unable to withstand for a long time the aviation, artillery, and the multitude of tanks. The ratio of tanks can be estimated at 1:500; of APCs, 1:300; and of artillery, 1:800.
There’s no point even mentioning air power. A week, two, three—maybe even a month—will pass and the most battle-ready detachments of the Militia will be bled dry and, sooner or later, will be routed and eliminated. This, how the enemy operates, we’ve observed in Mariupol.
There they surrounded the city, blockaded it with checkpoints, using their equipment, and cut it off from any possibility of help. After that, their punitive units entered. These special units, composed of the so-called volunteers, are in reality mercenaries: the Azov, Donbass and other [such battalions]. Once done, they clean-up the city of the few Militia there and move on to the next one. Meanwhile, a garrison is moved into this city, which takes up key positions, roots out all the “malcontents,” and places them in filtration camps… That’s what awaits us.
Now let’s talk about the social debate, where two alternatives are offered: a full-scale war or non-interference in the affairs of Novorossiya. This non-interference means instilling into Russian society a belief that the local Russians—by themselves and without Russia’s help—will be able to defend Novorossiya, repulse the enemy’s onslaught and hold for as long as may be necessary in order to give Russia time to make some kind of decision. The second alternative is a belief that the commencement of war is not in Russia’s interest, that it will lead to serious economic consequences. I can say this: the war that, even now, is already being waged, will end disastrously for Russia, in an economic sense. Russia will suffer economically from this war because it didn’t intervene in time, it didn’t introduce peacekeeping forces. [Russia] could have occupied the entire Donetsk and Lugansk regions when they rose up against the adversary. It could have been done painlessly immediately after the referenda. But Russia didn’t [intervene] and from that moment on we began losing ground.
As things now stand, a peacekeeping intervention is impossible without engaging in a large-scale war, involving air-strikes, artillery fire, tank incursions; involving a partial mobilization of the Russian Army. I’ll tell you honestly: we’re biding time, we’re mobilizing our paltry resources and people; but we can’t catch up with the enemy. Some think that the Ukrainian Army will fall apart, should you only spit at it. It’ll fall apart once it meets a counterpart able to match it at least part-way. But what we have here isn’t even a fight between David and Goliath, it’s [an encounter] between an elephant and an ant. An ant can cause lots of pain biting an elephant. But even an old and sick elephant will crush an ant. Even if its legs buckle, the elephant will crush it with its sheer mass.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the enemy receives economic, financial and military aid from all of Europe and the United States. The hryvnia floats after two months of war not because it’s a stable currency—that’s just ridiculous. How can anyone imagine that we could stand our ground [when our enemy receives] such massive support? Yes, we can hold Slavyansk a month—maybe a month and a half—but sooner or later they’ll still eliminate us. We can’t transfer our garrison to another city without abandoning this territory. We can organize five Slavyansks, which will be encircled and eliminated, together with their inhabitants.
There’s only one alternative to war or complete abandonment of Novorossiya—immediate de facto recognition of Novorossiya and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and the provision of real, large-scale and urgent military assistance to them. I’m addressing Russia as Commander-in-Chief of the Donetsk People’s Republic Militia and as a patriot of Russia and the Russian people. You can take it as an address in the name of [the entire] Donetsk Militia.
Now, as for the tactical situation report: at the moment, there are five enemy howitzer batteries near Slavyansk. They’re comprised of twenty full-fledged heavy artillery pieces, with calibres ranging upwards from 122mm. Four to five mortar batteries, with calibres of 120mm and 80mm. The enemy has fortified its positions well, and its infantry numbers exceed ours. Furthermore, the enemy forces at each of its checkpoints equal our garrisons in Slavyansk and Kramatorsk combined—and I mean our entire garrisons. I’m not even raising the equipment’s functional state. We’ve not even one tank: the enemy has them at each checkpoint.
There are six tanks at their checkpoint near the turn onto Krasniy Liman. If I were to send the Militia to assault this checkpoint, they’d be hit with mortar fire in the open field before even getting there. And then, from high up, [enemy] aviation would bomb them; then the howitzer fire; and then the tanks would crush them. What we’ll get is [a repetition of the battle] at Donetsk Airport, except with even higher casualties. When the Militia, bled dry, would retreat to their starting positions, they’d not only have no means to advance, but also no means to defend. This breakdown is the same on every front. We can bite the enemy, we can attack from the flanks, we can operate in sabotage-intelligence groups and destroy one or two armoured elements a day.
All made possible solely by the heroism of the fighters, who can penetrate into the enemy’s deep rear and hit him point-blank. But heroism alone, lightly armed with grenade launchers and several mortars, can’t swing the balance of the battle—we can only defend. Unfortunately, the enemy has superiority over us on every section of the battlefield. There are rumours that we have armoured vehicles, tanks. Never are there more lies than during war and fishing! I know that Alexander Mozgovoi conducted a good operation, seized some trophies, destroyed a few others. But all this is peanuts. The enemy can replace any number of destroyed or seized equipment from the interminable Soviet reserves; we don’t even have a secure rear for repairing armoured elements, and we’ve no spare parts or supplies. One APC can’t stand against twenty or thirty. And even the three old, aged tanks, which were restored in Gorlovka with great difficulty—even these three tanks can’t match thirty. Or, rather, sixty or ninety. Ukrainian tanks can be counted in the hundreds. We won’t even speak about the Su-25s flying overhead—we do shoot them down, from time to time, but they maintain full air superiority.