Ruslan Kotsaba, Journalist of Channel 112:
Bolotov and the fighters of LPR are sane, normal people
Interview published on Dialog.ua
Translated from Russian by Gleb Bazov / Edited by S. Naylor
We offer for your attention a frank account by Ruslan Kotsaba, a journalist of [Ukrainian] Channel 112, about the representatives of LPR [Lugansk People’s Republic] and the people who fight on the side of the Lugansk Militia.
“In Lugansk everyone is preparing for the conclusion of the ceasefire – for June 27th. They are all preparing for a full-scale war, and, unfortunately, thousands of people could die. As far as I can surmise, I can say that Lugansk is about two times as well-armed [as Donetsk], they have more well-trained fighters, and the motivation is there too.
A journalist must present information from both sides. And [that’s why] I travelled to Lugansk. In the end, of course, the so-called Lugansk People’s Republic gave me accreditation. And there I was the only Ukrainian journalist. The very fact that they accredited me means that the people [there] – the LPR leadership – want to establish contact. Why would I not take an opportunity like that? And [here], I am addressing my colleagues from other [TV] channels – you should go and tape your stories.
You can record newscasts, show these separatists. There is nothing bad in the word separatist. “Separa” means separation. They are for separating, but not from Ukraine, from Kiev. And the LPR representatives themselves use the word separatist, as a joke, as in: “look, there goes a separatist.”
I have reconsidered a great deal. According to [common] Lugansk notions, I am a stereotypical pravosek [a Right Sector activist]: I am from Ivano-Frankivsk, I performed journalistic work from the very first days on Maidan. And here I am, right in the very lair of separatism. To boot, I got there in a somewhat extraordinary fashion. I was preparing for an interview with the so-called Prime Minister of LPR, Messr. Nikitin, when, all of a sudden, there was [the sound of] the aerial attack siren. At that moment, I was in the Lugansk OGA [Oblast Government Administration Building]. I took my things and ran where everyone else was running. They ran into the basement.
You can only imagine – when I ran into the basement, Bolotov, Nikitin and all the fighters were standing right next to me. Everyone was waiting for the “All Clear” command. And I had the opportunity to observe these people for half an hour in a very nervous, non-trivial setting. I am not making this up – they are all sane, normal people. And it’s the truth – there is not one Chechen among them. They are motivated. And the most terrifying part – they will not lay down arms in reliance on promises by the government, they would rather die with their weapons in their hands. They realize that they committed a crime against the government, and, more likely than not, they will be returning fire. But, in addition to all that, they are all locals.
What’s [the source] of their motivation? They have, in a way, their own Maidan. Now it’s a war, but everything began just like Maidan did. They want to separate from Kiev, which only demands taxes, and sometimes manpower, and their votes, and in return leaves them to deal with their own problems: ecological, economic … And when I spoke to these people, they would tell me that they are not against Ukraine, they are for Ukraine, but they are for Lugansk [first and foremost]. [It is] because no one in Kiev looks past their own greed. And, however hard it may be for the politicians in Kiev to hear, they are the ones who provoked this massacre. This is fratricide.
Frankly speaking, I am in a state of shock. To think of it, in the 21st century, we are using “blind weapons” – mortars or rockets from aircraft. This is not precision weaponry, it results in a great many errors. Civilian population dies. They are heroes – on both sides. For a man, it is a deed, to part with his life for an idea. It is a very high price, and, for that reason alone, we must talk to them. But what have the civilians done wrong? What relation do peaceful journalists have to all of this? Hundreds of thousands of people watch [events] through my eyes. I also take risks, but I do not want to risk never again seeing my two daughters, my wife, my mother. And when the two Russian journalists died, I read on the Internet that they deserved it … Where is such hatred coming from? They were performing their jobs. And they were not saved by flack jackets or Kevlar helmets. They were killed by mortar fire. It’s when the person on the other end “throws [a shell] into a pipe” and has no idea where the charge will land. This is what is most terrifying – blind weaponry.
Aren’t there snipers, specially trained groups … Why “utilize” conscripts or ideological fanatics? I shot videos of the “Aidar” [Battalion]; they have very good training, but they are fresh recruits. How can you throw them against professionals? Because you can feel that the people in Lugansk have officer training. And during the rocket attack on Slavyansk, not one of the military personnel died, all of the killed were civilians – 12 people. It’s pure horror. But the real tragedy is that all the time I was there, I was the only accredited Ukrainian journalist. People are being blatantly lied to, as, for example, with [the lie] about the air conditioner on the Lugansk OGA building.
In January, in Ivano-Frankivsk, we also built barricades. And if a rocket had fallen at the OGA building then, if weapons had been used against us, I admit, frankly, that we also would have created the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic.”