NOTE: Translated in a Rush; Subject to Change.
Original: Strelkov Info
Translated from Russian by Gleb Bazov / Edited by @GBabeuf
Note: this Interview was conducted prior to Igor Strelkov’s and the Militia’s breakout from Slavyansk.
Militiamen Alexander Zhuchkovskiy and Oleg Melnikov are both veterans of the defence of the village of Semyonovka, the very same one that the Kiev Junta practically erased from the face of the Earth. At first, Melnikov commanded the group that eliminated enemy fire correctors, and later was in charge of erecting reinforcements around Semyonvoka. Zhuchkovskiy, apart from participating in the defence of the village, dealt with the transportation of volunteers into Novorossiya. Oleg and Alexander answered the journalists’ questions.
Question: How long can you hold in a siege?
A. Zhuchkovskiy: Indefinitely. If they don’t maintain a full blockade, you can hold. But if all the population leaves—it’d become hard-going. Then they’d start bombing everything in sight.
O. Melnikov: People don’t want to leave the area. If all the inhabitants had left, it would have made the task easier both for Ukrainian forces and for Strelkov. He can’t prosecute a war from the streets of the city; he can’t erect firing positions in the city, putting civilians in the way of weapons fire and shells. He can’t behave like they do in the Gaza Strip, where they launch rockets from the busiest areas, which the Israeli Air Force then bombs. This man has principles. All the firing positions are outside of the city. This is done so as not to attract artillery fire on to the civilian population.
Question: Well, but they still bombed Chervonopartisansk a week ago. What for?
O. Melnikov: Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with this specific episode, but the Ukrainian army has been given the task of bombarding residential areas, not the Militia’s fortifications. The goal is to cause a massive exodus, thereby also to elicit discontent against the militiamen. It works the other way around—people become embittered when they see their loved ones die. We had a person whose wife was executed by the National Guard (NazGuard). Without a second thought, he picked up an SVD [Note: the Dragunov sniper rifle] and went to hunt the NazGuard. A risk-taker, isn’t he? He’s about fifty-five years old. And he was enrolled in the Militia without any hesitation.
In general, though, very different people join the Militia. One time a nineteen year-old guy came in. We asked him why he came to us, and he answered: “To defend my Motherland.” Seems like he’s in no way “brainwashed” by anyone and studies in some technical school.
A. Zhuchkovskiy: When you hear people talk about the Motherland in Moscow or in St. Petersburg, it sounds amusing; but when you hear the same things here, from ordinary people, it sounds genuine. A guy came to the barricades of the Lugansk Militia, saying that he’d forgotten his documents but that he was twenty-two years old. We went to Slavyansk, but then his parents arrived and said that he was only seventeen. So we brought him back.
Question: Explain, finally, is there a unified administrative centre in Novorossiya, even if only a military one? Are there unified headquarters that decide which detachments go where?
O. Melnikov: There’s a common idea—the creation of a new state, the formation of a democratic and a free state. There’s also a kind of decentralization that stems from the fact that it’s difficult to build anything concrete in wartime. There are formal military leaders, but they’re just formal; I can’t say that they everyone subordinates to each other. In short, there is a common path that everyone is treading. There are a lot of people from Kharkov and from Dnepropetrovsk that can’t organize resistance in their own towns, and, like Poland or Czechoslovakia, they’re forming resistance units in other neighbouring countries.
A. Zhuchkovskiy: There isn’t one and there’ll never be one. Strelkov is kind of like a Commander-in-Chief, but he can’t leave Slavyansk and performs his functions only as a defender of Slavyansk, and hence is physically unable to discharge his duties as a Minister of Defence.
Question: And what about Mariupol—is that it?
A. Zhuchkovskiy: Yes. They polished it with artillery and then sent down punitive units and purged the city district by district. This tactic proved itself in Mariupol, which, furthermore, was weak to begin with.
O. Melnikov: Besides that, Mariupol is also far removed. After securing Mariupol, the Kiev government practically gave up on Donetsk and Lugansk. For example, they’re setting up an interim administration in Mariupol. De facto, it seems to me, they’re preparing for the surrender of the entire region where DPR and LPR are situated.
Question: When you kill Ukrainian soldiers, do you regret it?
O. Melnikov: I’ll be frank—I feel no hatred toward the enemy. I feel sorry for the Ukrainian soldiers, I feel sorry for the entire people that is forced to take part in a fratricidal war. There are many who do not want it, this war that nobody needs. If you speak long enough with any militiaman, he’ll tell you: “But we always lived together.” It’s true, the Ukrainian soldiers, it seems to me, the less confident they are—and they’re not very confident—the more they display cruelty. This, on its own, is very terrifying.
A. Zhuchkovskiy: But the tensions are growing on all sides. NazGuards are fiercely cruel. They’re a major irritant. It even gets to the point where Praviy Sector shoots NazGuards. They’re fractured. There are three separate structures: pravoseki [Note: Praviy Sector militants], NazGuards and the Army. If they didn’t exist, we’d be having a much harder time. As it is, however, our forces are about equal. They have the quantity, and we, the quality.
Question: And where do the majority of volunteers come from?
O. Melnikov: They’re more locals, who aren’t as ideologically charged. They simply can’t accept when they and their close ones are being killed. About seventy percent comes from the local population, twenty percent—people from other regions of Ukraine, and the rest—volunteers from around the world.
A. Zhuchkovskiy: The flow from Russia and Belarus is constantly increasing. It all depends on the news that comes in. Each punitive operation motivates more and more people. There were two peaks—the tragedy in Odessa and Strelkov’s address [Note: in which Strelkov was critical about the lack of local volunteers]. Now the flow grows, slowly but surely. We know first-hand—people write to ask, ask to transport them.
Question: Are there professionals who come?
A. Zhuchkovskiy: Very few. Roughly speaking, there’s about one professional for every fifty men.
O. Melnikov: A professional is a person who’s been to a hotspot: Chechnya or Afghanistan. And even then, of three who write, only one makes it here.
Question: Rumours are circulating about the transfer of volunteers; they say that they walk on foot at night, that NazGuard and Praviy Sector units patrol the forests of Novorossiya and shoot anyone that crosses the border.
A. Zhuchkovskiy: Oh, all these stories… Over the last month and a half we helped an average of three people a day cross the border. Everyone made it. And then they write to me: which unit they joined, which detachment. No one butchered anyone, no one got killed. There are skirmishes here and there, but I think that Ukrainian propaganda generates myths specifically to scare people off.
O. Melnikov: I haven’t encountered any. Something tells me that the Ukrainians are themselves afraid to poke their noses out at night.
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