Famed Anti-Russian Journalist Switches Sides, Now Supports Donbass
Andrey Babitsky says the West is willing to use fascism in Ukraine as long as it gets the job done - destroying Russia
Celebrity Radio Liberty journalist Andrey Babitsky was fired after supporting Russia’s welcoming back of Crimea and support for the Donbass resistance movement. This surprised those who remembered his reports during the Chechen Wars, when he sided with the rebels and was briefly detained by the Russian military, sparkling a worldwide campaign in his defense.
He had been living and working in the Donbass for several months now and explains why he made this choice to the famous Russian writer Zakhar Prilepin.
Babitsky: For me there was no choice. I have a friend who regularly gives me the usual liberal argument: imagine a shared apartment, and people take over a room. And I tell him that this analogy works when it comes to territory, but it doesn’t work with people. The people were unhappy because it was not their choice to remain in the Ukraine, and Russian politicians gave them an opportunity to correct this historical injustice. Territorial integrity is fine when it isn’t contrary to people’s interests.
Prilepin: Was this your opinion before the Crimea?
— Of course. During the last four years that I worked at Radio Liberty I slammed Saakashvili. He’s the most loathsome politician of the former Soviet area, his anti-democratic behavior disguised as liberal values. He created a real police-state, his people were more fearful than they had been since Stalin. He’s an ex-Soviet Pinochet.
— Is that why Georgians rejected him, while Poroshenko and part of the Ukrainian establishment embrace him with open arms?
— It’s not because Georgians are an exceptionally freedom-loving people, but because what happened there is beyond the pale: thousands of people were jailed, tortured, their property redistributed, their lives ruined. Saakashvili eliminated low-level corruption but it thrived among the elites!
I think people had just become tired. A former Soviet population can’t handle total freedom yet, but they’re not ready to give up all freedom.
— They are, if you take the Ukraine.
— Well, no. Georgia too had a Nazi frenzy, but they are gradually getting rid of it. I think the same will happen to the Ukraine.
— What do the Georgia and Ukraine have in common?
— Nationalism. From the beginning, the Russian service at ‘Radio Liberty’ touted democratic values – freedom of assembly, expression and everything else, but for the national services the idea was nationalism.
— And now fascism is acceptable?
— Yes, fascism is acceptable if it works, as they say, ‘for us, against our enemy’. Nationalism in Russia’s near-abroad is considered an ally. The same thing happens both to Moldova and Georgia as well as to the Ukraine, and it’s to bring down Russia.
— When did you write your first column about this on ‘Radio Liberty’?
— In April 2014. In an address to the Russian Parliament Vladimir Putin mentioned ‘national-traitors’ and ‘a fifth column’, which I didn’t consider myself part of. I supported Putin’s decision concerning the Crimea, but I said he had to guarantee the safety of a small minority who were against the annexation.
At the time, my work environment had become openly hostile. I was removed as chief editor of ‘Echo of Caucasus’ – a division of ‘Radio Liberty’, and transferred to the most insignificant, most miserable service: Moldova.
Moldova is a beautiful country but there isn’t much to do. So I asked to be sent to the Donbass.
At one point, in the village of Novosvetlovka, they opened a grave and pulled out four people shot by the ‘Aidar’ battalion that had been there until the Lugansk militia took them out. I filmed and wrote about the exhumation of bodies that the locals said had been shot by the ‘Aidar’ battalion. The Ukrainian service went berserk. I don’t know what it’s like today, because I haven’t worked there for over a year, but at that time they were the ‘Radio Liberty’ gestapo. They fired me – right on my birthday. I don't mind it now, it was the right decision. I really hated even just to enter the building.
— And finally you moved to the Donbass.
— Yes, at the end of October – moved and that’s it. Now I live here.
— Tell us about domestic policy in the Donbass. What are they doing right and wrong?
— Some things are really good, for example, when police patrols, one of the most important symbols of the state, began appearing on the streets, The most important thing is public safety, everything is built on that. Reforming the army, taking control of the militia units – all that was absolutely right. People with guns, sometimes not even sober, have disappeared from the streets. They started with the most important thing, establishing public safety. The second thing I like here is the lack of political pressure. There’s no opposition, so there’s no complicated political life, no political parties…
— Have you noticed there are no large pro-Russian political parties?
— The Donbass itself is a large pro-Russian political party. It’s important for me that it has come back to Russia, but in a more severe capitalist situation, it’s not immune to serious Russian problems.
— Like what?
— I mean bureaucracy, not corruption. In that sense, the Ukraine outdoes Russia.
But these problems are the price they pay for self-determination, for knowing they are Russians who belong to a great culture.
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