Orhan Dzhemal: I am very interested in the political situation in the LPR, because the war is still going on, but there is a lot of talk about post-war state-building. I understand that the complexity of the process is most clearly manifested in Lugansk.
Alexei Mozgovoi: It’s still too early to talk about post-war construction. Just because there is a truce does not mean that there is peace. Almost all of our attention is still drawn to the front line.
But as I understand it, many recent heroes of the LPR, well-known field commanders, have had difficulties with the leadership of the republic.
Not difficulties with the leadership, but with the policy pursued by the leadership.
And what is this policy?
Well, let’s just say it does not quite correspond to the demands that people put forward at rallies in March and April of last year. Then they all loudly declared that the most important thing was the well-being of the people. And now what do we see? What remains of the people is the letter “P” in the name of the LPR.
In my opinion, if we are to build something new, let alone build, say, a part of Novorossiya, we have to move away from all previous methods of government, previous dealings with the human being, and create something new. Initially, in my opinion, there should be transparency in all things. Transparency and clarity for every resident. If an official takes a step, it should be understandable. If any decision is made, even if it is not brought up for discussion among the people, then at least that decision must be made transparent. To make it clear – do the people need it or just the bureaucrats.
What actually takes place?
In fact, we have a return to the old ways. Corruption is through the roof. The use of administrative resources belongs to the head of the republic, just as it belonged to the head of the Lugansk region [when it was part of Ukraine]. The TV and press only work to show how much we love our leader. Just like before.
Does your unit [Prizrak or Ghost Brigade] have problems with the military command?
Initially, they tried to break us up. That's what they told us: "We will take you into the army of the LPR, but only as additions to previously formed units.” That is, their task was to disperse us, make us join other units so that we would cease to exist.
But now you will be included in the developing military structure?
We are included. We exist as a brigade. We are under the command of the military chief of the LPR.
But I want to say something about the complete blocking of humanitarian aid which our division received. We fed the local population, we have four dining rooms here, and people came to eat: miners, factory workers, residents of small villages, students from kindergartens and schools. We shared it all with the civilian population. It's also blocked.
What is blocked?
It is now impossible to bring in humanitarian aid.
Aid that people from Russia and elsewhere brought to you. Where have the obstacles arisen?
Yes, from everywhere, including the Customs Office of the Russian Federation. We’ve seen the last load, probably. In Yekaterinburg, a whole unit of volunteers gathered, and brought with them goods, humanitarian aid, including for the civilian population. They carried their belongings, brought food, medicines and equipment to be taken to hospitals. The cargo was not allowed through customs because it exceeded a certain tonnage. All five tons were held by customs at the border. And who can even set a tonnage limit on humanitarian aid, if it is humanitarian? In general, they are cutting us off from supplies to make us dependent. This is one of the levers of control.
Is there a centralized supply of humanitarian goods? Do you get something from that?
Every time in the media we see how these convoys come, there is pomp and extravagance, but I have not seen even once how the aid is distributed. Why aren't the same cameras filming the distribution of this aid in remote villages?
Does it reach these remote villages?
I do not know. I do not interpret. We were just recently in the village of Frunze, talking with a grandfather who worked for 40 years on the railroad, and in nine months he’s gotten nothing.
Do you associate it with bureaucratic confusion or corruption?
War is such an interesting thing: some die, others reap huge profits. Humanitarian aid is one of the sources of such income. The more there is, the more will be stolen.
And do you know who diverts the stream and profits from it?
I have not investigated, so I can’t say. Without knowing for certain who is to blame, it would just be spreading rumors and gossip. But, even though I cannot give specific names, the government and the administration should bear the responsibility.
And what scheme would you propose for delivery of humanitarian aid?
As we have done from the start, by targeting it. A children's hospital or other facility gives us a list of what they need. We passed on the list to humanitarian organizations, they send help according to this list, and we deliver the goods on camera to those who need it.
Do you want private foundations to work with you directly?
Well, I don’t want anything, much less demand it. I just see the difference between government transfers that in fact no one controls, and private providers, who will not allow their cargo to disappear somewhere.
You have a lot of large enterprises in this territory. Are you a supporter of nationalization?
Nationalization should not be reckless. Many shares of the Alchevsk metallurgical works now belong to one of the Moscow banks, not only to the people from Dnepropetrovsk, not only Kolomoisky. But you can’t touch the plant now, it relies on Europe. If we act rashly, the plant will remain without consumers for its products. To regain the niche that it now has would be very hard. And it employs 15,000 people. Some people wanted to take it over, but we explained that it is impossible to do so. You can nationalize it, but whom will it employ without an external market? As we move forward we must watch carefully.
The Verkhovna Rada adopted a law on the occupied territories. What’s your attitude to this law?
To be honest, I have not delved into it. I can’t take the laws adopted by the current Rada and government in Kiev seriously.
Can you permit a situation where elections are held according to Ukrainian law?
We live under the old Ukrainian laws now, nothing has changed, so I would not be surprised. Many older employees, policemen, returned to their positions without any verification. I understand that we need experts, but in Severodonetsk [seat of regional administration – author’s note] they take everybody who served the previous regime, and today they serve us …
Do you allow such people in Alchevsk?
Yes, we do not delve into it, we are a military unit. I have always said that civilians must manage people in civilian clothes.
Do they take high positions?
Well, when it comes to military positions, there are those who previously wore sergeant’s epaulets who are now colonels.
Will elections be held in Alchevsk?
It’s being planned. That is the position taken by our government. Right now everything is at an impasse. It turns out that the date of the election can be declared just beforehand by the head of the republic, even a few hours before the elections. Who has time to prepare?
Do you plan to remain in the military or will you participate in politics?
Of course I will.
It’s a secret. Let those who don’t know keep guessing!
To you, what is victory in this civil war?
In this war there will be no victory.
When can you stop, at least?
Let’s stop when most people understand that they were being used for "earnings." On the one hand and on the other. Nothing new there. War has always been and will always be a business. The biggest victory is if we create a power that will think about the people. Not winning the war, but victory over ourselves, our consciousness.
And people are already feeling that everything is somehow wrong?