Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 16.11.2017
On November 15, Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky. This is the first acknowledged direct communication between Putin, the leader of aggressor Russia, and the two men who are the figurehead leaders of two of Russia’s terrorist organizations, the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic.” Putin was giving orders to his subordinates about how he plans to further prosecute his war against Ukraine.
Normally, Putin deals at arm’s length with Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky. Vladislav Surkov acts as Putin’s “grey cardinal” between him and his Gauleiters in Donbas. Surkov regularly summons Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky to Moscow, or he meets them in Rostov-on-Don, or he crosses the border into Ukraine (illegally) and meets them in Donbas. Surkov and Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky are all sanctioned by the European Union, the United States, Canada, and other countries for war crimes committed during Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine.
Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky were nobodies before Russia’s invasion of Donbas, which began in earnest in April of 2014. They were very minor figures in the “Donbas mafia” which was the foundation of the Yanukovych Clan kleptocracy in Ukraine which was at its peak from 2010 to 2014. When Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014, Russian intelligence services created the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” as false fronts for its military occupation regime in Donetsk and Luhansk respectively. Nominal leadership of these Russia-created and Russia-financed terrorist organizations fluctuated in 2014 and 2015, but by 2016 Russian intelligence services had assassinated most of the independent terrorist commanders and settled on Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky to be the sole figureheads. A partial list of the Russian terrorist commanders assassinated by Putin’s agents includes Alexandr Bednov, Evgeny Ischenko, Alexey Mozgovoy, Pavel Dryomov, Mikhail Lesin, Alexandr Shushukin, Igor Sergun, Arseny Pavlov, and Mikhail Tolstykh. This bloodbath by Russian intelligence services left the two weakest and most compliant stooges alive: Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky. Guilty of savage war crimes and thoroughly corrupt, Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky both have the added benefit to Putin of being colossally stupid. Their witlessness means they pose no threat to Putin or to any of Putin’s plans to destroy Ukraine. Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky serve as “capos” of the crime syndicates in Donetsk and Luhansk. Stealing coal, stealing factories, and exploiting slave labour of Ukrainian hostages are major sources of income for the so-called “DPR” and “LPR.” They pay upwards to the “capo di tutti capi” who heads the overarching Russian crime syndicate: Putin.
The stated reason for Putin breaking with precedent and admitting to talking openly to his Gauleiters is to bring about an exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine. The Minsk Agreements require an “all-for-all” swap of hostages between the “sides”: Ukraine on the one side, and Russia on the other (but for appearances sake Russia insists its side be called “DPR” and “LPR”). The lists of detained persons were made long ago, but Russia has dragged its feet for 14 months and allowed no prisoner exchanges to take place in all that time. Until now, Putin has fed Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky with statements to make, where they fling crazy accusations against Ukraine and try to assign blame to Ukraine. By this means, Putin has prevented any progress from being made on the Minsk-required prisoner swap. Now it appears that Putin has changed his mind, and he wants to take the credit for the “humanitarian gesture” of initiating the hostage exchange – something he should have completed over a year ago. In a statement issued after the phone call, Kremlin propaganda said that Putin had “listened to the concerns” of Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky, as well as Viktor Medvedchuk (a Ukrainian oligarch) and Vladimir Gundyayev (Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate). All four of these men are bought-and-paid-for creatures of Putin. Putin was talking to himself when he was “consulting” his stooges.
Hundreds of Ukrainians are hostages of the Russian military occupation of Donbas. They are subject to harsh conditions, close confinement, torture, mental abuse, and they are used for slave labour. The “all-for-all” prisoner swap must take place, for their suffering to end and for them to be released out of the clutches of Muscovy and go to free Ukraine. It is unfortunate but necessary that hundreds of Russian criminals and terrorists will have to be released by the Ukrainian side for this to happen. But Putin is cornered, and realizes he cannot get away with with his procrastination any longer. He must respect the conditions of the Minsk Agreements and try to get a “good news” story out of doing so. But the world must never forget why Ukrainians are hostages of Russia inside Donbas – inside their own country – in the first place. It is because Putin made the evil and stupid decision to invade Ukraine in 2014. The Russian dictator is solely to blame for the war in Europe and for the hostage-taking in Donbas.