Interview with a Madman

The Moscow weekly Novaya Gazeta, which is the last independent newsmagazine left in Russia that has a critical stance towards the Kremlin, has published an extended interview with Aleksandr Boroday, the Russian national who until recently was the “prime minister” of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) in eastern Ukraine. As I’ve previously reported, Boroday is an odd duck who has an extensive history with Russian intelligence, what they call the “special services” in Moscow, as well as strong connections with Russia’s hard-line nationalist scene. He stepped down on 7 August, in favor of Aleksandr Zakharchenko, an actual Ukrainian, with Boroday becoming the “deputy prime minister” of the ailing pseudo-state, which is in slow-motion collapse under pressure from Kyiv’s advancing armed forces.

Boroday has long been known for his vehement views, and they are on full display in this rambling interview, conducted by Pavel Kanygin, which gives the subject many opportunities to castigate his foes and rivals. The interview is remarkable for both its tone and content, which demonstrate how far removed from earth orbit is the worldview of the motley band of fanatics and mercenaries that Vladimir Putin has employed to destabilize eastern Ukraine. I am passing on some highlights that clarify Boroday’s unique perspective.

Kanygin interviews his subject in a non-descript DNR building in Donetsk, with “almost nothing at all to catch the eye in the office unless you count the portrait of Putin.” Boroday speaks with a pistol strapped to his waist, which he takes out on several occasions as he walks around the office, talking to the reporter. Shellfire is heard in the distance, not far from the city. Boroday belligerently denies suggestions that Ukrainian forces are closing in on the DNR “capital”:  “The Ukrainian so-called military, all those gangsters, mercenaries, and all kind of scum, including the military, are trying to encircle us. They are making a bad job of it.” Kanygin notes that he saw absolutely no DNR forces in the city, asking a question about it, leading to this remarkable reply:

Q: Your combatants are not to be seen in the city at all.

A: You should not forget that today is a day off.

Puzzled, the interviewer continues, asking Boroday about his own safety, citing reports that Russian special services have him, along with several other DNR higher-ups, on a death list, as targets for liquidation. This suggestion Boroday brushes off:

I remind you that I am a Russian citizen and somehow I have difficulty in imagining the Russian special services launching certain operations against me. And against any other leader of the Luhansk or Donetsk Republic. That’s bullshit. My bodyguard protects me from the enemy, from the Kyiv junta, from their mercenaries. And it is absolutely not protecting me from the Russian special services, because I don’t need that.

This provides a segue to a revealing discussion about just exactly what and whom Boroday considers to be Russian. This leads to analysis of the inverted world that is the DNR:

Q: Who then are the separatists?

A: The Kyiv junta are separatists. Because there is a gigantic Russian world which has formed over millennia. This is a common civilization — Russian, Belarusian, and Little Russian. For hundreds of years we had a common state which was forged with sweat and blood.

Q: Fine. But where are the borders of this state?

A: They are known. Where the Russian language is heard, where Russian culture is active, where Russian blood has been shed…

It bears noting that the term Boroday uses for Ukraine is “Little Russian” (малороссийская), a Tsarist-era term; he avoids using the actual name for Europe’s second-largest country. Moreover, his definition of what constitutes Russia now is remarkably similar to the 1990s definition employed by Serbian nationalists to define the boundaries of Greater Serbia: “Wherever there are Serbian graves.”

Unsurprisingly, Kanygin’s observation that Russians have shed blood for Estonia also is dodged by Boroday, who is reluctant to openly advocate aggression against a member of NATO and the European Union. Nevertheless, he does state that he wishes to discuss “the borders of the Russian Empire in 1913” — which would include all the Baltic states as well as much of present-day Poland.

Boroday then mentions his comrade in arms Igor Ivanovich Girkin, AKA Strelkov, the Russian mystery man who until recently was the DNR’s “defense minister.” Boroday admits that he has known Strelkov, “one of our highly trained military men,” since their mutual involvement in Russian military adventures in Moldova twenty years ago. Bizarrely, he recalls that Strelkov, a devoted reenactor hobbyist, repeatedly invited Boroday to attend Napoleonic War reenactments with him, which he declined. It has been reported that Strelkov, too, is under secret death warrant by his former Kremlin masters, leading to this bizarre exchange about him:

Q: But he may not survive?

A: I am not prepared to discuss that.

After a meandering walk through the confusing politics of the DNR as seen via Boroday’s odd prism, the subject then removes an object covered in tinfoil from a bag, explaining to the reporter, “This is my Moscow telephone, an iPhone, it’s wrapped up in many layers of tinfoil as a security measure.”

Q: Why?

A: The GPS satellites get confused and cannot identify my whereabouts.

Q: But you turn it on when you enter Russia?

A: Absolutely right. I turn it on when I enter the Russian Federation. But when I am here not a single telephone call from Moscow reaches me here in the Donetsk republic. That’s all there is to it. I also have a local telephone with a local number 

Q: I don’t understand., Surely people can phone you from Moscow on this telephone?

A; They can, but they don’t.

Inevitably the issue of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, shot down near Donetsk on 17 July with the death of 298 innocent people, comes up, with Boroday brushing off questions about DNR reactions to the disaster, specifically why international investigators were kept from the crash site for nearly a week, as “more bullshit.” Naturally, Boroday places all blame for the shootdown on the Ukrainians, leading the interviewer to inquire why his subject is certain of this:

Q: How did you establish the Kyiv junta was to blame?

A: You know this is so obvious that in principle there is no need of proof. You must understand, this is a simple matter…

Q: What does ‘obvious’ mean, Aleksandr Yuryevich?

A: Please don’t interrupt me.

As a distraction, Boroday goes on extended rant about the supposed “fifth column” inside the DNR — and even in Russia itself — which, he maintains, “this fourteen percent, unfortunately, have a quite high level of social activity.” This leads to a further explanation:

Yes. I am saying that our fifth column is large and profuse. Accounts in Switzerland, homes in London or somewhere on the Cote d’Azur, this is all the fifth column. But there are those among its ranks who are sitting around doing damage on the social networking sites. Incidentally, let me note that I am not on the social networking sites. What I am saying is that when I arrived in Moscow, I found to my surprise that I had a presence on Facebook and Twitter. But I state officially: This is not me, this is a fake. I have a negative attitude toward social networking sites. Because the sites are an opportunity to manipulate public consciousness.

Kanygin asks about the relationship between the DNR and Kyiv, particularly in light of recent military successes in the east registered by Ukrainian forces. He inquires about the possibility of a long-term truce with Kyiv, leading Boroday to explain, “We are certainly not prepared to conclude a peace on capitulation terms.” When asked about his objectives, Boroday’s response is revealing:

Q: But what is your aim? To create two autonomous regions inside Ukraine?

A: But there is no longer any Ukraine. It does not exist, because the state has in fact collapsed. There are no authorities and there is no longer a country.

Q: But the country has elected its president by a majority

A: But how could it elect when there was no vote in Crimea, Donetsk, or Luhansk? Three enormous oblasts have split from Ukraine. That means it is no longer the same country. And the authorities who have now become entrenched in Kyiv emerged as the result of an armed coup.

Q: The same can be said of you: There was a seizure of power in Donetsk and you organized a junta. And you have looters and gangsters here.

To that, Boroday has no coherent answer. He then flatly denies that any journalists have been abducted by DNR forces, despite evidence to the contrary. Kanygin inquires about reports that DNR military police have been shooting people, leading to this astonishing reply:

Q; And the shootings authorized in Slovyansk by Girkin by Stalin’s edict from 1941 — what was that?

A: We have a tribunal in operation — a military field court martial which regularly authorizes shooting sentences. Why? Because martial law has been introduced in our republic with all ensuing consequences. Yes, some looters and deserters and, thank God, there have not been many of them, have been shot.

After a final citation of the interviewer as “a representative of enemy media,” Boroday concludes his discussion. The magazine appended this as a concluding line: “P.S. Novaya Gazeta‘s chief editor has left A. Boroday’s interview without comment.”

What to comment, indeed?



22 comments on “Interview with a Madman”
  1. thesurlybeaver says:

    You get the sense, that Borodin is of use to the Russian security services, but that few tears would be shed should there be a Ukrainian shell or bullet with his name on it.

    1. WJM says:

      Well, it sure gives an entirely new meaning to the term ‘useful idiots’.

      ‘Useful madman’ being the superlative?

  2. WJM says:

    Was trying to find the source in English on the Novaya Gazeta site, but I only see Russian/Cyrillic?
    (not for being suspicious; just wanting to have the source as a link to post on other forums (no need to invite the obnoxious desinformed Putin-Versteher to this forum….;))

    Ah yes, while searching & reading again, I see the original is also much longer.

    Oh well, for the comments there I need to throw it through Google-translate anyway….;))

    1. 20committee says:

      Russian only on NG, sorry

  3. beelza says:

    So he is basically Jim Jones v2.0

    1. WJM says:

      The thought of dozens of script-writers around the globe fanatically trying to keep track of all this lunacy has crossed my mind more than once before, but offers only little comfort.

      If only because the damn plot hasn’t been finished yet.

      1. WJM says:

        Hmm….let me rephrase that.

        The script-writers are already in control, cq they themselves look as if they stepped out of a movie….a bad one that is.


        Finding competent, charismatic leaders for the separatist forces and governments has always been hard. At various times, senior positions have been held by the owner of a dog behavior school, a man who performed as Santa Claus, the operator of a Ponzi scheme and a reputed organized crime boss. But with the rebels’ sagging military fortunes, the quest for able leadership has grown desperate. Mr. Berezin’s elevation to deputy minister of defense, by his own account in part owing to his literary accomplishments, is a case in point.

        He was an aide to Mr. Strelkov, a Russian citizen and staff officer of the Federal Security Service until last year. “He was the ingredient that crystallized the whole structure,” Mr. Berezin said of Mr. Strelkov, who also led the covert Russian military takeover of Crimea. Mr. Berezin said he opposed Mr. Strelkov’s resignation.

        Mr. Berezin now serves under a little-known fellow Ukrainian, Mr. Kononov, who uses the nickname “the czar” in his duties as defense minister. Before the war, Mr. Berezin, 54, supplemented book proceeds with a day job as a purchasing official for a university, buying janitorial supplies. In the 1980s, he served in the Soviet Army with a rank of captain.

        His eyes light up when talk turns to war, though not the kind raging on the outskirts of this besieged city, but rather battles fought in outer space between the Brashis and the Ararbacs, two civilizations on the planet Gaeia and in parallel dimensions from one of his novels.

        In the rest of the article, he also makes a reference to the Spanish civil war, attracting many foreiners….

        Perhaps a question only historians could answer:
        Have we ever seen a war with that many lunatics and madmen?

        Willem (thinks the term ‘madman’ could use some redefining also) Jan

        PS: this dazzing concept of old-script-writer annex lead-actor annex new-script-writer also resembles an eiry Droste-Cacao-Box effect….a mirror in a mirror in a mirror in a mirror….:))

  4. WJM says:

    Btw, as a side-note, on Igor Girkin, and his reenactments….it must have been noted before, by others, here or elsewhere, but in case not:

    The resemblance with Tsar Peter III is striking and eiry, bordering on freaky.
    Both the military reenactments and their ailing/feeble/inferior appearance.
    “Throughout his life, he showed no interest in science: He hated Latin, and after becoming emperor he banned Latin books from his library. Still, he was fond of the arts – an impressionable and nervous boy, he enjoyed music and painting. Peter’s true passion was for military parades and uniforms, and he dreamt of being a world-famous military commander.”

    In a long TV-documentary (multi-sequence IIRC) on Catharina the Great (his wife/successor), this childish military affection of Peter is lovely cultivated, him playing with toy soldiers, hundreds at a time, interluded with bursts of rage, wiping out the entire board, and playing Prussian military tunes….
    (this was most likely a German/French (Arte) co-production, so I am not sure if it ever made it across the pond, in English translation, but it sure helps understanding Russia a tad more)

    The first I managed to find, but somehow not the one I had in mind, much more extensive on that topic:

    Willem (finding himself suddenly in one bad movie after the other) Jan

    “Der Stoff, aus dem die Alptraeume sind.”

    Oh btw, docu about the ‘Kremlin-youth’, putting stickers on illegal parking cars….a docu that I had seen before, but only now I notice the interesting discrepancy between the forces of Kremlin, vs that of the corrupt nomenclatura (most of the fighting hotshots are offspring of higher officials, per the comments):

    And on a related topic, the abuse of blue flashlights by Russian VIP’s, annex maffiosi….the start of a civil counter movement being the death of mother and daughter, by a KGB-general, complete coverup, starting at the crime-scene:

    All side-notes, but several get new meanings over time….haunting ones that is.

    (I once had the goal/hope to reenact my own oldtimer-rally, in 2016, 10 years later, just for the fun of it, comparing developments along the road over time, but as in the entire century before, the window of opportunity to reach China by land, easily & comfortably, is a fast-changing one)
    (in 2006, we had a Polish mechanic that had done the same trip in 1997, that was already a nice yet rare benchmark to compare things with)

    1. 20committee says:

      What a saga ….

      1. WJM says:

        Btw, another puzzling & slightly disturbing observation from that same trip in 2006, also not devoid of ‘madman’ assocations:

        While approaching the Ural mountains from the west, we were met with a staggering amount of west-Russians having *no* fidelity whatsoever in our oldtimer-convoy, that we would make it to Lake Baikal, not to mention Mongolia/China.
        No, that wasn’t just about confidence in the vehicles.
        No, that wasn’t just about confidence in the drivers.
        No, that wasn’t just about the quality of the roads (or better: absence thereof)
        But for really & deeply believing that east of the Ural the roads were riddled not just with abyss-deep potholes, but foremost with thugs and criminals.
        (I think they meant the private ones, although in hindsight I am less sure….8-))
        Apparently/presumably, a vast amount of west-Russians never crossed the Ural, nor did they have any aspiration to do so, even less by car (which as such doesn’t surprise, only capitalist idiots and Wladiwostok car traders do things like that).

        My point: if west-Russians have thoughts like that about their own country, then the paranoia for what lays beyond those borders, even in the west, might not be that surprising.
        A medieval state in more than just one aspect….

        Haven’t faced much corruption/bribery during the trip, luckily, and only got stopped once, for crossing a center line while overtaking, but the poor buggar was way too overwhelmed with the daunting task of reading a foreign driver’s license, so even that didn’t cost me anything.

      2. WJM says:

        As a last side-note on the (ab)use of blue flashlights by Russians VIPs and other maffia, and what happens if ordinary citizens run into one of their ‘convoys’, here a high-ranking one, if the description is correct; FSO(KGB) Director/General Eugene A.:
        (creepy: Google-Translate doesn’t want to complete his last name….Евгением Алексеевичем)

        (did run into a larger convoy once back then, approaching me from behind, but the road was too busy and narrow to pull over, so I didn’t budge….being in a firetruck myself, I even replied the gesture by switching on my own horn & flashlights repeatedly….don’t think this guy’s opinion on foreigners improved much that day….:))

        (there are more possible interesting FSO/FSB-samples in that Youtube section, but the text is often just in the video itself, or only spoken, and I am not that fluent in Russian at all….;))

        Madmania everywhere….

  5. Alex Kachmar says:

    There are no Rossian separatists. Just Rossian Imperialists.

    1. WJM says:

      Perhaps one could/should look at it as a more implicit aspect of Special War?

      Split, support/destruct, re-emerge, re-merge, ad-infinitum.

      If your enemy can’t figure out such ‘barrier-states’, fiend or foe, and/or dazzled such that they always act after the fact, then the goal of the motherland is achieved.
      It’s like creating a swamp, instead of a tank-trench.
      Different thing, same result.

      (thought of incorporating the analogy of a soft unterbelly of such a mother-state, but that mental image got messy pretty quick)

  6. Marko says:

    That interview brought me back to the 1990, war in Croatia. This could easily be interview with any of Serbian separatist leaders that were actual during that era. The tone, words, almost all is the same…

    1. WJM says:

      Perhaps there are connections with the Japanese maffia too, more than just the Russians?….:))

  7. WJM says:

    Wasn’t sure where to post this article, about inner-Russian politics/frenzies, but then figured it would perfectly match the title of this report….

    Short: Khabarovsk, blogger arrested by FSB on accusation of running a “gay terrorist underworld”.
    (yes, you read that correctly, I’m not sloppy on my proofreadings)
    Russian Blogger Says Interrogated for Creating ‘Gay Terrorist Underworld’

    The St. Petersburg Times

    Published: August 30, 2014 (Issue # 1826)

    (WJ’s favorite)

    On Thursday, he posted several photos of benches painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag in Khabarovsk, with the caption: “Politically incorrect benches in a courtyard in Khabarovsk. I’m curious, is the anti-extremism department already searching for those who painted them?”

    Seems the paranoia in the Russian Far East, against home-brew separatists, has reached a new low.
    (or a new chapter in the combined verses from ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’)

    Madmania is spreading fast.

    PS Russian Far East, a few fascinating recent articles why Putemkin should fear these homebrew separatists in more than just one context, with every next mile going eastwards:

    (also wondering how much longer it will take for Putemkin to join ISIS, for finding a match in his homophobia)

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