Part I: Introduction
Here is video interview with Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) Lieutenant-Colonel Mikhail Tolstykh, call-sign “Givi”, Commander of the so-called “Somali Battalion”. This exclusive interview was a big “get” for Голос Новороссии (“Voice of Novorossiya”).
In Part II of this piece, which will be posted hopefully later today, after I get home from work, I will attempt to translate fragments of Givi’s interview into English.
For those who don’t know of Givi, this guy is the epitome of the “common man” who “answered the call” and joined the Resistance. American propaganda used to claim that, e.g., “Syrian Resistance” were just ordinary bakers, cobblers, university professors, etc., who rose up against Bashar al-Assad’s tyrannical rule and became Resistance Fighters. In most case, this was empty propaganda, since the so-called Resistance Fighters were actually hardened Islamists trained in special camps.
In the case of Givi, however, this romantic narrative is literally true. In a jaded world, Givi is the real deal. Givi was just an ordinary working stiff living and surviving in the Donbass region of the troubled post-independence Ukraine; amongst his various jobs, at one time Givi worked in a rope factory; later he worked as a security guard in a grocery store.
In Russian history there are these types, the “self-called” ones. The Russian word for “self-called” is самозванец, which usually has a negative connotation (=”Imposter”), as in Dmitry the Imposter, or Dmitry the Pretender. These are little people who pretend to be greater than they are, in order to seize power.
The flip side of this are the Ополчение, the Resistance, the Russian base, little people who feel the call to take up arms against oppressors and/or invaders. These are people who are not seeking the throne, and expect nothing in return for their sacrifices. Unlike Dmitry the Pretender, they do not have a beautiful Polish princess waiting for them in a Western capital. These self-called soldiers are usually not rewarded by the Tsar, and don’t even get the girl at the end of the story. Examples abound in Russian history, including such figures as Ivan Susanin, the Cossacks who defended Moscow against Napoleon, and …. Givi.
After the Maidan putsch, Givi “answered the call” and became a Resistance Fighter. He turned out to have qualities which make him a splendid soldier, most noticeably an almost complete lack of physical fear. Givi first came to public attention on youtube, when a video showed him giving an interview in the middle of a Grad shelling. Barely blinking an eye, Givi, instead of hitting the ground or dodging the shells, calmly continues the interview and even picks up a hot burning fragment of a shell, to show the interviewer:
Later, the world followed Givi through his other exploits: His fighting at the ruined Donetsk Airport, his friendship with Motorola (another famous Resistance fighter), his escapes from various attempts on his life. Givi’s fans were entranced by his Caucasian good looks (check out those eyebrows, they are almost perfect, and I am pretty sure he doesn’t have them “done”), Givi’s chattery patter, and his odd dialect and accent – for example, he cannot pronounce the letter “R”, which is supposed to be a nice rolling one in standard Russian; instead, in Givi’s mouth it turns into a throaty “ghhhaa” kind of of sound.
Givi is much-hated by Ukrainian nationalists, but considered a hero by Russians. Several times he was declared dead, or wounded, by his enemies, and then popped up again. One time he dived out of a moving car that was being struck by a hail of machine-gun bullets. Like a cat, Givi has nine lives. And all the time he is calm and keeps his sense of humor, only his incessant smoking habit showing how months of brutal warfare can tell on a man’s nervous system.
[to be continued]….