This piece from VZGLIAD is technically about a POW exchange between the Ukraine and the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR). The piece is actually all about exposing President Poroshenko’s love for lying and self-PR. Via a cunning trap set for him, by men who know him all too well.
The subject of the story is Ukrainian Major Andrei Grechanov. Grechanov was one of the Ukrainian officers fighting to keep the Donetsk Airport in Ukrainian hands. This ragtag group eventually lost, and the ruined airport passed to rebel hands. However, the Ukrainian government and pro-Maidan side turned the airport into a symbol of glory (not unlike Texans with the “Alamo”). The ragtag defenders were called “cyborgs” because supposedly they could take any amount of punishment from the Rebs, and just keep coming and coming. And Major Grechanov, who was taken prisoner there, was glorified as “Cyborg #1”, and became the symbol of “Free Ukraine” herself. A ferocious propaganda and PR battle was waged in the Ukrainian media to keep his cause alive, and to free him from Rebel captivity.
Major Grechanov, the leader of the 81st airborne Brigade (call sign “Rakhman”) became famous in the Ukraine, this past April, when TV featured him in a 2-hour special called “Cyborgs: The Unbroken”.
By the time of Grechanov’s capture, the battle of the airport was a clearly lost cause, it was being waged still, with scant concern for human life, and purely for vanity purposes. The vanity of Ukraine’s political leadership, to be specific.
Unlike the couple of dozen men serving under him, most of whom got buried alive under the rubble of the airport terminals, Grechanov “miraculously” remained alive and ended up as a POW in the hands of the Rebels. The TV special turned him into a celebrity and hero, his face was emblazoned everywhere under the call-sign “Cyborg #1”.
Grechanov was taken prisoner on 31 July near the town of Gorlovka.
On 30 November, just a few days ago, Grechanov was freed, in exchange for a DPR prisoner, Major Vladimir Starkov. The prisoner exchange took place immediately after President Poroshenko signed the pardoning of Major Starkov, who otherwise would have spent 14 years in prison after being captured by Ukrainian forces, and convicted of “waging an aggressive war against the Ukraine on behalf of Russia”.
Poroshenko made maximum PR use of this occasion. Hastening back to the Ukraine after attending the “Climate Conference” in Paris, Poroshenko went straight to welcome Grechanov. In front of the TV cameras, a clearly still-inebriated Poroshenko narrated to Grechanov the touching and thrilling story about all the “special operations” that were launched to free him from captivity. As VZGLIAD notes, even Spielberg would have been impressed with Poroshenko’s story-telling capabilities, and maybe hired him to write his next movie.
“This was our 18th attempt to free you!” Poroshenko assured Grechanov, under the hot lights of the television cameras. And the Head of State shared a secret with Grechanov and all the viewers: It all came about because of his (=Poroshenko’s) secret meeting in Paris with Merkel and Hollande, where he (=Poroshenko) applied pressure to them (=Merkel/Hollande), to apply pressure to Putin. To free the Ukrainian hero. In the end, Putin buckled under their pressure, and Cyborg #1 was liberated from his chains.
Finishing up his tour-de-force on live TV, Poroshenko then picked up the phone to dial Grechanov’s mother. To give her the good news and thank her for giving birth to such a heroic son.
Nitpickers Pick At Story
It didn’t take long for the nitpickers to get to work. You know who nitpickers are. They just can’t take a “feel-good” story at face value! It’s their job to dash people’s illusions. Just like Gregers in Ibsen’s Wild Duck. First round of nitpickers wondered why Poroshenko made the poor mother wait to see or hear from her son, until it was more convenient for Poroshenko’s big TV moment. Second round of nits: Poroshenko’s clearly drunken demeanor: and people were quick to note his bloated-looking face and a certain blueish color of his complexion, a clear sign that he had tied on one too many at that Paris banquet. Not to mention his halting speech and sudden bursts of inappropriate merriment.
But all of this is trivial, as VZGLIAD says. It’s just nitpicking. The true bomb exploded a couple of days later, when this video ripped a new one in the Internet:
It’s The Bomb!
The video was uploaded on 2 December in Donetsk. The vid was made a couple of days earlier, when Grechanov was still a POW. The video stars a very unhappy looking Grechanov himself, along with Alexander Zakharchenko (Head of the DPR) and Vladimir Kononov (Minister of Defense of DPR). Grechanov is told how his liberation is entirely due to Ukrainian TV personality/blogger, and former ATO volunteer Oleksiy Mochanov, and has nothing to do with the Ukrainian President or anybody else. Only Mochanov can take the credit.
Breakdown of video:
Intro and images of a liberated Major Grechanov greeting President Poroshenko.
0:23 seconds in – Zakharchenko: “(….) The prisoner exchange, which will take place in the next few hours, 24 hours max, was organized and arranged, thanks to the efforts of Alexei Mochanov. Neither the President of the Ukraine, neither any other negotiators took part in these negotiations. I can tell you quite frankly: If it weren’t for Mochanov’s request, then ‘Rakhman’ would still be sitting in captivity with us. (….) Guys [addressing Ukrainian officers], believe me when I say to you, when you are sitting in captivity here, neither Poroshenko, nor any other negotiators show any interest in your lives. Stop believing their lying propaganda. This video will be released only after the prisoner exchange takes place. And I am pretty sure that it will be a shock for everyone. I am just waiting with baited breath to see what kinds of bold declarations are made about this exchange!”
2:00 minutes in – Poroshenko’s performance on TV, as he greets Major Grechanov. Is Poro hammered? (Inquiring minds want to know.)
2:47 – Zakharchenko turns the mike over to Kononov. Kononov narrates how Mochanov called him (=Kononov) on the phone three weeks after Grechanov’s capture. “Nobody else from the other side, no high-ranking persons, ever contacted me about this,” Kononov adds. “From what I understand, it was only because the SBU had tapped my phone line, that they overheard Mochanov calling me, and after that, some negotiators contacted me.”
4:41 – A semi-pickled Poroshenko again, with a still-unhappy and embarrassed-looking Grechanov, as the President places a mumbling phone call to the former POW’s mom.
5:14 – A different meeting, this time a slur-speeched Poro is bragging about his contacts with Israeli leader Netanyahu. Somehow this has something to do with Grechanov’s term of captivity.
6:00 – Kononov again, really rubbing it in.
6:44 – Zakharchenko again, for the final plunge of the knife. And promises Ukrainian officers that prisoners can be exchanged on a “one-for-one” basis.
8:00 – Major Grechanov himself. Confirms that he was treated okay, fed, given medical attention. Zakharchenko notes philosophically: “Captivity is captivity.”
In conclusion, after watching the vid:
It’s downright spooky! It’s almost like Zakharchenko could see into the future, and KNOW exactly how an inebriated Poroshenko would brag about the exchange, taking credit for somebody else’s efforts!
As Mochanov himself, the man whose efforts had freed Major Grechanov, wrote on his Facebook page: Zakharchenko and Kononov were prepared to free Andrei already back in August, under the format “one soldier per one soldier”. And it was not even necessary to seek advice or humble oneself before Putin, Merkel, or Hollande. “Rakhman” was not sitting in Russia, like Savchenko. He wasn’t sitting in Germany or France. All of this was under our own control. But it was important for certain people to see what they could gain from this: PR. Scoring points. The electorate.
As the poet Robert Burns himself might have written:
Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.
In the end, Poroshenko’s attempts to score points on Grechanov’s liberation were foiled by Zakharchenko’s cunning trap. Just like Zakharchenko predicted, the youtube video went off like a bomb. And now it is understandable why Grechanov blushed during his meeting with President Poroshenko, as the latter assured him of his efforts, on the very highest levels of international diplomacy; and how Hollande/Merkel and even Netanyahu had put the squeeze on Putin, and a’ that.