A couple of days from now, on May 25, there will be a live online press conference, held by Alexander Zakharchenko, the Head of the Separatist Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR).
The most interesting thing about this, is that the press conference will be devoted to questions and discussion with the inhabitants of the Kherson Oblast of Ukraine. Kherson of course is not part of the DPR. Rather, Kherson has the misfortune of bordering with Crimea. Which has turned this once-lovely region into the stomping ground of various dark forces, but we will speak about that in some other post.
First some background:
Alexander Zakharchenko is both elected Prime Minister and Head of State of the DPR. As his wiki entry points out, Zakharchenko was born in 1976 (he will be turning 40 in a couple of weeks), graduated from a technical school, and worked as an electrician for a coal-mining company. Like most of the Ukrainian “rebel” leaders, he led a completely ordinary life until the civil war broke out. Everything changed with the 2014 Maidan coup in Ukraine, and the subsequent separation of the Donbass regions. Zakharchenko gained prominence as a war commander during the insurgency. His military successes led to his political success: He won a whopping 79% of the vote in Donetsk parliamentary elections, and remains popular among the citizens of Donetsk. During his time in office Zakharchenko, surprisingly for his working-class background, has shown himself to be a skillful statesman. It is not an easy feat to lead an unrecognized army and government, while navigating the piranha-infested waters of both Russian and Ukrainian politics, rogue Separatist warlords, and an often-backstabbing Kremlin curatorship.
I won’t hide it: I am a big admirer of this guy, and have been, since I watched his first press conference. With his sad but piercing blue eyes and his way of speaking, the way he puts together his thoughts, Zakharchenko has turned out to be a strong and credible spokesperson for the Separatists. When listening to his press conferences, one has the impression of listening to the thoughts of an actual adult, who actually thinks things through and makes clear and bold statements. Whether or not you agree with his personal or political views, he lays them out in a perfectly logical grid.
Zakharchenko Speaks To Various Regions
For at least several weeks now, and possibly longer (I am not sure when this practice began), Zakharchenko has been holding online (i.e., internet) live press conferences with people living in various regions of the Ukraine. For example, on April 20, Zakharchenko conducted his direct line with residents of Kharkov; and on May 4 with residents of Odessa-Bessarabia. Without reading too much into this, I see a possibility that Zakharchenko is trying to position himself as a possible future leader for Ukraine as a whole. Possibly returning Ukraine to the status quo that existed back in the days when Kiev and the Regions took turns winning national elections. However, this prognostication is probably overly-optimistic, as it is difficult to see any path whatsoever back to this status quo ante-bellum.
In any case, on April 30 Zakharchenko announced that the location of his next live tele-conference would be decided by online survey.
Even as a small “rump” unrecognized republic, the DPR has its own news agency, called DONInews (Donbass International News Agency). Here is their main website, the English-language version. And here is the official site of the DPR government, which announced the results of the survey: The winner was Kherson Region. Here is how Zakharchenko announced the results of the survey:
“I want to express my gratitude to all of those who took part in the survey. In truth, I did not expect such an interest — almost 20,000 people voted. I am grateful to the Ukrainians for their courage (in voting). In truth, that government in Kiev, that cluster of charlatans, thieves and murderers, sense a mortal fear come upon them, when they see people fighting for their rights, for their nation, and for the freedom to choose.”
Zakharchenko went on to say: “The results (of the survey) are in. Kherson. This is one of the key cities of Novorossiya, this is the cradle of the Russian Black Sea fleet. It has an enormous symbolic significance. And therefore, as its citizens have decided, on 25 May I will conduct my online teleconference with Kherson. I await your questions, Comrades.”
“After which, I will plant a tree….”
Okay, and I can’t end this piece without some much-needed humor. This piece hit the internet a couple of days ago, giving everyone a good laugh. The piece supposedly shows Zakharchenko planting a tree upside down, roots up. This event supposedly happened on Saturday, 16 April. Okay, so it turned out to be a photoshop. The real image was said to have been posted on 17 April on the official DAN-News site of Donetsk, which is this one, although I couldn’t find the real image here, even using Advanced Search. (DAN does not seem to have a very good search engine.) However, you can see the original image here in this blogpost, which is that of a pro-Ukrainian, who despises Zakharchenko. If you click on above, there is an annoying pop-up which you can dismiss by clicking in the upper left corner – nonetheless, you are still able to scroll down and see the two images, the original (in which Zakharchenko plants the tree in the correct orientation), and the fake. Supposedly, a jokester, whose name was Chekhov, took the original from the DAN-News site (which, again, I cannot find on the site), and and photoshopped it to reverse the tree.
In fact, if you look at this “photo” with one eye, you can clearly see that it is a fake. Even the jokester himself, stipulated that it was a photoshop, all just done in good fun, and with affection. Even a city guy like Zakharchenko, with working-class roots, is not so far from the land or the peasant roots of many Donbass people, that he doesn’t know the top of a tree from its bottom.
The backstory is that Zakharchenko, being a Soviet type guy, and the residents of Donbass, being Soviet type people, like their Soviet traditions. Including the “subbotnik”, the day off in which people can volunteer some free time to perform civic duties and socially beneficially chores. Such as cleaning up garbage, rebuilding houses destroyed by shelling, repairing damaged infrastructure, planting trees, etc. Just hopefully with the roots down in that rich Donbass black earth.