The former Minister of Defense of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Igor Strelkov (aka Igor Girkin), stated that the separatists have brought ruin to the Donbas, built "simulacrums of republics", and created "a pigsty and a mess". Before the separatists came to power, the quality of life in Donetsk was higher, Strelkov stated, as reported by Chetvertaya Vlast.
Strelkov made these comments during an interview with representatives of the NOD (National Liberation Movement), a Russian nationalist organization. His comments were published by State Duma Deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov.
"The patriotism there is at such a level that the people who come see me say one thing: it is a pigsty and a mess! Everything that happens in Donetsk and Lugansk. I have no reason not to believe these people, because they are my comrades. Nobody came and said: Igor Ivanovich, it became better. Everyone says, a pigsty and a mess! That's what we've built in the Donbass, unfortunately," Strelkov said.
He explained that the pro-Russian separatists have built a copy of the Russian oligarchic system, and consequently there is no power for the people, which is what the masses rallied for in the spring of 2014. According to Strelkov, the war in the Donbas has significantly lowered the living conditions of the local population.
"Do people live better because these republics exist? 'Re Publica' - a government of the people. That's the translation, right? But there is no power of the people. Not even close to it. It is a copy of the modern Russian oligarchic system in its more aggravated form. Sometimes it's even a caricature. There is no power of the people there. The local oligarchical dictatorship is emerging. Actually, it never left. They are all the same people. A massive influx of the Ukrainian officials including the SSU [Security Service of Ukraine] officers, who recently were fighting for the other side, is happening," he stated.
Strelkov explained that the people in Donetsk are becoming disillusioned with the politics of the self-proclaimed republic due to the cronyism of the leaders. For example, the post of the Minster of Foreign Affairs of the so-called DPR was given to the mistress of Denis Pushilin, who is the Vice Chairman of the People’s Council of the self-proclaimed republic.
"A tremendous decline of motivation of population is happening there. Those people who a year and a half ago were ready to really fight for Russia and proudly move forward, now consider themselves betrayed. They believe that Russia has betrayed them," the former Defense Minister of the breakaway region stated.
In addition, Strelkov noted that the separatist leaders continue to pour money into Russian cultural events and concerts at a time when the local population is impoverished.
"You know what the people of Donbas, the poorest ones think of this? People don't have enough money to buy bread, but the leadership is organizing gigantic concerts with the Russian artists who come there for money, not for free. The festivities, which are held there, cost a lot of money too, and all of this at a time when the outskirts of the city are under constant shelling. When there is no normal social security, no normal salaries and pensions are extremely small," Strelkov explained.
According to him, the responsibility for the events taking place in the Donbas lies with Vladislav Surkov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "The simulacrums of republics with a name of Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov on them were built, that's all that happened," Strelkov emphasized.
"Why have people been brought down to such a state that they are happy to get even the smallest pension? Believe me, Donetsk was really blossoming before the war started," Strelkov concluded.
Strelkov is a Russian army veteran who played a key role in the early stages of the war in eastern Ukraine. Authorities in Kiev say that the self-described Russian nationalist and imperialist is a retired colonel of the GRU (Russia’s external military intelligence organization). Strelkov was dismissed as Defense Minister of the so-called DPR in August of 2014.
Many believe his dismissal was due to the amount of attention caused by the downing of Mayalsian Airlines flight MH17 and the negative impact on Russia's actions in Ukraine that it caused.