- Why did the initiative begin in pre-New Year's days, when people are just not interested in any politics and news? That is, the selected time of its implementation reduces its effectiveness.
- Because it is oriented not on the PR, but on the effect. Initiative is a set of actions. We have sent requests to various government entities, work through legal nuances, set up tents in the squares of Kiev and other cities. And this is only the beginning. It does not necessarily have to be accompanied by information boom. Therefore, the holidays are not a hindrance for us. All our actions are aimed at one goal – to touch on a sore subject of those who can influence the solution of the problem of the prisoners of war, so that they release our guys. We understand that Russia commands the processes of the so-called "DPR-LPR" command of Russia, but Russia also holds the occupied territories and the task of its puppets there – not to create extra problems to the Russian Federation. And our blockade is a problem for Russia, a hole in its pocket. And since the guys are on the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and the most sensitive issue there, inclusive of Russia, is finances, we believe that, in this way, we can really force them to bring our people back.
- That is, the termination of trade with the terrorists is not a goal but a tool to achieve the goal?
- Yes, the main goal is the liberation of our captured guys.
- Who do you mean when you say "our guys" – is it a concrete amount of fighters of the Donbas and Aydar battalions?
- No, we mean all the patriots, military, police officers and volunteers… We all fulfill a single task. Our task is Motherland protection. That is, all citizens of Ukraine, who were captured for the protection of the interests of Ukraine, are "our guys."
- How many people?
- 137 according to the official data. But now we refine the lists and data. Whole group is working. We propel this to the next level, when we will possess concrete information and be able to speak specifically.
- How will this blockade look physically? Will it be the road blocking, disruption of the railway lines?
- Let us not simplify. The initiators of this initiative are volunteers, who have passed through the war, were in the salients, have seen the death and survived. And we are all different. We also have different opinions and desires. Some say, let us just unsheathe our swords and go! But at the moment we decided to do everything in the legal field. There are laws and regulations in our state, which determine the trade relations between Ukraine and its occupied territories. Having analyzed them we declare that these regulations are violated today! Boldly and openly!
- Violated by who?
- By those who permits carriage and controls it.
- Is this the Security Service of Ukraine and fiscals?
- First and foremost, the main control is put on the Security Service of Ukraine. All of our customs system is derived from this process as it is the carriage between the two territories of Ukraine. Therefore, the right to issue of authorization documents is given to the Security Service of Ukraine. Approximately 65 thousand permits for bulk transportation in ATO zone were issued over the year and a half. And more than 32 thousand – for bulk transportation out of the zone. Coal takes very small percentage there. That is, there is just an open trade, duty-free and tax-free, uncontrolled. Moreover, today, according to data on the site of the Security Service of Ukraine, we send the goods not only of dual purpose, but also, for example, alloy steel that can be used directly for the military purposes. It appears that nobody needs it and we are not at war. Therefore the first and foremost at this stage, - we pay attention of our government, deputies and ministries to stop smuggling and supplying goods which help the terrorists to develop their industry and tax base to the occupied territory. Today Ukraine gives them everything they need to build their own economy through the system of these permits. Including the goods they cannot take in Russia. This is spare parts for machine tools, machine tools, special equipment, instruments…
- What specific standard regulations are violated by this? Here you are talking that there is a resolutions of Security Service of Ukraine, which are illegal. And what does exactly the Security Service of Ukraine violate?
- The resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers. Which was implemented at the beginning of 2016, and which clearly states that only humanitarian aid, strategic goods and electricity can be carried to and fro.
- What is "strategic goods"?
- Well, for Ukraine this is, for example, coal at the moment. Our CHP plants are still not refitted for the consumption of other coal grades, which are not mined in the occupied territory. Therefore, we are dependent on the coal from there. Nothing else, strategic is not produced there. But besides coal there are a lot of goods from there that cannot be called strategic. The scheme is very simple: there are, for example, Akhmetov's enterprises in the occupied territory, they are re-registered, for example, in Dnipro, and the power is still in Donetsk. It turns out it has two addresses. The director writes: I am the proprietor of the goods (of metal, for example), and I will send production from one of my addresses to another my address. That is, there is no middleman here, only one firm. It is the proprietor, the sender and the recipient. Classical scheme! And it contradicts the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers. Because, regardless of the proprietor, the same spare parts for locomotives are not strategic goods for Ukraine. Especially since the Ukrainian railway is no longer there, they had already created their own railway from the wrestled property of the Donetsk Railway. Moreover, wagons go there as a type of the goods. Once again, the registered in two places enterprise sends there its cars, which remain there. They are used for carrying tanks, ammunition, "Grads"... the very cars, which were sent from here. I will tell you more - we are told that Russian goods are already smuggled. First they get to the "DPR" and then, under these schemes get to the territory of Ukraine. Without any customs and duties.
- Okay, we talked about the legal nuances and schemes, but how this blockade will be physically expressed? Are you going to stand on the rails during all holidays?
- I told you: it is not the main element of the campaign. It is very simple - go to a place... We examined all the crossing points, official and not official. We know 90% of the smuggling routes. But, as a rule, they are private transportations which are small cars, engaged in petty smuggling. Now the major smuggling is done by rail. These are large wholesale supplies, the list of which you can find on the SBU website. And there are many nuances. We know that there are some military units, which are also cashing in on this. We know the rates of the goods per kilogram. The goods are transported with their permission. But again, these are small buses, i.e. small business. We do not have enough resources to block that, but we are able to block the main routes of mass smuggling. Moreover, our volunteers are people who have seen war. They are organized, trained and can easily put a temporary or mobile checkpoint. People are ready for this. This is the simplest thing you can do...
- Yes, but the people who are interested in smuggling have already stated that the campaign is illegal and will not be tolerated. So they can use the National Guard and the troops against you.
- There is an old Ukrainian proverb: who is the first to shout "stop the thief"? The thief himself. We know who we deal with so now we are acting according to the legislation. There are already a lot of examples of Ukrainian patriots, who fought against smuggling on the demarcation line and died, are missing or were convicted. Therefore, at this stage, we want to do everything legally. If the government refuses to carry out the law, another plan will be used. We don’t want to fight with the National Guard, border guards or police. But we are also ready to repel any provocations. If the authorities admit being involved in this smuggling, it immediately affects the legitimacy of the government. That is, it will mean that the authorities are bandits. If the authorities understand that it is necessary to stop the lawlessness, we will act in alliance with them and will put things in order.
Today, according to various estimates from 80 to 120 trains per day cross the demarcation line. On average, the SBU issues 150-180 transportation permits per day in the occupation zone. And about 70-90 permits on the importation from that zone to Ukraine. Can you imagine this volume? It is a lot of money! That is, we support the economy of the other side.
- And where is the line between "legal" and "illegal", if on the one hand you execute the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, on the other - contradict the SBU decisions? And have you noticed how skilfully Turchynov shifted the responsibility for any consequences of the campaign, including attempts to suppress it by force to Poroshenko?
- Turchynov has already outlined his position and showed interest. Now is the moment when we need to understand the position of our government. Not those deputy ministers who tell nonsense on TV. Sorry, but we are educated people too. So we will wait until they give answers to our queries and show their position and the real situation. And then we'll have the right to call the government or some of its branches illegitimate, because it is engaged in smuggling. Then there will be more people and we will use other methods. Well, it is not a problem to stop a train today. At night you can just wave a torch and it stops because the driver does not know what happened there. This is the simplest thing. But do not associate the word "blockade" only with actions on the spots. Decisions are made here, in Kyiv. We have directed our requests to the Ministries, the answers will show their position. And then we will decide how to act in Kyiv or on the spots.
The nuance is that officials and civil servants can do only what is written in the law. We, the citizens, can do everything that the law does not prohibit. Therefore, it is easier for us.
- But you understand that human trafficking encourages further hostage-taking and prisoners of war. Two bloggers were arrested in Luhansk only in the past week. That is, the process of these trades can be endless, they will give you some people and take over others. The prisoners of war problem cannot be solved by a single campaign. It is necessary to treat the disease, not the symptoms.
- Of course, we understand that the main thing is to end the war. But we see that our government is not going to end the war, so we need to do what we can, each in his place. I will give you a small example. The blockade of the Crimea was aimed to raise the cost of its support for Russia. The volunteers were able to do it. The challenge now is to raise the cost of the Donbass occupied zone support. What the government does? Nothing. What we have done to diversify the supply of coal, electricity, water...? How much electricity is supplied to the occupied territory? And who pays for it? We do! Therefore, our campaign is focused on trying to make this war unprofitable both for Russia and for our oligarchs. Then the prisoners issue will also be resolved.
Interview by Serhiy Harmash, OstroV