Russian nationalist writer Zakhar Prilepin has openly joined the Russian collaborative forces in the occupied parts of Donbas and says his ultimate goal is to march on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
In Autumn 2016, the writer became the deputy commander of a battalion in the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DNR”). Prilepin himself confirmed the information in interviews to several Russian outlets.
The path of Zakhar Prilepin in Russian public life is ambiguous. He took part in organizing the Marches of Dissent which took place in major Russian cities between 2005 and 2008. The slogans of the marches were “Russia without Putin!”, “We need another Russia”, “No to the police state” etc. Their main actors were the Russian oppositionist and famous grandmaster Garri Kasparov, Russian opposition politician Mikhail Kasiyanov, and another oppositionist Eduard Limonov.
In 2010, Prilepin took part in another anti-Putin campaign and signed the appeal of the Russian opposition called “Putin has to leave.”
The author also used to be known as a journalist. Among the other media he used to work was the opposition newspaper “Novaya Gazeta.” He was once its Chief Executor and Chief editor.
However, a few years later the opposition position of the writer, in particular on Putin’s policies, changed dramatically. In 2014, he told INSIDER in an interview:
“I have declared a private truce to the authorities, ironically speaking. Not sure that they noticed it, but I have no intention to confront them. What is happening in Russia now, one way or the other, is what I have been writing and dreaming about since the mid-90s.”
Prilepin is one of the supporters of the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. Before, he also used to praise the Stalin’s regime. He wrote a letter to the late dictator thanking him for turning Russia into a great state.
Joining the fighting in Donbas was a logical extension of his nationalistic views. However, according to the author’s biography, Donbas isn’t the first armed conflict in which he takes part. In the end of 90s he used to fight in Chechnya and Dagestan on the side of OMON (special units of the Russian National Guard). Though Russian oppositionist Alfred Kokh contested that Prilepin took part in the warfare in Chechnya, one of Prilepin’s books is dedicated to the Chechen war.
According to Prilepin, in the Donbas battalion, his official position is the deputy political commissar. However, his responsibilities in it are wider.
“I am one of the initiators of the battalion’s creation. It is a part of the Special Forces of the ‘DNR’ army. Now it implements combatant duties on the territory of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic,’ in different parts of it,” the writer told to the Russian Kommersant FM.
He also confirmed that he takes part in the Russian aggression against Ukraine for 3 years and that a lot of other Russians went to fight to Donbas too:
“We have thousands of militiamen there, thousands of guys from Drugaya Rossiya – the National Bolshevik Party. First I went there as a military correspondent, then I was engaged in supplying humanitarian aid, and for over a year I’ve been working as an advisor to the head of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic,’ as I call it ironically – an ‘adjutant.’ How it can be a spontaneous decision, if I have been working there for three years?”
He called the war in Donbas an area of responsibility for the Russian future:
“If we can achieve something here, we will be able to succeed everywhere, in every direction.”
In Donbas, Prilepin received a rank of Major. He says that the main aim of this war is Kyiv.
“Kyiv is a Russian city. Russian Ukrainian city. The whole Ukraine is an aim. There can not be any other aim.”
Prilepin’s position is an extreme example of how the Ukrainian question becomes a test for the representatives of the Russian opposition. Not many Russian opposition figures have passed this test, though most have failed in less radical forms. For example, one of Russian opposition leaders Alexey Navalny recognized Crimea as a part of Russia.