Video interview with Denys Pilash of Ukraine’s Social Movement

Video of interview with Denys Pilash of Ukraine’s Social Movement. Transcript of interview is below.

John Reimann | Oakland socialists had the opportunity to talk with Denys Pilash of Ukraine’s Sotsialny Rukh or Social Movement. We started by talking about the Russian destruction of the Nova Kakhoka Dam. And what’s going on with the war, in general in Ukraine at the moment. We also discussed a whole series of other questions. Incidentally, this graph that you’re seeing is a graph of the water level at the dam at the lake behind the dam, and the period leading up to the destruction of the dam. And you can see that Russia, which controls the dam, had allowed the water level to increased to unprecedented levels right before they blew it up. They did that to ensure that the destruction of the dam would cause maximum damage. Here’s that discussion with Denis Pilash.

Denys Pilash | So the Kakhovka dam was created as a water reservoir for millions of people to get water from it. And it’s quite essential for agriculture as well. And blowing it up actually triggers a series of events that will lead to even bigger ecological problems in more distant future. So aridization, desertification, and all of these. So this is actually probably one of the worst terroristic acts as it were inflicted by the Russian invasion. And while we can say that we’ve seen lots of them from terror attacks on civilian infrastructure and residential buildings all throughout the war. But also, this this one, it stands out, because it’s something like we just mentioned that it’s like, using weapons of mass destruction without actually using weapons of mass destruction. So the level of the consequences is really astonishing.

John Reimann | Could this be a sign that Putin and the top command are panicking?

Denys Pilash | Well, it can be but it also, obviously, it’s no rational decision made behind this. So it’s quite damning for, for both Ukraine and for Russian side, the consequences. But actually, if we take into account that Crimea – yes, it’s dependent on the water from Dneipro river – but actually they got used to live without this constant supply of water, via north and Crimeans channels for four years, and now it’s said that they have their own reservoirs of water with water enough, at least for for a year. So it seems that some immediate consequences for the Crimea and Crimean population, they wouldn’t be so visible. And regarding the defensive lines, so Dnipro River is a big defense line as it was in the Second World War itself. And actually, after they blew up the dam, and the water poured to the steppes in the south, so it means that lots of landmines they were just taken by the water. And now even more [of the] area is quite dangerous because of these landmines, they are spread, they will spread even to bigger extent and they are also below lots of mud and other stuff. So, they would they would be even more difficult to detect them. So this actually means that… and some some of the analysts they say that, in a way they prevented Ukrainian side from landing to this left bank of new Dnipro River in Kherson region. And so this can find the possible Ukrainian counter offensive to other other three regions but not not Kherson. Kherson direction wasn’t considered to be a primary one for the Ukrainian counter offensive. There were more talks about going to the Sea of Azov to the places Berdans’k and Melitopol itself. But still, yes, it’s this may, in a way, you know, bring more chaos to the general situation and maybe win some time, some more time for the Russians to prolong this awaiting of counter offensive.

John Reimann | Denys talked about how this was seen in Ukraine, as just an extension of the terror bombings and other attacks on Ukrainian people for months and months and months. He said it just simply strengthened the determination of Ukrainian people to resist the invasion.

Denys Pilash | It means that, yes, we need to resist it with any any means possible. And regarding the general military situation, so mostly, the station on all the frontlines was stalled. The only the only exception was the Battle of Bakhmut that has been waging for almost a year. Ultimately, is the death toll on the Russian side. The Ukrainian side is also very, very striking. And we could just see this on the number of obituaries of our friends comrades also who lost their lives in the battle. What I will just mention that just recently, we lost our good good friend and the author of our journal comments, journal for social criticism, Evheny Osievsky, who was promising young anthropologist. He was a very interesting person with a broad range of interests. And actually, he he died in late in late May, near Backmut. And in April, there were also these three internationalists the Russian internationalist Dmitry Petrov, also Irish socialist Finbar Cafferky, also African American activist, Andrew Cooper Harris, who also died in this Backmut grinder. So, in the same way, we have like lots of people from the unions who also lost their lives in precisely in this battle. That was something like, for the Russian side, it was like a prestige battle, to get at least at least some things that they can present as as victory. And for Ukrainian side, it was part of the strategic way of containing Russian forces and actually inflicting more casualties on their side. So in order not to not to lose any other part of Ukraine.

John Reimann | I asked Denys about the conflict between Prighozin and the Russian Defense Ministry, and also about the morale of the Russian troops themselves.

Denys Pilash | Maybe for them now, the struggle of war with Ukraine isn’t so important as their inner struggles. Yes, so yes, there was this recent reports of the skirmishes between Wagner and the regular Russian military. And they even captured some officer as their prisoner of war, a Russian officer captured by by by Wagner group. So this is clearly a start of some power struggle inside Russia. And while all these stakeholders including Prigozhin, they have their own political ambitions, and they try to use actually this war where they are ruthlessly killing Ukrainian people as a means to strengthen their position inside the Russian power, vertical. So maybe some of them are also counting on maybe what happens in case if the Putin Regime will collapse. So who will fill in the power vacuum? And then you will have like lots of very, very vicious people like Wagner Group, with weapons, with combat experience, and with no moral boundaries for what they are doing. They committed numerous war crimes in Ukraine, they committed numerous war crimes in Syria, in Mali, in Sudan, in other African countries. These are people that heavily… so in a way, it’s some things that reminds us of some some most notorious SS groups inside the Nazi war machine. So they have both people coming from far a right background, outright Neo Nazis, like the Rusich Group, and they also use convicts from the prisons as their cannon fodder.

John Reimann | Denys explained who the Rusich Group is:

Denys Pilash | It’s a Nazi group, commanded by guy called Michkov, who actually become very notorious a decade ago when he was bragging about killing stray dogs, about killing Ukrainian soldiers, and so on. So they are now part of the Wagner Group. So more or less, yes, it’s something very telling because we we have been speaking a lot about the far right in different Eastern European countries. And yes, the far right are very dangerous, including the Ukrainian far right. But behind all these talks that were so much concentrated about what’s happening in Ukraine, many on the global scale have lost the understanding that the situation in Russia is much, much worse.

John Reimann | You know, we have one fascist group here, America First. And they had their national conference shortly after the invasion started. And they were chanting “Putin, Putin, Putin”. And then you have people like Tucker Carlson, who just yesterday had a show, in which he basically blamed Ukraine for the dam being blown up.

Denys Pilash | Yes, I’ve read something of your articles on the subject. And I completely agree, I think that we overlooked – not we but many, many – have overlooked this actual importance of Putin’s Russia as some kind of beacon for for the International far right, that brings together European far right populists, and ultra conservatives from Marine LePen in France to Viktor Orban in Hungary. The far right in the US, Trumpist Republicans, but even more, as you mentioned, outright neo fascists and neo Nazis and also authoritarian forces throughout the world…

John Reimann | These are some of the issues regarding Putin’s world role that we will be discussing in the second part of this interview. And we’re also going to discuss how regenerated socialist movement can deal with the issue of the war in Ukraine, from the point of view of the class struggle in Russia and Ukraine and in the United States.