Interview with Alexey Albu: Odessa communist in the Ghost Brigade

By Alexander Chalenko,

June 20: Interview with Odessa Regional Council Deputy Alexey Albu, one of the leaders of the Russian spring in Odessa and an active participant in the events of May 2, 2014. Currently Albu has “emigrated” to the Lugansk People’s Republic (LC) and helps the young republic in establishing its statehood.

Alexander Chalenko: Alyosha, why and how did you decide to join the Ghost Brigade of Alexei Mozgovoi?

Alexey Albu: I decided to join the Ghosts for a variety of reasons. First – because I want to do everything in my power to overthrow the Kiev junta of nationalists and oligarchs. I also want to help the brigade, and my comrades who are fighting in it. But organizational assistance, not fighting. I do not want to take part in the fighting, not because of fear, but in my worldview, I can’t kill a man because I will be tormented for life, regretting that I robbed someone of a son, father or brother. I even have an identity card without the right to carry and store weapons. So I decided to help in other ways.

AC: What do you do in the brigade?

AA: I have become an expert on financial and economic issues. Since this is not the army, but the people’s militia, there are no official instructions to determine exactly what is included in my job description. I can only define it by the objectives set before us.

The brigade needs to ensure regular supplies of food for its fighters, as well as meet our commitments to the poor segments of the population who need to be fed. Alexei Borisovich Mozgovoi tried to solve this problem by creating a war economy. And I want to help continue his work.

AC: How were you welcomed by the brigade?

AA: I was accepted very well by the Ghosts, because my comrades from Borotba and communists from other organizations are fighting here. Some of the Ghosts knew me from the attempt to create the Autonomous Republic of Odessa on March 3 of last year, the storming of the regional administration, or the events of May 2. Therefore, the Special Department hardly tested me; they said that there were good reviews from Odessa. 

Alexey Albu and Ghost Brigade Commander Alexei Mozgovoi at the Anti-Fascist Forum in Alchevk.
AC: Did you talk to the Brain [Mozgovoi]? And if so, what kind of impression did he make on you?

AA: I managed to meet with the Brain during the Anti-Fascist Forum held May 7-8 in Alchevsk. He made a very good impression on me, although I had seen him before. He managed to create a certain symbol of a fighter for justice, which attracts thousands of people, and raises the demands of the common people. And this symbol will live for a long time.

AC: Do you believe that he was killed by Ukrainian Special Forces unit “Shadows”?

AA: It’s hard for me to judge about his murder, because I do not know the local “layout.” There are different rumors, gossip, talk … Some think that it was done because of the struggle over the Alchevsk iron and steel works, some link the killing with the seizure of a poultry farm owned by Ukrainian oligarch Bakhmatyuk.

Our informants from the Ukrainian army verify that it was done by “Shadows,” that this group exists. That is, they provide such information. But again, it’s all speculation, and who is really behind it, I do not know. I believe that the new brigade commander made a very correct statement when he said that many call for revenge, but on whom to take revenge — he does not know. I support this position.

AC: What has become of Alchevsk and the Ghost Brigade after the death of the Brain?

AA: It’s hard for me to judge the changes to the team and the city since the death of Brain, because I do not know what they looked like before. However, people are sincerely grieving. Mozgovi was loved.

AC: Who are the leftists who came to fight or to help the Ghost Brigade?

AA: The left is very strong in Ghost. And many are foreign leftists, who believe that the capitalist crisis will lead to destabilization of the situation in their countries and who come here to gain experience, to prepare for such a scenario. Many leaders of Ghost are leftists. But most are apolitical – the fight against the ultra-nationalists is a fight to liberate their land, protect their loved ones. There are members of the Ukrainian Red Army created in May last year, the underground, who passed through Ukrainian prisons.

Also in the Ghost Brigade is the Communist Volunteer Detachment (RCD), which holds positions at the 44 checkpoint, as well as near the village of Donetsk. Many leftists are working in the information, political and other structures “Ghost,” which is really more “left” than the rest of the unit. Although there are many communists in the LC.

AC: How does Odessa compare to Alchevsk? What do you like and dislike?

AA: In the case of Alchevsk, of course, it does not compare to my native Odessa, but I like this town more than Lugansk city. One problem is that there is practically no water. It flows every 2-3 days. And the disgusting emissions from the factories give me a lot of inconvenience — I’m asthmatic and often began to choke. But despite this, I will continue to help the team.

AC: Many say that Novorossiya is becoming more and more Russian — Russian money has entered the financial system of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Russian custodians scored all high government offices, education switches to Russian standards. Do you personally feel that Alchevsk is de facto becoming part of Russia?

AA: I can’t agree with this statement. Yes, you can use Russian money and this is very convenient. But the stories of hundreds of overseers from Russia, controlling every step in the young people’s republics, are greatly exaggerated. Yes, there are a lot of Russians, but all of them are volunteers who came to help. These are sincere people, who want to break the spine of the neo-Nazi system prevailing in Ukraine.

Speaking of standards in the field of education, we must admit that all university graduates were in a very difficult position, because Ukraine will no longer issue diplomas. And I am very pleased that the Russian Federation has not ditched these young people and recognized the diplomas issued in the LC, thereby providing an opportunity for graduates to find jobs. 

Odessa Regional Council Deputy and Borotba Coordinator Alexey Albu
AC: Many leftists in Russia and Ukraine supported the Euromaidan and do not support Novorossiya. Why is that?

AA: This is a very complex issue, and it’s hard to give a serious answer in a few words. Indeed, many people who call themselves “leftists” supported the coup in Ukraine. But as the “left,” can they support the Nazis of the “Right Sector”? “Left” should be on the side of progress, and what is happening in Ukraine is a rollback to feudalism. 

For communists, the main issue should be the question of ownership of the means of production. Here in Novorossiya, a huge number of enterprises have been nationalized, the workers are trying to create councils of labor collectives and manage their own enterprises. In Ukraine, this is not even a possibility.

This is perfectly understood by the European leftists who travel from all over Europe to fight for the people of the young republics, but some Ukrainian and Russian “leftists” could not understand this, unfortunately. After supporting the ultra-right-wing forces, I cannot consider them “leftists.” It is the same enemy: guardians of the neoliberal regime of Poroshenko. 

AC: In Alchevsk, do you have an awkward relationship with Russian nationalists, imperials, monarchists? Do you have to deal with them?

AA: I’ve been here for a relatively short time, but so far I haven’t encountered pro-Russian right wingers. I have not seen any Russian nationalists, although they say that there are some here. With people who adhere to monarchical or imperial views, we try to discuss, explain that today the idea of ​​the monarchy is absurd, because it is impossible to establish a successor to the throne, as well as to explain the reason why we, the communists, are against the concentration of power in one hand and transferring it by succession.

With “Imperials” debate usually centers on the historical past and the relationship between the oppressed peoples within the Russian Empire. As a rule, all come to the conclusion that no one seeks to oppress other nations, and that the relationship between different nationalities was best settled in the USSR. There is a political department to educate the fighters, which is working in this direction.

Translated by Greg Butterfield

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