Alexey Albu: The future of the struggle to liberate Odessa

By Valentin Filippov

October 21: Regional Deputy Alexey Albu was probably the youngest politician in Odessa during the Russian Spring, but his influence is felt far beyond the region. Participant in the events of May 2, 2014, and subsequently forced to leave the city. One of the organizers of the Committee for the Liberation of Odessa. Political officer of the Ghost Brigade. Alexey currently lives in the Lugansk People’s Republic (LC) and is working to create an Odessa Association, uniting Odessans in all countries and continents to overthrow the neo-Nazi regime in his native city.

Alexey Albu spoke to PolitNavigator columnist Valentin Filippov about the Minsk Agreements, the war, and the role of Odessa in them; about his hopes, plans and methods of resistance.

Alexey Albu

Valentin Filippov: Hello, Alex.

Alexey Albu: Hello.

VF: Is the heat working in Lugansk already?

AA: Since Oct. 15 or before.

VF: Why such absurdity? Elections in Odessa, and heat in Lugansk?

AA: It’s hard to say. Perhaps because here the new power works, and there the old power does not want to work.

VF: It never ceases to surprise me… Even the Romanians were wise enough not to hold elections in Odessa. Or am I confusing you? I mean during the last occupation of the city [during World War II].

AA: Well, it’s hard for me to compare. But they still cannot hold real elections. [Local elections are scheduled in Odessa and other regions controlled by the Kiev junta for Oct. 25, 2015.]

VF: Well, well. How is the Odessa diaspora?

AA: Well, I can’t say the Odessa diaspora is doing very well, but neither is it doing very poorly. There are difficulties, related to the fact that the people who came here lost almost everything. Jobs and housing, position in society, and money. And almost all have had to start from scratch. They must somehow provide for themselves, their families.

But on the other hand, if you talk about how Odessites are getting along here, in general, everything is fine. The process of organizing, which is ongoing, is very positive. Finally, everyone has started to communicate with each other. We will be united in a single structure, into one. And this is a very positive process.

Borotba coordinators Victor Shapinov (left) and Alexey Albu (right) arrive in
Alchevsk, Lugansk, for the Donbass International Antifascist Forum in May.

VF: The Minsk agreements, LC, DNR, Kiev. Between them there is some kind of relationship. But Odessa is not specified in them. How do Odessa residents relate to what is happening? How do they participate in the process?

AA: There are some positive aspects related to the fact that Odessa is not represented in these agreements, because we are not burdened with any obligations. And we can act in Odessa with the help of the forces that remain in the city and region today.

On the other hand, there are some negative aspects. Since Odessa is not represented in these treaties, it is very difficult to provide assistance for the people who are behind bars in Odessa, and I remind you that this is a very large number of people — our comrades, who are sitting in Odessa jails. But I think that we will solve this problem, we will ensure that all of them are added to the list for the prisoner exchange, which is scheduled for the autumn. When there is an agreement on amnesty, they must exchange all for all. And we’re trying to make sure our comrades are on the list for the exchange.

VF: Well, I’m looking at the Ukrainian side of such an agreement. And they have their own understanding of the prisoners. Who is a captive? Who is a terrorist? Who is a criminal? For example, I still have not figured out who the Ukrainian side considers captives, at a time when it does not recognize the opposite side as belligerents, and declares them terrorists. Is there some logic, in general? Or not?

AA: Well, of course. The logic is that they have to show one face to the West, to the voters, and something completely different to their supporters and the ultra-nationalists. That is, they are between a rock and a hard place. It’s not a secret.

They can’t openly tell the West that they will ignore these agreements. They claim they will comply with them, while our side and Russia sabotage them. And, at the same time, they can’t openly tell their supporters that they will abide by these agreements. So, of course, the Ukrainian government is in a very difficult position.

If you want my opinion, I believe that these agreements will be thwarted. And they will be thwarted precisely due to the fault of the Ukrainian side. What happened in Donbass, what happened in Ukraine, is not a completed process. The war will continue. And we still have a long and bitter struggle for the liberation of our region.

VF: Well, I basically agree with you, as far as “the war will continue” and “Minsk agreements are not met …” I wonder all the time how the Minsk agreements do not spell out the most important thing: sanctions for non-compliance. It’s absolutely unclear what responsibility the Ukrainian side bears. When will it be determined that “you guys did everything, while they have done nothing?” And what will happen then?

Now they are offering to extend the period of implementation for them. And they still refuse. They say, “There’s nothing to prolong. We will do nothing.”

AA: The fact is that the next step is up to the Ukrainian side. It was demanded to postpone the elections [in Donetsk and Lugansk], and, so to speak, give the ball to the Ukrainian side. Now the LC and DNR are waiting for the implementation of the agreements by Ukraine. What will happen in case of failure? Well, just continue the process of separation from Ukraine. That’s all.

VF: Well, the process of separation from Ukraine in no way solves the problem of Kharkov, Mariupol, Odessa….

AA: I disagree because, in fact, if it were not for the people’s republics, how could we, the inhabitants of Odessa who are not in Odessa, prepare the resistance? For us, the LC and DNR is a place where we can lay low, where we can engage in organizational work. And not only institutional, but also … other.

Therefore, the fact that the territory of the LC and the DNR is partially liberated is definitely a huge plus for us. 

Alexey Albu (back row, third from left) with other members of the
Ghost Brigade in the Lugansk People’s Republic.

VF: Good. Here’s an unusual question. You participated in the political life of Odessa. And in the elections. Already, probably, despite your young age, more than once. Yes? You do not feel any “heartbreak”? Don’t you want to go back to that life? The rallies, leaflets, meetings with voters? Or is it already too far past? From another, peaceful life?

AA: No, why should I? It’s just that then some political methods were available, and today they are completely different. If earlier it was possible to express our position through demonstrations, using leaflets and newspapers, today, unfortunately, we cannot use those methods.

I can’t, for example, go to Odessa now and hold a rally, because at best it will be banned by the authorities, and at worst, broken up by paramilitary units which are today at the service of the regime. So today, to talk about the distribution of leaflets….

It is necessary, of course, to show that the resistance is not broken, that people do not accept this regime, and I believe that this should continue… But [the old methods] will not be an effective mechanism for implementing the principles we’re fighting for.

Today we must move on to a completely different phase of the struggle. I think everyone knows what I mean.

As for me missing this or that, I don’t know. On the one hand, of course, being a deputy, more doors were open to me. There were more opportunities for any movement. But if I’m in Odessa, whether I am a deputy or not, it’s all the same to me.

VF: I just remembered that I once played in KVN [a popular Russian (originally Soviet) television show where teams compete by putting on comedy skits]. And afterward, for a long time, once a year at least, I was drawn to play KVN.

Alex Albu: We do not abandon the political struggle. Simply the methods have changed.

VF: KVN continues as well. OK. Forms and methods. And how can you assess what is happening today in the political struggle in Odessa? The parties which have emerged, new politicians. It’s most striking. If you ask, “What is there for Ukrainians?”, Odessans are often asked, “Well, how is it with Saakashvili?” For some reason it’s considered very funny. And you often hear new jokes about Saakashvili. [Mikheil Saakashvili, the fugitive former president of Georgia and longtime U.S. stooge, was appointed governor of the Odessa region by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko earlier this year.]

What’s your assessment of what is happening in the Odessa Regional Council?

AA: One sentence can’t express what’s happening there. We know that the electoral field, represented by the Party of Regions and forces that were labeled pro-Russian, was cleared out… It remains free, not filled. It formed a sort of vacuum. And all the scoundrels of the nationalist forces are trying to somehow fill it. But they can’t succeed.

That is, most of the population of Odessa is critical of the current government, and of the future government which will come about as a result of these elections. I have in mind the local regime.

And actually a big part of Odessa has been pushed out of the political process that is going on today. But the problems that have arisen persist. It’s like a bomb, which lies today within Odessa society, and will sooner or later explode. And, most likely, it will explode at precisely the moment when the contradictions inside the Maidanist, pro-nationalist forces reach their peak.

Today, they quarrel with each other. Almost all of them. Today, they are already pushing each other into garbage cans and fighting in the streets. Today, there is competition between volunteer organizations over which of them donated more money to blow up each other’s offices. But that’s only today. We know that tomorrow, maybe in a year, maybe two, these processes will reach a point where they begin to shoot each other.

Just when these conflicts escalate, we must be prepared to return home.

Alexey Albu with Ghost Brigade Commander Alexei Mozgovoi,
shortly before his assassination in May.

VF: Okay, Alex. And what about your wishes for your fellow countrymen who remained in Odessa. Again, on the election. So what is right? Boycott? Do not vote, as Odessa demonstrated twice already?

AA: It’s hard for me to give any advice. On the one hand, if you do not go, nothing will change. On the other hand, if you go, too, nothing will change. Maybe if there are individuals from the movement of Kulikovo Field that are running today… [The Kulikovo Field movement was the anti-fascist resistance in Odessa in Spring 2014, named for the area where an ongoing protest encampment was held.]

VF: Yeah, well! Are there?

AA: Yes. Individuals. Who went, for example, into the opposition bloc. There are individuals that went into “Novo Derzhavu,” remnants of the Communist Party. That same ones who excluded all the Communists who came to Kulikovo Field. Who fully supported the new government. But, nevertheless, there are people. And there is a view that it is necessary to go out there and run… Maybe it makes sense to support these people specifically. Individuals. But not the whole slate.

It seems to me that all this is nonsense, that the political situation will change anyway, and change very dramatically. And these elections will not play the same role as those events that will occur sometime later.

VF: Well, you know. We all believe in these events. We are all waiting for them.

AA: They will happen.

VF: Those who can – prepare.

AA: They certainly will come, and it does not depend on any international agreement. There are enough people who will return in any case. Whether there is an agreement or no agreement. There are people who are very angry. Who will never forgive the massacre which took place on May 2 [2014]. Who will never forgive arrests in front of the children. Who will never forgive when SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] burst in at night and beat relatives of the people who are here. Therefore, there are a certain percentage of people who are sure to return.

It just takes time.

And as you said, my wishes for the residents of Odessa… The most important thing is not to be devoured. There’s no need now to take part in dubious affairs. I know, because so many people come to me and say — tell me what to do? Let’s blow up this and so on. But today it is not necessary. Today you need only understand who this person is, and that he is ready. And when you have many such people, then you can start something. If you do it now, it will cause certain people to be thrown into prison. And we will have no one to lean on when we return.

My most important wish is for them to protect themselves.

Aftermath of the May 2, 2014, massacre at the Odessa House of Trade Unions.
VF: In general, let Odessa stay strong.

AA: That’s what we really need.

VF: Okay, thank you.

AA: Thank you.


Translated by Greg Butterfield

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