On the Issue of Berezin’s Account of the Ukrainian Rape and Murder in the Village of Saurovka (and on the matter of the response by some readers of the Vineyard of the Saker Blog thereto)
by Gleb Bazov
First, apologies for the mayhem caused – it certainly was sufficient to provoke two response notes from you. And, for a good reason. My own initial reaction to Berezin’s “essay” (damn the [reader] who called it that – the fact that the man is a published writer and can put two words together on paper (and so can his translator) should not count to his detriment or deter from his voice; on the contrary, the effect of an exploding bomb is caused precisely by the effectiveness of conveying such information in a compelling manner) was utter stupefaction.
I waited some time before publishing it. In the end I decided that I would not forgive myself for not publicizing his words simply because the story sounded too horrific (to be true? – no, not at all, too horrific not to be censored as false by a human mind, like mine, so used to self-censorship as a means of survival in a society that abhors non-mainstream accounts and points of view and denigrates (I am using that purposefully) them in order to silence dissent). I could go on for some time, with reference to post-modern, systems analysis and continentalist philosophers on the flaws of our social organization and expression models, but the point is self-evident without that kind of verboseness.
Let us put it this way: Berezin is Strelkov’s deputy. He spent some time in Slavyansk, and it was there that Strelkov chose him to act in his stead in Donetsk, at the seat of the DPR government. Inasmuch as I know Strelkov and his character by now (his harsh, but fair, decision to execute two kidnappers among the militia, the type of men he has surrounded himself with, to wit, Motorola, and the impossible success of his rag-tag coalition of patriots in Slavyansk, all being prime reference sources for my opinion of Strelkov), I doubt sincerely that he would have chosen a man (I mean Berezin) who did not conform to the highest standards Strelkov expects of himself.
Strelkov may be wrong, he probably often is, but he is nothing if not a man of the highest calibre. He admits his errors freely, rejects platitudes and undeserved praise, and insists that his talents, which have been sufficient to hold off over 10,000 Ukrainian troops, not be aggrandized (see his earlier statement I translated). Above all, Strelkov is a military man, who understand the importance of building a winning cadre. And, as such, in choosing a man to act in his stead (and I must emphasize – his deputy, not a mere common soldier), Strelkov would likely have selected someone who also matches these characteristics.
Now, all that is supposition. Strelkov could well have made a mistake. And, I am sure, that, in many ways, he would have preferred Berezin to be more active and help Slavyansk beyond the meagre assistance they are currently receiving. But was he wrong about Berezin’s moral qualities? Did he choose a man who would lie, and lie in a way that Strelkov would obviously never permit himself (do I need to refer to the body of tempered, measured reports, cautious and conservative, that we have to date received from Strelkov?).
What is more important, in that regard, is to consider how Berezin has behaved to date. Will any of the skeptical readers of the Vineyard of the Saker blog please count the number of times that I have translated Berezin’s statements or, in fact, simply the number of times he has made statements so far? I wish he made them more often. Statements by a writer, like Berezin, are enjoyable to translate. And, yet, I can recall only 3-4 statements in total (including the one that he just made, after midnight on June 26, 2014) that were made by Berezin to date.
What does this suggest to a keen observer of the various sources that talk for the DPR government? That Berezin is, perhaps, the most laconic and sparing with words of them all. All of his statements have been brief, he has not (that I remember) given any interviews (unlike Strelkov, for instance, who gives them sometimes twice a day) and he has been largely in the shadow of the events that have been unfolding elsewhere. Berezin is performing a crucial function – organizing the affairs of the emerging DPR army in the area, arranging supply lines, training recruits, structuring the military organization.
Unlike Strelkov, Berezin has his hand on the pulse of the entire organization – which is why he can talk about what is happening not just in Slavyansk, but elsewhere. No wonder then, that he gets reports from Militia fighters at the Saur-Mogila memorial. And, after what I am sure was very careful consideration (I heard rumours of these atrocities some time ago), Berezin decided that one of his few statements to date will be made on the subject of these crimes. If he had been shooting his mouth off, and made nonsensical claims left, right and centre, it is highly unlikely that you would have seen the translation I provided (for the same reason as, for instance, I filter out from my translations all the loud-mouth verbiage coming from Pavel Gubarev these days).
Some of The Vineyard of the Saker readers, who follow this war from the standpoint of a “silver platter” do not seem to understand the filtering that goes on and the reasons why a specific translation may be done, while another text will be ignored. I would recommend that they engage in the similar amount of research that you and I do, before making claims as to what is possible or not. Odessa, the Kiev Trade Unions House, the murder of a Polish Holocaust historian in Lvov, the massacre in Mariupol, the use of prohibited flechette and incendiary white phosphorus ammunition in Slavyansk would be good starting points (among many other such examples).
Women in Odessa were first raped, then butchered, then burned alive to ensure they would not be identified. There are rooms in the Trade Unions House that were cemented right after the massacre. No one alive, other than the Nazi murderers and the collaborationist police, has ever seen the basement of the building – even though every report by a survivor that I have seen (and I have read and seen close to 20 so far) points to the fact that they barely escaped being dragged down into the basement, where most others were taken and killed. And, as The Saker has correctly pointed out (see here and here) this was in front of multiple video cameras and hundreds of witnesses. Nineteen of the survivors have since been murdered. Others are hiding wherever they can.
As for the kind readers of the Vineyard of the Saker blog that suggest that “essays” should be accompanied by photographs and videos, I suggest they make a trip to Saurovka. Apparently, they expect the vastly outnumbered Militia fighters, who barely hold on to the strategic Saur-Mogila height, dug in, often without provisions and a change of clothes, to make a trip to the stronghold of the enemy in the region, their encampment in Saurovka, and watch (and tape) the rape that goes on. I am not sure how this could be done. Perhaps I am too feeble-minded. (I won’t even address the disbelief at a Polish female sniper with an American rifle – really? And this disbelief comes after Bolotov took prisoner and showcased to the world a Ukrainian female ranking officer, a helicopter pilot who was correcting the enemy artillery shelling and was likely involved in the murder of the Russian journalists?)
As for how does Berezin know all that has been happening in Saurovka? Well, I will do my best to find that out. However, it is really simple – the Militia has intelligence-gathering groups that go out to scope out enemy positions, for one. Second, I am sure they can see well, from the height of the Saur-Mogila memorial, that the NazGuard have adopted Saurovka as their quarters. Finally, let’s consider this: one day, the phones don’t answer in Saurovka – why are they silent? Another day, a Militia fighter finds a woman that was raped, killed and thrown to the side. Perhaps someone managed to escape and joined the militia. And, perhaps, they can observe some of what goes on from up above.
All this is supposition, without a direct answer from Berezin, but to those who dismiss his “essay” out of hand, I will only say this: once upon a time, when the Soviet troops became the first to witness the horrors of the Holocaust, they were still disbelieved, until photographic evidence emerged. Were the Soviet soldiers right or were the people who demanded photographic evidence, because their socialized minds, much like mine, refused to believe that such atrocities could be possible?
We will, someday, find out the full account of the Ukrainian societal collapse, and Saurovka will be just the tip of the iceberg.
PS. Sorry for the lengthy rant. I did not intend it, but it all came out.