There was no pro-Russian movement to speak about in Crimea and southeast Ukraine up until March this year. There was nothing like massive Albanian demonstrations in the Yugoslav-controlled Pristina, no history of national uprisings as in Poland or sectarian violence as in Northern Ireland, no singing revolution as in Estonia. There were no liberation leaders like Ibrahim Rugova or Dzhokhar Dudayev.
Politicians who proclaimed the creation of Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” are nobodies who emerged from nowhere – a soap factory owner, a financial pyramid scheme operative and a Santa impersonator with links to an openly fascist Russian movement. They were eventually elbowed out by Russian nationals with no links to eastern Ukraine whatsoever. . . .
Igor Girkin, the person who is touted by Russian media as the military chief of the uprising, has lived all his life in Moscow and claims to be a retired colonel of the Russian security service, the FSB. The core of his army comprises of military units from Russia proper as well as former Ukrainian special troopers and riot policemen who took part in the standoff with anti-government protesters that led to bloodshed in Kiev. . . .
Many of them hail from the Russian-occupied Crimea. Local recruits may be often traced to organised crime groups that reined the area in the 1990s and became the power base of the recently ousted president Yanukovich.
Known for its near-suicidal political passivity, the local population by and large stays neutral, which has prompted Girkin to complain about their lack of enthusiasm for the uprising on several occasions.