Colonel-General Volodymyr Ruban has been engaged in the release of people captured in eastern Ukraine for more than three months. He recently founded a special center where all those close to you could be taken hostage.
For many, Ruban has already become a legend. He is the only professional negotiator in Ukraine who, they say, is admired by Bes himself - Gorlovsky militant commander of the DPR Igor Bezler. It was Ruban who was able to agree on the improvement of conditions of detention, and then pull people out of 17 captivity - the military from the 72 and 25 brigades and several civilians, including Vasily Budik, whom Bezler “shot” in May.
General Ruban rarely smiles. He looks like a man who has nerves of steel and impeccable exposure. It can not be split. It seems that he has a plan built many steps ahead in his head, and his every answer is only the tip of the iceberg.
The correspondent of "Ukrainska Pravda" talked with the general about what is happening with the detainees in captivity, the humanity of the ransom, and about who is fighting in the east of Ukraine.
- How many people have you already freed?
- More than a hundred. We stopped counting after the hundredth.
- And how many calls do you get per day from people who are looking for missing?
- About three hundred.
- Do you answer them yourself?
- No, we have a department where specialists answer them. Previously, the officer corps was engaged in the release of hostages - ten people who were accumulating information - but there was no consistency.
- What is your role in this structure now? I know that you are the only professional negotiator, and everything rests on you. With you, in fact, it all started. How will it work now?
- It will work the same way. I head this center.
- But everything keeps on your authority? ..
- There is no other way there, behind the front line. Everything really rests on human authority. If a person keeps his word, they work with him. If it does not, they show mistrust.
- Those people who work with you in the center - do they trust them there? Do they work autonomously?
- Not. Every negotiations I spend personally. There is a keyword-password, after which it is believed that we shook hands - and now the work begins. This is the word officer. If I give the word officer, then we have already agreed. That side knows that I and the officers will do everything possible to keep their word. We do so regardless of the circumstances. We cannot break the word.
- This is a huge amount of work. And lately, there have been more prisoners ...
- Yes, much more. But now the presidential administration and the president personally understand the need for this work, both the Security Service and the Ministry of Defense. They saw that it was possible to work this way. They saw the benefits of this work.
- And before they did not see this benefit?
- Not aware until the end. It was necessary for some time. This is still the most new people. New Minister of Defense, new AP, new president.
- Nevertheless, the problem appeared in March in the Crimea. Then all this work had to be done by volunteers and journalists. We drove, tried to rescue people. It was not easy, because we have no training, and we probably did something wrong. At that time there really wasn’t one person who could play this role.
- We had a department in the Academy of the SBU, which prepared negotiators. I do not know where they are. Nobody knows. The police have ... (corrects himself - author) should be - a special department for working with hostages and negotiations in difficult situations. Probably it was not necessary, and there are no these specialists.
- That is, such people were prepared, but so far there is no such structure?
“It may be, but it hides well.”
- And the results of the work, we also do not see.
- Yes, because we cannot find them. But now the good result is that both sides understood that they should be released. Along the way, this solves many problems: such as being held captive.
When people exchange, I look at them. I bring people from this side, and we critically look at how prisoners are held. We have agreed to the fact that the prisoners will be treated satisfactorily.
It began with the fact that their barefoot will not transmit that they will give some kind of shoes. Then we looked at the conditions of detention, who was fed, who was not. Agreed: they must be fed. And then - treatment. For prisoners who need medical treatment, both parties are given the necessary assistance.
In Lugansk, it was this: in order to save an officer’s arm, doctors recommended that he be hospitalized immediately at the hospital. He started gangrene, he needed a complicated medical intervention. I did not have time to come from Kiev to urgently deliver it, and he was transported to Russia. Saved the life of man, the captive.
- And then he was returned?
- He has not been returned yet. There is a complex medical intervention, long. I do not know what his fate will be, whether they will be returned or not, but the main thing is that the prisoners are not shot - they are being prepared for exchange.
- There are different types of prisoners. There are civilian prisoners, there are military. There are various reasons for taking hostage. With many just knock out money. How do you work with gangs that take people for profit, who do not need an exchange?
- You need to look for money and buy these people.
“But according to international principles, this is not entirely humane, because with this money they buy weaponwho continue to kill people ...
- Here we must take advantage of the experience of Israel. Israel does not negotiate with terrorists, and in such situations people are not redeemed for money. They boasted about it for quite a long time. Now they understood the fallacy of this tactic and set up a center for negotiators where they consider different situations for the release of prisoners, including a ransom for money. This option should be safety.
If, on the part of those who hold, these are positional tenders — they declare that they will give people only for money — then it is necessary to contact them and work with money.
But if they obey at least somehow the general leadership of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, then in such cases I find these prisoners, enter into tenders, inform the leadership - and they give up these prisoners themselves, changing them, destroying the scheme of selling people.
We initially agreed that we do not redeem people for money and do not trade. We have such an opportunity.
- And what is the benefit of the leadership of the DNI and the LC?
- They thus show care for their people who were captured or kept in prisons - just as it is beneficial to the president. He shows care about his citizens. It is right. Voters entrusted it to him, they are in captivity, and he must pull them out.
The Luhansk and Donetsk sides do the same with their colleagues. They generally have the idea of all their release. This is normal, this is human.
- Is it possible?
- Yes it is possible.
- That is the ultimate goal - to exchange all?
- This is a maximum idea. My job is to free people from all sides.
"Combineers went from work, they were mistaken for intelligence officers, they were shot at each knee"
- Explain to me what the difference and difficulty in the release of prisoners of war and civilians. As I understand it, with civilians more difficult?
- There is not much difference. Just at one time there were more civilian activists among the prisoners. It is easier with the military, because there are no questions to the military, you go and you release.
If a civil prisoner, I need to double-check whether it is worth freeing this person, or changing him, or need to persuade the side, so that he is simply released.
Recently, the spouse of one of the prisoners called, said that three combiners were leaving work in the evening through a checkpoint, they were mistaken for intelligence officers and began to be questioned. Shoot each knee. And in captivity with a shot through the knee, many agree to be scouts. Even the locals.
- Yes, even without shot knees ...
- Yes, even without a shot. In general, it turned out that they were just combiners after all, and were released. Such cases occur on both sides. This not normal. It must stop.
- As for the ideological people who are detained in the DNI and the LC? Is it harder to work with them? Civic activist who stands for a united Ukraine, harder to pull out than a combiner?
- More difficult. It is subject to exchange. If he is just a volunteer who brought food, it is easier. If I brought body armor, literature, I traveled with a weapon myself, then it is more difficult.
- There is one such subtle point: when a person disappears, how should the media and bloggers behave so as not to harm? Many have already advised that if you betray history strong publicity, it complicates the work.
- Differently. Yes, it happens that this complicates the work of both the negotiator and the prisoner himself. Information should be given dosed, without any inaccuracies.
For example, they write that they took away the activist of the Right Sector - and the guy does not know what the Right Sector is, well, he had a black and red flag, but that does not mean that he is an activist. For that side, it will be an argument to keep him longer, torture harder.
Well, the prisoner must behave carefully. I had a case when the person who came to change, was told that he was released, and asked to tell him what he had done. And he talked a lot too much. As a result, I have not been able to take him for three weeks.
“Was that their trick?”
- They did not prepare for this. Accidentally asked, and he accidentally spoke to himself. A lot of prisoners slander, create a value for themselves to survive. It seems to them that now they will be shot, and it is necessary to show some importance. They say they are spotters, for example. I know about a dozen "spotters" who are kept in Donetsk. They are not spotters, they do not know what it is.
- And how should they lead themselves?
- It's hard for me to say. In every situation in captivity let everyone behave as he sees and can.
- But you need to behave honestly?
- It is better to be honest, if you are not a military and not a professional intelligence officer.
- Two days ago, I was approached by people who reported that a blogger who allegedly was a spotter was detained in Makeyevka. His mothers said he would be shot. How to behave in such a situation?
- First, we must inform our center. We immediately contact the person who holds him, or his superiors, and discuss this problem.
No one will shoot "on Tuesday at 12 of the day." No one can set a condition to release someone from prison by Saturday evening. This is what negotiators are needed to explain the procedures for release and talk.
This is a way to strengthen your position, but you have to understand that when a commander simply changes people, this position is adopted. When he says that he will shoot a man before Tuesday, he automatically goes to the rank of a terrorist, because he threatens the life of a prisoner. It is not right.
“Do you know how many people were shot in captivity during all this time?”
- I know the approximate figure, but I will not tell it.
“Can you tell where is the most dangerous now?” Where is the most brutal torture?
- There is no such thing as "the most brutal" or "the most dangerous." We work for three months, and the conditions of detention are more or less the same everywhere.
There are rare renegades, they are always in all wars. Someone gives nerves, someone initially crazy. Someone wants to shoot the prisoners, goes with a gun. Someone wants to throw a grenade into a cell with prisoners, to get revenge, so to speak. This, as a rule, people of a low moral level, uneducated, just play up words. Or brought as a result of a mental or alcoholic state to such a desire.
"Remove the word pilot and understand that I am a fighter"
- What kind of people are you talking to? What is their character? What are they doing this for? You probably have time to fold their portrait.
- And for what the Ukrainian army captures prisoners? What kind of people in the Ukrainian army and battalions?
- That is, for you it is the same concepts?
- And for you are not the same? For you, six million Luhansk and Donetsk residents suddenly became enemies?
- No, civilians are not enemies.
- And those who walk with guns - their 15 thousands - are they enemies?
- Well, actually, yes. These are people who threaten the lives and health of peaceful people.
- The army threatens the lives and health of peaceful people. It is for this purpose created. Are the officers who graduated from military schools professional killers, or did you not know about it? Did not know? This is not a person who walks with a flag in a parade, this is a person who kills another person in a trench.
He studied for this, just as I was a fighter pilot. Beautiful word, familiar in everyday life. Remove the word pilot and understand that I am a fighter. What should i do? - exterminate.
I do not treat those people as you treat enemies. It is easy for you from this position. And I have known these people for a long time. There are officers there, there are Afghans with whom we protested against Yanukovych. There are people with whom we stood on the Maidan. On Euromaidan. But we did not call him that.
- Where is there?
- There - on the other side. Behind the ribbon. In the Lugansk and Donetsk Republics.
- That is, these people stood with you on the Maidan?
- Yes, they are now fighting with the Ukrainian army. They are from two sides.
- Why do they do it? ..
- Why did the Right Sector do it on Maidan? Or why people stood on the Maidan?
- If they were on the same Maidan, why are they now opposing the people with whom they stood hand in hand?
- Because the people who were on the Maidan were satisfied with the removal of Yanukovych - that's all. No more requirements are met. And these decided to go to the end. They are not only removed Yanukovych, they need real change. And most of the items they require are the same as those proclaimed on the Maidan.
- But it looks completely different.
- For this we need to thank the journalists and all the others who called them terrorists. And those who came up with the word "ATO" instead of the word "war."
- But Russia does not recognize this as a war ...
- Russia has to do with it?
- Do you think Russia is not involved in this conflict?
“Have you seen Russian troops there?”
- I saw the military from Russia.
- Have you seen the participation of Russian troops?
- Official - no.
- You will not see them unofficially, because they are not there. If you have seen some Russian or military person, this does not mean the participation of Russia.
- What should I call it?
- As you wish. Do you know that mercenaries are fighting on both sides?
- With both. And with the Ukrainian, and Luhansk and Donetsk. Well, how to call it, that Poland is at war with us, and Sweden?
There is a bad joke: "Russia is at war with America to the last Ukrainians." This is more like the truth. But this is geopolitics, and the analysis is completely different. National security experts can talk about this.
We work directly in the field and, using this knowledge and our experience, we call things by their names. If there is a supply of Russian weapons there, this is one thing. And what kind of person supplies it? Putin can ban, is another question. If there are Russian officers there, that is also another question. This is not Russia's participation.
- What should I call it?
- You were there?
- I have only been doing this for the last six months.
- And what, all Russian officers? Chechens all?
- No, not all, but the backbone. People who lead the process.
- Yes, the Lord is with you. With Ukrainian passports?
- With quite a Russian passport.
- This is called "advisors".
- Back in the Soviet Union, we left for other countries as "miners to share experiences" - we were military advisers. Similarly, advised and experts from different countries, the instructor. Not because the country sends there, but because the people are asking. We are going to make a small gang with you, but we need a specialist, and we invite him. A gangster of some kind. In order for him to advise how and what to do.
- But the people who tell how and what to do are all from Russia. How can we say that this process is internal if it is controlled from the outside?
- You so want, and say so.
- No, I'm trying to figure it out.
- Understand. I told you my opinion. All issues are resolved within Ukraine. The war could have been won one and the other side eight times.
- If not ...?
- If there was a desire to win, not stretch. Fire stop and negotiate - it was possible for three months. In any situation, you can stop the fire and agree.
- Why do you think this is not happening?
- Someone is not interested in ending the war. I can agree.
- And you will do it?
- I will.
Now does not apply the law of war. In Kiev, fear of martial law and do not know what it is. Civilians who are in power are afraid of the military, because when there is martial law - civilians may not be in power, they will be led by the military. As a result, the entire infrastructure suffers, people suffer.
- Do you think that you need to impose martial law?
- If there is a war, then it is necessary to impose martial law. Journalists should not be allowed to write about war, because they do not understand what it is. Allow only professionals. There must be strict censorship about this, so as not to harm. I am against censorship, but I say that because I know.
Taxes should be collected correctly, and not in the way Yatsenyuk asks the parliament to add some tax under each law.
In war everything is very simple. There is a war, there are questions, there is a victory. There is a goal. And here it is not clear what.
- Kiev simply seeks to continue to live a peaceful life ...
- Kievans strive. Is the government really keen?
- Nobody benefits from martial law. There is no war in Western Ukraine.
- Does the apartment suffer if martial law is only in the kitchen? Is everything OK in the bedroom? This is your apartment, you have to manage your apartment, so martial law is everywhere: in the bedroom and in the kitchen.
Western Ukraine, wants, does not want - but participates in the war, sends its soldiers. I see them because I take them out of captivity, they cannot pronounce words in Russian. They are still involved.
So this is not an antiterrorist operation. This is a war.
- What war?
- New. Incomprehensible. Hybrid Almost civil.
- "Almost" - because there are "consultants"?
- There are always consultants. Almost civil, because ideologically it is almost impossible to distinguish between them. Warring parties want to live well. They want smooth roads, well-fed family. For them there is no big difference, to join Russia or the European Union, or to remain themselves.
They want to live better. All brought to poverty, that and the other side.
- But the war brings even stronger.
- War is always progress: in souls and in tomorrow. Ukraine is a rich country, it will never be poor. I think the war will end and people will become richer.
- Together with the Donbas?
- That is, Transnistria-2 will not work there?
- Not. The infrastructure is destroyed, so it will not work.
Ukrainians are hard-working people and know how to work competently. The engineer is the coolest, and in Donetsk there is still one of the elite universities of Ukraine - the Polytechnic Institute.
- The shell has recently arrived there ...
- This is a serious question - whose projectile. There is some third party - we now call it that - which throws these shells and dumps it on one side or the other.
- What is this "third party"?
- I do not know yet, I do not own such information. We call it a third party. Bezler calls a third party, and in Donetsk they say that. They are looking for. See what kind of saboteurs.
"Mother should not have thoughtlessly vote, the next time she will vote with her heart"
- You say that people are the same on both sides. But the situation: my mother was told that they want to shoot her son. An executioner and a priest were brought to him — she was told so — and she was ready to crawl on her knees to beg the militia to send at least digging trenches to her son. It is right?
- Yes, it's right. When relatives care about loved ones who are in captivity, that's fine. So it turns out the family.
And the mother should not have thoughtlessly vote, and the next time she will vote with her heart, taking into account her experience. And the son will choose the right government.
- So this is such a way of purification, in your opinion?
- Yes. We stopped going to parents and remembering them often.
- And then the militia will be able to "choose the heart"? Will they learn to think in this way?
- Militias are exactly the same Ukrainians. They are not from another test, they have the same blood type, it is the same red. They studied in the same schools, sat at the same desk.
- But they have a slightly different position. They are in the minority.
- In which minority? How many people should be killed in order for Donbass to be considered Ukrainian? One hundred thousand? Two hundred?
- No one would ...
- That is, you need to talk. Agree. We must learn to listen. A good negotiator says little and listens a lot.
- What do you think: the Donetsk residents, who are used to passively reacting to politics and life, will learn something?
- Of course. They have already learned. We have all learned. After Maidan, Ukraine will not be the same, and even more so after this war. We are all different now.