Does Putin have to Die: Interview with Ilya Ponomarov Episode 1


This article is the transcript of a live ‘interview’ show done regularly by journalist Gregg Stebben and Ilya Ponomarev, the only member of the Russian Parliament, to vote against Putin in the annexation of Crimea and now a Russian dissident and Ukraine supporter. Please excuse any transcript errors in this article.

Gregg: Good evening. Look, it looks like light bulbs are burning behind you! That’s
very exciting.

Ilya: Yes. You know, uh, it was tough. Recent days were really tough and yeah, the power is going up and down all the time in general. After all the bombings and shootings, it was more or less restored. So in the daytime, offices are working, and everything is fine, but all these street lights are permanently off to save power. And in the evening residential areas, they are getting certain blackouts from time to time. In general, there is a kind of schedule, so that the power utility companies are distributing, uh, to say, you know, so, uh, this is the possible time when, when you might get disconnected, but sometimes it still happens unexpectedly. So…

Gregg: Well, you know, I gotta say, and I wanna remind you and everyone else, we said we’re gonna keep these shows really short. So we’re gonna be really to the point here. But I have to say, forgive the amount of shelling that’s come from these drones, the Ukrainian infrastructure is incredibly resilient. I think a lot of places, Soviet…

Ilya: Soviets…

Gregg: Well, Soviet, my mistake.

Ilya: No actually. Uh, when this whole thing was just starting, it was, a large discussion on this, whether it’s possible to completely shut down, for example, Kyiv. Yes, and this was when the tanks were right next door to us and uh actually a Soviet approach was, uh, to build it in case of war. And, uh, a lot of systems are specifically redundant and resilient and are customized particularly to the situation of bombing shellings, you know disconnections and disruptions you know acts of sabotage, and all these types of things. So yeah, it’s, uh, it is working. The problem is that Ukraine already lost at least half of its power generation because, uh, in general, 51% of, Ukrainian energy, electricity, I mean, uh, is being generated at the nuclear power plants. And the major one is in Zaporizhzhia, which is shut down. It is occupied territory, and another one is right next door to Kherson. Uh, so it’s, also not working. Uh, it’s on the controlled territory, but, nevertheless, it’s limited output and the rest of the system is several hydropower plants. And again, uh, the biggest one is, Nova Kakhovka, which is next to Kherson, that’s where the actual active fighting is taking place right at this very moment. And, then it’s a lot of coal generation where the bulk of the coal production is an occupied territory again, so it’s also a problem. And, uh, now winter is starting, so the consumption is growing.  And all these processes, Yes they, um, come into restrictions.

Gregg: All right, so in the spirit of keeping things short, I wanna get right to it.
I’ve been telling you…

Ilya: but uh, let me, because I mentioned this. Agnieszka is asking, you know, what if Kherson is damaged? But, Let me just answer that, you see? Now I will tell you, a real, uh, insight because that’s not what has been written in foreign media, even not in Ukrainian -is what’s actually happening there around them. Um, right now they are mutual for everybody. There are mutual accusations, that, Russians are telling that Ukrainians want to destroy them and obviously, uh, Ukrainians are telling that
Russians are going to do this very thing. And it was even in, Zhiyansky speech. And, in fact, uh, the reality is that indeed the Russian military who are right now controlling them, it’s a little bit to the north from Kherson, up Dnipro River, next to Kherson is down by the river and indeed the Russians have put ting explosives in the dam and now that fueled a lot of speculations. But what was actually happening is that the Ukrainian side actually increased the inflow of water, uh, into the reservoir. It was done in attempts to, uh, recapture Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant for the reason I just said. And in general, it’s a very potential, uh, dangerous situation when Russia is controlling the power plant and around it. You know, there are a lot of Ukrainian forces and exit fights. So it was, uh, a covered operation by Special Forces of Ukraine, which tried to recapture the power plant-the nuclear power plant. It was unsuccessful. But, uh, to help them, the power grid people, they were increasing the water level. And I think that what actually the Russian army started to do, is, they were preparing to blow the dam to decrease the water, uh, to prevent recapturing of the nuclear power plant- if nothing else. But in terms of meaning to Kherson, Kherson is located on the right Bank of Dnipro River, which is a high Bank. It’s not mountainous, but there are like pretty serious hills up there, and the left bank where all of the Russian army is, it’s lower. So in case, the dam would be blown, uh, who would be demolished? Who would be flooded? It’s mainly Russian soldiers who are on the opposite side of the left bank of Dnipro river. That’s why I don’t think that that would actually happen. But uh, obviously the situation.

Does Putin Have to Die- Authors: Ilya Ponomarev and Gregg Stebben

Gregg: Yeah. So, okay. I wanna…. thank you for answering Agnieszka question. I wanna hear from you because I’ve been telling these guys about the first Congress of People’s Deputies of Russia. Um, they’ve heard enough about it from me. We all want to hear about it from you. So start at the beginning, tell us what it is, what the goals are, and, anything else you can tell us to kind of, get us up to speed on it.

Ilya: It’s actually, uh, quite an exciting thing because we want to construct a real, tangible alternative to Putin’s authorities. And the situation is that, since 2014, there were no elections in Russia, which were recognized as free and fair. Even before- they were tainted, corrupt, you know, whatever. Uh, but at least, they were recognized after 2014 that they were not. So right now, there are no legitimate deputies, on no levels, neither on the Federal level nor on the Regional level, nor on the Municipal level of people who are real people’s representatives…

Gregg: Yes…

Ilya: …and the idea is to get together those People’s Deputies, who are standing on the right side of the history, who were elected when the elections were still in place, and, uh, establish an alternative Parliament, which would, in the situation of power change, of the regime change in Russia, take and which would be legitimate enough because people were actually elected. And, uh, that’s the first, Congress of People’s Deputies that would happen, from the 4th to the 7th of November in Poland in a very symbolic place. There is a place called Lon and uh, this place is where the process of the so-called round table in Poland started. And Round Table was the transition of power from the old Soviet system to Salish, uh, the legendary, Uh, Labour Union, Uh, and that was the, first of all, the Velvet Revolutions, which destroyed the socialist camp in Europe and which ended the Cold War essentially. That’s, uh, so that’s actually the cradle of the process that ended the Cold War. And, and the Soviet occupation and dominance, in Europe. That’s why we picked up that particular place. And right now we have more than 50 Deputies coming. Um, we calculated more or less the number of votes that, uh, that they represent. So people who actually voted for them, Um, uh, in the past. So we are getting approximately 10 million people…

Gregg: Hmm…

Ilya: No, which is not that bad, taking it that, Russia has 140 million people. So, uh, obviously we’re not getting the majority, well, yes, but it’s a pretty sizeable chunk of the population. So if that would be the part here in the Duma, it would control, uh, one-third to 40% of the seats, uh, in Duma. So it’s pretty serious. And, uh, we will, vote, for the first set of laws that are supposed to be enacted immediately after the regime change. And, uh, obviously it’s, uh, you know, about peace and, about different social guarantees. Uh, but mainly it’s about fundamental changes in
the political system, obviously.

Gregg: So, I saw something on your Facebook page and I’m not sure I understood it, so I’d like you to explain. Was there some form of recognition by the Congress of Poland, of your meeting and the outcome of this group? 

Ilya: No, that’s an objective. Um, obviously it would not happen the very next day after we got together and I think that actually, this process would start from Ukraine. Right now, we are very actively negotiating with Ukrainians for an official delegation from Ukrainian Parliament to attend the Congress. And obviously, that would be a message, but still, it’s not a recognition, but, um, it’s a certain road that we need to follow, and uh, that’s the path to Victory. 

Gregg: So, what happens between now and November 4th? Is it just more planning and creating relationships and allies and things like that?

Ilya: Oh, yes! Right now it’s around-the-clock organizational work, uh, because, some people are in Russia. For them to get out, It is a security operation because we don’t want anybody to be arrested. There would be certain people who would be online. Also, it is a problem for their personal safety and security that they would not be intercepted. Um, so it is a lot of organizational work, and also a lot of obviously political negotiations. One of the things that we want to do during the convention is, we want to sign on the establishment of the International Anti-Authoritarian Alliance, which would be comprised of, uh, political parties and movements Uh, which are on post-Soviet space, um, in countries and territories where there is an autocratic regime. So main opposition forces in Central Asia are joining us, Uh, Georgians, Uh, we are right now negotiating with Belarusian. Um, so, it would be also a powerful alliance. And also, that is our message that, uh, we are no longer imperialistic. We are part of the family of equals and we have a common enemy and we need to defeat the enemy together. 

Gregg: Okay, I’m gonna ask you two more questions. One, is, is there anything we, who are watching the show today do to help you? 

Ilya: There’s always finances…

Gregg: Alright, good…

Ilya: Yeah, uh, but, uh, in general, uh, we need to spread the words, uh, because, at the end of the day, it will be coming to talking to US Congressmen, and US authorities and we need to create public opinion that this is something that needs to be done. Obviously, everybody is extremely cautious. Uh, you know, everybody likes to establish a relationship when the victory is already claimed.

Gregg: Everybody loves the winner….

Ilya: Yeah, absolutely! And like, making a bet before it happens, you know, it’s, uh, it’s a way more difficult job. So that’s what we’re trying to do.

Gregg: All right. We know we’re gonna talk to you again tomorrow at the same time. So with that in mind, is there anything else you want to tell us today? Cause otherwise, we’ll let you go and we’ll pick it up tomorrow. 

Ilya: Um, no. I think let’s just continue tomorrow and again to answer Agnieszka, uh, question, just, the day before yesterday, it was on the front page of Rzeczpospolita Newspaper and there would be another big piece about it, uh, right before the Congress also in Rzeczpospolita. Uh, and (inaudible words) I just don’t have, good connections there. But if you do send them my way, yeah, absolutely. 

Gregg: See, Thank you. There are things we can do. All right, Ilya, I’m gonna let you go. I’m gonna pop you out. I’m gonna keep talking for a few minutes. We’ll see you tomorrow. Thank you.