Former Donetsk chief promoted to Kalmykia
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Dmitry Trapeznikov has been appointed deputy premier of the Republic of Kalmykia. A former Shakhtar Donetsk ultras leader, he has been at the top of the separatist republic in Ukraine's Donbass. Protected by Putin's circle, the opposition criticises him for his poor qualities as an administrator.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - The career of Dmitry Trapeznikov, who in just a few years has gone from being a Ukrainian civil servant to the head of the separatists in Donetsk, the Donbass city at the centre of clashes between Russia and Ukraine, has sparked astonishment. Sent to be mayor of Elista, capital of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, he has now been promoted to deputy premier by local governor Batu Khasikov.

Born in 1981, Trapeznikov first came to prominence in the late 1990s as the animator of the wildest fans of the Shakhtar Donetsk football team', owned by pro-Putin oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, and this earned him a certain local fame. Because of his lively colouring and aggressive attitude he was called 'Mr Pomidor', a cartoon character used mostly for pizza advertising.

After accumulating in unclear circumstances, with the start of the 2014 clashes between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists, Trapeznikov began to roam the streets in a war uniform, despite not being a military man. He became the right-hand man of the separatists' leader (Aleksandr Zakharčenko) and then succeeded him for a week at the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk republic - in 2018 a car bomb killed Zakharčenko.

In 2019 Trapeznikov made a surprise reappearance in Elista, probably on the initiative of Putin's ideologue Vladislav Surkov, his political protector. Surkov is a sportsman, a lover of football and boxing, passions he also shares with the calmucho Khasikov.

Some Kalmykian citizens are protesting, claiming the illegality of these appointments: Trapeznikov does not have a Russian diploma, has no experience in government except in low-level roles, and has not even done military service. Used by the Russians as a pawn in the ongoing 'hybrid war' in the Donbass, Trapeznikov has therefore been rewarded with a promotion in an area completely foreign to him, and the latest career move is clearly a way of preventing him from doing any damage.

Kalmykia is a piece of Asia in European territory, the only region with a Buddhist majority on the Old Continent. Descendants of the Oirates of Zungaria, a semi-nomadic Mongol population of the Asian steppes, the Kalmyks moved to these parts around 1600, long after the reign of the Tatars, and since then this area has been a particularly peaceful corner of European Russia, sandwiched between the turbulent Caucasian lands and the varied peoples of the Oltrevolga. After the end of the USSR, the republic remained in the hands of a young official, Kirsan Iljumžinov, now 60 years old. A great Putin loyalist, he remained president until 2010, then retired behind the scenes to control the situation and became president of the International Chess Federation.

President Khasikov responded to the controversy by praising Trapeznikov, "who began his work in Kalmykia as an anti-crisis manager and has shown great efficiency: under his leadership the city of Elista has been transformed". The citizens of the capital do not seem to agree with these enthusiastic assessments: on Kavkaz.Realii, Natalia Manžikova, a deputy of the 'Fair Russia' party, says that 'under him the city was drowned in rubbish, and the roads were badly repaired'.

People expected the 'Donetsk manager' to leave the republic, to warm up a few chairs in other regions, while his appointment will create tensions in the Elista government. According to Manžikova, 'this testifies to the lack of independence of our leaders in the management of administrative structures'. The moves of the Kremlin's puppet from Donetsk to Elista, besides the fragility of the calmucchi leaders, also shows the grotesque inconsistency of the 'separatist republics' in Ukraine, for which a new world war is now threatening to break out.