Russian journalist Oleg Kashin, on slon.ru site provides a creditable account of what has been going on these last few months in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
He explains why, embarrassingly for Putin, two Russian citizens, Alexander Boroday, [now 'premier' of the Donetsk People's Republic] and Igor Girkin/Strelkov, ['Commander of the Donetsk People's Militia'], have come to occupy their exalted positions even though neither has ever had much to do with that part of Ukraine.
'Ukrainska Pravda' also quote Kashin to reveal Russian oligarch, Konstyantin Malofyeyev, co-operated with the Russian army in the Spring operation to annex Crimea, in joint 'semi-state/semi-private partnership' .
Malofyeyev, a staunch supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church and friend of Putin's crackpot political guru Alexander Dugin , had already been active in Crimea, sponsoring the mayor of Sevastopol, Aleksey Chaliy, to the tune of $1 million.
Boroday, a Russian political technologist and former employee of Malofyeyev's, was sent to work as an adviser to Serhiy Aksyonov [a.k.a Goblin, a Crimean gangster/politician - now Crimean PM] when the Crimea land grab got under way.
Aksyonov had previously lead the so-called Russian Unity Party on the peninsula.
Strelkov, an officer in the Russian military reserves who holds extremist, radical views on eliminating enemies of the Russian state, was invited to join the Crimea operation by Boroday. The pair had been long-time friends.
Following a quick and clean 'victory' and annexation in Crimea, instead of returning home, Boroday and Strelkov, were carried away by their success and thought they would have a crack at 'liberating' the Donbas region of Ukraine too.
However, as the Slon.ru article explains, matters were not quite that simple because other players had also walked onto the stage in the region. Pavel Gubarev came out of nowhere to declare himself leader of the Donbas People's Militia, and then unofficial 'governor of the Donetsk oblast' following the initial seizure of Donetsk state administration buildings. Perhaps a Kremlin 'stooge', he was arrested by pro-Kyiv forces then released in a prisoner exchange, but now does not hold any official position in the Donetsk People's Republic, [even though his wife is, ahem, 'minister of foreign affairs']. Because of his 'demotion' Gubarev has now moved closer to Strelkov; if Moscow will require a local lackey in future if the region were to seek closer ties, he would 'do nicely'. [His experience as a part-time Christmas time Dyed Moroz/Santa Claus may prove helpful in this regard].
Another player on the stage is Denis Pushilin, previously only known for his involvement in the notorious million dollar MMM Ponzi scheme fraud a decade ago. Slon.ru alleges Pushilin, [now Donetsk People's Republic chairman], is a puppet whose strings are being pulled by Rinat Akhmetov.
Pushilin had been set up to establish a fake semi-autonomous republic, but without the excessive use of force, to occupy buildings in Donetsk etc., and provide Akhmetov leverage in his dealings with the new powers in Kyiv following the flight of former president Yanukovych.
Pushilin's project was a flimsy parody of last winter's events in Kyiv, and has now been completely eclipsed by the deeds of serious, bloodthirsty crazies like Strelkov in Slovyansk and other smaller towns.
Slon.ru compares Strelkov in Donbas to Che Guevara in Bolivia. Streklov achieved success in Crimea, as Guevara [and Castro] had in Cuba. Both thought they could repeat similar revolutions elsewhere. Guevara, of course came to a sticky end.
There is now increasing tension between Donetsk and Slovyansk. Pushilin and the pseudo-separatists in Donetsk have become the hostages of Strelkov and his terrorist thugs too.
Oleg Kashin concludes: "Russia, of course, is responsible for the Ukrainian crisis from its inception, and in the case of Donbas just the propaganda support is sufficient to consider Russia the patron of the separatists. But propaganda support can be switched on.. and can be switched off, as has happened more than once. But how can you turn off field commander like Strelkov? Developments in Slovyansk strongly indicates that this portion of the Ukrainian Front is living by its own laws, and has long since gone beyond Ukrainian internal domestic intrigue involving Akhmetov and that "public-private partnership" that was seen in Crimea. And there is nothing in the world more interesting than political intrigue which has slipped out of control of its original authors."