The highest official of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic', he also holds positions of the head of the 'Republic's' Government ('The Council of Ministers of the DPR') and 'The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the DPR'. He has military ranks of 'Major General of the DPR' and 'Major General of LPR' (both equivalent to US Army Brigadier General rank). Also heads the local 'cartel party' – the public movement 'Donetsk Republic', holding 64 seats out of 95 in the local parliament ('People's Council of the DPR').
Following the elimination of the warlords Arseny Pavlov ('Motorola') and Mikhail Tolstykh ('Givi'), Zakharchenko became the central media personality of the fake 'Republic'. Alexander Kozakov, a former resident of Riga, is his personal image-maker. Kozakov officially holds the position of 'the advisor to the head of the DPR' and is a member of Vladislav Surkov's pool of political technologists. The latter is the assistant to the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the curator of the Russia-occupied part of Donbas.
Another Zakharchenko's well-known 'advisor' is the Russian fascist writer Zakhar Prilepin. He is Surkov's distant relative (Surkov's cousin was married to the Priplepin's sister).
41-year-old Zakharchenko was born in Donetsk, graduated from a local school and a Donetsk Technical College of Industrial Automatics with 'Mining Electromechanics' as a major. According to some reports, in 2006, he was the CEO at the 'Trading House 'Continent' LLC, affiliated with Donetsk billionaire Rinat Akhmetov. He was also co-founder of the Donetsk 'Delta-Fort' Ltd., worked in the 'Olimp' vodka company and in the local branch of the Kyiv enterprise 'Havrylivski Kurchata'. In December 2013, he was among the 'titushky' mercenary gangs, met with Eugene Zhilin, and then headed the branch of his radically pro-Russian organization 'Oplot' in Donetsk. He took an active part in capturing government buildings and armed clashes with the Ukrainian Army.
It was Zakharchenko who led the group of 'Oplot' militants to seize the Donetsk city council in April 2014. In May he was appointed 'the military commandant of Donetsk', and subsequently - 'Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the DPR'. From August 2014 on he was also proclaimed 'the head of the DPR Government'. In the illegitimate elections of November 2014, the 'head of the republic' allegedly received 765,000 votes of local voters, or about 75% (according to the 'Central Election Commission of the DPR' fraudulent data). After that, he tried to gain control of all military and political processes among the Donetsk collaborationists, and seemed to be a sort of 'moderator' between different clans. He was a compromise figure for three groups: Akhmetov's, Surkov's and Russian special services. Now he has the backstage conflict with Denis Pushilin, so-called 'Speaker of the Parliament of the DPR'.
By the moment, Zakharchenko has actually lost his influence on the occupation forces, which are assembled in the so-called 'operational command 'Donetsk'' or '1st Army Corps of DPR'. Only one combat unit remains under his full control – 'Bastion', commanded by Andrey Borisov ('Chechen'). He also radically reduced his ties with Akhmetov, whose business in the Russia-occupied part of Donbas was 'nationalized', and the structures of the Akhmetov's humanitarian fund 'We Shall Help' ('Pomozhem') were forced out. In Donetsk and adjoining cities, the 'head of the DPR' runs a protection racket, involving a significant part of the markets, supermarkets, shopping malls, restaurants and cafes, and also food smuggling, the abduction of Russian humanitarian aid and the petrol trade. Upon seizure of the ATB supermarket chain, it was renamed into 'The First Republican Supermarket.' Now it is run by Zakharchenko's common-law wife, Natalia Gladkova. In addition, Zakharchenko also controls a chain of supermarkets 'Amstor'.