On June 19, the Russian TV channel Tsargrad, owned by Kremlin-linked oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, reported that the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR in Russian) in Ukraine had been officially recognized as an independent state. However, it is unlikely the DNR will be opening a consulate in the near future, given that the territory “recognizing” the Ukraine separatists is a 2.5 acre island in the Shetlands known as Forewick Holm or Forvik Island.
The “Acting Foreign Minister and Sovereign” who signed the decree of recognition on behalf of the “Sovereign Nation of Shetland” is one Stuart Hill, a British pensioner who has a rather colorful history completely unmentioned in the Tsargrad report.
In Britain, Hill is better known as “Captain Calamity,” a moniker earned after a series of sailing mishaps (nine in total) that required him to be rescued at sea. In one of these adventures, Hill attempted to sail around the British Isles in a rowboat he had rigged with a windsurfing sail.
While he has thus far only managed to assert ownership of Forewick Holm, which he claims was gifted to him (the actual owner disputes this), Hill advocates for the Shetland Islands’ total secession from the United Kingdom.
His self-proclaimed “Sovereign State of Forvik” has its own website with information for potential tourists. However, vacationers may be disappointed with the “state’s” lack of infrastructure. While the map on the official website displays such infrastructure as highways and even Forvik International Airport, none of this appears on Google’s satellite map. Thus far, the only practical way to reach the island is by boat, but this comes with risks, given that Hill himself had to be rescued at sea when returning to the island in 2008.
Hill’s argument for Shetland independence is rooted in a deal allegedly struck between King Christian of Denmark and the Scottish King James III in 1469. According to this narrative, Christian essentially pawned the islands to Scotland as collateral for a loan, which Hill says was never paid back. Since no other agreement was made thereafter, Stuart claims the islands are in a state of constitutional limbo and thus should be made a Crown dependency, somewhat like the Channel Islands.
While British historians dispute Hill’s claims and say the Shetlands do indeed legally belong to the United Kingdom, Hill’s arguments are arguably more convincing than the case for the Donetsk People’s Republic, which was created by Russian proxies and led to a war when Russian national Igor “Strelkov” Girkin and his mercenary forces engaged Ukrainian authorities trying to restore control. Today the unrecognized territory is sustained and controlled by Russia and its armed forces, although unlike Mr. Hill, Russia does not officially recognize its “independence.”