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Published in Stream:
Ukraine Live Day 396
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Kyrygz Mercenary Who Fought Alongside Separatists In Ukraine Speaks to RFE/RL
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RFE/RL has interviewed a man who says he is a Kyrygz who traveled to Ukraine to fight alongside Russian backed separatists. RFE/RL reports:

A Kyrgyz military reserve officer has told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service about his seven months of service as a mercenary in the ranks of the Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Manas Mambetov alleges Russian troops are increasingly replacing local and mercenary fighters in the region -- and that Moscow has stepped up the provision of heavy weaponry.

The man describes how he watched Russian State TV and saw the images of fascists and swastikas, and they resonated with him because of his family history, so he traveled to Ukraine to fight alongside the separatists and against the fascists. The problem: once there he never found any fascists to fight:

"We fought against the regular Ukrainian Army. They had some questionable elements -- the right Sector and the Donbas battalions, which are composed of volunteers, ultranationalists. Such types are everywhere. But I didn't see any fascists."

There are a few interesting distinctions which Mambetov is making. Ultranationalists are a common sight in Russia, and indeed most of Eastern Europe. But though their ideology may be problematic, they aren't Nazis. Perhaps Mambetov is suggesting that the ultranationalists in some of Ukraine's volunteer battalions are not so different from those he's encountered elsewhere?

Mambetov says he went to Lugansk in August, and there were no regular army units there yet, just poorly-outfitted "bands fighting on both sides." He describes how the Russian media portrayed the reality there and how it was different from what he was seeing.

Then the Russian army came in. He says something "shifted" inside of him. Mambetov describes how battle-hardened Russian soldiers would bring heavy equipment across the border, train the separatist fighters, then leave and later come back.

The Kyrgyz also says that the separatist militias are degrading. He says that since the last Minsk agreement was signed, "they think that Russia -- Putin, personally -- has abandoned them. After Crimea... they though they too would be recognized like the Lugansk People's Republic and the Donetsk People's Republic. But it turned out that they had simply been cheated." Mambetov said that many of the fighters believe that they will become targets of the Ukrainian security services after the Donbass is granted "special status" within Ukraine, and so some of them are leaving the country.

The militias are still receiving shipments of heavy weapons, but only "erratically," since "it is regular Russian forces that are in action. The miners aren't around anymore."

So he left. "It turned out that everything was all agitation, propaganda. This was really offensive to me."

Watch the entire video here:

-- James Miller