Volunteers in the Ukraine

Every morning on the Eastern front of Ukraine always starts the same way. When the first rays of dawn, even when on a low uncomfortable the horizon appears transparent sun, rare artillery shots gradually begin to sound more and more often.

The gunfire intensified, explosions from howitzers and grenade launchers are becoming more frequent, turning into a veritable hail of shells. Thundering explosions that leave you feeling strong blow to the chest, creating a background noise resembling the sound of the drum of death. This apocalyptic scene goes on for almost half an hour exchange of shots reaches its peak, it fully – like enthusiasm indiscriminately firing both sides, reacting to any attack. Then, gradually, the attack is on the decline, again turning to a rare exchange of gunfire in the surrounding gray space.

The same scene of brutal, lightning-fast clashes is repeated at sunset, when penetrating the darkness enveloping the bleak landscape devastated fields. At the moment it is the only war going on in Europe, but, according to UN estimates, it has cost the lives of ten thousands of people, and more than 1700000 left without a roof over your head.

Causes morning and evening of the shootings, predictable and recurring almost every day, due to the fact that the team of observers from the Special monitoring mission of OSCE in Ukraine as properly carrying out its work “officials” adhere to the work schedule: they come in the morning and leave in the evening. Their presence in a combat zone in any case can be considered a diplomatic achievement because it certainly slowed down the development of the conflict. In this regard, recall the truce of 2014, known as “Minsk -1” signed by both parties to the conflict. Unfortunately, the agreement turned out to be broken very soon. In February 2015 it signed a new agreement — “Minsk-2”. It daysthey so far. These agreements on a cease-fire until this moment was only one and it is a worthy goal for a de-escalation of the conflict, not the complete end of hostilities. Every day, as described above, takes place the same show: the collisions occur at a specified time of day.

The Ukrainian forces consist of units of the regular army and various volunteers, most of whom were Ukrainians. Among them are citizens of other countries — France, Georgia, Belarus.

In the beginning of the conflict the Ukrainian government was compelled to trust almost entirely to volunteers. Then, after exercise and the appearance on the site of the official army, and after stabilizing the situation at the front, the authorities began to exercise greater control over the volunteer militia. After the “Minsk-2”, prescribes the disarmament of illegal groups in Ukraine, the government opposes the presence of armed associations in which volunteers collected almost inevitably dropping out from under the control of the authorities.

While the military apparatus should prevent the attempts of volunteers to reach the battle-front, and even to arrest them in case of resistance, the “irregular” soldiers find many supporters among various representatives of the Ukrainian army.

We noted that the friendly attitude when the driver delivering us to the front near the city of Avdeevka drove towards the group of volunteers. We quickly passed several checkpoints of the Ukrainian army, where we asked only a few routine questions.

Driving through the dirty, desolate streets of the East of Ukraine, fighters who became our travel companions on this uncomfortable trip, explained to us that some officers of the regular army are sympathetic to the volunteers — for example, the well-known “Right sector” (organization recognized as extremist and banned in Russia — approx. ed), and see them as not just simple allies fighting against a common enemy, but also the useful power controlled by the Ukrainian government. These groups do not cooperate with representatives of the OSCE and can attack the separatist forces at the time and in ways that are not allowed to use the Ukrainian army.

“We do what they can not do” — openly tells us one of the volunteers. The commander of the volunteers, nicknamed Santa (which at the same time writing a book for children) told us that he had frequent contact with officers of the Ukrainian intelligence service (74-th reconnaissance crew). These officers supervised his volunteer group in the capture of some territories on the military front.

Despite the amazing number of bombs, rockets, grenades, shells and so on, which are daily exchanged by both parties, none of them claims to reduce stockpiles of weapons or resupply. Dolphin, as he was called by another commander of the volunteers, smiled when we asked, is it difficult to organize the supply of weapons. On all the bases of volunteers, we visited on the military front, we saw a lot of weapons and ammunition. The weapons were so many that many had to endure under the open sky, in large containers, covered with a blanket.

Operational volunteer base, located at the front, consists of destroyed during the bombing and abandoned houses fortified with sandbags and converted into real bunkers. People take refuge in these shelters, day return here from the front. The group replaced the next day: some teams have a rest, while others go to fight.

Because of the sandbags that cover the light, many of the interviews we took in the dark, in the room with stale air, or in the basement, where there is no air to breathe. Life in these houses is mainly concentrated around the Central chamber, where both men and women smoke, browsing social networks, preparing soup on the rusty plates. At one of these cottages, the volunteers found documents indicating that the owner of the abandoned houses was a senior official of the Communist from Russia. They are very amused by the thought that now the house is busy in order to fight against the Russians.

From the comments that we heard, we realized that none of the soldiers of the Ukrainian army and volunteers does not consider that they fight against the separatists during the civil war. They believe that resisting the invasion. Indeed, few used the word “separatists” in conversations among themselves and even in an interview with us, but they were always referred to simply “the Russian.” The movement of the separatists, many have called the operation, organized by members of Russian intelligence.

In truth, the Russian government continues to deny its support for Ukrainian separatists, acknowledging only that some Russian “volunteers” and retired military decided to take part in the conflict on their own. On the last day of our visit, gathered in the basement of one of the occupied houses (the upper floors were destroyed by artillery shells) around the wood-burning oven, a group of volunteers, consisting of eight men and one woman, shared with us his opinion about Russia and increasingly aggressive rhetoric between the conflicting parties. “Russia constantly violates the Minsk agreement, but thanks to them we had more time to prepare. So we start a new attack and not become too aggressive to respond to the speeches of Russian”.

Perhaps, Ukraine is ready to continue the conflict, as compared to his beginning position of Kiev has intensified. The last statement of the leader of this group of volunteers does not allow to hope for an end to the conflict. “The Russians will see what happens in Donbass. They got their when we took the unsuccessful position, but Ukraine will soon proceed to attack. You’ll see. We will liberate our lands that they occupied,” said he.