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Ukraine's Expanding National Guard Includes Kyiv Pro-Western Protesters

  • Brian Padden

In Ukraine, there has been a sharp rise in military recruitment following Russia's annexation of Crimea and efforts by separatists in the country's east to secede. Many of the new recruits also were part of the protest movement that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych.

Mykhaylo, who did not give his last name, is midway through basic training. A few months ago he fought against police during anti-government protests in Kyiv's Maidan Square. Then he said he was fighting for democracy. Now he wants to fight against what he calls Russian aggression.

“I arrived in Maidan and was there for all the period of Maidan. And when we completed our task at Maidan, and this external threat appeared, I joined the national guard,” he said.

Anastasia Polishuk also was part of the movement that swept former Yanukovych from power. Now, she wants to fight for a united Ukraine.

“We are learning as much as we can. Then we are going to the east to protect our country,” Polishuk said.

Ukraine's military offensive in the east against pro-Russian separatists has not produced any decisive victories.

Rebel leaders say they will proceed with a May 11 referendum on autonomy, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin said it should be postponed.

While Ukraine's diplomats continue to look for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, the country has re-instituted compulsory military conscription. The commander of Ukraine's national guard, General Viktor Ganushyak, said these new volunteers are immediately increasing the country's military capability.

“For now the formation of the second national guard battalion of Ukraine is underway. They are signing up at locations not only in Kyiv, but also in other cities and regional centers in Ukraine,” said Ganushyak.

The national guard commander said these new troops will be used to provide security during the upcoming presidential elections, fight insurgents, and protect Ukraine's territorial integrity.

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