News / Europe

Foreign Fighters Make Presence Known Among Ukraine Separatists

Armed militiamen supporting the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic guard a checkpoint in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, June 1, 2014.
Armed militiamen supporting the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic guard a checkpoint in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, June 1, 2014.
Reuters
In flak jackets and mismatched camouflage fatigues, men from eastern Ukraine, Russia and Ossetia cleaned their weapons side by side in a former Ukrainian army base, now the headquarters of a separatist militia in the city of Donetsk.
 
Battalion Vostok - or the East Battalion - is a heavily armed, well-organized fighting group that has burst onto the scene in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east and appears to be seeking to lead the fight to prize the region from Kyiv and merge it with Russia.
 
The group encountered at the former Ukrainian base included a total of at least five fighters from the Russian Caucasus region of North Ossetia and from a Russian-backed enclave of Georgia.
 
Demonstrators, holding Russian flags, rally for Russian protection and against war in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 31, 2014.Demonstrators, holding Russian flags, rally for Russian protection and against war in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 31, 2014.
x
Demonstrators, holding Russian flags, rally for Russian protection and against war in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 31, 2014.
Demonstrators, holding Russian flags, rally for Russian protection and against war in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 31, 2014.

They acknowledged they had been fighting alongside Chechens from Russia's former rebellious region of Chechnya, but these, they said, had now gone home.
 
The presence of fighters from Russia and other parts of former Soviet space is likely to feature prominently in talks later this week when Ukraine's President-elect, Petro Poroshenko, meets U.S. President Barack Obama and, possibly, Russia's Vladimir Putin.
 
“The split of the country is final. There is nothing uniting us with them [the Kyiv leadership] now,” Alexander Khodakovsky, a defector from the Ukrainian state security service who now commands Battalion Vostok, told Reuters.
 
“Kyiv has already understood that they have lost south-eastern Ukraine, that it is a sphere of Russian influence, and one way or another it will remain so,” said the 41-year-old.

Foreign fighters

The men of Battalion Vostok see Russia as the heart of their own civilization and values, irreconcilable with the pro-Western course taken by the Ukrainian authorities.
 
Kyiv denounces them as terrorists and accuses Russia of supporting the rebellion in the east, where separatists have proclaimed independent “people's republics” and where scores of rebel fighters died in clashes with Ukraine's army in May.

Foreign fighters at the Battalion Vostok base in the north-eastern part of Donetsk, a city of 1 million people, gave various reasons, from religious persecution to ethnic divisions, for joining the separatists defending the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People's Republic."

The separatist leader Denis Pushilin said after the battle for the Donetsk airport, which is now controlled by the Ukrainian army, that the bodies of "volunteers" from Russia would be returned home, openly acknowledging involvement from across the border.

Moscow denies involvement in the conflict that threatens to tear Ukraine apart and has dragged ties between Russia and the West to their lowest since the Cold War.
 
OSCE monitors

Elsewhere, a special mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is in talks with a number of groups in eastern Ukraine to release two of its teams that have been detained there for days, a spokesman said on Sunday.
 
A team of four monitors has been held in the Donetsk region since last Monday evening, while another four plus a Ukrainian translator were detained around the Luhansk region on Thursday. There has been sporadic fighting in both regions between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces.
 
“We're engaged in dialogue on a wide number of levels. We've been on the ground in that region for about two months now and we're well known to many people who hold sway in those areas so we're in a good position, we feel, to get our colleagues back to base,” said Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman of the special mission.
 
“We're quite confident that they're in good shape, they haven't been harmed,” he told journalists outside the OSCE's office in Kyiv. He would not elaborate on the talks as they were sensitive.
 
D-Day observance

Also this week, Obama’s four-day trip to Poland, Belgium and France comes against the backdrop of successful national elections in Ukraine and signs that Russia is moving most of its troops off its shared border with the former Soviet republic. Yet violence continues to rage in eastern Ukrainian cities and there remains deep uncertainty about whether Ukraine's new president-elect can stabilize his country, the AP reported.
 
U.S. officials contend that, even with some signs of progress, Russia has not taken the necessary steps to ease tensions and could still face additional economic sanctions.
 
Confrontations continued Saturday between government troops and the Pro-Russian rebels. Ukrainian army paratroopers prepare to move to a position in Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 31, 2014.Confrontations continued Saturday between government troops and the Pro-Russian rebels. Ukrainian army paratroopers prepare to move to a position in Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 31, 2014.
x
Confrontations continued Saturday between government troops and the Pro-Russian rebels. Ukrainian army paratroopers prepare to move to a position in Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 31, 2014.
Confrontations continued Saturday between government troops and the Pro-Russian rebels. Ukrainian army paratroopers prepare to move to a position in Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 31, 2014.

Obama will look for Western allies to show a united front during a meeting of the Group of Seven major industrial nations that was quickly arranged after leaders decided to boycott a meeting Russia had been scheduled to host this week, the AP reported.
 
Putin is scheduled to join U.S. and European leaders in France on Friday for a day of events marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. Putin will also hold one-on-one talks with French President Francois Hollande, his first meeting with a Western leader since the Ukraine crisis began.
 
“Putin may not get to host the G-8 but if he gets to go to Normandy with everybody, it begins to diminish the appearance of isolation,'' said Steven Pifer, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who now serves as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in an AP report.
 
The White House says Obama will not hold a formal bilateral meeting with Putin, though the two leaders are expected to have some contact.
 
Officials also disputed the notion that Putin's presence constituted a return to normal relations, noting that Obama and other leaders have talked with the Russian president throughout the crisis with Ukraine.

Some information for this report provided by AP.

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: meanbill from: USA
June 01, 2014 8:03 PM
TRUTH BE TOLD -- If only the Ukrainians, the US, EU, and NATO countries, had honored the Yanukovych agreement signed on February 21, 2014 -- for a new Ukraine constitution and elections? --- (NONE of this would have happened, and Ukraine would be getting ready now, to vote in free democratic elections) -- in what was the whole country of Ukraine?

IF ONLY the US, EU, and NATO countries hadn't interfered in the internal politics of Ukraine, or if the Ukrainians had told them to butt out? -- (none of this would have happened?) -- Would have it?

In Response

by: jtarin from: USA
June 01, 2014 9:37 PM
Actually, Yanukovych never upheld his end of the bargain either.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid