News / Europe

Some Ukrainian Rebels Vent Frustration with Putin

A pro-Russian fighter gestures near a body of a community service worker who was killed during the shelling outside a residential apartment house in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, July 29, 2014.
A pro-Russian fighter gestures near a body of a community service worker who was killed during the shelling outside a residential apartment house in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, July 29, 2014.

Western leaders may be Vladimir Putin's biggest critics over the conflict in east Ukraine but the Russian leader is also facing criticism from some of the rebels they accuse him of arming.

The European Union and the United States have imposed new sanctions on Russia because they say Putin has not done enough to persuade the pro-Russian separatists to stop fighting and is supplying them with weapons.

But there is also frustration with Putin among some of the fighters, even though a rebellion that began with assault rifles, hunting guns and old weapons now has multiple rocket launchers, self-propelled howitzers, armored vehicles and tanks.

Donetsk and Luhansk, UkraineDonetsk and Luhansk, Ukraine

​Squeezed by the Ukrainian army into their last two strongholds, the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, the rebels complain they are outnumbered and outgunned.

“Oh, how we would like to see the Russian army here,” said a fighter who gave his name only as Pavel, standing outside the rebel headquarters in Donetsk, an industrial city about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of the nearest border crossing with Russia.

“If they were here, the Ukrainian border would be 300 km away to the west and south. But they're not coming.”

Despite the denials of other rebels, he said the separatists were receiving military equipment, including multiple missile launchers, from Russia.

“But that's only a fraction of what we need. We need people, experienced people. But Putin is afraid of spending Russian funds and his oligarchs' funds,” he said.

Another rebel fighter, who declined to give his name, also voiced frustration with Moscow.

“Russia must enter Novorossiya,” he said, using the name - which means New Russia - that Putin himself has at times used for the regions in eastern Ukraine where the separatists have risen up against Kyiv's rule.

“This is Russian soil, and every day they waste waiting [to send in arms and personnel] means more deaths,” he said. “We feel somewhat as if we are Russia's cannon fodder.”

It is not clear how widespread such disenchantment is among the rebels, and none of those who voiced criticism was prepared to give their full names for fear of retribution.

Appeal for help

The leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, some of whom are Russian, dismiss talk of divisions in the ranks, including over Russia's role in the crisis.

But in May, Igor Girkin, a rebel commander who also goes by the name of Igor Strelkov, appealed for military assistance in comments that were widely viewed online.

There was no public response from Putin, and the rebel leadership has since said all the fighters' weapons come from military depots they seized in fighting.

The rebel leaders have sought to douse expectations that there will be any overt response.

“We are receiving constant political and humanitarian support from Russia ... Political support is the most important one,” said Vladimir Antyufeyev, one of the top rebel officials.

“We would want to see that kind of (military) aid from Russia, but there will be none,” he told a news conference.

Such comments have prompted grumbling by some of the rebels since a big push began by the Ukrainian army, forcing the separatists out of several towns including the city of Slaviansk, which had been one of their main strongholds.

Some of the Ukrainians who still hold prominent positions in the rebel ranks have also at times quietly criticized the Russians brought in to lead the rebellion.

“There are indications that some groups feel betrayed by Moscow not doing enough,” a senior U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. “I do think it's fair to say that there are divisions in those ranks.”

Washington says the weapons flow from Russia increased dramatically several weeks ago in response to the government forces' successes.

The army's latest advances in eastern Ukraine have come since a Malaysian airliner was brought down on July 17 in rebel-held territory, killing all 298 people on board'

Moscow says Kyiv's military campaign was to blame for the crash. The United States says the rebels probably shot the plane down by mistake with a Russian-made SA-11 ground-to-air missile.

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Comment Sorting
by: Vera Aronoff from: Seattle WA
July 30, 2014 2:54 PM
The history of Russia is the history of the country trying to grab somebodies territories. The problem with the West that they are sitting on two chairs. If they are strongly put Putin as aggressor and were strong with sanctions from the very beginning , he would know the consequences. The main mistake was made in 2008, Georgian war. Russian aggressors should be sued in Gaaga, then nothing would be happened to Ukraine.

The hateful Russian propaganda and unfortunately Russian people became victims of so called Goebbels propaganda. It's time to say strongly to Putin and his cronies: enough is enough, stop fooling your people and the free world. If it goes like now , we will be close to the third world war. The Soviet Union was in some case guilty of the second world war. Playing games with Hitler and week position of the West brought the whole world to the second world war. Russian people, stop thinking you are the best , you are the strongest, that your leaders can do what ever they want to do, help peace loving people to stop your aggression in Ukraine.
In Response

by: slavko
July 30, 2014 11:52 PM
very aptly stated!!

by: JohnTurnbull from: UK
July 30, 2014 2:42 PM
How about some sanctions agains the US for not doing enough to prevent the butchery in Gaza?

by: DellStator from: US
July 30, 2014 2:25 PM
Russia not keeping it's word? Who would have imagined? Anyone who ever did business with Russia (just fined 50 billion Euros for nationalizing the countries biggest oil co, when it's owner annoyed the government) (defaulted on it's bonds back in the 90's - totally, completely defaulted, yet investors still buy Russian bonds, big interest, just like when they defaulted).
In Response

by: Denno from: Australia
August 01, 2014 2:28 AM
Looks like you have all fallen for the Western MSM, under the control of US/UK/Israeli moguls, propaganda campaign to blame & defame Russia without a shred of evidence to support their accusations that the "rebels" & thus Russia brought down MH17! Even the "so called" video evidence of a BUK M1 battery supplied by Russia, shown to be returning to Russia, was withdrawn by Kiev because it was proven bogus! It was actually proven to be their own BUK batteries in territory held by Ukraine. Further more the satellite and radar imagery that Russia provided proves that there was at least one Ukrainian SU-25 fighter rapidly ascending towards MH17 just before it was shot down by the fighter jet which is also consistent with the LHS MH17 cockpit wreckage being riddled with 30mm inward facing holes along with outward going slashes and hacks consistent with the SU-25's 30mm explosive & armour piercing rounds being fired at the cockpit rather than claims without any evidence that it was a centre hit proximity fuse missile like the BUK's. None of the large pieces of fuselage show any signs of a missile strike but rather a break-up due to 500km hour air being forced into the fuselage after the cockpit was blown off! Why hasn't the US shown their satellite footage of what happened, they have it as one of their spy satellites was directly above Ukraine at the time & no doubt monitoring the Ukraine/Russian border very carefully. Even the CIA publicly stated that Russia had no direct involvement in the shoot down. The article says, quote "The United States says the rebels probably shot the plane down by mistake", yes the US says anything to promote their agenda without any evidence. I believe that is commonly called "propaganda", while Russia has provided evidence in defence & pointing to Ukraine having shot the airliner down with their fighter jets. So get your heads out of the sand, stop swallowing everything the MSM spouts as they are simply the US's propaganda machine used to sway public opinion!

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