News / Europe

Ukraine Uniting Militias to Bolster Forces in East

FILE - Pro-Ukrainian activists clash with pro-Russia activist during a pro Ukraine rally in Donetsk, Ukraine.
FILE - Pro-Ukrainian activists clash with pro-Russia activist during a pro Ukraine rally in Donetsk, Ukraine.
Gabe Joselow
With the conflict in eastern Ukraine intensifying, the country's military needs new recruits more than ever. A drive to integrate guerrilla fighters into national security forces to add muscle to the escalating campaign against pro-Russian separatists.

At this training center outside Kyiv, a new battalion of the National Guard is honing its skills.

Soldiers at a firing range shoot round after round at their targets, under the watch of burly military trainers.

But these are no ordinary rookies. This is a group of battle-hardened fighters formed from a community militia that organized itself to confront separatist forces in the east.

Their commander, Semyon Semenchenko, said they are looking for additional recruits to round out the new battalion. “We are looking for men who are first of all ready to die for their motherland,” he said. “This readiness to fulfill their duty until the end is what distinguishes a soldier from the quitter who just drops his weapon and runs away,” Semenchenko stated.

The Donbas battalion formed under the leadership of Semenchenko in the last two months to confront pro-Russian rebels who have taken control of parts of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has been working on a campaign to recruit and integrate these semi-official squads into the National Guard.

Most of the soldiers in the battalion are residents of the east and have been on the front lines of the conflict.

One soldier, going by the code name Almaz, or “diamond,” was part of the group ambushed by separatist fighters in a now famous battle last month in Karlovka, as the battalion was trying to secure polling stations ahead of the presidential elections.

Outnumbered by more than 100 separatist fighters, he said his group of 20 was overwhelmed, with no one to call for backup.

“They started to surround us,” he said, “we were fighting, the forces were uneven, some groups had to pull back, unfortunately we didn't have any help, so we managed on our own,” Almaz said.

At least one member of the Donbas battalion was killed, with several others wounded in the fight.

For Almaz and the rest of the group, joining the National Guard offers not only training and equipment, but also the promise of stronger military backing. A lack of coordination has been a major weakness of Ukrainian forces in the east.

Meantime, Russian fighters have been seen among the separatists, though Moscow denies any direct involvement.

In the most recent of their increasingly brazen attacks, hundreds of rebels on Monday launched a major, sustained assault on a border guard post near the city of Luhansk. The daylong battle left as many as five rebels dead and 10 servicemen injured, at least four critically.

To fight the growing threat, Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said the National Guard needs as many volunteers as it can get, and that incorporating the Donbas battalion is part of a greater effort to unite these loosely organized community militias.

“This is the third battalion of the National Guard that was a guerrilla squad before,” he said, “Now that the terrorists are more organized, and better formed, receiving weapons from Russia, they (the Ukrainian authorities) understand that we needed to be united,” said Gerachchenko.

The Ukrainian authorities have been calling on community self-defense groups that supported protests against the country's former Russian-backed president to join the fight in the east, but it is unclear how many are stepping forward.

The smoldering conflict is among the most pressing challenges facing President-elect Petro Poroshenko, who has vowed to put a quick end to the insurgency.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anderson Ngulube from: Kafue Zambia
June 04, 2014 5:46 AM
Come on men and women let us unity this world stop fight each other we are one people.

by: Igor from: Russia
June 04, 2014 5:11 AM
To me it is a stupid action, no more, no less because those in power in Kiev only seek to deepen hatred and resentment between those in the West and those in the East. Blood will be paid by blood and Ukraine will be like Iraq, Syria and Afganistan. Gerachchenko said those in the East are terrorists but he is proving himself to be a terrorist because of his terrorist actions against innocent civilians.

by: CDNborn from: Canada
June 03, 2014 10:23 PM
Well now, if that wasn't a "feel good" story to get the war drums beating I don't know what is. 100+ to 20, and they pulled it out. I can see Hollywood snapping this story up in a heartbeat.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More