Spanish volunteers fight alongside rebels in Ukraine

The satellite news channel RT (previously known as Russia Today)  is not best known for its balanced, dispassionate journalism. It was once referred to by US Secretary of State John Kerry as a “propaganda bullhorn” for Russian President Vladimir Putin. (The State Department seemed especially vexed by RT’s continued assertion following the ousting of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, that the revolt had been financed by the Obama administration.)  Yet if one watches the English-language Russian channel with a relatively large grain of salt, RT can be useful for obtaining an alternative viewpoint on a conflict in Eastern Ukraine which has already claimed 1,500 lives and which is putting civilians in rebel-held cities likes Donetsk and Luhansk through hellish conditions. In Luhansk, residents have been without electricity for nearly a week, until power was partly restored earlier today. In Donetsk, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the self-styled “prime minister” of the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic, warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe and has called for a ceasefire. As in any instance of urban warfare, civilians inevitably get caught in the middle of the battles.

Spanish volunteers in Eastern Ukraine fight alongside rebels. Photo: RT.

Spanish volunteers in Eastern Ukraine fight alongside rebels. Photo: RT.

RT, however, reported on an interesting development in the five month-long conflict between Ukraine’s military and Russian separatist rebels in the east of the country. Two Spanish volunteers, both in their twenties,  have decided to fight alongside the rebels and participated in a press conference, in order to explain what compelled them to risk their lives in the bloody conflict. “What we have see in the weeks that we are here is only bombing of the people and the assault on all the fronts from Kiev. They are trying to separate the cities, they are sending mercenaries to kill the journalists and to demoralize any person that can tell the truth about what’s happening here“–remarked Anhel Davilla-Rivas, a 29 year old Spaniard who has joined the rebels. He was accompanied by his 28 year old compatriot Rafa Munez, both of whom sat before a banner depicting a hammer and sickle during their news conference. Both Mr. Munez and Mr. Davilla-Rivas travelled to eastern Ukraine from Madrid by train and have joined the Vostok rebel battalion.

More people have to come here. If they don’t want to take guns, all people can help in something: in the kitchen, cleaning, telling the truth to countries, and watching the situation with their own eyes. It is more important that a lot of people come here and help in what they can, not necessarily only as soldiers,” added Mr. Davilla-Rivas.

Meanwhile, the two main urban centres still controlled by the rebels — Lugansk and Donetsk — are both close to being under siege. Donetsk is now completely encircled by the Ukrainian military. Some 250,000 residents are trapped in Lugansk without adequate medical supplies, food and electricity.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has indicated that he will allow for an international humanitarian mission to visit Luhansk and has been in discussions with Red Cross president Peter Maurer about this possibility. While Russia has offered to send humanitarian aid across the border, there has been concern in Kyiv that this would be used as an opportunity for President Putin to either send troops into the troubled region or military supplies to aid the rebels.

From a Hungarian perspective, one wonders if the young, fiery zealots around the openly pro-Putin Jobbik party may one day decide to volunteer for service in eastern Ukraine as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *