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How To Read Ukraine
Interview with a Russian Mercenary in Ukraine

Radio Free Europe has published a fascinating interview with a pro-Moscow mercenary who fought in eastern Ukraine. The man, an Armenian called Artur Gasparyan, describes being recruited and armed in Russia and crossing the border to fight the Ukrainian army alongside other rebel militias. He explains how Russian overseers had him delete his social media accounts in order to make him difficult to identify by the press, and how the soldiers in his militia did not know each others’ real names. Here is a particularly riveting passage from the interview in which the soldier describes his experience with the violence and mismanagement at a battle at Donetsk Airport:

One Chechen was killed on the roof immediately. Two others were wounded. They fired on the helicopters with everything they had. It took me two or three seconds to get up there. I fired on the high area from where a sniper was shooting at us. They forced us tightly into the building and were bombing from all sides. They had missile launchers around the perimeter of the airport and were firing on the terminal.

Khodakovsky [their commander] naively thought that since the airport was new—just opened for the European soccer championships [in 2012]—they wouldn’t use heavy weapons on it. If we had only had our antiaircraft weapons, none of that would have happened.

It’s important to keep stories like this one in mind as Putin continues to deny sending militants into eastern Ukraine to sow violence and discord. When Gasparyan is asked about press reports that the separatists in eastern Ukraine are about 80 percent local and 20 percent Russian, he responds:

I’d say exactly the opposite. Most of them are Russians, Chechens, Ingush. There are also Armenians like me. I spoke to some locals and they say that they did what they’d been told. I said, “What did they tell you to do?” They answered: “We voted. The rest is up to you.” That is, they participated in the referendum on DNR independence but they don’t intend to fight. One guy told me, “I want to get my pay and then drink until my next payday.” In general, they have no experience. Don’t know how to handle weapons. No one had been in the military.

You can read the whole interview, including the soldier’s motivations for joining up and reasons for eventually leaving the fighting, here.

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  • Сергей Кац

    Interview with the Ukrainian gangster in New Russia :

    A pilot was captive in the district of settlement Должано-Никольское in the Luhansk area. Alexander Гуреев, militiaman with a call-sign “Knight”, told to the detail about the capture of the Ukrainian pilot hammered together on July, 14 in the Luhansk area of АН- 26. On his words, pilots were detained by a local population whereupon passed in the hands of militia. As Гуреев told, pilots were captive in the district of settlement Должано-Никольское. One pilot was detained for an interrogation by the militiamen of Luhansk, other was given to the Krasnodon staff of militia. According to “Knight”, a pilot was in shock, was contused and did not offer resistance. The task of pilot was delivery of load of water and food for Ukrainian soldiery, being near Krasnodon. A “knight” told that contact with a pilot to set it was unsimply, as soldiery to the Ukrainian army passed the “sound washing of brains” Kyiv propaganda. – I Confirm that after an interrogation an opportunity to call to family was given him. He called to the wife, said that safe and sound. Him clothes were changed and

    farther, to look –

  • Duperray

    Stupid invention: How come people totally unfamiliar with figthing, originated from countries having no link with Ukraine, would fight so hard that they still resist (after 3 month non stop) to an Army having everything from hand pistol to heavy artillery, tanks and airplanes?
    Next time you want to invent a fake interview, be at least less childish….

  • Pete


    Shame on you, Mead

    • Loader2000

      What is your evidence that it was fake? Why in the world would Mead or free radio deliberately lie about this? There is no economic advantage for most European countries to beat up on Putin (as evidence by the reluctance to do anything significant about the Ukraine situation). Occam’s razor say’s that the simplest reason behind an event is usually the correct one. In this case, what the soldier did and who paid for it are entirely consistent with the behavior of the KGB in the past so Occam’s razor would seem to indicate that the mercenary is telling the truth.

  • Diws

    What’s with all of the insane Russian nationalism anytime the Ukraine is brought up?

  • FriendlyGoat

    This is fascinating—-and America should be doing WHAT, once again?

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