On the front line with Ukraine’s band of brothers

2017/8/8 14:40:32

Two Ukrainian Donbas Battalion volunteers at their frontline post, Summer 2017.


(Photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)










By SETH J. FRANTZMAN for the Jerusalem Post, Aug 8, 2017


UKRAINE – Casper, Sniper, Hammer, Owl. These are just some of the nicknames of Ukrainians who volunteered to serve in the Donbas Battalion, a unit formed in 2014 to fight pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.


On the front line they call each other “friend” in lieu of the old Soviet-style “comrade.” And each goes by his nickname. It’s not just for fraternal reasons. There are many common first names in Ukraine so an officer searching for “Sasha” might find several men in each unit with the same name.

Over several days on the front line of Ukraine’s “frozen” war – being fought in the east of the country against pro-Russian separatist republics that broke away in 2014 – these fighters detailed the challenges they face daily.


This corner of the world seems forgotten, even in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. And except for a few recruitment posters for the armed forces, there are few reminders that a simmering conflict, which takes up to two dozen lives a month, is still ongoing. Yet along hundreds of kilometers of what is called the cease-fire line, the Ukrainian Army is tasked with supervising a 2015 agreement which was supposed to lead to a cease-fire.


“The ‘frozen’ conflict freezes in the morning, melts during the day and at night there is firing,” said a sergeant who commands a position in Avdivka, one of the closest positions to the separatists.


Peering through a concrete wall pierced by tank shells, he says his men not only face volunteers from the separatist area around Donetsk, but also face Russian soldiers.


“There are Chechen war junkies and Russian mercenaries,” among the separatists as well, according to Vyacheslav Vlasenko, commander of the Donbas Battalion.


For men in his battalion, this war is personal. Many volunteered in 2014 after the Maidan protests in Kyiv forced Viktor Yanukovych, then Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, to step down and flee the country. When a rebellion broke out in the mostly Russian-speaking part of eastern Ukraine, volunteers streamed to fight on both sides.


http://www.jpost.com/International/On ... s-band-of-brothers-501850

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