Former Kyrgyz mercenary: ‘I saw Russian army, not Ukrainian fascists in Donbas’
With the scale of Russian involvement in the Donbas conflict becoming ever clearer, a Kyrgyz mercenary has come forward with more details about Russian regular troops fighting on Ukrainian soil.
In an exclusive interview with Radio Liberty, the mercenary spoke of his disillusionment with Russian propaganda – disinformation that prompted him to come to the war in Ukraine’s Donbas in August 2014 to fight on the side of the Russia-backed militants, according to a report on the interview in Ukrainian news magazine Novoye Vremya.
“It’s all just propaganda, as it appeared to be,” says the fighter, who goes by the nom de guerre of “Manas.”
“It’s quite sad, actually, as I graduated from a political school and still fell for such nonsense.”
The former LNR (Luhansk People’s Republic militant organization) fighter said that he had personally seen Russian troops being deployed and in combat, and was absolutely positive that Russian servicemen were involved in the fighting.
“What doubts can I have if we fought together? There can be no doubts,” he said.
He said that his experiences had led him to doubt information about the Ukraine conflict coming from the Russian media - doubts which ultimately led him to leave Ukraine in November 2014.
Saying that the experienced “rebel” fighters were actually Russian servicemen, Manas said that there were militant fighting units composed mostly of contracted Russian soldiers who had participated in both of Russia’s Chechen wars.
“The local insurgents [by themselves] are nothing. It’s all about Russian heavy weapons,” said Manas, adding that when the Russian troops are withdrawn, their heavy weapons are left in the area.
Describing the makeup of so-called LNR fighting units, Manas claimed there were almost no foreign volunteers, and that local miners had left, to be replaced by Russian regular troops, who had been reinforced lately with howitzers.
Manas admitted to fighting against Ukrainian government forces, adding that he had not encountered fascists in pro-Ukrainian volunteer units, despite the claims of Russia’s prominent First channel, Rossiya TV and other Russian media outlets that these units are made up of neo-Nazis.
After several months in Ukraine, the Kyrgyz mercenary decided to go back home, saying he regretted the decisions he had made last summer when he had believed the Russian propaganda about Ukraine.
Manas also said that local residents in the Luhansk region feel betrayed by Russia. He said hopes for the region joining Russia had totally disappeared after the Minsk ceasefire agreements, and now the prospects of being granted a special status within Ukraine leaves locals wary, with many fearing legal repercussions for participating in separatist activity.
The Novoye Vremya story in Russian, which includes a link to the original Radio Liberty interview, can be found here.