Ukraine Front Lines - No Ceasefire, Minsk Agreement Failed
Footage and interviews from Ukraine front lines.
Despite a ceasefire brokered in Minsk between Russia and Ukraine and the pulling back of heavy artillery on both sides, warfare doesn't stop in eastern Ukraine. Russian proxies and regular army continue shelling at Ukrainian forces' positions on daily basis. In the meantime, UA president Poroshenko announced UA volunteer battalions withdrawal from the front lines in eastern Ukraine. Soldiers of the regular UA army fear this decision will turn to many death among UA soldiers that remain to serve there: "The enemy is strong and UA must ensure even stronger defense instead of withdrawal". The following three stories aim to highlight:
1) Who is really supports UA army;
2) What challenges UA soldiers face on the front lines;
3) Why UA soldiers think UA president Poroshenko's decision on "withdrawal" from the front lines is wrong
We have heard and read a lot about volunteers providing food, medical supplies, and other essentials for the Ukrainian soldiers at the front. At the same time the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and government officials have claimed that the government is doing its job in supplying the soldiers with everything they need. EMPR has decided to see for ourselves how things stand in regard to how well the soldiers in the battle zone in eastern Ukraine are being taken care of. In our search for the truth and to bring our readers a firsthand account our correspondent spent two days with a volunteer group in the Donetsk oblast. We want to share with our readers the remarkable, unique system the volunteers have worked out to provide aid to the patriots of Ukraine who with their strength of spirit, desire for justice and often with their own lives are defending our land from the Russian invaders.
Meet the charitable organization "Mother's Watch" in Kyiv. Here volunteers collect aid for the Ukrainian soldiers. Here protective camouflage nets are made, bread and cakes and meat pies are baked, stuffed dumplings and meat balls are cooked, and soup and borshch ingredients are dehydrated. This is where our journey accompanying the volunteers from the "Association of Ukrainian Veterans of Afghanistan" begins. The group of veterans delivers the goods to the soldiers at the front.
We leave Kyiv at night and by morning we arrive in Donetsk oblast. Our first stop is a small village where 11 divisions of a mechanized infantry battalion are based. Here we leave half of the goods. The battalion has been here for three months already. They are tired. And waiting for their rotation to end. Next we're off to the see the "Right Sector."
Music is in the air as volunteers from the organization "Mother's Watch" weave camouflage nets for the soldiers and sing their hearts out. Soon the vans arrive. Food, water, and other essentials are loaded into the vans. By the next morning the vans are at the front. They are unloaded and the goods are distributed among the soldiers. The soldiers tell us that if the volunteers did not bring them the supplies they need the army would not be able to keep going for more than two weeks.
The soldiers of the Ukrainian Army share with the volunteers all the ceasefire violations the opponent has committed, the problems within the army, and their thoughts on how and by whom Ukraine could be helped in the war against Russian aggression.
In February, 2015, Andrei Hrachev, a combat doctor with the 93 Battalion together with other soldiers addressed an appeal to the President of Ukraine in which they called on the president to bring order to the country, to get rid of corruption, and to fulfill the pre-election promises. The appeal was full of obscene language but it hit record highs in popularity. Andrei Hrachev became an Internet star. In March, 2015 Petro Poroshenko issued an order that the volunteer battalions Right Sector and OUN must either become a part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine or leave the battle zone. Here is Andrei Hrachev's response to the President's order.
1) Ukrainian volunteers camouflage netting; 2) Packaging the aid before delivery to the front lines; 3) Volunteer vehicles at the front lines; 4) Front lines near Donetsk International airport; 5) Aid packages unloading and photo picturing the process of aid receiving by volunteer battalions; 6) One of handcrafted Ukrainian APCs made by Ukrainian volunteers.
Vladimir, Sergeant (Code name "Fierce") from the 11th Division of the Mechanized Infantry Battalion: "Our country could be a leading country in Europe but for that to happen we have to get rid of all those old soviet values and morals. It's unfortunate that part of our population still pines for the way life was under the Soviet Union and want to see a return to those times. In their propaganda Russia takes advantage of the phenomenon. They say that back when we were part of the Soviet Union we had cheap goods and life was better. Empires are created and then they fall apart. Countries that are founded on the idea of nationhood live and thrive. That's just what I think. If only it could happen quickly but we understand that it is a painstaking process. If only corruption would vanish, if only our society was more developed and more decent. If only. I wish there was no crime. I wish the brightest, the best future for our children and grandchildren, the best in the world. I believe we will achieve that. Because look at what our people are capable of - it was they who have revitalized the army, it is thanks to the volunteers that the army has been able to stand up to the enemy. It is the volunteers who are still helping to fix and rebuild our military machinery; it is you who are equipping, dressing, and feeding us. It all comes from the goodness of people. So today's army really is a people's army. And attitudes - when I was wounded I saw so many people coming to my aid. It was never like this. I do think that what we are going through will ultimately forge a stronger people and a strong nation out of us. For sure! We do hope so. Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!"
Lieutenant Andreev, Commander of the Mechanized Infantry Battalion, Lieutenant Andreev: "At which locations have you fought?" "Last May I was in Sloviansk. I'm a volunteer fighter, I was part of the Lion's Sotnia on the Maidan. Eleven of us from the Maidan joined up with the eighty-man contingent from Lviv. I was there at Hora Karachun, then in the summer, I fought for a second time with the 11th Battalion in Debaltseve, Cherunkhino, Nikishino, Fashchivka. My third time was at Donetsk airport. Now a ceasefire agreement has been reached along with an agreement to move the heavy equipment away from the front line. I can tell you that last night apart from the sniper attacks I was shot at from a tank and from an antitank installation which to tell you the truth I don't think are allowed under the agreement. Those are very high caliber weapons and they are used against heavy equipment. Me and my buddies were shot at. Last night. And there were ten attacks. And as far as history is concerned. Vladimir Putin hasn't come up with anything new. Back when statehood was being established in Ukraine a Kharkiv People's Republic sprang up and other such republics as Lenin gained power, and when he took control of Ukraine he appointed several leaders who then organized big gangs all over Ukraine and created more similar republics. Those areas were then milked dry, the people were done away with, and then Lenin had those leaders removed. This is what is happening in Ukraine today. Ukraine is being ripped apart into small fiefdoms for better control. That's it." "Is it your view that Europe and the United States aren't helping enough?" "I think we can win but not with Europe's help. Europe is scared. If Europe wanted to help, if it really wanted to, still, the powerful countries are part of NATO and they all understand perfectly well that if Russia were to do something NATO would most likely... The dominant force is the United States of America. For us to have good weaponry, for us to have decent uniforms for those soldiers who are serving and through superhuman efforts are holding the borders, we need aid. America should provide that aid. Ukraine lacks the resources to do all that, Ukraine is a small country fighting Russia. I guess the entire front line has to be killed for America to react. They will all die, all those who were on the Maidan, all the acitvists, all the volunteer battalions. All those who are capable of doing incredible work by using their heads. And the ones who will be left will be managed, they will work and become a European country. It will be possible with American help." "Why do you think America should help us?" "Because, first of all, America is already involved...I'm an officer. An officer of the Ukrainian air force. I majored in physical education at the Kyiv Advanced Tank Engineering College together with the company commander. And I remember cutting the first tank at the repair base in Kyiv at the time that Ukraine had signed off its nuclear arsenal in the presence of American officials. It's a slap in the face for everybody. It means that Russia really has profited and will continue to expand. America honestly doesn't need that. America is forced into it." "What's the mood among the soldiers?" "What's the mood? There are some who are here because they were called to duty, so all they're doing is putting in their time. Those who joined as volunteers, after the Maidan, and all of the volunteer battalions such as the Right Sector or the OUN Battalion, the heart and soul of Battalion Kyiv Rus, they are all determined and motivated. If they aren't killed they will keep coming back to fight for their family and for their country." "What kind of future do you envision for Ukraine?" "It will take a very long time for Ukraine to recover. And, the leadership that Ukraine has had has left Ukraine with serious debt obligations. I don't know how the recovery should be led...I don't understand how it can all be paid back, what should be done so that our children will not end up as slaves after surviving the next leader of the country." "But you do believe that Ukraine will have a better future?" "I can't not believe that. I can't. I have to believe that." "Why are you, as an individual, here?" "Me, personally? I have no right not to be here. This is the third time I am taking part in a military campaign. I have no right not to be here. This is what I've been taught. This is how I've been trained. I am capable of defending my family. I must do this for my son, for my mother, for all the people I know. I simply have to do this."
Lieutenant Andreev, Commander of the Mechanized Infantry Battalion: "The last time the subdivision was leaving Debaltseve and Chernukhino, we were offered a truck. These are the kinds of primordial machines our young lads have to use to protect and defend the sovereignty of our great nation. There! By utilizing their mental strength and energy they make these contraptions work so they can use them to go after those damn Muscovites who came here to steal what is ours."
Andrei Hrachev (Codename "Hrach"), A combat doctor with the 93 Battalion: "Regarding the statement issued to the Right Sector with an order that Right Sector leave its positions. And surely the president will follow the Right Sector and will leave, too! Because if the Right Sector leaves its positions.....Guys, don't be foolish and don't make that mistake. Just leave us here and we will all die. But we will try to stay alive and then later we will ask what was it all for? So what can I say? The Right Sector will not leave, they are genuine patriots. Never will they leave. I am more than certain. If Mike Tyson and I were to have a boxing match, Mike would give up faster than Right Sector will leave its position. Guys, glory to Ukraine! And to the West I would say, 'Putin is a dickhead.' And look what that little dwarf has done to our country. He should never be trusted. As a united front our country should let the West be smarter than our leadership. Let them learn by watching what others are doing instead of from their own mistakes. Everyone says: there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine. I have personally dragged corpses of the Russian soldiers. We've picked up their documents: Russian Federation, Russian Federation, again and again. I don't know who needs any more proof that the enemy is here in our land trying to take from us what is ours, and most importantly, our freedom. Yet again they want to put us on our knees." Andrei approaches one of the Right Sector soldiers and says: "Look at these guys! Look, we are here, and we are armed. We are here, and for the moment you are over there. Maybe it's time that our Ukrainian women understood that it is high time to say to your friends, acquaintances, husbands: listen, who are you? Are you cowards or are you men? Get off your buns, let's go, let's stand together as a hundred-thousand-man force and I assure you that those savages will shit their pants, I guarantee it." A soldier of the Right Sector chimes in, "Sitting at home drinking beer waiting for the draft notice, enough of that." Andrei - "I agree a hundred percent. Here is where the men should be, this is where the real men are. And our friends the volunteers. Without them, we wouldn't, we couldn't, they are a part of us, we are one whole unit. We would be nowhere without them...So, Mr. President...Not a good idea to withdraw the Right Sector. Or to try to do that. Not a good idea." A fighter from the Right Sector adds, "Us cynical Banderas are not moving out. That's a hundred percent sure. And those who came up with the idea that we should leave let them come here and we won't let them go."