January 11, 2017 – Fort Russ Exclusive –
Translated by Jafe Arnold (J. Arnoldski)
The following exclusive material was sent to Fort Russ by a self-declared representative of the anti-fascist movement in Ukraine from Kharkov, whom for safety reasons we have agreed to call “Andrey Anon.” Andrey has been living and working behind Ukrainian lines since the war began and has come into close contact with numerous personalities ranging from Poroshenko’s former business associates to Ukrainian officers and conscripts. In this astonishing tell-all, Andrey shares his knowledge of the dirty underbelly of the Poroshenko regime, the seething sentiments of conscript soldiers and civilians in occupied Donbass, and his impressions of the future of the Kiev junta and the war. Fort Russ is gratified to have been confided in with this material which the author wishes to have spread as far and wide as possible to reveal the truth of the horrific corruption and war that have gripped his country since February 2014. Andrey and Fort Russ have left out and changed certain names to protect sources and the people involved. – J. Arnoldski
Continued from Part 1
In December 2016, by way of work affairs, for a lengthy period of time I was in close contact with a large group of servicemen, sergeants and soldiers, from the Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone, as the punitive operation against the Donbass republics is called in Ukraine.
Since Kharkov is a border town, I’ve also had many opportunities to observe the lives of Ukrainian soldiers up close. What I heard and saw in December only enriched my familiarity. I’ve repeatedly visited my relatives who live in Ukrainian Donbass immediately adjacent to the ATO zone. There I managed to observe the lives of UAF soldiers, officers and National Guardsmen in units that are deployed literally an arm’s length from the city.
The majority of Kharkovians’ attitude towards Ukrainian troops is sharply negative. What I saw in Donbass is something very particular. In Kharkov, they are treated like people serving a criminal regime. There is also some kind of pity or sympathy in this attitude. Ukrainian troops are literally hated in Donbass. Even in towns where people can’t find work, only very few people sign up for the Ukrainian Army as volunteers, literally only a handful.
Ukrainian troops’ behavior in the ATO zone is distinguished by an extremely low level of discipline. Drunkenness prevails among them. Near units of the UAF and National Guard (militia fighters who were joined by many Ukrainian neo-Nazis and Maidan volunteers after the coup) are round-the-clock alcohol sale points, where they even sell samogon (the vodka equivalent of moonshine). Many times I observed cases in which Ukrainian troops bought bottles of samogon and drunk it right on the spot while they held loaded military weapons in their hands. Some soldiers were lying unconscious nearby. I don’t know just how many cases of murder or theft of weapons have happened to drunk Ukrainian soldiers, but I think these and other cases have indeed taken place. In the least, buying a Kalashnikov or another weapon from Ukrainian units on the black market is no difficulty at all and is cheap even by Ukrainian money standards. It’s no surprise that Ukraine has become Europe’s main source of weapons deliveries onto black markets.
This behavior differs from that of the militiamen whom my family living in one of the cities of Ukrainian Donbass told me about. In the spring and early summer of 2014, the militia controlled the northern part of the Donestk and Lugansk regions. In literally a few days, the Donbass militias managed to completely eradicate the drug trade that was virtually legally managed by the city and police officials. They also liquidated 24/7 liquor stores. Despite the complete absence of a police force in the city, there was strict order, even on the roads. The number of accidents was minimal despite the frontal location of the city.
But after the Ukrainians took control of the city, everything changed instantly. Drug and alcohol trafficking was restored and in other Donbass cities that came under Ukrainian control, road accidents became more frequent. The main violators of traffic laws are UAF servicemen and the National Guard. The most egregious case occurred in the town of Konstantinovka, where in March 2015 an armored transport vehicle of the National Guard driven by drunk soldiers drove on the sidewalk at high speed and killed a child (a young girl who was 7 or 8) and hit a woman pushing a baby in a stroller. As a result, the girl was killed and the mother and infant ended up in the hospital with sever trauma. This sparked unrest and a rebellion in the city which was quickly put down by Ukrainian troops. The protesters went after soldiers with their bare hands. Several dozen protesters were seized and thrown in jail under the terrorism article. It’s hardly likely that Western media covered this. Cases of fast drunk driving on city streets happen regularly in all the cities of Ukrainian Donbass. What’s shocking is that not only has President Poroshenko never punished the guilty troops (usually contract soldiers), but the soldier who drove the armored vehicle in Konstantinovka was even awarded a medal for service by Poroshenko!
Ukrainian troops behave like an army of occupants, and the population looks at them like at hated invaders. Racing armored vehicles while drunk also speaks to the extremely low level of discipline among Ukrainian troops. Officers don’t control their soldiers’ behavior, which lowers the combat effectiveness of the UAF and National Guard. These findings of mine have been confirmed by my personal contact with officers and soldiers in the ATO.
In December, I closely interacted with soldiers and sergeants of the UAF and National Guard who were on leave in one of the resorts in Ukraine where I was on business. I’ll omit all the details that could shed light on the place or circumstances of this meeting so as not to bring trouble to my confidents.
So, after having spent some time at the resort, there arrived a group of several dozen ATO servicemen on leave. Officers vacation in other, more expensive resorts in Western Ukraine. These new friends of mine included mostly contract soldiers. This quiet resort was suddenly gripped by general drunkenness in which all the soldiers took part without exception. I’ve never seen such drunkery in my life. Unconscious, almost dead bodies of Ukrainian soldiers and sergeants littered the grounds of the resort and mainly the hallways. Fortunately, lack of money sometimes interrupted this collective drunkenness, otherwise they could have died from such huge amounts of alcohol intake. Between the booze, the soldiers complained in unison of the abominable living conditions in the ATO zone, the low wages, and poor security. According to them, they were promised a salary of 1,000 hryvnia a day (at that moment one Russian ruble equalled three hryvnia, today a little more than 2, while one dollar costs 28.5 hryvnia). In reality, the soldiers didn’t get any money. Their commanders used every opportunity to fine them. The soldiers admitted that the policy of fines came straight from Kiev, the aim of which was saving money by not paying out salaries to ATO soldiers.
The tourists and staff (almost exclusively female) were mortally scared by the Ukrainian soldiers’ behavior. Several women from Western Ukraine were there who were simply shocked by the state of the Ukrainian Army since they had really believed that the army was fighting against separatists and saving Ukraine from Russian invaders. I’ll admit that I couldn’t deny myself the pleasure of sarcastically asking how many hours such an army would hold out if Russia had really invaded Ukraine. I didn’t get an answer.
These women from Western Ukraine were shocked to find out that the packages their children – ATO soldiers – sent them were plain loot. The drunken soldiers reluctantly confirmed that they robbed the civilians of Donbass with pleasure. However, they justified this with saying that these civilians support “separatists” while they themselves are fighting “for an idea.”
I don’t know what attitude civilians in this region so distant from the fighting in Donbass had towards ATO soldiers, but after this contingent left, locals expressed sympathy for the residents of Donbass and spoke of the ATO fighters very unkindly, albeit cautiously.
The most striking observation that I made while talking with this contingent was that all the soldiers on leave, without exception, openly and unashamedly expressed their hatred for Poroshenko. They were obviously not afraid of the repression or espionage that the SBU carries out among troops. I had the impression that the level of ATO soldiers’ hatred for their commander-in-chief, Poroshenko, is no less than the people of Donbass’ hatred for Poroshenko. While talking with the UAF soldiers and sergeants and National Guardsmen, I even heard murmurs that they would organize a new Maidan later. Supposedly, they would take their weapons to Kiev and overthrow Poroshenko. This is how openly soldiers of the Ukrainian Army talk of readiness for a military coup and overthrowing their army’s commander-in-chief!
I especially remember one phrase uttered by a soldier who stood out among his comrades as the most sober. He said that the idea of a “march on Kiev” was doomed to fail since “all the new vehicles are arrayed near Kiev, while they send us junk.” According to him, Poroshenko expects troops from Donbass to march on Kiev, so he deliberately sends good-for-nothing equipment to the ATO zone. The army constantly complains of this. Now it’s clear why the Ukrainian authorities behave this way – all the new vehicles that Ukrainians see at military parades are concentrated near Kiev and are designed to defend the Poroshenko regime from its own army!
After hearing this firsthand, the strange UAF offensive near Svetlodar on December 18th-19th, when the Ukrainian Army lost more than a 100 men, made perfect sense to me. Most likely, the goal was eliminating the largest number of Ukrainian troops and nationalists from the volunteer battalions possible at the hands of the militia, thereby ridding the chance of a third Maidan by any trained soldiers.
In Kharkov, and probably throughout Ukraine, there have long been whispers – and sometimes people speak almost openly – about this preparation of a new Maidan. But hearing this so openly from UAF soldiers shocked me.
They say that a headquarters for fighting against a third Maidan has been established which is headed by the secretary of the National Defense Council, Alexander Turchynov, who after the February 21st coup became the acting president of Ukraine. Turchynov was the one to start the war in Donbass and almost started a war with Russia in Crimea. The headquarters supposedly established are seriously preparing for the dispersal of protests and the introduction of martial law in Kiev if the situation reaches the stage of forceful confrontation.
The police have been ordered not to allow any transport with protesters into the capital, and Kiev authorities and security agencies have been ordered to stop equipment and tents from being set up on the Maidan by any means. It’s even been proposed to organize brigades out of athletes and private security guards that would aid security agencies disperse protests. They’ve also been instructed to work through plans on shutting off television broadcasting and blocking internet sites.
I’ll admit that after all that I’ve seen, I have little faith in a successful military march on Kiev. The eternally drunk and hungry, unfortunate soldiers of the UAF are far from suitable for a bloody overthrow of President Poroshenko. Unlike Yanukovych, Poroshenko is not afraid to give orders to shoot protesters, even those whom he just yesterday called heroes of Ukraine.
I’ve spent a long time impressed by what I saw and heard from the UAF soldiers on leave. I’ve come to the conclusion that the total drunkenness of soldiers and sergeants of the Ukrainian Army is also part of Poroshenko’s plan. A sober and disciplined army capable of victory is fatal for him. If they win against the republics of Donbass, they would turn their weapons on Kiev and overthrow Poroshenko himself.
From the very beginning, Ukraine’s army was not created for victory, but for mutual destruction and eradicating everyone dissatisfied with Poroshenko’s regime in both Ukraine and Donbass.
This is why the war in Donbass will be dragged on as long as possible.