Every war is a serious matter and it polarizes the world's public opinion. Even civil wars unavoidably attract volunteers. It was the case of the civil war in Spain 80 years ago and it is the case of the civil war in Ukraine, too.
In the West, we often hear anti-Russian tirades. You don't have to go too far. The G7 leaders provide us with a sufficient amount of these hateful and deluded insanities. For obvious reasons, the Russian nation is the second nation after Ukraine that is most affected by the civil war in Donbass. However, it doesn't mean that members of other nations don't feel the urge to be a part of the story.
Czech teacher Ivo Stejskal and Vojtěch Hlinka, a driver who inherited both the wife and the surname of the (late) ice-hockey coach who won the Nagano Olympics, were the two well-known Czechs who fought on the "separatist" side. Once they were killed, you could think it was the end of Czechs and Slovaks in Donbass.
Well, you would be completely wrong. Major Slovak mainstream news server aktuality.sk (followed by many Czech and Slovak news outlets that copied the story) informed about the creation of a whole unit of (currently eight) Slovak and Czech volunteers who fight against the Maidan regime. Here is the full translation of the interview with their military headquarters.
Exclusively: a Czecho-Slovak unit was established in the Ukraine's separatist army. We spoke to them.
A separate unit of Czech and Slovak mercenaries is being formed on the East of Ukraine from the ranks of volunteers who have so far been members of the International Brigade of the 15th army of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic – the famous "Fifteen".
Picture: Czech and Slovak warriors in UkraineThe number of compatriots became sufficiently high for them to establish a 10-member squad with its own badge. New people from our corner of the world are said to arrive from the Russian town of Rostov-on-Don. The military headquarters of the squad has provided us with this interview. Their condition was that their identity won't be unmasked.
See also: Interview with a Slovak fighting for separatists (in Slovak, they rejected him in the Slovak army, so he went to the Donbass one)
Exchange of fire is a daily routine
In the international brigade 15, there are eight Czechs and Slovaks. Can you specify how many are Slovak?
One-half of them, i.e. four.
Where are these Slovak members of the brigade fighting, what are their ranks, and tasks in the unit? Is some of them a commander?
Probably the most famous Slovak in our squad is nicknamed Jay [the bird: "Sojka", whose real name has been well-known, it's Mr Martin Keprta]. His rank is the first lieutenant and the commander of enticements (or he used to be) – currently, he has a sick break after an injury [jaw]. Other Slovaks and Czechs don't have the status of commanders and they fight either as rank-and-file troops or as consultants.
The last time we talked about the "Fifteen" in Slovakia was in February when it participated in the Battle of Debaltsevo. What does the average day look like these days? Are you being sent to some special operations?
Our unit is already a component of the Republican Guard consisting of two companies. Our job occupation is sabotage and espionage in the nape/tulle of the enemy. We respect the Minsk agreements while doing so. In February, March, and April, we were active as a garrison in Debaltsevo. During those times, we were exporting trophy ammunition from that place, repairing eliminated trophy machines, and so on. From the beginning, we were placed along with the army to Maryinka. The limited combat activity over there has gradually evolved to the events in the last week.
Are you currently in the midst of heavy fighting, or do you enjoy one of the "peaceful" periods?
There has never been a peaceful period here and it will never arrive until peace actually begins. Exchange of fire and injuries occur on a daily basis.
For how much more time the fights will continue according to your estimates and what events will end them?
We don't dare to guess the answer. It's true that Ukraine as a country is beginning to collapse, people cease to believe the propaganda, and they begin to sympathize with us. Assorted anti-Maidans are examples of that. As well as the support from the locals who are sending us the information about the location and strength of the Ukrops. The fights may only be stopped by an intervention by a third party. NATO or Russia.
Are you receiving soldier's pay? Have you been provided with some housing or do you have to be and sleep on the frontline all the time? What weapons are you using, where did you get them, and what do your uniforms look like?
Soldier's pay is being distributed normally here, just like any wage. In average, it is 8,000 hrivnas (340 euros, 9,000 Czech crowns, 300 dollars). We also have normal barracks. I can't specify the nature of that object but it has water, heating, and regular beds. We are not on the frontline all the time. Our unit is purely a "Sturm" subunit which means that we're usually sent to very hot places. Or places assumed to get very hot soon.
The arsenal is the same that the Warsaw Pact used to have. We are using trophy automatic weapons, sometimes those that were taken from the warehouses. Firearms include those from Mosin Nagant (older repetitive rifles produced in USSR and Russia – comment by editors; don't expect your humble correspondent to know the jargon), anti-tank rifles from the Second World War, and AK-74 (famous "Kalashnikov") – either in its 5.45 or 7.62 variants.
Among the anti-tank missiles, our heaviest caliber is PTUR which is a weapon shooting unguided missile capable of destroying a tank if it hits the right place. Then we have the one-time RPG which is shot from the shoulder as well as the legendary RPG-7 (reactive anti-tank grenade launcher). All of our weapons are loot. At some time, there were absurd situations in which a group of 20 people went to a fighting position (airport) and exchanged their weapons with the group that was leaving the position.
There exist polemics about the participation of the Russian Armed Forces among the warriors of the Donetsk People's Republic's separatist army. What is the reality? Do you have Russian commanders and Russian units?
There is no Russian commander in our unit. Our unit is a specific one because it was created as a group of 15 people who elected their commander. The unit was established in July 2014 and was gradually getting larger as it was absorbing individuals or small groups.
We always have to elect the commanders. The character of our activity doesn't allow things to be done differently. Also, lots of "guaranteed" information about the presence of the Russian military units is deduced from photographs that show chaps with Russian army badges. However, Russian badges and Russian military labels and codes decorate very many people here. Russia is helping us morally and politically. It also sends humanitarian aid which is more than needed here.
The Ukrainians have bombed strategic factories as well as some company that produced or prepared foods. The economic blockage by Kiev isn't helpful, either. And what about the participation of the Russian army?
The Russian army doesn't need to be here: The number of volunteers is very high here. Every single day, the admission committee accepts from 5-20 applicants who want to serve in the army. Tanks that we have are trophies, and so is BMP (infantry's fighting vehicles). On the other hand, we suffer from a huge shortage of transport vehicles with wheels.
In Slovakia, only the identity of Martin "Jay" Keprta is known. Will you reveal the identity or at least nicknames of others? Are they using their own names at all?
I am not going to list nicknames or real names. I don't want to take the risk anymore.
Your website says that the Jay's beak has been shot through while the Sparrow's wing had the same fate. Were some Slovaks seriously injured or killed in this area?
Jay's injury is the most serious one so far but he seems to be out of the critical condition. He can eat and function normally. He is just expecting a surgery that would fix his jaw. One Slovak was also injured while shooting from RPG and there is a quality burn on his arm. Well, as they say, you should better follow the manual.
You have invited people in Slovakia to come and fight in the "Fifteen". Why are you establishing it?
We are building it in order to catch the Slovak and Czech volunteers who decided to come here. In some sense, we want to extend the tradition of the CzechoSlovak Legions. We interpret the European Union as a dictatorship and NATO as an aggressive pact. This is our chosen way to fight against them.
In the Donetsk People's Republic's (DNR) army and the Luhansk People's Republic's Army (LNR), there are lots of Czechs and Slovaks but most of them are already bound to their own units. And it is hard to leave the people with whom you have experienced hell.
By establishing this special unit, we know how to help the Slovak and Czech citizens to get here and make their incorporation into the military life smoother. An 18-year-old guy who is full of ideals or a veteran from the foreign legions or a reserve officer may arrive here – we are trying to find the place for each of them in which his potential may be capitalized.
Screenshot: A Facebook page to recruit new membersNot everyone wants to return
International Brigade 15 – Slovak page
Today (June 4th), a new separate Czecho-Slovak unit began to be formed. The number of people in the Fifteen is so far enough for the formation of a 10-member squad with its own badge. We will be subordinate to the military commanders of DNR.
If you happen to be interested, you have to acquire the Russian visas and arrive to Rostov-on-Don. From the first day when you come to Donetsk, your will be secured when it comes to food as well as equipment (and other things).
Also, you will be able to use a "translator" and a female teacher of Russian for those who can't speak it.
Ideally, the conditions for admission are:
– Knowledge of Russian
– Good physical condition
– Basic military experience
– Age up to 40 years
Be aware that candidates with quality that is not sufficient won't be admitted to the unit.
If you happen to be interested, it's enough for you to post a message on this page. Because many babblers from your side are writing here, we will block everyone who doesn't display the required activity.
Have you already been contacted by some new volunteers? Are they on their way?
This is how the recruitment to the Czech and Slovak squad was announced. We can't comment further.
Why should the volunteers go to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don? Is the recruitment organized through some Russian institutions, or is it because the possibility to enter the Ukrainian territory from Russia?
Rostov-on-Don is a city which has an airport and which is close to the border crossing. We know about a cheap and verified hotel over there. Moreover, a bus goes to Donetsk every day. So it is the fastest open route.
How much time do you plan to spend in this area? Will you return to Slovakia once the fights are over? Or do you want to keep on living on the territory where the fights are taking place?
Some men want to return, others don't. But it's true that as soon as you grab a gun in your hand, it is hard to return to the ordinary life.
According to the opinion of lawyers, you are not violating the law by serving in the so-called separatist army because it is not an official army. Were you able to morally reconcile youself with the fact that you are fighting for the interests of people from another country than Slovakia?
If we couldn't reconcile ourselves with that, we wouldn't be here. I don't see any meaning in that question of yours. And who is fighting for the interests of Slovakia? What Slovakia's interests actually are? Slovakia hasn't been a sovereign country for a long time. In the political decisions, we are following the dictate from Brussels; in the political decisions, we are dictated by the oligarchy. The citizen's interest simply isn't there.
What motivated you to participate in these fights? Is there a unified answer or did each member have a different motive?
There are numerous motivations. Someone came to kickstart his career in the military, someone else came because he disliked the consumerist lifestyle – so he is an adventurer. We have some Czechs who have some Russian ancestors and they feel a duty to defend the Russian population. There are many reasons.
Has a Slovak member left your squad and returned home? If he did, why?
I won't comment on that.
LM: A terminological detail. These folks want to be viewed as successors of the Czechoslovak Legions. They are friends of Russia and the Russians, of course. But especially if you are a friendly Russian reader, you shouldn't assume that the Czechoslovak Legions have always fought along with all the Russians. They did to some extent when they – unlike the Czech soldiers in the official Austrian-Hungarian army – fought against the monarchy in the First World War.
However, at some moment, it became clear that the Bolsheviks were going to try to conquer Russia. The Czechoslovak Legions didn't have doubts that they would be against Bolsheviks. They actually conquered about 1/3 of Siberia at some point. In the picture above, the Czechoslovak Legions (upper part of the picture) pose with their Bolshevik friends (lower part of the picture). ;-) You may find similar pictures with the two parts standing and hanging, too.
My understanding is that the current legions in Donbass are much more friendly towards the Bolsheviks than either the old legions or your humble correspondent. ;-)
LM: You have seen that quite some details about the inner workings of the mercenaries may be found rather easily. Just ask them! ;-) The Czech ministries said that they have no information about the Czech citizens fighting them. But that doesn't mean that they are completely blind. When a petrol bomb was thrown at the house of our defense minister and actor Martin Stropnický and his wife actress Veronika Žilková in Suchdol, someone was able to notice that the house was put on fire within an hour so they could extinguish the fire. You see that our intelligence, security, and national defense is basically flawless. ;-)
LM: Another fire, fuel storage 20 km Southwest of Kiev. The fire may spread to a nearby airbase, too. After having read (and translated) the interview above, I would say that this fire is actually compatible with the job description of the Czechoslovak legions. ;-) I hope that if my countrymates were ordered to liquidate a fuel depot and an airbase, they were very careful to strictly obey all the Ukrainian laws and the Minsk accords to avoid any possible fines or criticisms. :-)