The war in Ukraine through the eyes of a soldier – serving in the DPR Army

Ahra Avidzba

Alla Pierce

(RINF) – The ceasefire that nobody even believed in is now in complete disarray. Massive artillery attacks from Ukrainian side were launched upon Gorlovka, Spartak, Maryinka, Shirokino and several areas of Donetsk. The added deployment and use of heavy artillery and tanks, leave no doubt that military operations have escalated to new levels.
Residents from the shelled areas of Donetsk appeared on the city streets with a request to stop the shelling from the Ukrainian side. If it’s necessary — they say — use opposing force to stop it, but this bloodshed must end.
They appealed to the leaders of the DPR – Donetsk People Republic and Ukrainian government to find a peaceful solution. “This is not a ceasefire if children get killed “, “After all, we already see that the Minsk agreements were a bluff” – people exclaim — nothing has changed.

The Head of Donetsk People Republic — Aleksandr Zakharchenko – answers people questions

Nobody had any illusions about the Minsk agreement. Any illusions people once had were now buried under smoldering ruins of houses, torn to shreds by exploding shells or burned in the crossfire.
While wailing and groaning for murdered children is heard everywhere in Donbass, the Ukrainian side posts the following statement on social networks “We will teach you how to love the homeland”.

While people are begging for help to stop this bloodshed, 300 US “military advisers” came to Ukraine in April to train more than 700 Ukrainian soldiers. Washington and its puppets in Kiev are not interested in de-escalating the tensions near the Russian borders. Too many political, geopolitical, and economic interests have intersected there. The Ukrainian “government” makes too much money over the blood and death of its people to want to stop this conflict. But, “you cannot prop up an illegitimate, unpopular leader no matter how many troops you train, because if the population as a whole is against that leader, it will fail and Ukraine will also be another failed state due to Western intervention in the end,” said Dean Henderson, an author and columnist at Veterans Today.

Meanwhile, there are fierce battles over Maryinka, where the International Brigade — “15” is fighting against the Ukrainian military. In May, we had a chance to speak with the commander of “15” Ahra Avidzba, nickname is “Abkhaz”.


– Please, tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you here?

– I was born and grew up in Sochi. I am ethnic Abkhazian, lived in my native ethnic country, in the city of Sochi.
I came here because of the understanding of what is happening here. Especially, because back in 1991-1993 a similar situation took place in my ethnic homeland, when the Georgians imagined themselves as a superior race began an aggression posturing towards small nations.
I realized that I am able to help, at least it will be one person more to help with defense, so I came here. We first gathered a group. Then the group grew into a brigade. Today we have become an international brigade, which is a part of the National Guard of the DPR.

– Why “international”? Who does it consists of?

– It consists of representatives from all of Europe. Of course, not dozens, and neither hundreds, but we have eight Spaniards, one Frenchman, some Slovakians. There are Germans, there are Russians, who came here from Germany. Lots of people. So, the whole of Europe is represented in our brigade.

– How do you communicate with each other? For instance, with the Spanish speakers?

– During battle engagements we use Russian swearing (laughs). But if seriously, spoken Russian language is very powerful. Maybe the grammar is difficult but spoken language is easy. We understand each other. There are guys who are having a hard time communicating, so we try make it easier by using English. It’s easier when you live in the same room. It helps to avoid isolation. They learn quickly. If they have problems understanding, they use hand gestures.

– Well, you came here because you think this situation is similar to what happened in Abkhazia. Explain please to the western audience who are your enemies here, why you yourself —an Abkhazian guy — are fighting here?

– I am fighting against the political situation, not against the people. We don’t fight against the Ukrainian people. Therefore, we always explain and teach volunteers who join to us, that we are not at war with the Ukrainians, and we do not capture, but instead we release. This is the difference that we have to explain to them. There are a lot of young energetic men who came with noble intentions, but misunderstand what they’re doing, so we explain this point specifically. We affirm that we are not at war with Ukraine. We are at war with the present regime.
If they believe it is their land, their people, why are they shelling their schools, their hospitals, and their people?
If they think I’m a terrorist, then they should kill me. I do not sit at any school or anywhere. I’m on the front line with my comrades.
It can’t be labelled targeting errors, at any time, because they deliberately hit the transport hubs, knowing that there will be crowds. So, I do not believe in this present Ukrainian regime, no matter what they say. We who are here on ground know what’s going on. Drawing an analogy to our (Abkhazian) situation, my people fought for their independence. To be able to think like Abkhazians, for our flag and everything that it symbolizes. And the situation I see here is similar. People of Republics fight for their flag, for their way of thinking, although for years they had a different way of thinking imposed upon them. They want to speak Russian, they want to think in Russian. Why can’t they do it if they are Russians? Why they are told to go to Russia because they want to exercise their natural freedom? This is their ethnic homeland! Why should they leave if their ancestors are buried here and their roots are here? This is their land, so why should people suffer if politicians redraw maps disregarding people’s opinion? They expressed their views. Why has nobody wanted to hear them out? They did not ask to secede from Ukraine. They just asked to be heard and have more home rule. But Kiev began to flex its military muscles. Faced with this aggressive posturing, the people of Donbass reciprocated and did the same. The miners took up arms, and went to defend their homes.
We are ordinary civilians not professional solders. We are civilians, who were forced to take up arms. We look forward to the time when we will be able to go back to civilian life. That moment will come when the shelling stops.

– How long have you been here?

– I came here on the night of July 3rd to 4th 2014, and immediately deployed to the airport zone, where Ukrainian troops were stationed.
We were only two or three people and ran around the airport, making it look like there were lots of us, although it is a known fact that we are called “15” because of the number of guys who have arrived here. It was only 15 of us.

– Were those first guys also Abkhazians?

– No, I was the only one Abkhazian. There were guys from the former Soviet Union, from Russia. We found each other on the Internet. We are the volunteers who gathered together and came here.

– Did any of those men possess previous military experience?

– A couple saw action in Chechnya. The rest of the group were ordinary civilians. One was an electrician, the other one was a businessman, a property developer. I can say, many people know what Rublevka is (the very rich area near Moscow). He lived over there, and he left because he was originally from Crimea, and he was hurt by what is happening in Ukraine. So, he came here. He has a growing son. But the guy was killed on November 2nd. Therefore, we have our logo what is 15 stars and as you see one star is dark. It’s in a memory of him. He was the first one, who was killed out of the fifteen. Then, after a while another one was killed. Two guys lost their lives. The son understands and does not blame us. I spoke with him and he says he knows the thoughts of his father when he came here. All he wanted to do was to help, and he helped.
I doubt that a man from Rublevka came here to earn money. These myths are created to swing the population opinion over to their side. But people already understand what is happening. The media often claim on TV that we are bad and wretched, but in fact it is the Ukrainian army who shoot, kill people, and loot their property. Many are able to understand where exactly the truth lies, and how things are in reality. People are sympathetic toward us. This situation is a nightmare for which everyone was totally unprepared. There was no escalation of the conflict. Many men are forced to conscript into the Ukrainian army. When they are given orders, they have no choice but carry them out. Stupid, inexperienced commanders often send them into the midst of battle as cannon fodder. We are trying to get in contact with them, to explain and to save them from certain death.

– How do you get in contact with them? Do you have such opportunities?

– As I mentioned, we have no secrets. Once again, we show that we are peaceful. We intercept and surround waves of attackers and offer them the explanation of the situation, inform them they are surrounded. Pretty often they perceive our conversations as a joke, then we have to fight.

– Are there people who have defected from the Ukrainian army over to your side?

– There are a lot of them, and some of these guys are in my unit.

– Are they serving?

– Some of them have even been presented with military awards. The situation is that these men are conscripts, caught up in the conflict. They are trying to return home, some are deserting, some are still there because they are scared to leave, but lots of the guys that leave come to join us.
Then there are those who voluntarily enlisted into the territorial battalions because they believed in the idea of a united Ukraine. And then, when they became disillusioned with what is happening, realizing that all they are doing is choking the life out of the Southeast, they get disheartened and try to establish contact with us in order to plan a defection.

– What are the known operations you participated? I understand that you were involved in the battle for the airport, right?

– Well, let’s just say, there were very few operations in which we did not participate in. We took part right from the initial basic operations that marked the first steps forward for the DPR Army. And we always were alongside it in support. Today our division consist of 80% of the local men, particularly from this region. Particularly from this region. The rest is from neighboring provinces, such as, Zaporozhie and Kharkov, and there are guys from Kiev. Therefore, if the local Ukrainians believed in us that we have come to help, it means our motives are not like what we are accused of in Ukraine. Because you know it’s always preferable to stand by your people than by strangers.

– What do you, as a combat commander, think about 300 US instructors who are now on the territory of Ukraine?

– Well, what can I think about them? Well done, guys are earning money. As far as I know military flights, insurance, etc. cost very much, so they have not come here for nothing. They come here to make money, and get back the money that West “gives” to Ukraine. We see no problems with them training Ukrainian army. If man has no desire to fight, you can teach him or not teach, he won’t do anything. On one occasion we stormed Illovaysk with only 32 men. When we went to Uglegorsk I sent 15 men initially and then went in with 4 more. When we attacked the airport, we only sent 10 fighters. Our determination was so high that they retreated even though they had 10 times more soldiers. We think about the people. We know that the power of our motivation far exceeds any benefit they get from their foreign instructors.
We our own instructors. We are not robots, we are real people with a strong sense of self-preservation, and a very high determination to liberate this land. I know that Ukraine wants to rewrite its own history to claim that it is an independent state and not an addition of Russia, but nobody achieves this by placing the worst war criminals on a pedestal (he is talking about OUN and UPA – the icons of present Ukraine – AP). No one ever achieved it. Why not start your story with a clean sheet?

Georgia has 6 million people and Abkhazia only 100,000. Wasn’t it genocide when Georgia attacked Abkhazia? This is double standards, and we are used to them and we do not react to them. Now they sent 300 people here. Why not send them into battle, so we will introduce ourselves to them?
Americans are trained on computers in their rooms, and we are trained in the rain on fields. We have something to teach them.

We finished our interview that was taken in one of the rainy May days in the city park of Donetsk and I wished him luck safety. Three weeks later the battle over Maryinka has begun…