Antos Tsialezhnikau, an author and director of a number of documentaries, has returned from Donbas where he saw the war with his own eyes. He has spent a month at the forefront in the village of Piski in the company of Ukrainian and Belarusian volunteer fighters of Pravy Sektor, a right-wing Ukrainian party.
Can we say that what is going on in Donbas now is a counter-terrorist operation? Or this is a full-scale miltary action?
I cannot recollect any counter-terrorist operation in which almost all types of weapons including heavy artillery have been applied. What I experienced was a real war in which, what is more, Russian experts are taking part. I heard them talking over the radio; Iam sure there are Russians in Donbas.
How did you come to such conclusion?
They had broad accent. I also heard them regulating fire – they took wind, air humidity, etc into account. Pravy Sektor’s regulation of fire was simple; one could understand that real war professionals were working for the other side.
And their ‘work’ has resulted in deserted and ruined Donetsk districts…
The private housing area in Piski turned into ruins. It is clear they were heavily shelled. If a projectile, mine or Grad rocket hits a target their splinters fly a few metres in every direction and destroy everything on their way. It makes a great impression. If you hear a Grad rocket bursting nearby you say goodbye to your life.
You were at war nearly two month; and you have spent the latest month with volunteer fighters of Pravy Sektor. Why did you go to them?
This is a unique formation founded by Pravy Sektor members who decided to defend Ukraine with deadly force. But Ukrainian authorities do not want to legalise them because Pravy Sektor is not going to be subject to either Defense Ministry or Interior Ministry due to the lack of trust.
It is also publicly criticising the government…
Yes, and they are posing a threat to the authorities by that. That is why they have not been receiving help, arms or a status of ATO participants.
How do they survive? One needs weapons, money, food to be at war…
They use their own registered weapons – even hunting rifles. By the moment they have seized more armes in fights, and the army is unoficially backing them. But it is the volunteers who provide most aid. The volunteer movement is unique – they supply fighters with everything, from socks to weapons and equipment.
Who are the people fighting in these battalions? Are they really so evil as Russia’s propaganda pictures them? Are they marauding?
No, Russian propaganda is lying. There are different people, most of them are peasants who are far from politics. They put their hopes for effective military actions on Pravy Sektor because this organisation is not taking orders from the authorities but is fighting shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine’ army. They never leave their people in the lurch.
There are also foreigners in these battalions, and footage filmed by you proves it.
Yes, it is true. There are also our compatriots. A lot of Belarusians are fighting in other units too. Two flags at the forefront near Donetsk – Ukrainian and Belarusian – speak for our brotherhood. The main character of my film mounted the Belarusian flag, which marked the Belarusians’ presence at the forefront.