Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

'Terror in Westminster'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Internet users say 'we are not afraid' after Westminster attack

Read more

FOCUS

Pakistan faces water crisis

Read more

ENCORE!

Film show: 'Midwife', 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Girl Asleep'

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

The hidden collection: Iran exhibits contemporary art masterpieces

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

More countries suspend Brazilian meat imports amid scandal

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Brussels attacks, one year on: 'What if their hate has contaminated us?'

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

DR Congo: Rare footage of killings in central Kasaï province sparks alarm

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French interior minister quits over holiday jobs for daughters

Read more

FOCUS

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2014-08-26

Far-right ‘Russian Jihad’ fighters cross into Ukraine

© FRANCE 24

Since the beginning of the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, Moscow has repeatedly denied sending troops or weapons to help the rebels.

Nevertheless, many Russian fighters have crossed the border into Ukraine to fight what they call “Kiev’s fascist junta”.

Recruited by far-right nationalist movements, these men are ideologically driven to fight what has been nicknamed “the Russian Jihad”.

FRANCE 24 joined a group of these would-be fighters as they headed for the combat zone.

‘Russian imperialist nationalists’

Evgeny Mazepin is a recruiter for the self-styled “Russian Volunteer battalion”.

He works out of an office in the city of Voronezh, 500km south of Moscow and 150km from the Ukrainian border.

“Ideologically we are all Russian imperialist nationalists, descendants of the White Guard,” he explains, in reference to the anti-communist forces that waged a civil war against the Bolsheviks in the years immediately after the 1917 Russian Revolution.

“Every day we receive about 10 applications from candidates who want to join the battalion,” he says. “Our aim is to liberate the land we call Novorossiya – New Russia – and its Russian people from the enemy, the Kiev junta.”

Novorussia was the 18th and 19th century name for the region of Imperial Russia that now comprises Ukraine.

‘Mentally I am ready to die’

FRANCE 24 talks to a group of the battalion’s volunteers heading for the border and into Ukraine. Among them is a Russian calling himself Norman.

“I'm a nationalist and my priority is protecting the Russian people,” he told FRANCE 24. “Despite what many in Ukraine think, the Russian state is not involved in this mission. If Russia was involved, this war would have been over in four days.”

The group head for Luhansk, in Eastern Ukraine, with food and other supplies for their comrades across the border.

On arrival in Ukraine, they are each handed an AK47 rifle and a few magazines’ of ammunition, and waited at a camp for orders to join the fight.

“Mentally, I am ready to die,” says Norman. “This war will be won by our sacrifice.”

“For me this territory is Russian, the communists gave it away unfairly,” he argues, referring to a decision by Stalin’s successor Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 to cede parts of Russian territory, including the Crimean peninsula, to Ukraine.

“This land must be returned to the Russian people.”

By Ksenia BOLCHAKOVA , Julia LYUBOVA

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-03-22 Asia-pacific

Pakistan faces water crisis

To mark World Water Day we head to Pakistan. According to the UN, the country's water crisis is becoming the most pressing issue of our times. Pakistan is the fourth-largest...

Read more

2017-03-21 France

World Down Syndrome Day: The fight to raise awareness

Today's Focus marks the World Down Syndrome Day, an annual global event that helps raise awareness about the syndrome and what it means to lead a life with it. In France alone,...

Read more

2017-03-20 Middle East

Caught in the crossfire: The human cost of the battle for Mosul

It's been one month since the Iraqi government launched its operation to retake western Mosul from the Islamic State group. The government says more than 180,000 people have fled...

Read more

2017-03-17 Europe

After Brexit, is Scotland heading for independence?

In Scotland, a second independence referendum could well be on the cards, and it is all due to Brexit: Scotland voted by 62% to remain in the EU in 2016. This week, Scottish...

Read more

2017-03-16 France

How French firms deal with religion in the workplace

The EU’s top court ruled that companies can ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols earlier this week, including headscarves. In this report, FRANCE 24 takes a look at...

Read more