Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

France's chronic unemployment problem

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Candidates Goodluck Jonathan and Mohamudu Buhari call for calm

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Anger at mental health stigmatisation after crash allegations

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Yemen, the Escalation; France's Three Way Race; Clarkson Shown the Exit (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Germanwings Crash; Co-pilot 'hid illness' on crash day (part 1)

Read more

#THE 51%

The extraordinary tale of the Egyptian mother who lived as a man

Read more

REPORTERS

Video: San Cristobal, Venezuela's tinderbox

Read more

FOCUS

Portugal: Anger at corruption scandals, one year after bailout

Read more

YOU ARE HERE

Bistronomy: Stylish and simple eating

Read more

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

FOCUS

FOCUS

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

2015-03-27 Portugal

Portugal: Anger at corruption scandals, one year after bailout

It's almost one year since Portugal exited its bailout, but the government is still implementing austerity measures. Taxes continue to rise, and some critics say this has led to...

Read more

2015-03-26 France

French baking taking over the world

France is well known for its culinary traditions and the nation's dishes are already famous worldwide. Now, its bread has become a rising star too, with bakers from across the...

Read more

2015-03-25 Iraq

Iraq's Duluiyah, a symbol of Sunni resistance to jihadists

Iraqi government forces and Iran-backed Shia militia are hoping to soon retake Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, where jihadists have been holding out for several weeks. But...

Read more

2015-03-24 India

India: Beef ban criticised

Cows are a sacred animal in India, a majority Hindu country. But the western state of Maharashtra has gone one step further in protecting the animals: it has banned beef...

Read more

2015-03-23 Ebola

Video: One year on, Liberia on the road to recovery

One year after the first Ebola case was declared in West Africa, we look at the progress made in fighting the deadly disease. Before a new case was confirmed on Friday, Liberia...

Read more