Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Mashujaa day: Kenyatta and Odinga call for peace before election rerun

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Kurdish referendum a ‘colossal mistake’, says son of late president Talabani

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

The new 30s club: NZ's Jacinda Ardern joins list of maverick leaders

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Raqqa, Kirkuk, Xi Jinping

Read more

REPORTERS

The Dictator's Games: A rare look inside Turkmenistan

Read more

#TECH 24

Teaching maths with holograms

Read more

DOWN TO EARTH

Is China exporting its pollution?

Read more

#THE 51%

Are female empowerment adverts actually good for the cause?

Read more

FOCUS

The mixed legacy of 'Abenomics' in Japan

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

2017-10-20 Asia-pacific

The mixed legacy of 'Abenomics' in Japan

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping for a landslide win in snap elections this Sunday. He's banked much of his chances of success on his economic policies, known as...

Read more

2017-10-19 Asia-pacific

'China's Silicon Valley' symbolises high tech, prosperity and social inequality

It's known as the "Chinese Silicon Valley". Zhongguancun, a tech hub north of Beijing, has become a symbol of growth and prosperity for many young entrepreneurs. Its success has...

Read more

2017-10-19 Europe

Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto to vote on autonomy

As the Catalan crisis continues to rattle Spain, we turn our attention to Italy. On Sunday, 16 million Italians in the northern Lombardy and Veneto regions will vote in a...

Read more

2017-10-18 Americas

See you in court: Washington state sues Monsanto over chemical pollution

US agrichemical giant Monsanto is under scrutiny as EU leaders mull whether to ban glyphosate, the main ingredient of its herbicide Roundup. The firm is also under fire in the...

Read more

2017-10-17 France

A shield and a target: France's anti-terrorism operation 'Sentinelle'

"Sentinelle" is the name of an ongoing military operation on French soil: French soldiers patrol the streets, acting as a first line of defence and a shield for potential...

Read more