This interview and the translation were kindly provided to Slavyangrad by the author of the article, Andrey Borodulin, who spent a few months in the epicentre of the Ukrainian conflict, following it from the very beginning up to the present day, and reporting from the ground under the pseudonym Krasnoschekov.
Being in Donbass, I heard about European volunteers fighting for the Militia, but I had no opportunity to meet them either in Donetsk or at the front. However, I managed to come across them in the centre of Moscow. At the metro station there were two men in military jackets waiting for me. One of them, who decided to hide his face from the camera—he introduced himself as Jean-Pierre—had a St. George ribbon on his sleeve. He has spent only a few days in Donetsk and does not consider himself a soldier yet. Jean-Pierre told me that he was of Russian origin, though he was born and grew up in France.
With him was Victor Lenta. He was wearing a camouflage winter jacket with a sailor’s vest under it. He is that very charismatic and smiling Frenchman of Colombian origin who appears in many photos with a long moustache and with a sniper rifle in his hands. Besides being the informal leader of the “soldier-internationalists”, he is also a field commander. It was with him that I mainly spoke.
“We all consider ourselves to be not only volunteers but also revolutionaries”
Andrey Borodulin: How do you prefer people to call you, and which names applied by the mass media do you dislike?
Victor: In Russia, they often call me Poirot [a fictional Belgian detective, created by Agatha Christie -ed.] due to my moustache, and I am perfectly comfortable with that (laughs). People also call me “Commandant” in the war. Although I don’t mind being called simply by my name—Victor.
As for my group, we prefer to be called volunteers. I do not like the term “separatist”—in my opinion, it definitely has a negative meaning. Those fighting for Donbass are the defenders of their own land, while the real separatists are the Ukrainian Army trying to separate the population of this land from Russia, with whom the residents of Donbass are connected both historically and geopolitically.
Andrey: When did you learn about the crisis in Ukraine and when did you decide to go there?
Victor: I developed an interest in that as soon as the events—that false revolution—began on the Maydan Square. It is obvious to me that Maydan is a typical “colour” revolution, carried out according to Gene Sharp’s theory. Its concept is destabilisation and overthrowing regimes disagreeable to NATO and the USA.
At the very moment when I saw the people of Donbass starting to arm themselves to repel the established government in Kiev, I decided to go to this region. Along with my associates, we began to discuss the plan already in April, and made the final decision in May. We arrived at the site in June. Thus, it took us two months to get prepared.
Andrey: Were you previously acquainted with the people who set off along with you? Do any of you represent any movement?
Victor: All of us are members of the organization which I founded in Belgrade in January, 2014. Its name is the Continental Union. We all consider ourselves to be not only volunteers but also revolutionaries. The Continental Union is a geopolitical movement, based on Alexander Dugin’s works in many ways, as well as on respective principles of resistance.
Our organization has three primary concepts: geopolitical concept—proclaiming support of a multipolar world, anti-mondialism—the protection of traditional family and civilisation values, and the third concept includes revolutionary purposes where a revolution is truly public, aimed against the world oligarchy.
Andrey: That is to say the revolution against capitalism, right?
Victor: Yes, exactly. A lot is spoken nowadays about the result of World War II and about the “democracy that eliminated fascism.” But in the post-war world it wasn’t democracy and freedom which won. As a result, capitalism prevailed, which is no less evil than fascism.
Andrey: Do all the French who have come with you share the same views?
Victor: Yes, they do. Moreover, they have been “political soldiers” in France already for a long time.
“The war in Ukraine is not ethnic”
Andrey: In my opinion, we are witnessing in Donbass in some way “a war of nationalisms”: Ukrainian nationalism against Russian, or at least against Russian identity. Don’t you find your participation in this face-off ironic?
Victor: Unfortunately, there is a nationalist factor in this war. Ukrainian nationalists are categorical Russophobes. The programmes of the Pravy Sektor and Svoboda are essentially chauvinistic and racist. Their members are volunteer soldiers in the ethnic war against the Russian world.
Andrey: But the other side of the conflict is anti-Ukrainian, they have ‘Ukrainophobia’ to some extent…
Victor: No, I have not noticed the Donbass fighters bearing such kind of hostility towards their enemy. Many of them have Ukrainian passports and even say they are Ukrainians. They fight not against Ukraine or Ukrainians, but against the Ukrainian Army, subordinated to oligarchs.
We should realize that this confrontation is not ethnic. The West, NATO and the European Union have launched the whole conflict in Ukraine in order to destabilize Russia. Maybe some Ukrainian nationalists believe it is an ethnic war, but for the EU and the West it is a chance to seize the land of Donbass. This is part of a big war that has been waged for a long time already. The former Yugoslavia, Syria, Libya and now Ukraine—all these countries are being impaired in the interests of the Western world.
Jean-Pierre: Andrey, may Victor and I ask you a question? Why do you think that Russians and Ukrainians are different ethnic groups?
Andrey: No, I do not think that these are very different people ethnically. However, I watched the fighters from the both sides, and their identity is quite sharp. Those on the Ukrainian side often believe they have a different nationality from Russians. At the same time, there are Militiamen considering themselves to be Russians and believing that there is “the great Russian nation” and “the Russian World” while nobody really knows who the Ukrainians are—either some kind of “sub-Russians” or “sub-Poles”.
Victor: I would say that Ukrainian ultra-nationalism has no reason. We all know that Russia, as well as the Orthodox world, originated in Kiev. Russians have the right to say that the vast majority of Ukraine has a Russian identity: the people in this area speak and think in Russian, they are Orthodox, and they want to stay Russians. As for Ukrainian nationalism, it is based on false notions…
Jean-Pierre: …on Bandera.
Victor: There is a small part of Ukraine—its western area, which is not Russian. It is more likely subject to Polish and Hungarian influence.
I also want to add that when Ukrainian nationalists demolish monuments to Lenin, it reminds me of a “parricide” myth. Correct me if I am wrong, but it was Lenin who created Ukraine as a nation while establishing the USSR.
Jean-Pierre: It was the Soviet government which industrialized Ukraine.
Victor: Yes, exactly.
Andrey: Regarding the monuments to Lenin, I do not quite agree with your theory. I happened to speak to those who pulled down the Lenin statue in Kiev during the events at Maydan. It became obvious for me that the people considered those monuments foremost symbols of Moscow—“the Moscow government.” Lenin monuments are certain symbolic beacons, left over from the time when Moscow controlled everything in Ukraine. Thus, those destroying these “beacons” show that their area is not under the control of Russia anymore.
“The overthrown of the regime in Russia is being prepared”
Andrey: Nowadays many people know that in France, amongst others, the French nationalists also support the position of Russia in this conflict. I do not know about “Identitaires” [a political movement originating in France with the Bloc Identitaire and Génération Identitaire groups -ed.], but judging by the mass media, “the National Front” does. Marine Le Pen expressed her opinion on this issue many times…
Jean-Pierre: The things which the mass media and Marine Le Pen say are quite different. According to French mass media, Russia has already attacked Ukraine thirty-four times. Imagine, what nonsense: is it possible to attack a single country thirty-four times?
Victor: French mass media, firmly controlled by the government and the system, have taken an extremely anti-Russian position since the Maydan events. These mass media are not independent. For instance, we used the internet to search for objective information. French mass media could not help noticing the information on the web. When there were lots of proofs about the Maydan manipulations and civilian bombardment in eastern Ukraine, they began to present a slightly different point of view, compared with the one at the beginning. However, nothing has changed in respect to Russia. The Western press keeps on describing Russia in a definitely hostile manner: “Russia is an aggressor…”, “Putin is a horrible president…”, etc.
Every time the Western world wants to overthrow any regime, it starts with moulding public opinion in their countries. We experienced that with Bashar al-Assad: “He is killing and torturing his population…,” “he is a dictator…”
Jean-Pierre: The same was said about Qadhdhafi…
Victor: Yes, there were the same words about Qadhdhafi.
Be very careful if the West is saying similar things about Russia and Putin. That means that the overthrow of the regime in Russia is being prepared. We know very well the way it happens.
“The pro-Russian stand of Marine Le Pen is a political game”
Andrey: And yet, do you think the position of Marine Le Pen and “the National Front” is unfeigned or it is based merely on their political interest?
Victor: In my personal opinion, above all it is a political game. She has no sincere pro-Russian feeling. She is a strong woman, just wishing for power. I know that it all has to do with money. Thus, her position cannot be genuine.
I emphasize that this is my personal opinion. Her father—Jean-Marie Le Pen—on the contrary, deeply loved France. We can fairly call him a patriot from the heart. Though Marine Le Pen is another story.
Andrey: What threatens you if you return to France?
Victor: France supported the decision of Kiev to conduct the so-called “anti-terrorist” operation. It turns out that under French law, we can easily be considered terrorists and will undergo trial according to the corresponding article of the penal code.
Andrey: So you are not planning to return to your country?
Jean-Pierre: At first, we are going to finish this war. And then we will see.
“Brazilians and Spaniards who travelled half-way across the world came to the Donbass to fight, not to talk”
Andrey: Tell us, what kind of combat missions did you have the opportunity to perform in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas?
Victor: In Donetsk, we took part in the fighting at the airport, we tracked down enemy artillery. In the Lugansk region we conducted combat operations near the Ukrainian checkpoint in Debaltsevo. Our unit detected and destroyed a group of enemy infantry in the town surroundings.
But most of the time we were instructors, we trained Militia volunteers in the techniques of special operations units. I and Nikola consider it our success to have trained in a few weeks a large number of civilians, who had never fought, up to a professional standard of conducting hostilities.
Jean-Pierre: I would like to add that not one Militiaman, taught by Victor and Nikola, was awarded for conducting combat missions.
Victor: As for the future, I would like to unite all foreign volunteers in one group under a unified command, a group well-armed, trained and designed for “guerrilla”-type operations behind enemy lines. Unfortunately, foreign volunteers are not being used to the full for the current hostilities. They are much talked about, their presence in the Donbass is touted in propaganda, such things I can understand, it is a feature of times; propaganda is very important, but—it isn’t exactly what they expected. Brazilians, Spaniards, they travelled half-way across the world and arrived in the Donbass to fight, not to talk. I have had discussions with the command of the DPR, with the local authorities on this topic. I explained that we ourselves will take over training and restructuring of groups of foreign volunteers and that we are going to send them into combat missions. In the meantime, unfortunately, they are still used in “no more than ten percent”.
“The Franco-Serbian brigade became international”
Andrey: In one media outlet I read that a separate brigade of French and Serbs operates in the Donbass. How close is that to the truth?
Victor: It is close to the truth, because, originally, that is exactly what we were thinking: to create a Franco-Serbian squad. By the way, the commander Nikola—he is a Frenchman of Serbian origin. For us, the French, it was particularly important to join with the Serbs because we remember the shameful complicity of France in the attack on Yugoslavia. Making common cause, we would somehow be rehabilitated, so our country could finally move closer to the Serbian soldiers and, together with them, advance to the future and create a new Europe.
Among other things, our group has had a lot of contacts in Belgrade for a long time. In fact, Nikola is Serb and speaks Serbian. A lot of Serbs responded our call, so: a Franco-Serbian alliance should go without saying. But there was a surprise for us: Brazilians and Spaniards, who came to the Donbass also wanted to join us and, as a result, the Franco-Serbian brigade became an international one.
“For me, the war in the Donbass—it is my fourth. I am an old soldier of the French Army”
Andrey: Well, we have spoken a lot about ideology, politics, and now let’s speak about the things which are probably most interesting for many: war and military action. Victor, tell us about your combat experience before this war.
Victor: For me, the war in the Donbass—it is my fourth. I am an old solder of the French Army, a paratrooper, I fought in the Republic of Chad, in 2008, then I was in Afghanistan, and, in 2011, I took part in operations in the Ivory Coast.
The second-in-command: Nikola, who is with me in Donbass, also fought in Afghanistan. Two other Frenchmen served in Afghanistan as part of the army, but were not engaged in hostilities. Nonetheless, their tour there gave our group a lot of experience.
Andrey: So it turns out you did not need to learn anything on arrival, or did you have to learn Russian-made weapons?
Victor: It so happened that, in all the previous wars I was involved in, our opponents were armed with either Russian- or Soviet-made weapons. So, it was not new to me (laughs). But, at the same time, I faced directly the Russian language, Russian habits and culture. It was really important for us.
And, even for us, it was a special type of warfare which is taking place in the Donbass. This is difficult to describe in one word: it has the features of a civil war, there are features of guerilla, partisan, several types of warfare are involved.
“The Ukrainian Army is preparing a summer offensive”
Andrey: There are two more questions, the answers to which may be the most curious. Tell us about the most dangerous, risky episodes in this war where you were close to death, or, on the contrary, achieved unexpected combat success.
Victor: Undoubtedly the most dangerous episode occurred in Donetsk. It happened, when, due to the use of mobile phones, our barracks were bombed by the Ukrainian Army. By the way, every time someone would talk on his cellphone while on position, it would be traced and five minutes later they would be shelled with Grad or mortars. In the bombardment, I was really close to death. There was no fear because I knew how to manage it, but I realized what danger surrounded me.
Andrey: As for me, returning again from the south-east of Ukraine, I do not really welcome questions like “what will happen next?”, “what is your forecast?” Yet, winter is coming, and I want to ask, which way do you see the future course of the war in the frosts? Who might be more successful in this period?
Victor: I think that the Ukrainian Army is preparing for a summer offensive. It is unable to attack this winter. Ukrainian soldiers are too tired and demoralized. Now they are just making defensive positions. Now, while the Ukrainian Army is weakened—now is the best time to crush their defensive positions. Otherwise, they will conduct a successful preparation for a large deployment of troops for the summer offensive under reliable protection. Currently time is working for the Ukrainian Army, they are preparing not only weapons, but also a lot of American instructors are coming to them. Unless the Militia starts attacking now in winter, then in spring it will be too difficult. As for us, we will be in the Donbass this winter and we would like to participate in the offensive.
November, 2014. Moscow.