Preamble: Of the two texts published below, the first is a translation of an article written some weeks ago from Lugansk for the Basque language magazine, Argia. Following its publication on Slavyangrad.es, in Spanish, part of the Spanish (mostly Catalan) Left used the article to try to discredit the volunteers. They argued that the fact that they were fighting alongside French nationalists meant that the Novorossiyans are no better than Kiev. In their argument it does not matter who bombs who and both sides are bad. In practice this meant whitewashing almost all Kiev’s actions, as well as mocking the Spanish volunteers themselves.
The second text is a follow-up by the author of the first text, in which he discussed with the volunteers their recent transfer to the communist unit of the Prizrak Brigade. The author felt he owed it to the volunteers (very likely to get in trouble when they return to Spain—if they make it out of the war) to give them the opportunity to have their say. The interview is original and exclusive to Slavyangrad.
A Day in the Life of the Prizrak Brigade
A group of Spanish volunteers fighting in Lugansk met up with ARGIA journalists to show them their day to day life, perfectly aware that it is an alternative publication far removed from the mass media. “We haven’t talked to the media so far, even though we’ve been offered money in return. We are not interested in talking to those who are lying about Donbass,” says Andrés, a communist from Extremadura.
We are in the industrial city of Alchevsk, the second largest city in the Lugansk People’s Republic. It is Sunday, so no factory is working. We visit the market, crowded with people shopping. After a couple of hours exploring the city, we head to the headquarters.
“There are eight Spaniards in the Prizrak Brigade—two of them have just arrived and another two are about to leave for Spain,” explains the group leader. We have arrived at the headquarters, where we meet Victor Lenta and Nikola Perovic. “Welcome to Novorossiya.” Lenta and Perovic, French nationalists, command the Continental Brigade, formed by Spanish and Serbian fighters. Both French Army veterans are now considered terrorists by their country. “We can’t go back to France or the government will give us a ten year sentence.” They have a very clear goal: “Our unit, a part of the Prizrak Brigade, is a very diverse one. You can find nationalists, ultra-nationalists or communists here, but it’s no problem. We don’t discriminate against anybody for their religion, race or ideology. NATO is our enemy and we welcome anyone as long as they are willing to fight our common enemy,” says Victor Lenta.
Serbian born Nikola Perovic wants nothing to do with “those NATO dogs” since he took part in the Afghan War. “I witnessed the murder of civilians, which really opens your eyes. It’s unbelievable the impunity I saw there.” We stop to meet the Serbian commander Stevan Milosevic. “We, the Serbs, are in Novorossiya to defeat fascism, Nazism and NATO, even if we have to give our lives for it.”
The Spanish volunteers show us around the headquarters. We find a young man from Madrid working with explosives. A detonator and plastic explosives are all he needs: “This little thing can blow up a Ukrainian tank”, he says. They are aware that Ukraine has declared them terrorists, but he says he is just a regular guy. “I didn’t leave my family, my friends and my job just for the sake of it, to come fight in the Donbass. I can’t stand what the Ukrainian Army is doing to the civilian population, that’s why I’m here.”
The everyday life of the Spanish volunteers in the Prizrak Brigade is stark and disciplined. “We get up and jog at 7:00. We rest for a bit and, after breakfast, we head to tactical training. The goal is to turn the unit into a special forces unit and discipline is the key to reaching such a goal. The Russians here are not very disciplined. And on top of everything, alcohol is banned here,” he jokes.
Along with the foreign volunteers, the Prizrak Brigade, the second largest in Novorossiya, has both Russian and Ukrainian fighters. Volunteers joke around as they explain how the name of the brigade—“ghost”—was just meant to mess with the Ukrainian Army. “They keep saying they’ve destroyed us, but just like a ghost, we keep coming back.” Commander Aleksey Mozgovoy has become a reference for many anti-imperialist and communist Europeans. Close to a communist ideology, Mozgovoy has built his fame calling for a war against the rule of oligarchs.
We have the chance to meet some of the Cossack commanders and Igor “Zatochka”, who is said to be Mozgovoy’s second-in-command. They both fought in Slavyansk, which shows in their medal-adorned uniforms. “I was awarded this one for the defence of Slavyansk. I’m Ukrainian and I served in the Ukrainian special forces, but as a communist I couldn’t accept that Nazi-backed coup. That’s why I’m part of the Novorossiyan Armed Forces,” says Zatochka. The Cossack commander is Ukrainian too, and he fought defending the Donetsk airport.
There are plenty of Russian fighters in the Prizrak Brigade headquarters who have left everything behind, seeking nothing in return. We join them during their military training. Suddenly, the sound of Ukrainian artillery leaves everybody silent. “Did you hear that? Please tell everybody in your country what the Ukrainian Army is doing in Donbass.”
It is dark outside and the day is over at the Prizrak Brigade headquarters. Militiamen usually go to sleep right after dinner, but it is a special day and the Spanish brigadistas have permission to go out for pizza. “We are heading for the front line tomorrow, so we have to celebrate that we are all together now. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring.” Out of nowhere, the lights go out and we find ourselves in the dark, rushing back to the headquarters. Something that resembles a NATO drone is flying in the Novorossiyan sky, so the lights were cut off for security reasons. “Once again, they’ve spoilt the happiest moment we’ve had in a month. Welcome to Novorossiya, welcome to the war.”1 The day is over, this time for good, for the Spanish volunteers in the Donbass.
1 In English in the original Basque article.
“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a socialist state in Europe”
Interview with Spanish antifascist volunteers in the Donbass
Many volunteers from all over Europe have answered the call to join the resistance movement against Poroshenko’s coup régime and have arrived in the Donbass to defend Novorossiya. Among them is a group of volunteers from Castile and Catalonia, who have joined the Prizrak Brigade from the Vostok Battalion to serve under the charismatic Aleksey Mozgovoy. After a brief stay with the brigades continentales, the Spanish antifascists have joined other young revolutionaries in the Red Squad 404, a communist unit within the Prizrak Brigade.
We caught up with Sergio, Héctor, Miguel and Oriol to learn about their life with the 404 and about their role in the popular resistance of Novorossiya.
First of all, why did you come to the Donbass to fight against Poroshenko’s government?
We all agree that the Odessa massacre was the turning point for us. But there are many reasons why we have joined the struggle: to help build a socialist state in Europe, to help defend the people of Donbass from the Kiev army. This is a fight against fascism and we are in debt to those who joined the International Brigades in Spain in 1936 to fight against the coup.
Leaving your life, your friends and your family to go fight in a war in which you could die can’t be easy. Is Novorossiya worth such risks?
We are perfectly aware of the risks that come with the decision to go to war and we know what we left behind in Spain, but the cause is worth the risk. We are here to fight against fascism. For the first time in a very long time, there is a real chance to help build a socialist state in Europe. As communists, we could not let go of this opportunity.
You define yourselves as communists. What does it mean for you to fight for Novorossiya? What are your political and military goals?
Our main military task is to stop when we have liberated the future state of Novorossiya from the fascist scum. They are the ones who caused this war. And our main political task is to help build the socialist state of Novorossiya by being part of the revolutionary units of the armed forces along with other communists fighting here. The red flag will once again fly high in Europe.
As with Kurdistan or Palestine, the Donbass resistance is based on popular support and is politically diverse, so it stands out that one of the leaders of the Lugansk militia is Vitaly Victorovich, a known communist. What is the real presence and influence of communists in the popular resistance?
Communists have a prominent presence in the resistance. There are two units formed exclusively of communists: one in the Vostok Battalion and another one here, in the Prizrak Brigade. There are communists in other units too. There is great Soviet nostalgia within the volunteers fighting in the Militia. Everything has deteriorated here since the collapse of the Soviet Union, everybody here can see it. We could not say exactly how many communists are in the resistance, but it is the predominant ideology in the Militia.
Communist ideology is present in the political arena too. Igor Plotnitsky, the leader of the LPR has a communist ideology. Communists are influential in both the Lugansk and the Donetsk militias. Many of the commanders are fighting for a Novorossiya free from fascists and oligarchs.
After a brief stay in other units and battalions, you have just joined the Red Squad 404 of the Prizrak Brigade. Why did you transfer here? Tell us about your new life in this unit.
Our life in this unit is similar to what it was in other units: the same discipline, same schedules and same rotations at the front. What really changes is the hierarchy. Everything here is more egalitarian, there are no commanders. There is a political commissar who is in charge of the discipline and morale of the soldiers. And we have two leaders: one in charge of military training back in the headquarters and one in charge of leading the comrades in battle.
We made the decision to change units for political reasons, even though there have always been communist commanders in our units. Political differences prevented us from feeling as comfortable as we would have liked. We feel fully comfortable with our new comrades here in unit 404.
Even though nationalists are a minority in the Militia, a part of the (Spanish) Left have used their presence as an excuse to whitewash Kiev’s and NATO’s crimes against the civilian population. Some have gone as far as calling you Nazis, not just you but the whole resistance. What do you have to say to that?
Any Left that justifies fascists killing civilians should rethink what their ideology really is. Some have called us Nazis, which is hilarious to us, dark-skinned half breeds (laughs). Those of you who have been here are the only ones who can judge, everybody else is just speculating three thousand kilometres away. And I want to make it clear [Sergio] that I am redder that the blood flowing through my veins. And that is not going to change, no matter what others may say.
What do you think is the main character of the Novorossiyan resistance: class struggle, the fight against fascism or national liberation?
Novorossiya is a fight against fascism, against the rule of the oligarchs and a national liberation movement. We are fighting against the Kiev fascists and the oligarchs who looted post-Soviet Ukraine. And it is a national liberation movement too, since they are defending their culture, their language and their people.
Let’s talk about the war, which I got to see for myself here. How is life at the front lines? What goes through your mind when you are in combat?
Life here is rough. You get cold, hungry and exhausted, but none of that matters when you realize you are doing the right thing.
A million things go through your mind, the adrenaline kicks in, but sometimes you are afraid of dying. Sometimes you wonder what you are doing here.
What kind of military tasks have you carried out so far and what is your task at the front line?
We cannot answer that question for security reasons, but what we can say is that our unit carries out tasks of infiltration, sabotage and other special operations.
You are volunteers fighting for Novorossiya. Are you aware of Western mercenaries fighting for Kiev?
Yes, we are volunteers fighting for our own satisfaction, not for money. But we are aware of mercenaries fighting for Kiev, backed and financed by NATO and the European Union, who are the ones to blame for what is happening in Ukraine.
What will be the outcome of this war?
We will win! The will of the People is unstoppable.