Preamble: Journalists from Pravda DNR conducted this interview with French volunteers Erwan Castel and Tonio de Pedro. This is the complete unedited transcript of the interview.
EC: Good morning! I am Erwan Castel. I am a French volunteer in Novorossiya.
TP: Tonio De Pedro, a French volunteer in the Donbass.
Q: What brought you to this war?
EC: A strong belief that what happened last year in Ukraine is, in fact, a historical clash that concerns all Europeans. Since the end of the Soviet Union, we have seen an evolving American strategy that aims at encircling Russia once more. And, in parallel to this strategy, there is also, on the part of what is usually referred to as the “New World Order,” a systematic enslavement of the other European countries. So I followed this conflict from remote French Guyana, and, after eight months, I decided to commit myself, personally and physically, to the side of the Donbass rebels, so that I could participate in and better understand the conflict, and to continue to inform myself directly through the events.
TP: As for me, I came at the beginning of the year to help my fellow countrymen, precisely because I thought that what was happening here was completely wrong and because I wanted to help, and that’s what I came to do.
Q: What was your career situation before this war? Did you have experience in the military or were you leading a civilian life?
EC: Before I came to the Donbass, I was an Amazon guide, in French Guyana, close to Brazil. And before that I was an officer in the French Army.
TP: I was a baker. I had gone through several different jobs, and, at the end, I quit my job as a metallurgist. A welder-metallurgist.
Q: In your opinion, who is the enemy? Against whom do you fight? Are they really fascists or are they just people who’ve been misled and manipulated?
EC: I think that what we are witnessing in Ukraine is a strategy implemented by the United States in recent years, which is to awaken the old historical enmities, whether religious or political, and to exploit these extremists to dominate the people. Since we are talking about fascists, to use the terminology applied in relation to Ukraine, there really are small fascists groups in Kiev, however I think that they are in the minority, and that the majority of Ukrainians have, in fact, been deceived by the lies of the United States and also by the attraction of the consumerist society and culture.
Q: What should we do to win?
Q: How will the war end?
TP: With the liberation of the Donbass.
EC: We have to protect the population by all means, including with weapons, and I think that there is an enormous amount of work to be done, which is to raise awareness, because the biggest ongoing war, in my opinion, is the media war. And the presence of foreign volunteers, even if we’ve not been so numerous so far, I think is very important, because it is essential to draw a distinction between governments and people. I would like to emphasize that we are not here because we love war, but because we love Europe. And while France is our Motherland, Europe represents a common matrix, a common civilizational stock, so to say, that we share with the Russian people.
Q: What do you plan to do after the victory, after the end of the conflict? Stay here or go live elsewhere, go back to a civilian life?
TP: We will stay here.
Q: Do you intend to carry on your military service or will you resume a civilian life?
TP: I would like either to serve, or try to get a civilian job, maybe in a bakery—I don’t know.
Q: How long have you been here, and in which battles have you participated?
EC : I came here in January, at the end of January, and I joined the Armed Forces a month and a half later. We took part in the battles of June 3rd that took place in the western part [of Donetsk], near Mariinka.
TP: As for me, I’ve been here since the end of January, like Erwan. I joined the Cossacks at the end of February. I’ve fought in the Donetsk Airport, in Peski, and in Gorlovka.
Q: What has impressed you the most?
EC: Since my arrival in the Donbass, I’ve admired the dignity of the local population, which is subjected to shellings and continues to live with nobility, and I would even say, though I’m not sure it’s the right way to put it, with a smile. Humility and courage, this is how I would characterize the people of the Donbass.
Q: Have you started to find real friends?
TP: Even more than friends, we’ve found a family here.
Q: You don’t speak the language. Has it caused you any problems, since, during battle, orders have to be given and executed rather quickly? How has that been for you?
EC: Language is the biggest difficulty we’ve encountered, and learning Russian is really a must, even an emergency at this point. In the meantime, I manage with a little English, a little Russian, and [with the help of] my comrades who speak French as well.
Q: Do the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) authorities help the French volunteers?
EC: Speaking about the authorities of the DPR, we are, of course, not a priority, since they obviously have more important matters to deal with, but it is true that we are still waiting for a meeting and an official recognition of our presence within the Armed Forces. Personally, I look forward to the day when I will swear an oath to the Republic of Donetsk.
Q: How do the French people react to this war?
TP: They only see French media, so…
EC: The awareness that I mentioned earlier is definitely slow to spread. There is one medium through which we can try to open people’s eyes—that’s through the internet. There are more and more social groups that specialize in counter-disinformation (original French: la réinformation –ed.), spreading the truth to people, and some groups now exceed 10,000 members.
Q: Do you believe in an antifascist or an anti-globalist uprising?
TP : I do.
EC: This uprising, it won’t be unanimous, instantaneous or even share the same discourse. But I do believe in the emergence of small localized conflicts, which would have different objectives but a common enemy.
Q: Speaking of this conflict, did you expect a greater reaction worldwide?
EC : Yes. I am greatly disappointed to see how American propaganda has managed to blind people, who in many ways are brothers, and make them tear each other apart, so easily creating a new division in Europe, seventy years after the War.
Q: Do you have anything else to say or a message to convey to anyone in particular?
EC: I am happy to be here, and I hope that we will win this war very soon, and that peace will come back for all of Europe very soon.
Q: Thank you.
EC and TP: Thank you.