We Did Not Go to War, the War Came to Us!

Interview by Victor Shapinov
Translated from Russian by Inessa Chabalina
Edited by S. Naylor


Militiaman with the call name “Artem” – my old comrade from “Borotba.” Before the war, he organized the working-class youth of Donbass in the struggle against fascism and capitalism, built a local cell organization. When the war started, he could not stand aside and joined the militia. Now “Artem” is wounded in the hospital and I had a chance to talk to him.

– Comrade, tell me how you got into the militia?

– When Maidan events just started, I had a feeling that this time the opposition would move on into a more dangerous stage. Compared with the “Orange” revolution in 2004, in 2014 there were already many organized, prepared, nationalist youth with good financing. The Ultras’ groups had grown and matured. Therefore, there was a feeling that this time they will pass the brink, and civil war is brewing. A split in society existed before, but it was, so to speak, moral civil war, but now the nationalists got a real opportunity to beat, maim and kill dissidents, and do it under the protection of the State. When I saw the death of innocent civilians, and especially the approving mood of a few local “pro-Ukrainian” patriots, I realized that time has chosen us all. The only solution for how to deal with the situation was on us. In this situation, I just went out and started helping the militia.

– In which militia unit are you fighting?

– Joint Army of South-East.

– What kind of combat tasks performed?

– Misc. Let it remain a military secret for now.

– Was it difficult to move from left peace activist life to become a fighter?

– It was difficult to become aware of what was happening and build a system that would explain (again, for me) essence of this war. It became very easy when – right in Lugansk – I met communists, who refused to obey the decisions of the Ukrainian Communist Party and boldly embarked on the path of struggle. And I felt the spirit of Donbass between soldiers, who had always gravitated to the fight against the rich, gravitated toward socialism. In LPR it is very noticeable. And peaceful life was in fact not entirely peaceful. There were the threats of nationalists, who roamed the streets of Donetsk and Lugansk (aka football ultras). And there were painful thoughts – how to open people’s eyes to the looming threat of the establishment of the Nationalist regime. The war was already here, the prologue of the war, if you like. I badly wanted to return to a peaceful life, to begin building a new young country with my own hands.

– How did you get wounded?

– During the heavy artillery shelling of the hero-city of Lugansk. The fact is that the Militia is not only fighting on the front line, the Militia has a responsibility to protect the civilian population as much as possible during the shelling, even at the cost of their own lives. People are already largely used to shelling, but there is still some confusion, disorganization. We did not think that punitive volleys over the residential areas were random, and now there is no doubt. Therefore citizens of Lugansk become more disciplined.

– How do you assess the prospects of military operations in the Donbass?

– If you look at the chronology of opposition from the very beginning, you will see how the Militia has grown and strengthened. However, the forces have been unequal until now. But we got another ally, no less important and dangerous to the enemy. Real Bolsheviks will understand the importance of it. This ally – the agitation of Ukrainian soldiers against the war. The way Bolsheviks campaigned against the imperialist war exactly 100 years ago. If more and more Ukrainians, who are fighting for the interests of the Ukrainian and Western capitalists, will begin to refuse to fight or start to organize their soldiers’ committees against the war, the case will be resolved. And this trend exists, it is already apparent. There are two possibilities. Either Ukrainian troops will completely raze Donbass to the ground and will fill it with blood, or a radical turning point will happen and we will throw the punitive forces out of the young republics. You see, peace is no longer possible in the Donbas under the authority of the Junta. Because in case of the Militia’s defeat, a period of reaction, direct genocide and terror against the population will start. And the local “snitches” will be very helpful. Can you imagine a single State of Yugoslavia, after a total war has occurred there? It’s impossible. Only compare with the Yugoslav carnage. We have no hatred for any particular nation, as it was the Serbs and Croats to the Bosnians, and those – the Serbs. If punishers came to control Donbass, they would have to constantly keep ready military units here and sleep with guns. Because it is not a war of the Russian against Ukrainians, this is civil war, where “Juntists” are fighting against anti-fascists.

– Ukrainian army is not as weak as in the beginning of the war. How do you see it from the “inside” – can the Militia handle it? Will the People’s Republics be able to resist?

– The Militia can handle it, because the Militia is now not only the fighters, but also the rest of the nation. Unconsciously, almost every one has mobilized themselves for the fight. Any little thing can be an invaluable help, every detail – this is a common struggle of the people. Without popular support nothing would have happened. People no longer want to live the old way. People really want peace and calm, but they are beginning to understand that with the Ukrainian government there will be terror and poverty.

– Is it possible to go on the offensive?

– There will be a counterattack, but not as soon as everyone wants. We also want it. Defense tactics anger many. More time is needed.

– You were an active participant of Antimaidan, in a leftist organization “Borotba” which was de facto outlawed by the Ukrainian authorities. Now your city, where you lived with your family, has been occupied by the troops of the Kiev junta. Is there any danger to your relatives and friends? Have they stayed there or left?

– Of course I moved my relatives earlier. My Uncle stayed and helps the common struggle also. Some comrades have left, but a lot stayed.

– In the media there is a lot of information that the locals in the Donbas hesitate to join Militia, do not support it. Allegedly, most Militias – there are some alien fighters from Russia, Chechens, Ossetians, etc. What do you think, is there any reason for such messages?

– On this subject, I would like to give more detailed response. First, there are different residents in Donbass. It’s a civil war. The vast majority, of course, helps any way they can, or just passively support us. As an example, consider the reaction of the population to the appearance of LNR columns in a particular city. People wave their hands and shout words of gratitude to the men, and so on. Many grandmothers bless passing Militias. In general, we sense the unity with the people. We’re all our own for each other. But there is a tiny “percent” of those who are waiting for their chance to give their neighbor into the hands of a Ukrainian secret police, like they do in Mariupol. There is also a “percent” of those who simply do not care, as long as someone has already opened an ATM in the village. The general mood of the Donbass people is becoming radicalized. People are increasingly looking to the massacre of informers. But the Militia, of course, attempts to thwart any lynching.

About the ‘Internationals’ in the Militia… In the Militia yes, there are different people; Ossetians, Chechens, Russian and Ukrainian. We are all internationalists and we are very proud of it. Because if, God forbid, one of the brothers has trouble at home, the same Russian, Ukrainians, Serbs and Ossetians, for example, will come to help him. This is the essence of internationalism. The backbone of the Militia are local boys and men. They come constantly, and not all are accepted. Even some grandfathers, WW2 veterans, wanted to join. It did happen. We have always been a very peaceful people in Donbass. In the course of this war, many have become warriors, who know how to defend their land and their ideas. Therefore it’s impossible to defeat Donbass, even if cities are taken. The fight will not end until the Donbass acquire independence.

Yes, there are internationalists here, not mercenaries. They are at home. How is it? – You ask. Easily. Donbass – the cradle of nations. There are many nationalities here. Just as Serbs have few areas historically inhabited by them. Whoever comes here with peace, will find a home here. After that, he would never be able to forget the Donbass. We are all Donbass people. As we say sometimes – we are all different, we are all red (smiles).

What prevents people of Donbass from joining the Militia in masse to protect their land?

– In my opinion, it is the lack of a clear ideological line that people would understand. There is also the fear of losing a mug of beer in the evenings, or fear of perishing under fire of “Grad”. But if there would be a clear idea like Bolsheviks had, for example, this would be different. Well, people used to live from election to election; to choose between the Eastern and Western oligarch. Nobody expected the war, and there were no organizations like combat committees in each village ready for such a turn. We do not live at the beginning of the twentieth, but in the early twenty-first century. Therefore, we have to respond to the challenges of the time differently. It is important to find this answer; necessary to find the correct answer. Recent appeals of “volunteer-communists” fully answer many questions and, I think, reflect the opinions of the majority of the Militia fighters. Yes, from the very beginning we are fighting against raging “Ukrainianity” and neo-Nazism. And under the maddened “Ukrainianity” I mean the ideology of a mass with an inferiority complex, which is led by their puppeteers, but not the ordinary Ukrainians – our brothers. There are many Ukrainians against the junta, but they are afraid and they do not have self-organization. The frightening events in Odessa on May 2nd that also killed my comrades, “helped” the Junta to strangle for a time the protests outside the Donbass. Finally, I will respond with the words of a “volunteer-communist”: “If we raise the red banner – we will win this war.” And, I will add, we will help our brother Ukrainians to strangle the fascist vermin, by giving them opportunity to build Ukraine without fascism. Feeling that we can fight the war machine, we now understand not only what we are fighting against, but also what for. This is the key that will open the minds of many of our countrymen, who will rise to fight, I’m sure.


– How do you see the future of Ukraine and Donbass if you win?

– I believe that Ukraine should arrive at socialism without Donbass. We can be strong allies. But Ukrainians will be able to eradicate Banderism and find a way to socialism only when they stop using Donbass as a “soviet monster” who “occupied the whole country.” Bandera hysteria is always heated by incitement of hatred between East and West. Without Donbass, Banderists will quickly eat themselves, because they cannot do anything for the “prosperity of the nation” and cannot point to someone, blame “outsiders”. Then in the Western Ukraine may arise “Livy ruh” (Left movement) and Banderism will die. Right to self-determination – this is a common right of the people, is the same as the right to choose one or another city in which to live.

– Many people say that the DNR – and LNR – is a “white project”, led by monarchists, Russian nationalists and similar groups. You, as a communist and internationalist, support the People’s Republics. What do you think, is there any reason for the Left to support the Novorossiya? How strong is the position of Left in the leadership of the republic? Are there many Left in the Militia – between ordinary soldiers and commanders?

– This question probably becomes central. At the beginning the men went to defend their homes and families, without thinking seriously about ideology. Moreover, it was practically impossible then to interest people in a struggle for power of the Soviets. Even if internally almost all were, to some degree Socialists. I mean in some “ideal” sense, which ordinary Donbass people would like to bring to life. Even at the level of conversation “on the bench”.

There are many Militia fighters in LNR who consider themselves communists and internationalists. I would also note the role of the “Workers’ Front of Lugansk” (formerly the regional committee of the Communist Party), whose members refused to obey “the official leadership of the Party” and openly declared for the Republic. Therefore they renamed. There are also anarcho-communists who were upset that their “brothers” in Kiev colluded with neo-Nazis, and excitedly began to help them kill our compatriots. Many are not in any organization, but simply positioning themselves as communists and internationalists. Here it is such a mixed pot that no one even thinks of who belongs to what organization. Communist – and be done with it. There is no nationalism here in the LNR, none. Don Cossacks perfectly interact with the Communists. Most of the Cossacks I have met are more like those of the Cossacks who fought for the Don Soviet Republic. Only they remember the Russian tricolor, which had the inscription “Antifa” (smiles). This episode explains a lot. People rose up against the threat of Ukrainian nationalism, and sought allies against armed radicals. Russia has always been a “mother” here, anyway. Therefore the flag of Russia was raised. But the anti-fascist label symbolizes another side, the inner essence of the peoples of Donbass – not any form of nationalism but internationalism and anti-fascism.

About commanders, I don’t say that someone has openly stated I am communist. But it’s not just talking about their internationalist beliefs, their anti-fascist views. For example, Alexander Mosgovoy, the “Ghost” battalion commander, has repeatedly spoken openly about the struggle against the oligarchs for the interests of the people, and proved his words with deeds. There is no “white project”, no, because it would be complete failure in Donbass. Historically, workers fought against the Whites, and fully supported the Soviet power. Mentally – everybody is “red” and not “white”. War consolidates people, awakens their historical memory, and then the class interest.

In conclusion, I would like to say that it is not sectarianism, but dialectics helps internationalists to understand the essence of the situation, to see behind bizarre forms – to see the true content; to make the right, even a tough choice.

And I will add: Compatriots, fellow countryman, remember that your ancestors shed blood on this earth for the victory of the proletariat. Remember that modern Donbass was built by incredible efforts of the working class, the victory over the Nazis. Donbass – a real monument of socialist construction. Remember who you are. Do not mutate, do not stray. Glory to the Donbas and the international solidarity of the working people!

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