Eastern Europe

The Donbas Rebels In Their Own Words

From the Battle of Slavyansk to the Minsk Accords, as told by Alexander Zhuchkovsky and “Strelkov.”

Image by Pryshutova Viktoria

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April 12, 2014, started out as just another typical day for the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk. At 9 a.m., a dark green truck surrounded by several dozen fighters wearing masks drove up to the local police station. The armed strangers took a rope that was attached to the truck and tied it to a metal grid covering one of the police station’s windows. Within seconds, the truck drove off at full speed, ripping the grid completely off.

Having eliminated this obstacle, the fighters smashed in the window with their rifles and began entering the building one by one. Shots were heard from inside. At the same time, several fighters climbed onto a canopy above the police station’s entrance. Seizing a Ukrainian flag that was hoisted there, they threw it to the ground and triumphantly raised a Russian tricolor in its place.

Thus began the Battle for Slavyansk, the opening shot in the Donbas War that has resulted in over 14,000 dead and many more displaced since 2014. The conflict entered a new, deadlier phase on February 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would launch a so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine under the pretext of defending the Russian-speaking population of the Donbas. Although the final outcome has yet to be determined, the past month of heavy fighting in Ukraine has already caused destruction on a scale not seen in Europe since the end of World War II…

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