Volunteers say theyve been left to cope with the physical and psychological scars without any state subsistence. Meduza reports

Russian volunteers returning home after fighting alongside separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine say they have not received any support from the state, despite many suffered by ongoing physical and psychological problems.

Hostilities in the region officially ended in a ceasefire last year, by which period the conflict had claimed virtually 7,000 lives and left more than 17,000 wounded.

Since then Russia has turned its attention to the war in Syria, leading many separatists and their advocates accusing Moscow of giving up on eastern Ukraine.

The returning soldiers were not been hailed as heroes. Because Vladimir Putin had denied the presence of Russian troops across the border and refused to officially recognise the role volunteers had played, “theyre not” entitled to official state subsistence. fighters cannot access the support offered to army employees. Some suffered serious injuries or psychological injury and are now critical of how theyve been treated by the government, while others say they are prepared to return to fight at any moment.

Here, men and women who opposed in Donbass was talking about their struggle to assimilate back into daily life 😛 TAGEND

Alexander Nelyubin

After my service, its been very difficult to get back into civilian life Photo: Personal archive Alexander Nelyubin

I went to the Donbass in July 2014 to defend our Russian world from attacks by the west. It was necessary to meet the adversary at our own borders.

In August 2014, I swore an oath to the Donetsk Peoples Republic. I served in a reconnaissance and sabotage squad the Kalmius special detachment.

At first, weapons had to be seized. Then, brand new ones began to arrive[ from Russia ], still coated in[ protective] grease.

In the republic, there were very big problems in terms of organisation and coordination. Many were killed due to folly and incompetence.

I received shrapnel wounds and a severe concussion[ after an attack on a small town called Yelenovka ]. I was sent along with two busloads full of wounded soldiers for medical treatment in Russia, in Sevastopol.

Then we returned home and became irrelevant. The local command headquarters and I disagreed on a lot of issues.

Almost all my comrades left the field a while back. The killing of[ separatist commandant] Alexey Mozgovoy and others contributed to their decisions to return home.

Now, many of the guys are furious about how theres merely stillness about it on Tv. Its as if someone is deliberately dismissing the reality of the situation. Its still out there. Less may be going on today, but people are still dying.

After my service, its been very difficult to get back into civilian life. My wife was worried about my state of mind. Im not used to all the stillnes. I wake with a start during the course of its nights. When I drink, I remember my comrades and the war rushes back. Ive been taking corvalol [ a tranquiliser ].


Before arriving to the Donbas, I had no experience managing weapons, let alone in combat Photo: personal archive/ Meduza

Before I left for the war, I was a manager in publishing. In my spare time, I went rockclimbing and did mountaineering.

Starting in July 2014, I saw frequent news on Tv about the events in the Donbass. All that was happening touched me resurgent fascism, the genocide of the Russian population, assaults on civilian towns and I could not remain indifferent.

In early autumn[ of 2014] I mailed off humanitarian assistance packages. By November, however, I understood I needed to go myself. I let my office know that Id be taking a vacation. On 1 December I arrived in Donetsk and instantly fell in with the international brigade.

Before arriving to the Donbass, I had no experience managing weapons, let alone in combat operations. It was all new and I needed to learn speedily. The commandant and guys in the group helped me with the training and instruction.

I continue my service to this day. They say there is a ceasefire now. In reality the shelling continues.

These days many Russians are returning home because active hostilities have ceased. The militia is gradually turning into a regular republican army. Talk about Putin surrendering the Donbas is becoming more frequent.

Life in the republics has still not fully come together. I would like to believe corrupt practices and lawlessness will not flourish here.

The Donbass has changed me dramatically. It has revised my outlook on life. My character has hardened, too. I pay less attention to small distractions, I judge people more accurately now, and I know the true entailing of the word friendship. I dont simply have friends, either. At any moment, my life could depend on the person or persons around me here.

Not for a moment do I regret that I came here.

Alexander Fomichenko

Before the journey to the Donbass I served in the army. Then I retired and worked in the security industry. Each year, I travelled to Odessa where I have relatives. I generally liked Ukraine.

I was very affected by what happened at the House of Trade Unions[ which was torched by pro-Ukrainian protesters in 2014 ]. So I went in the summer of 2014 to help people.

When I ultimately reached the Donbass, I realised there is a big difference between what they show in the media and what is actually going on. Everything wasnt so rose-coloured. I expected there to be military discipline some kind of training. But there was not.

We had no training. They taught us the rule: If you hear a shot, fall to the ground. We did just that, and it saved our lives.

Alexander Zakharchenko( centre ), current prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples Republic in November 2014. Photograph: PHOTOMIG/ EPA

Initially, we were given SKS carbines[ standard issue rifles for the Soviet Army in 1949 ]. We were only given automatics after our first combats that is, after people didnt run away or change their minds. A uniform was your own concern, and you got one at your own expense.

At days there wasnt anything else to feed. Sometimes local Cossacks helped out, feeding us bread. Every now and then they constructed borscht. There were many abandoned vegetable gardens. We dug up what had not yet been taken. This was in no way looting, though. It was just hard times.

For a period after I returned I worked in security again. Now everywhere is closing up and cutting back. Industries have no money. Now I run as a shipment loader, but its just so I have something to do.

Many of the other militiamen have been able to return to their previous chores, but some want to go back to the Donbass. I also caught myself thinking that if things start to get seriously messed up, then Ill head back.

Im sorry for the guys who got injured. All of us in varying degrees have received psychological trauma, and many get concussions. Those who aimed up disabled need to be supported by the state.

For many of the people I know, life has changed greatly. After what theyve seen there some people turned to heavy drinking. For others, their shot nerves constructed them ill. Some are already dead.

After all of this, my views on life have changed. I value life more. I have no sadness. I can say I proved myself. For centuries Russia has been at war, right?


I joined the ranks of the militia in early December 2014. Before that, I was working at a real estate firm but it was just a chore to earn money. My love is tattoos its long been my hobby.

From the very beginning of this whole mess in Ukraine, I watched the situation get worse and worse. I had no idea it would turn out like this. When the fighting broke out, I couldnt merely sit on the sidelines. Slavs killing Slavs how could it be?

At the start I worked on sending humanitarian assistance. Then I devoted everything a long, hard gues. I received a blessing from the spiritual father[ at my church] and went[ to eastern Ukraine ]. Such a decision cannot be made at random.

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