Part I – Talks about some Western volunteers, who decided to join the Right Sektor battalion. Their personal stories show the quality of the personnel. Just one of them:
“When he was 12 years old, Lang’s father attempted to murder his stepmother in a drunken rage. Lang Senior went to jail, and Junior had to live with his stepmother. At that point, he decided joining the army would be his best way out; at 17, he finished high school in order to do so. At 22, he’d completed two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Lang speaks glowingly of military life. In Novogrodovka, he strode around the barracks mimicking NATO assault postures—reloading while running, peering around buildings—and scrolled obsessively through US Army manuals on his phone for fun.
Two years ago, Lang made local headlines when he deserted Fort Bliss in El Paso after his pregnant wife sent him videos of her sleeping with other men. Lang loaded his car with body armor, night-vision goggles, and two assault rifles, and he drove nonstop to North Carolina, where he set up a perimeter of land mines around her condominium and attempted to murder her. He only got several months’ jail time because, he says, the US Army knew that he had mental problems and did nothing to address them. “I told my commanders repeatedly that I was going to murder her,” he said. “The motherfuckers thought I was bluffing.” Lang received a dishonorable discharge, losing all veteran’s benefits, health insurance, and his gun license. Child-support payments mounted—he is currently $92,000 in debt—and consistent work never came. He spent time in and out of jail. His wife took his truck and home and filed a restraining order against him. Lang hasn’t seen either of his children in almost three years.
Lang felt betrayed by the army. “You have a prison record, you can’t get a good-paying job, you can’t pay child support, you’re sent back to jail. Repeat.” But he still adored combat. Blackwater rejected him for being half-blind, he said. (He mentioned nothing about how his criminal record might have affected his application.) In February, after reading about the Battle of Ilovaisk, during which Russian separatists ambushed retreating Ukrainian soldiers, Lang got the idea to come to Ukraine. He’d heard that NATO veterans were highly valued on the front lines, where Ukrainian soldiers lacked even rudimentary medical training. He told me he chose Ukraine over Syria for two reasons. First, seeing Maidan on the news convinced Lang that Ukrainians were serious about their national war of liberation. “These people fucking want change.” Having served in Iraq, he thought that Iraqis were not serious about their sovereignty. “Iraqis give zero shits,” he said. Second, he takes Putin to be a communist. Lang, who describes himself as a strict constitutionalist, despises communism.”
Also – a couple of words about their fearless squad commander, a true cossack and shiriy Ukrainian Semyon:
“Command of the Voloveka fell to Simeon, the first civilian to steal a machine gun from a police officer at the Maidan and fire back. He was a household name in Ukraine and a legend within Right Sector. After Maidan, he’d survived the disastrous encirclement of the Ukrainian army at Ilovaisk. He’d been among the kyborgs, the vastly outnumbered Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers, including Right Sector members, who defended Donetsk airport from rebel besiegers in the days before Minsk II was signed. Simeon was an artist with a weapon called the TOW, a missile latched to a two-mile-long wire that he guided into enemy territory with a pair of small steering wheels. In late 2015, the Ukrainian state declared him a terrorist. His face was put on notice boards throughout Kiev. The Right Sectorites had converted his home in Ivano-Frankivsk into an armory. They placed Claymore mines on the underside of his porch, and they instructed his teenage son to activate the devices if the police arrived.
Simeon’s presence in the barracks was outsized. His drinking sessions began shortly after he emerged each morning from his drab cement room, decorated with a few family photos and several Russian army helmets on the walls. “Brothers!” he would cry in a faux-American accent. He possessed no civilian clothes; his fatigues had become so matted with dried mud and engine grease they had hardened into the consistency of cardboard. For Simeon, the war in Donetsk was less about fighting the Russians than it was about proving something to Ukrainians back in Kiev. “Sixty percent of Ukraine wants to join Europe,” he told me one night while he was on guard duty. The occasional crack of artillery came from the east. “Their biggest concern is whether or not their WiFi works. Another twenty percent, well, these are pro-Russian trash. To them, the Soviet Union was a good thing. These types aren’t as big a problem as you might think. They can be killed. We in Right Sector are part of that remaining twenty percent that believes we have to take matters into our own hands in Ukraine. We can only fix our country when we fix ourselves individually.””
And a few words about their equipment:
“The members of the Voloveka frequently boasted that they possessed enough explosives to eradicate a small Ukrainian oblast. The battalion had smuggled in all of it—the six armor-plated trucks, the helmets and medical kits, the hundreds of boxes of ammunition—tirelessly, illegally, from every reach of Ukraine. The men used donations from the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada “for medical supplies” to purchase Kalashnikovs off Chechen arms dealers in Vienna, which were smuggled through the Carpathian Mountains by members of the Voloveka who caravanned out to western Ukraine every few months in battalion pickup trucks. They also claimed many guns off dead separatists. One afternoon, Fischer took me to the company armory—six windowless nooks on the second floor. The air was heavy with the waft of cat urine. Anti-aircraft missiles and RPGs lay haphazardly stacked everywhere like planks of wood. Fischer grabbed two rusty black mortars out of a moldy cardboard box. “A war museum in Lviv gave these to us,” he said, flipping them lightly between his palms. “Red Army issues from the Second World War. A lot of Ukrainian battlefield reenactors admire the work we’re doing out here. They send us these antiques all the time,” he said, tossing them back into the box. “The only problem with them is that they can easily detonate if you drive over a bump too quickly in the bus.””
Part II – Talks about the peculiar grey zone in which the Right Sektor volunteer battalions find themselves even to this day:
“At any moment the SBU—the Security Service of Ukraine—could have come and arrested every member of the Voloveka, whose presence on the front lines was illegal. But the Right Sectorites assured me this would never happen. When they needed help pursuing trucks they suspected of smuggling supplies into Donetsk, the SBU called the barracks for reinforcements. Most of the oblast was pro-Russian, so to help give the impression of occupation, local authorities encouraged Right Sector to drive its vehicles slowly through nearby villages and walk their streets with glocks in hand. (Though the residents of Novogrodovka despised Right Sector, they weren’t too proud to come to the barracks at night begging for food, which was always given. The drunk ones often fell into the moat.)
The Ukrainian army was also technically obliged to arrest Right Sector members on sight at the front lines, but it didn’t. During the night, officers sympathetic to Right Sector’s cause filled the Voloveka’s school bus with rockets and other large-caliber guns forbidden by European monitors. Right Sector was the Ukrainian army’s way of getting around Minsk II while still hitting back at separatists who refused to allow international organizations anywhere near their trenches: Right Sector, Ukraine told inspectors, was out of its control. The local police also wouldn’t arrest any members of the Voloveka, to whom they outsourced their terrorism. Of course, when asked about their connection with Right Sector, Ukraine’s SBU, army, and police vigorously disavow it. But what I saw on the front lines was nothing short of active cooperation. The fighters of the Voloveka, for their part, were contemptuous of any cooperation with Kiev. But the fight could only turn against Ukraine once the more immediate threat in the Donbas had been destroyed.”
Part III – contains guro, R 18+. I’d rather not quote it, just a quick excerpt:
“Several weeks before I visited the Voloveka, a man had been picked up wandering the streets of Novogrodovka at night, drunk. Police confiscated his phone and found photos of him posing in front of Donetsk tanks on VK, a popular social network among Russian speakers. They brought him to the Right Sectorites, who locked him in a standing-room-only shower stall. The lights stayed on for a week. They beat him with a sock stuffed with sharpened rocks. They stripped him of his clothes and made him clean the barracks on his knees. An interrogation session involving repeated threats of deportation to Guantánamo Bay revealed only that the man came from a local village and apparently knew nothing about rebel troop movements. After a week, the police picked him back up and brought him to Kiev—presumably for a jail sentence, though no one could tell me what actually happened to him. “It is a pity to have to beat these people,” Kirschbaum said. “But I’d have more sympathy for them if we got any sort of similar treatment in Donetsk. Right Sector members captured there get their noses and ears cut off.””