The Black and Tans of Donbass

I believe the separatists in Eastern Ukraine are getting their orders from Russia, but the crowds seizing buildings in Donetsk look different from the “polite people” a.k.a. “little green men” of Crimea.

Yulia Latynina, the controversial, libertarian-leaning Ekho Moskvy commentator, suggests that the violent separatists are troops of hired misfits (some in Flannery O’Connor’s sense), some with a military background. They are mercenaries, Latynina says, but psychologically unstable mercenaries – often people from the fringes with a deformed psyche. A lot of them are also “Russian imperial chauvinists”, of course.

Latynina’s report of her visit to Donbass is long and rambling but is worth reading or listening to if you know Russian – she’s very knowledgeable even through she gets carried away at times. Finding people eager to fight as irregulars shouldn’t be that hard in Russia and much of Ukraine. Veterans’ associations, various “patriotic” (or pro-Soviet, in Ukraine’s case) clubs, neo-Nazi gangs…


  1. Putin’s band of “lawless resolutes” or, to put it a less Shakespearean way, self-selecting cannon fodder. Whatever happens to them, he wins. If they get killed, he can shed some crocodile tears and praise them as martyrs, while secretly rejoicing that Russia’s streets are now free of these thugs. I imagine quite a few of them have been involved in gangsterism back home.

    They’ve got some serious weaponry though. They’re not just the usual hooligans with Kalashnikovs. I mean, the US has been debating whether or not to give the Syrian rebels anti-aircraft missiles for months and here they are in the hands of the concerned pro-Russian citizens of Sloviansk. I bet Moscow has sent an undercover minder to make the quality hardware doesn’t disappear onto the international black market after operations are complete.

    • They have turned out to be much stronger than I though, or much better armed. Or, perhaps, it’s the Ukrainian army that lacks determination and/or leadership. Anyway, the East is beginning to look like some Krajina of the Balkans.

      • the East is beginning to look like some Krajina of the Balkans

        Sometimes I think we’ve slipped through a wormhole back to the early 90s. Yeah, it’s like the beginning of the Yugoslav Wars and Putin is Milosevic.

        Meanwhile, in Egypt the military are copying Algeria circa 1991/92 and have removed a democratically elected Islamist government. Admittedly, it was a very poor and incompetent government but with the amount of repression the generals are using we could soon have a really nasty GIA-style insurgency in the Egyptian countryside.

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