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I could not stay indifferent and watch neo-Nazis kill

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I could not stay indifferent and watch neo-Nazis kill

09.07.2018

Svetlana Smetanina

A Finnish volunteer Lauri Karhu spent a year and a half in Donbass. After he came home he wrote a book about the events titled The Last Bullet. The book has recently been published in Finland and is being translated into Russian at the moment. According to Lauri, the book is about unbelievable tragedy of the war and the huge price Donbass had to pay for its liberty.

– Your book, The Last Bullet is about the war in Donbass. What brought you there? Why did you find events in a remote country so fascinating that you decided to go there?

- I'd been watching the events in Ukraine closely ever since the Maidan movement back in 2013. Naturally I understood that the events in the Maidan were planned and directed by the West. First I thought that the “directors” were trying to force the Ukraine into another Orange revolution like the one they had done ten years before. However, the situation began to deteriorate fast. First, there was a slaughter at Maidan in Kiev, then mass murder in Odessa, followed by the civil war in Donbass in the spring and summer 2014.

The Last Bullet Book

As far as I understood the people of today’s LPR and DPR started fighting in self-defense against violent attacks of the Ukrainian army. I saw neo-Nazis troops recruited by the official military. I saw mass massacres in the center of Europe. The people of Donbass were being killed for their attempts to speak up for their civil rights and their freedom to speak the Russian language, for their attempts to resist the illegal government, which had seized the power as a result of a military takeover.

I just couldnt stay indifferent and watch neo-Nazis kill. Ordinary people in Donbass raised a rebellion against the fascist junta and they deserved support and solidarity in the hard time. Solidarity is all that people have while struggling for their rights.

- What did you use to know about Donbass before that? Did you know anybody there?

- I was watching the situation closely, getting the information from all sources available. I had read the Young Guard by Fadeev, so I knew that Donbass had a tradition and experience in fighting fascism. I went there alone, I didnt have any connections or friends there.

- What were you expecting to see when you first came there? Did your expectations match the reality?

The fighting spirit of LPR and DPR soldiers is and has been high. The situation was extremely tough but everyone served there without any salary. No one doubted that whatever happened we had to fight till the end.
- I came there in the summer of 2015 and in a weeks time I was with the military. The situation is general was more or less what I had expected, but the military activity was more intense than I had thought. Around Donetsk there were serious battles every day and every week soldiers died, including those from our division.

I saw that our division was truly a peoples volunteer army. We didnt have a common uniform, none of us was paid any salary. Later most of the divisions entered Peoples Militia. Then we received the uniform, bullet-proof vests, helmets and the other parts of ammunition. I spent last year serving under contract with Peoples Militia in LPR. After I signed the contract I was appointed a squad leader and a deputy trop commander.
From time to time things suddenly got worse, especially in the summer and autumn 2015. I lost almost 15 kilos while in the army. The real war proved to be more difficult than I had expected. I dont mean fighting and shooting, but rather the situation in general, the living conditions were tough for everyone. I also witnessed daily fire attacks on civil areas in Debaltsevo, Gorlovka and Donetsk.
- What were the troops of LPR and DPR like?

- The fighting spirit of LPR and DPR soldiers is and has been high. The situation was extremely tough but everyone served there without any salary. No one doubted that whatever happened we had to fight till the end.

The last division that I served in included about 10 non-locals a few Russians and myself, a Finn. So, by 2016 the division consisted of 95% local people. It is still like this now; very few soldiers are not local residents.

I served for a year and a half, from the summer of 2015 until early 2017. About half of the period I was with international troops including foreigners from all over the world - Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Serbia, Finland, India, the USA, Latin America, Russia, Abkhazia, etc. In 2015 there were a lot of volunteers from different countries, but the majority were obviously the local citizens. The last division that I served in included about 10 non-locals a few Russians and myself, a Finn. So, by 2016 the division consisted of 95% local people. It is still like this now; very few soldiers are not local residents.

The system of Peoples Militia in LPR and DPR developed significantly, both in terms of material supply and organization. In the beginning the troops consisted of local habitants having almost no military training. Today the Peoples Militia is equal to a regular army. When I was with the Peoples Militia I was impressed by their combat effectiveness, which is especially surprising considering the facts that it started as a voluntary organization. Naturally the military service, especially in a real war is difficult, both physically and mentally and the Peoples Militia is not an easy place to serve in. This is a very effective army.

Militiamen digging trenches. Picture: TV Center

- What do the locals say about the reasons for the war? What made it happen?

- I talked a lot with the locals, the ones who participated in the events from the very beginning, the people who fought with the Security Service of Ukraine and forced administrative organizations while forming the first self-defense volunteer squads. I think one of the main reasons was the fact that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine formed a system of corruption and abuse of power and malpractice. In Russia the state system has become more or less stable over the last 15 years, while the situation in Ukraine had not. Another reason for the war was the NATOs expansion, its activity against Russia, attempts to take over the Crimea and to create military bases in Ukraine.

The European Union and the US sponsored extreme right-wing politicians, the corrupted oligarchs administration ready to promote the Western military expansion irrespective of the consequences. They sold their country to their Western masters. In this case the EU practices double standard policy. On the one hand, the EU claims they reject racism, fascism and even nationalism. On the other hand, they didnt mind when the post-Maidan Ukrainian government issued laws violating the rights of their Russian-speaking citizens and the Russians. This is a form of racism, however neither the EU nor any other Western country considered it human right violation, because it were Russians who were discriminated.

Russia is constantly blamed for the fact that Russian military fight in Donbass. What do you think about it?

There were a lot of Russian volunteers in Donbass, especially in 20142015. Many of them were my comrades. Some of them had been with the Russian army before, but the other foreign volunteers had also been with their country's army with the French, the American, the Finnish, the Spanish army, etc. All the military here are local, while all the foreigners, including Russians, volunteers.

In the summer of 2015 there were sometimes so many volunteers that we had problems distributing them between divisions. Nobody was forced to fight, neither the Russians, nor the locals or the foreigners.

The Western mass media promote the idea that there are Russian regular army soldiers in Donbass. This is an absolute lie. There have always been enough volunteers, except perhaps for the summer of 2014, when the Peoples Militia was only forming. In the summer of 2015 there were sometimes so many volunteers that we had problems distributing them between divisions. Nobody was forced to fight, neither the Russians, nor the locals or the foreigners.

I spent almost three years in the territory and I know the situation quite well. A lot of Russian and foreign volunteers have died in the war. This is a sad side effect of any war, which is always hard to accept. The perished Russian soldiers didnt always warn their relatives that they had gone to war. In this case it was an especially severe blow for the parents and it arose a lot of questions like why did he go there? How did he die? Was he sent there? The answer is nobody forced anybody to come here, every volunteer did it on their own accord, even if they hadnt said so to their relatives. Losing dear ones when they are young, losing sons is an enormous tragedy and its only natural to try and find someone to blame. So, if it comes to blaming someone for what is going on in Donbass, the blame is on the Western and the Ukrainian aggression and their fascism.
Have you had a chance to talk to the Ukrainian army soldiers? What does this war mean to them? What do they really think?

I met people who had been with the Ukrainian army, but then they were fighting for the LPR or DPR. Ive met a lot of volunteers from Kiev, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa. A lot of Ukrainian people serve in LPR and DPR. I knew a fellow-soldier who could barely speak Russian, because he used to speak the Ukrainian before the war. It was perfectly clear for all our Ukrainian comrades what had really happened in Donbass.

I was wondering what ordinary people in the Ukrainian territory really think, because the Ukrainian mass media keep saying that the LPR, the DPR and especially Russia are aggressors. People who live in the front-line cities can see from their windows what is happening. As for the people who live on the Ukraine-controlled territory, they can watch the Ukrainian artillery shoot the city of Donbass and its citizens every single day.

In your opinion, is peace between Donbass and Ukraine possible? Can they be together?

I really hope that this war will end as quickly as possible. I hope they will find a peaceful solution. I think the best option would be for Ukraine to accept the independence of the LPR and DPR and stop fighting. I cant seriously believe that after what has happened they can be one country again. So, the solution would be their independence, not autonomy within Ukraine. It would be fair to give the people of the former Lugansk and Donetsk regions a chance to choose how they want to live. I think we all know it. They want to live in peace, independent of Ukraine.

A soldier of the People's Militia, LNR. Picture: New Russia

What was you purpose in writing the book? What did you want the Finnish reader to understand?

A few people in Finland know what is going on in Donbass. In the EU there is a massive campaign against Russia and the mass media keep shouting that Russia attacked Donbass. This is a lie. Russia is trying to support the people of Donbass but I dont think Russia may benefit from the war.

In the end of the day the war is cold, hunger, illness and a terrible tiredness. All these joys are described in the book, and they are much worse than bullets coming your way. You can hide from the bullets, but there is nowhere to run and hide from the hunger, cold and illness.
The EU seems to be getting ready for a war. My book describes the hardships and the tragedy of the war. I want the Finnish readers to realize that the war is a huge distress for everyone who participates in it or has to live under such circumstances. Everyone should do all it takes to avoid wars.
Russia is not an enemy to Finland. Russia doesnt threaten Finland in any way. Russia is Finlands closest neighbor, and neighbors should be friends. Its been just 73 years since the World War Two ended, but people in the West seem to have forgotten what happened then and what the war is really like. So, there are more military-minded people. An ex-president of Finland said after the World War Two ended: Lets keep our friends as close as possible, but our enemies as far as possible. What wise words they are.

In my book I also describe the life of ordinary Donbass citizens. The book presents the events as I saw them. Of cause, it is subjective. I also wanted to tell the reader about the price of the so-called war-time heroism. I have a few medals and gratuities, but after I resigned I had to undergo a medical rehabilitation. Like many soldiers I developed health problems because of the service. I think every soldier who fought in Donbass paid dear for it. Freedom doesnt come cheap. In the end of the day the war is cold, hunger, illness and a terrible tiredness. All these joys are described in the book, and they are much worse than bullets coming your way. You can hide from the bullets, but there is nowhere to run to hide from the hunger, cold and illness.

What was the publics reaction to your book? Do you keep in touch with the readers? What is their opinion?

I saw two sets of opinion. Those who havent read the book call it Pro-Russian propaganda. Those who have, stick to the opposite point of view. I was trying to give a realistic view of the war and I dont perceive the war as a kind of heroic event. One of the readers said that the book gives an extremely realistic view on what a civil war really is. It reminds us why we must try to avoid the war. This book doesnt glorify the war in any respect. In fact, it does the contrary.

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