One of the main thrusts of the Maidanist Ukrainian and Western information campaign against Russia during the Ukrainian conflict has beeen the allegation that the NAF (Novorossiyan Armed Forces) were mostly manned by Russian citizens or even the Russian military.
This is not to say that there haven’t been voices of dissent. For instance, Prof. Paul Robinson (and Russia blogger) has argued that 80-90% of NAF fighters were locals, while even The Times’ Russia/Ukraine correspondent Mark Franchetti confirmed in summer 2014 on the Shuster Show in Kiev that based on his observations Russians amongst the rebels were a decided minority – for which he was roundly booed by the Ukrainian audience.
However, thoughout the past two years, anyone making such claims in the West ran the risk of being branded as a Russian shill. Anyone making such claims in Ukraine itself ran the risk of actually being arrested and imprisoned for the crimes of “separatism” or “denying Russian aggression.”
It just so happens however that the basic truth of the arguments that Russian citizens constituted a decided minority of NAF fighters and consequently that the war in Donbass was primarily a Ukrainian civil war has recently been confirmed – and by an organization whose Ukrainian nationalist pedigree is unquestionable – the “Peacekeeper” website.
This Ukrainian government linked website’s most significant informational peremogas (victories) include publishing the personal details of anti-Maidan journalists, some of whom like Oles Buzina would soon after be murdered, and doxxing Russian airmen serving in Syria while calling for Islamic State to take care of them and their family “by the canons of sharia.” More recently, they published a list of Ukrainian and foreign journalists who had received accreditation from the DNR, naming them “scoundrels” and “collaborators” and listing their personal details (the list included such famous Kremlin propagandists as Simon Ostrovsky).
Three weeks ago, the Maidan’s telephone directory for assassins came out with its latest coup – a list of “fighters and mercenaries” recruited by the DNR during the summer of 2014.
But, hidden within this peremoga, there was an awful zrada (betrayal): As first calculated by Ivan Katchanovski, the data revealed that of the 1,572 recruits, some 78% of them were Ukrainian citizens – a good majority of whom were from Donbass. 19% were Russian citizens, 2% were citizens of other countries, and the rest had unknown citizenship. Bearing in mind the high intensity of personal and familial ties between the Donbass and the Russian Kuban inherited from Soviet days, the percentage of DNR fighters who are true “foreign adventurists” is probably closer to just 10%. This is less or even much less than in many armed conflicts that are incontrovertibly regarded as civil wars.
Of course Ukrainian coverage of this leak paid zero attention to the inconvenient question of national compositions, and Western coverage too singularly failed to latch on to it apart from a few geopolitically orientated and generally “Russophile” alt media sites and a couple of academics such as Ivan Katchanovski. These facts are however crucial to understanding the depth of local anger towards the Maidan regime in the Donbass and why the Kremlin will find it hard to “shove” it back into Ukraine even if it really wanted to.