Washington Free Beacon on July 14, 2014, reported that a 24-year-old Armenian man that was recruited in Moscow to be part of the shadowy separatist force that invaded Ukraine says that his group was “betrayed” by nameless bosses in Russia and sent to certain death in the Donetsk airport, according to an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Excerpts below:
Artur Gasparyan spoke in detail during the interview of his experience from the moment he was recruited to invade Ukraine to his long escape back into Russia after he “survived by a miracle.”
Gasparyan says that he was told to erase every scrap of his identity upon joining the force, and also that he was not given the name of a single person he was taking orders from, or fighting along side.
Garparyan says he was taken to a military camp that he believes was near the border (all road maps were confiscated) and spent two weeks training. Everybody remained anonymous.
They taught us to communicate using gestures and signs in order to recognize each other, to communicate silently at night, to give commands like back, forward, stop, get down, danger, and so on.
Most of the individuals recruited had nearly no military training before being sent to invade the Donetsk airport in what Gasparyan explains as a poorly planned and even more poorly executed operation.
Q: What was the point of seizing a civilian airport in Donetsk?
Gasparyan: To prevent them from sending in troops from Kyiv. They told us no one would fire at us. Just pose for the cameras and that’s all. They would see us, get scared, give up. We’d disarm everyone and send them home. The airport would be ours.
Q: Who do you mean?
The Ukrainian troops around the airport. There was gossip that supposedly we were so tough and everyone was afraid of us. But it turned out just the opposite. At 2 P.M. the helicopters came. Then the airplanes, and they started bombing the place. I was on the roof and with my aide, I managed to get to the sixth floor. It was a big attack—I counted four helicopters and two planes.
They were completely unprepared for the battle that they found themselves in, due to a commander that “naively” thought that Ukraine “wouldn’t use heavy weapons” on the airport that was newly built for the 2012 European soccer championship tournament.
Eventually, the group was forced into trucks for an escape and told that they would be killed if they didn’t follow the order.
There were two trucks with about 30-35 men in each one. A covering squad remained in the airport. They went out on foot at night—they all got away. Spark gave the order to drive out of the terminal and to fire in all directions at anything that moved.
We lifted the covers—they were open trucks stuffed with volunteers. Our truck flew out of the terminal and we begin to fire on both sides, up in the air, everywhere.
We proceeded along a road for about 4 or 5 kilometers. The trucks were about 500 or 600 meters apart. Two trucks speeding along, firing without stopping. It was terrifying.
Gasparyan eventually ran away back towards Russia, and after avoiding a death squad that was sent to find him…, he has made it back. He had all his belongings and his identity returned to him and was sent home.
Gasparyan says that much of what is being said about the Russian invasion into Ukraine right now is a fiction, especially regarding the presence of a large group of separatist Ukrainians that are involved in the fighting.
RFE/RL: Journalists who have been in the region say that about 20 percent of those fighting are Russians and the other 80 percent are local militias.
Gasparyan: I’d say exactly the opposite. Most of them are Russians, Chechens, Ingush. There are also Armenians like me. I spoke to some locals and they say that they did what they’d been told.