Scribbling from a Ukrainian Rough Rider
SOFREP has this really interesting take on what it was like as a foreign volunteer soldier of fortune in the Ukrainian Army during the late great hate there in recent years.
As a former professional soldier in my own country’s NATO army, I found myself embroiled in the conflict in Ukraine by my own choice in late July, 2014. While technically I was a “volunteer,” I viewed myself as a professional soldier serving in a foreign country’s armed forces. Far from trying to make this some kind of dramatic personal narrative, I will attempt to portray a picture of the Russian soldier from my own limited point of view—that of an opponent.
At this point, I’d like to sidetrack a bit so as to make some things more clear to the reader. The Ukrainian “volunteer battalions” should not be seen as militias or irregulars, but rather as a sort of “Rough Riders”-style unit, a unit formed by volunteers, yet armed and supplied by the Army and subjected to the regular command structure, having normal combat duties at the front line. The foreign volunteers themselves, again, should not be seen as the like of all these colorful characters that join the Marxist and Arab irregular militias in the Middle East, but rather like the Swedish volunteers during the Winter War, integrated normally within their unit and most of the time taking up a front-line role either in operations or training. The opposing forces can be divided easily in two parts: the bandits who initiated the rebellion and the Russian regulars who intervened later that same year.
The bandits, no matter what the pro-Western propaganda claims, were not mercenaries or Russian regulars posing as rebels. Many Russian nationals flocked to their banner from the onset of the rebellion out of pure patriotism. Of course there were exceptions, but these were just that—exceptions. That doesn’t mean that Russian military advisors or SOF units didn’t directly aid them in the beginning of the conflict. The military effectiveness of said bandit militias was horrendous.