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Baltic minority region scapegoated fo...
Salcininkai
By Benas Gerdziunas
05 Oct 2017

Salcininkai, Lithuania’s Polish and Russian-speaking city is only five kilometers from Belarus. In the backdrop of ‘Zapad 2017’ military exercises across the border, Lithuanian government government has finger-pointed at the the substantial Russian-speaking minority for being susceptible to separatism, and held multiple military exercises in the region.

In turn, however, they have demonised the vulnerable population, suffering from depopulation and social exclusion.

In April, 2017, unannounced snap drills in the area became the center of controversy. Armed men in military fatigues took over the local police station and institutions with little resistance from the unprepared security forces. Political fallout from these exercises continue to this day.

Additionally, the voting patterns in Salcininkai and Lithuanian peripheries along the 670 kilometer border with Belarus are firmly with the pro-Kremlin, Polish minority party.

I visited the area to speak to the local people, who are mostly ignored in the public discourse, and explore some of the underlying issues in the region.

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 04
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
17 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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"War is Our Way of Life": Chechens Jo...
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
15 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

The batallion seized a pro-Russian rebel in Shirokino for questioning. The hostage said that he was recently released from prison in Russia and was trying to reach his relatives in Ukraine. When crossing the border, he says he was grabbed by separatists and was recruited to fight with them against the Ukranians.

INTERVIEWS AND RAW FOOTAGE

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 01
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
14 Jun 2015

DISCLAIMER: This footage was supplied by Chechen fighters.

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 02
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
14 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 03
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
14 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 05
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
14 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 06
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
14 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 07
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
14 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 08
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
14 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 09
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
14 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 10
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
14 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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Chechen Fighters in Ukraine 11
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
14 Jun 2015

Chechen soldiers from the Sheikh Mansur battalion have come to Ukraine to fight against pro-Russian separatists alongside Ukrainian forces. They said that Putin is their enemy and that he destroyed their Motherland. As their relatives are still in Chechnya, they hid their faces and asked not to be named.

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Chechen Fighters Interrogate Alleged ...
Shirokino, Ukraine
By Azad Safarov
13 Jun 2015

DISCLAIMER: This footage was supplied by Chechen fighters.

Chechens soldiers fighting alongside Ukrainian nationalists seized a pro-Russian rebel in Shirokino for questioning. The hostage said that he was recently released from prison in Russia and was trying to reach his relatives in Ukraine. When crossing the border, he says he was grabbed by separatists and was recruited to fight with them against the Ukrainians.

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Ukraine: Brothers in War
Donetsk
By Lorenzo Giroffi
11 May 2015

This documentary encapsulates our seven-month long chronicle of the civil war in Ukraine's Donbass region – a silent war that, despite the declaration of two truces and the deafening silence of western media, continues to claim hundreds of victims.

We filmed and lived side by side either with pro-Russian rebels or with soldiers in the Ukrainian army. From Donetsk to Lugansk, passing by Debaltseve and Mariupol, we aimed to report the conflict and its hangover: from the drama of a population broken in two, the suffering of civilians, and the motivations of volunteers on both sides, to the risk of new and bloody catastrophes and the hellholes of illegal coal mines, new source of income for thousands of workers from the Donbass.

Textless, Natural Sound Version Available upon Request

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Ukraine: Fragile Ceasefire Marred by ...
Shyrokyne
By Azad Safarov
18 Apr 2015

Ukrainian members of the Azov Batallion exchange machine gun fire with pro-Russian separatists on the Shyrokyne front line, near Mariupol in east Ukraine. Despite the recent ceasefire, firefights and shelling resume, amid fears that the fragile ceasefire is on the verge of breaking down. The commander of the battalion says that the situation in Shyrokyne is very unstable, as pro-Russian separatists continue to fire machine guns and mortars towards their positions.

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Video shows a pro-Russian separatist ...
Debaltseve, Donetsk Oblast
By Yves Choquette
11 Apr 2015

Video shows a pro-Russian separatist Cossack explosives team detonating an unexploded 220mm Uragan missile in a field near Debaltseve, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on April 11, 2015

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Interview with a Young Ukrainian
Krakow
By tobiasero
03 Apr 2015

Victoria is a young Ukrainian girl who moved to Poland in order to begin her studies. She speaks about the situation in Ukraine; her father is part of the Ukrainian military, injured during the fight with pro-Russian separatists.

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Ukraine Front Lines: No Ceasefire, Mi...
Tonen'ke, Ukraine
By Andrey Samerkhanov
30 Mar 2015

Footage and interviews from Ukraine front lines.

Despite a ceasefire brokered in Minsk between Russia and Ukraine and the pulling back of heavy artillery on both sides, warfare doesn't stop in eastern Ukraine. Russian proxies and regular army continue shelling at Ukrainian forces' positions on daily basis. In the meantime, UA president Poroshenko announced UA volunteer battalions withdrawal from the front lines in eastern Ukraine. Soldiers of the regular UA army fear this decision will turn to many death among UA soldiers that remain to serve there: "The enemy is strong and UA must ensure even stronger defense instead of withdrawal". The following three stories aim to highlight:
1) Who is really supports UA army;
2) What challenges UA soldiers face on the front lines;
3) Why UA soldiers think UA president Poroshenko's decision on "withdrawal" from the front lines is wrong

We have heard and read a lot about volunteers providing food, medical supplies, and other essentials for the Ukrainian soldiers at the front. At the same time the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and government officials have claimed that the government is doing its job in supplying the soldiers with everything they need. EMPR has decided to see for ourselves how things stand in regard to how well the soldiers in the battle zone in eastern Ukraine are being taken care of. In our search for the truth and to bring our readers a firsthand account our correspondent spent two days with a volunteer group in the Donetsk oblast. We want to share with our readers the remarkable, unique system the volunteers have worked out to provide aid to the patriots of Ukraine who with their strength of spirit, desire for justice and often with their own lives are defending our land from the Russian invaders.
Meet the charitable organization "Mother's Watch" in Kyiv. Here volunteers collect aid for the Ukrainian soldiers. Here protective camouflage nets are made, bread and cakes and meat pies are baked, stuffed dumplings and meat balls are cooked, and soup and borshch ingredients are dehydrated. This is where our journey accompanying the volunteers from the "Association of Ukrainian Veterans of Afghanistan" begins. The group of veterans delivers the goods to the soldiers at the front.
We leave Kyiv at night and by morning we arrive in Donetsk oblast. Our first stop is a small village where 11 divisions of a mechanized infantry battalion are based. Here we leave half of the goods. The battalion has been here for three months already. They are tired. And waiting for their rotation to end. Next we're off to the see the "Right Sector."

Story #1
Music is in the air as volunteers from the organization "Mother's Watch" weave camouflage nets for the soldiers and sing their hearts out. Soon the vans arrive. Food, water, and other essentials are loaded into the vans. By the next morning the vans are at the front. They are unloaded and the goods are distributed among the soldiers. The soldiers tell us that if the volunteers did not bring them the supplies they need the army would not be able to keep going for more than two weeks.

Story #2
The soldiers of the Ukrainian Army share with the volunteers all the ceasefire violations the opponent has committed, the problems within the army, and their thoughts on how and by whom Ukraine could be helped in the war against Russian aggression.

Story #3
In February, 2015, Andrei Hrachev, a combat doctor with the 93 Battalion together with other soldiers addressed an appeal to the President of Ukraine in which they called on the president to bring order to the country, to get rid of corruption, and to fulfill the pre-election promises. The appeal was full of obscene language but it hit record highs in popularity. Andrei Hrachev became an Internet star. In March, 2015 Petro Poroshenko issued an order that the volunteer battalions Right Sector and OUN must either become a part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine or leave the battle zone. Here is Andrei Hrachev's response to the President's order.

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On Ukraine's Frontline with the Pravy...
Peski
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

Near Donetsk Airport, Peski is one of the main flash-points on the front lines of Ukraine's conflict, defended both by the Ukrainian Army and the far-right Pravy Sektor. Despite pulling back their heavy arms, pro-Russian separatists continue to attack the town with lighter munitions on a quotidian basis.

Our contributor brings us a look into life on the front lines, where the bloody battle continues despite the ceasefire brokered between Russia and Ukraine.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Peski 01
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A soldier from the far-right Pravy Sektor stands amid the rubble in front of the administration building in downtown Peski, just over a kilometer from Donetsk Airport.

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Peski 02
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A church in downtown Peski has been damaged amid fighting.

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Peski 03
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A 9 year-old boy continues to live in this half destroyed village with his parents.

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Peski 04
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A dog left behind in Peski is fed by the Pravy Sektor soldiers.

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Peski 05
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A woman shows us her apartment in Peski on March 17, 2015. She has been living in basement for many months.

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Peski 06
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A check point controls traffic at the entrance of Peski, a kilometer and a half from Donetsk Airport.

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Peski 07
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A soldier stands guard at the Ukrainian check point named "Bridge Republic" in Peski.

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Peski 08
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

Peski, just over a kilometer from Donetsk Airport, has been the scene of multiple flare-ups in fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

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Peski 09
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

Peski, just over a kilometer from Donetsk Airport, has been the scene of multiple flare-ups in fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

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Peski 10
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A soldier of Praviy Sector after his duty. Here every day seems to be the last one.

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Peski 11
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

Peski, just over a kilometer from Donetsk Airport, has been the scene of multiple flare-ups in fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

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Peski 12
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

Pravy Sektor soldiers regroup in their headquarters in Peski.

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Peski 13
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

Newly arrived soldiers to the Pravy Sektor militia use the machine gun for the first time.

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Peski 14
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

Unexploded mortar rounds like on the ground. Peski, just over a kilometer from Donetsk Airport, has been the scene of multiple flare-ups in fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

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Peski 15
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

Peski, just over a kilometer from Donetsk Airport, has been the scene of multiple flare-ups in fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

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Peski 16
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A house where Pravy Sektor soldiers once lived catches fire after being hit by a shell.

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Peski 17
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

Soldiers from the far-fight Pravy Sektor enjoy a barbecue inside their house in Peski, while outside heavy shelling continues.

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Peski 18
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A soldier from the Pravy Sektor watches Putin's speech on Russian TV at their house in Peski.

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Peski 19
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

A woman soldier cleans her weapon.

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Peski 20
Peski, Ukraine
By Olya Morvan
17 Mar 2015

An injured soldier from the Pravy Sektor is waiting to be transferred to the nearest hospital.