Arkadiy Babchenko is a Russian military journalist, who has been in Donbas for a long time together with Ukrainian soldiers.
The separatists in Donbas consider him an enemy who stands “for the junta.” In Russia, it has been proposed to void his citizenship, Gosduma member have organised protests against the journalist, accusing him of liberalism. There are also calls to eliminate Babchenko.
In an interview to the Ukrainian BBC Service he said that he is currently near Sloviansk. Before the conversation, he uploaded a photograph of the military helicopter which had been shot down on Thursday, which he had taken earlier on his Facebook page with the following subtitle: “The helicopter I was never taken on has been shot down.”
As a result, 14 people died, including Ukrainian general Sergiy Kulchitskiy.
Journalist of the Ukrainian BBC service Roman Lebed spoke to Arkadiy Babchenko.
Arkadiy Babchenko: I know about the circumstances of the helicopter’s destruction in general. Like everyone else, they arrived at Karachun (a mountain not far from Sloviansk – BBC), offloaded, took a group of people from there, which were on rotation – they were being taken to rest. And after departure they were shot.
BBC: Have you spoken to any of the deceased earlier?
A.B.: Yes, I talked to the pilots, also with General Kulchitskiy. The pilots were very good guys – so… polite, correct, well-meaning… Overall I had a very good impression after conversing with them.
General Kulchitskiy was a very reasonable person. Also very open and accessible. A very good commander – he went and flew to the roadblocks where his soldiers were stationed. He personally brought them water, food. He looked at everything, checked everything. To my mind, he was one of the most adequate commanders.
BBC: What is the current situation where you are now?
A.B.: There is information that at the moment another battle continues at one of the roadblocks. Actually, not a battle, but a shooting.
BBC: How frequently do such battles happen?
A.B.: Overall, quite often recently. In the last several days, the battles and shooting have started during the day. Earlier it happened only at night. However the last two days, I think, it has been pretty quite. As of now I have not reached the roadblocks yet, but as far as I understand, they are starting to shoot again.
BBC: Are you receiving threats?
A.B.: I am being threatened every hour, I think. Constantly. They are writing to me, threatening over the phone, in many ways. The write, “I hope you’re killed soon,” “don’t return ot Russia” and so forth.
BBC: How do you evaluate the part of the anti-terrorist operation you have witnesses?
A.B.: The army is stationed at the roadblocks. They are controlling the roadblocks and not letting the forces of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” move around freely. However, there is no active phase of the ATO at the moment.
BBC: What are the moods of the soldiers you have been talking to?
A.B.: Normal, good moods. No deserting or talks that everything has to be stopped, there is nothing like this. The people are in a normal, military mood, ready to fight, and there are no problems with morale.
BBC: What is the situation with provisions for the soldiers, is there enough food?
A.B.: They do provide. There are many volunteers here. “Army SOS” – there is such a Facebook group, they are constantly bringing humanitarian aid. As to military provisions – I don’t know.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina