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Former political prisoner in Belarus fights along Ukrainians in nationalist battalion

Vasyl Parfenkov. Photo by online expres
Former political prisoner in Belarus fights along Ukrainians in nationalist battalion
Translated by: Jeffrey Stephaniuk

Belorusian civic activist activist Vasyl Parfenkov was released from the Horetska prison in Minsk on December 5, 2014. [He has a track history of protesting against the destruction of monuments to victims of stalinism, among other civic activity, and was arrested in January 2011 for his role in the campaign “Tell the truth.”] Nearly immediately afterwards, the young man and his family- his wife and son – moved to Ukraine. It so happened that he joined the volunteer battalion of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Currently, he can be found on leave in Kyiv, where he agreed to an interview with Nasha Niva (NN).

“The people of Belarus have always had close ties with Ukraine. We are brotherly nations, which is why I made the decision to move here. I am trying to help any way I can. Currently I am serving in the ranks of the battalion OUN at Pisky, near Donetsk. I have completed my first deployment, which lasted from January 14 until February 14. I will return in a few days time.

My first thought was to go to war with Right Sector, but an administrative problem slowed down the process. I was registered quickly with the battalion OUN, who then sent me for basic training. After two weeks of training I was deployed to the front. Perhaps it would be too much to say that I landed in hell itself, but there was definitely a lot of fighting. There were artillery bombardments and “hrads”, but no real direct visual contact with the enemy. They are active from a far distance, firing their artillery.

At Pisky we have the battalion Right Sector, OUN, and a unit of the 93rd brigade of the regular Ukrainian army. It is the brigade that has the artillery and tanks. We have automatic rifles, machine guns, and RPGs. I am infantry; a rifleman. I use an automatic weapon. Earlier, when there was the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, I joined the UNA-UNSO, and took their training, which is how I learned to handle a weapon. I am the only Belarusian in the OUN battalion. I do know of others, some with Right Sector, also at Pisky. In general, in every one of the volunteer battalions you will find Belarusians, more than just one or two.

It is possible to become accustomed to fear. The worst of the fear is felt during the first one or two weeks when the Grad missiles are being fired all around you. It is frightening, seriously scary. As time goes on you think about it less and less. It becomes second nature to go and find a safe place to wait until the bombardments end. I’ve been a fast learner. The main concern is to listen for the sounds of where the shells are flying, and then you can tell where they will crash. At Pisky all the buildings have been damaged, but still one can find good, solidly build cellars that withstand the missiles.

For now I am not planning to return to Belarus. Our laws on mercenary activity have not changed. I have not hidden the fact that I am here. Until something begins to improve back in our country, it won’t be practical to return.

My nom de guerre when I am with the battalion is Druh. As for food and other items, we have enough of everything, thanks to the great support of the volunteers. They have brought us warm items, homemade food, night vision goggles, and night vision scopes for our rifles. We have all we need. Of course there are no salaries paid to the members of the volunteer battalions. That has changed now for Aidar and Donbas, which have been integrated into the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Defence, and receive their corresponding salaries.

I don’t have any plans to change my citizenship. I was, I am, and I will be a Belarusian. I have, however, applied for residency in Ukraine.

Only yesterday I contacted the men from the battalion. They say that there is constant shelling from Grad missiles, three nights in a row. They don’t dare go out even to bring water from the well because of the steady bombardments. Nonetheless, the Ukrainian army is honouring the ceasefire, meaning that there is virtually no activity from our heavy artillery.”

Translated by: Jeffrey Stephaniuk
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