21 August 2014 - 02:00 PM
The Two Sides of Volunteers in Ukraine
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The situation in Ukraine is becoming increasingly dire. 

Angel and Rafa from the Spanish Intercionalistas

Kiev-controlled Ukraine is bankrupt, and will be forced to adopt harsh conditions as part of a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) once they stop spending a large share of their budget to bomb the country's east.

In those Eastern regions especially near Donetsk and Lugansk, many Ukrainians have been forced to flee the heavy shelling. Following the violent overthrow of Ukraine's government in February, eastern regions followed the example of Crimea in distancing itself from the new, openly far-right, pro-West administration in Kiev. The price that they have paid has been steep, with over 2,000 killed and at least 730,000 Ukrainian citizens having fled the country since the beginning of the conflict. There are some 300 Ukrainian arriving in St. Petersburg every day. 

Both the gravity and politics of this conflict have lead some people - albeit a small number to date - to involve themselves in the conflict, on either side.

Pro-Rebel Volunteers: the Internacionalistas '36

Created in June of 2014, the Internacionalistas '36 are a group of leftists from Spain who are now in the Donbass region of Ukraine, fighting alongside rebels against Kiev.

On their facebook page, the Spaniards say the group formed "to break the silence and immobility of the left parties and organizations on the genocide of the Ukrainian Nazi-fascist government to the people of southeast, massacred by the army with the approval of our government, the European Union and the United States."

The group invokes the International Brigades from Europe and North America who travelled to Spain by the thousands in 1936 to fight alongside Spanish Republicans against Francisco Franco and his fascists. In addition to engaging in direct battle, the internationalists took on organizing collections to food and supplies for children and families, building hospitals and running health services among other tangible forms of support for people impacted by the Spanish Civil War. Internationalistas '36 purports to do the same in Ukraine, against a government in Kiev whom they see as sharing the far-right edge of Franco's forces. 

Pro-Kiev Volunteer: Mark Gregory Paslawsky

Not to be outdone, Kiev also counts on foreign military support, the most of important of which is of course the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

While no NATO forces have been involved in battle (yet), at least one American volunteered with the Ukrainian army. Mark Gregory Paslawsky, a 55-year-old investment banker from Newark, New Jersey, had been living in Ukraine for sometime.  A graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and veteran with the U.S. Army Rangers, Paslawsky had dual U.S.-Ukrainian citizenship.

Paslawsky, who fought for the Kiev Army under the nom de guerre “Franko,” was killed on August 19 in Ilovaysk near Donetsk, where the Internacionalistas '36 also appeared to have been engaged in battle.

Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko confirmed Paslawsky's death in a Facebook post:

"When I asked him why he was a citizen of the United States in the past to go and fight for Ukraine, he said these words: 'Ukraine is my second home. I'm not going back to the United States. I love Ukraine and the duty of every citizen and men to defend their homeland when it was threatened over!'"

​Interior Minister Arsen Avakov recently mended fences with the fascist Right Sector party, who have also been supplying considerable numbers of troops to fight the rebels in the country's east.

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