Meeting the Donbas Battalion: Russian Roulette in Ukraine (Dispatch 39)

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Meeting the Donbas Battalion: Russian Roulette in Ukraine (Dispatch 39) 4.5

With the Ukrainian army struggling to contain the grab for power by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in the Donetsk Oblast, armed pro-Ukrainian militias have been quietly taking matters into their own hands.

One of these groups, the Donbas Battalion, has been attacking DPR checkpoints and occupied buildings. After two weeks of careful negotiations they finally agreed for VICE News to visit their clandestine base in what used to be a children's summer camp in the neighboring Dnipropetrovsk region. They were cautious about revealing their location as their last HQ was discovered and attacked by pro-Russia forces, forcing them to find an alternative.

We watched them train and interviewed their leader, Semyan, before being invited on an operation the following day. In the town of Velyka Novosilka, the Donbas Battalion tore down the DPR flag and replaced it with Ukraine's colors, reinstalled the pro-Ukrainian administrator, and lectured the local police on loyalty and duty — all at gunpoint. We then left Velyka Novosilka quickly, as there were reports of armed pro-Russia groups heading our way.

The Ukrainian army's "anti-terror" operation has so far failed to dislodge separatists from their strongholds in Sloviansk and Donetsk. But the flexibility of the Donbas Battalion, and other groups like it, could help turn the tide in Kiev's favor. Equally, they could help further destabilize an already volatile region. Yet with the Ukrainian presidential elections taking place on May 25, it's likely that Semyan and his men will be busy in the days ahead — and we'll soon find out.

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💬 Comments on the video

Donbas battalion: waves


Author — Simp Gaming


After posting on Facebook, there were 600 enlistees. Facebook brings people together.

Author — Dakota Browning


6:32 and 7:03
When you are only level 1 and you can't purchase the cool weapons like your teammates can....
This guy have to settle for the state of the art 13 century Chinese handcannon.

Author — Kron Hertz


The next time you whine about Vice following around Ukrainians more, go watch the Dispatch where Simon got kidnapped by DNR troops. Or almost beat up. Or shot. Wonder why they aren't going after Russian troops with a cheer.

Author — Robjeysimpson


5:49 Top 10 rappers eminem was too afraid to diss.

Author — Jacob Loke


5:19 me in tarkov before heading to customs

Author — Yo Memer


10:56 squatting old man with an sks....

Author — Anonymous Loner


Who would've thought, the best method to raise a militia when the clock's ticking....

Post it on Facebook!!!

Author — C21, The Vinc Group


2:10 Hello there! I do hope that the cameraman waved back.

Author — Doughnut_Knife


5:17 these guys are geared like my budget tarkov squad.

Author — 1jx7wlt9 ic7rk3ld8


7:04 What the hell kind of weapon does homeboy have. Some kind of pipe bomb or a improvised rocket launcher?

Author — travis ruble


8:14 when the teachers telling you off and you're trying not to make eye contact with your mate.

Author — John


Imagine if one of those police officers giggled...

Author — Migui Bombon


I'm pretty sure Russia's military is more powerful than Ukraine's.

Author — ZzBiohazzardzZ


I love how they all look like total nerds and amateurs re-enacting their favorite FPS video game.

Author — schlafanzyk


7:10 thats like a gun for hunting birds XD

Author — Memesby Wumbis


10:54 my usual scav in escape from tarkov lol

Author — ً


A group of badasses right here, GLORY TO UKRAINE

Author — Shephard


Wow, this is almost like a dream I had the other night, I was in my home county, and it was almost December 2014, how strange.

Author — Johnny flames 27


This reminds me a lot of the movie Red Dawn.

Author — qawa