Ukrainian Volunteer Battalions Reflect on Ukraine’s Challenges


Kyiv, November 7, 2014. Members of Ukrainian volunteer battalions discussed their views on the events of the past year in Ukraine, from the Maidan revolution to the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. This was said at the press-briefing devoted to the First Anniversary of Maidan at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center by 4 members of various volunteer battalions that served in eastern Ukraine. Maidan activists fighting in ATO zone expressed their disappointment with the pace of Ukraine’s economic and political transition, but expressed their willingness to continue to push for changes.

“I think that Maidan received our goal, we changed the system of power,” stated Myroslav Gai, a former member of the National Guard and the current head of a charity organization. “We cannot change everything overnight and democracy is a life-long experience and internal process.” Gai believes that activists and Ukrainian patriots need to continue pressuring politicians to enact the changes that the country seeks. Oleksandr Visnyk, a Maidan activist, agreed. “On the one hand we have a war in the east that does hinder the ability of our leaders to make changes. War is war, but it also became a way to right off everything that the authorities have not done.”

Other volunteer fighters disagreed with Gai’s more positive sentiment. The purpose of Maidan has not been implemented,” stated Igor Gurchyk, a former Maidan activist and volunteer in the Aidar Battalion. “The same people [politicians] who were there before the events are still there.” Mykola Yakubovych, one of the founders of the Donbas Battalion, shared Gurchyk’s assessment of the situation. “I don’t have much optimism about what is happening in the country.” However, he stopped short of calling for another Maidan, believing that such an event would only play into the hands of Ukraine’s enemies.

Even if the volunteers disagreed in their assessments about Maidan’s impact on the country, they all agreed that moving Ukraine forward will require vigilance and pressure on the authorities. Ukrainians need to stay engaged. “If we change ourselves, we may be able to change the country,” said Visnyk.