Ukraine’s ‘Shadow’ Army, Explained
14 November, 2014

Ukrainian volunteer battalions fight for Eastern Ukraine, as some critics worry about their future loyalty.


Members of the Azov Battalion, a far-right group of militant activists, stand in Independence Square, or Maidan Square, on September 4, 2014 in Kyiv, Ukraine (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


by Chris Dunnett, Hromadske International


What you need to know:

✓ Among the volunteers who represent different groups of society from students to businessmen there are also paramilitary vigilantes fighting against Russian-backed separatists in Donbas region;

✓The battalions are ostensibly under the control of Ukraine’s Ministry of the Interior, but the level of Ministry control over the battalions is limited, the exact number of military volunteers is unknown, estimated in thousands;

✓ The battalions are initially funded by their own members savings, some receive private donations from Ukrainian citizens, while “Dnipro” battalion is told to be supported by Dnipropetrovsk governor and local oligarchs;

✓The battalions played important role in Ukrainian victories in the east and assisting local population, but have also been criticized by human rights organizations for lack of oversight and numerous human rights abuses;

✓Most of the battalions consist of regular internal troops. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior volunteers constitute 7000 out of 33 000 members. Yet since volunteers battalions provide considerably better access for the media comparing to the regular army and the National Guard they get more publicity;

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Ukraine’s ‘Shadow’ Army, Explained