UARU
Austrian Suspected of War Crimes in Ukraine. We Talked to His Co-Fighters
10 May, 2017

Polish border guards allegedly arrested Benjamin Fisher, an Austrian who fought in the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Donbas, Eastern Ukraine, at the Ukrainian-Polish border on charges of murdering prisoners at the Donetsk airport in 2014-2015. However, members of the Armed Forces who knew him, said he was never there.

Benjamin Fischer, 25, served in the Austrian army and took part in a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. In a number of interviews with Ukrainian and Austrian media, he also claimed to have fought as a volunteer against the “Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria. In 2015, Fisher came to Ukraine to take part in the fight against pro-Russian militants in Donbas.

Наталья

Benjamin Fischer. Photo: Nataliya Kravets on Facebook

Polish border guards allegedly detained Fisher at the “Dorogusk-Yagodyn” border crossing. Official agencies have yet to confirm this information. According to Austrian information agencies, Fisher is suspected of the abuse and murder of prisoners near the Donetsk airport, which was a hotspot of the war in Eastern Ukraine in 2014-2015. We spoke to several soldiers from the Ukrainian Armed Forces who knew Fisher personally. They said Fisher – called “Bin Laden”, or simply “Benya” –fought in the “Donbas” and “Right Sector” battalions before they were coordinated with the armed forces, and later in the 59th Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. However, this information has yet to be verified by the General Staff or the Ministry of Defense. But according to people we spoke to, Fisher was never at the Donetsk airport.
Members of the Armed Forces who knew Fisher, said that he trained paramedics and soldiers, handing down his experience.

Наталья Кравец

Benjamin Fischer. Photo: Nataliya Kravets on Facebook

The Austrian's supervisor, group commander Captain Volovyk “Kulibin”, also knew Fisher and said that he was not at the Donetsk airport.
“Ben Fisher was not seen at the Donetsk airport because he was not at the Donetsk airport. I can say with authority that he was not there. At that time he was in the ‘Donbas Battalion’ and the ‘Donbas Battalion’ was not at the Donetsk airport. Officially he was decorated by the 11th Battalion, the ‘Kievan Rus’ battalion of the 59th Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. At the time, as far as I know, this man was a paramedic.”

The commander of 5th Combat Battalion, called "Chornyi" (Black), who headed the “Right Sector” in the region of the Donetsk airport in 2015, claimed that Fisher wasn’t there. He also claimed that neither side took prisoners under conditions of heavy fighting:

“Volovyk’s team of foreigners did not seem to be at the airport, it was only Ukrainians. There were also some Russians. No one took prisoners there at that time. You see, the area’s been completely shot through. I have not heard of any cases of prisoners at the time we were at the airport.”

Наталья Кравец

Benjamin Fischer. Photo: Nataliya Kravets on Facebook

In February 2016, he sat in the trenches and taught soldiers – said “Da Vinci”, the commander of the 1st Assault Company DUK, about Fisher:
“Basically, what Ben was involved in was teaching about medicine and tactics. People more or less tried to gain some of the experience that he had. He was quite an experienced fighter, and was able to show and explain that it was possible to survive the difficult conditions of war.”

Ben Fisher became a well-known figure in Ukraine, Austria and even in the US. Journalists sought him out for colourful interviews and he willingly gave them. However, these materials also attracted the attention of law enforcement. In particular, the Austrian newspaper “Kurier” published rumours that “Benya” beheaded someone in Donbas, underscoring that this information was unconfirmed. Hromadske approached military and law enforcement officials with requests for an explanation of the basis for these accusations against Fisher.