Russia and Serbia have a historically close relationship. It was a Serb nationalist whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand pulled Russia into what became the First World War. At the other end of the 20th century Russian nationalists joined Serb forces in the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart.
Serbian volunteers returned the favour when the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine led to a Moscow-backed secession in the east. A well-informed observer of the situation got in touch to discuss his fellow countrymen who fought for Novorossiya. He prefers to remain anonymous. His opinions are his own.
In the first part of our conversation we discussed Bratislav Zivkovic’s activities in the Crimea and the media storm when he returned home. In part two we looked at the life of Serb sniper Dejan Beric who became a celebrity when his videos of life in the Novorossiya forces appeared on YouTube.
Here is part three.
1. What happened when Beric and his men retreated into Donetsk?
The situation inside the city of Donetsk was very chaotic. Some of the Strelkov’s men had become unruly and caused trouble for the locals. Military command had to warn citizens to show more understanding for them as they were really stressed out. The most difficult situation was for those soldiers originally from Slaviansk because they had lost everything. News stories told them that back in their hometown the Ukrainian military was harassing everyone associated with Strelkov, which was most of the population. Civilians were tortured and videos posted on YouTube.
The most horrific story was reported by Russian Channel One in a report called ‘The Ukrainian Army Crucified a Child in Sloviansk‘. It claimed that Ukrainian officials had nailed a 3-year-old child, clad in just his underwear, to a wooden board ‘just like Jesus’, before his mother’s eyes. The only witness was a pro-Russian refugee called Galina Pyshniak who also claimed the military in Sloviansk had tied the mother to a tank and dragged her three times around the city’s central Lenin Square.
Whatever the truth, the Russian public was outraged and thousands of volunteers from all walks of life hurried to join militias.
2. What was Beric doing at this time?
In his first days in the city Beric got along with just about everyone. Locals really liked him a lot. He tells stories and jokes in broken Russian, keeps up a positive attitude in the difficult circumstances, and forms lasting friendships with some respected members of the community.
One such fellow was a man with nickname Brooklyn, a wealthy businessman determined to sacrifice his own well being for the idea of the secessionist East. We do not know much about this man except that he is still alive and that Beric talks about him often in his public appearances. Brooklyn is just one many powerful men Deki (Beric’s nickname) is associated with.
3. Did Beric take part in the Novorossiya counter-attacks?
He was involved in the battle for Marinovka. His group had come to help a unit called the Sparta Battalion which was led by Arsen Pavlov, a Russian living in Ukraine known as ‘Motorola’. They punched a corridor through to the towns of Snezhnoe, Stepanovka, and Marinovka. These decisive battles were really bloody with thousands dead on both sides. The Novorussians have masterfully hidden their real losses.
Locals and volunteers from Russia alike really liked Arsen Pavlov. He had become a local celebrity after saving the lives of many soldiers in Slaviansk. The Ukrainians were about to break through defensive lines when he took a megaphone and shouted ‘Allahu Akbar‘. The Ukrainian soldiers became frightened that Ramzan Kadyrov made good on his promise to send elite Chechen fighters to Slaviansk, and stopped their attacks.
In the battle for Marinovka, Beric was able to blow up an armoured transport carrier with shots from his sniper rifle. News about this event spread like a wild wire. As the armoured vehicle approached he had not other choice but to try to look for its weak spots. Not many people know, but in the Yugoslav army he was actually trained as light armoured vehicle operator. I believe this was where he knowledge came about its weak spots. If he had missed, he and his friends would become just another casualty of war.
4. Where there any other Serbs in Novorossiya at this time?
Beric thought he was the only Serb fighting in Novorussian units. But during one of the battles he met a Serb from Belgrade called Sasha. We do not know his last name. All we know that he was really badly wounded in the stomach when an airplane bombed the house they were in.
We know that Novorussians suffered many losses in that attack, but Ukrainians claimed that many of those killed were actually Serbian mercenaries. Serbs back home with a military background got really angry about those reports and some have decided to take a matter in their own hands by avenging those killed. It was proven later that those stories about loads of dead Serbs were just bunch of fake news.
5. What kind of Serbian volunteers went to Novorossiya?
One of those angry Serbs that decided to get even with Ukrainians was a man named Zack Novak. He was actually an American from New Jersey whose mother was from Macedonia and father from Serbia. Well, Zack Novak was not just another anonymous volunteer, but a real hero from Bosnian war. He joined Bosnian Serb Army in 1992 and operated around the city of Zvornik. He wanted even more action so he joined the Serbian Chetniks from Sarajevo. When he heard about the fighting in Novorossiya he joined up.
Find out more about Novak in part four.
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