17:53 Nov. 29, 2016
Mercenary on how he ended up in eastern Ukraine, role of Russian army in Donbas and his free movement to Belarus and back despite Lukashenko's threats to prosecute militants
In an interview with Belarusian edition of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty a LPR [self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic] militant from the Belarusian city of Bobruisk gave an account of criminal orders to shell Luhansk city, issued by the LPR head Ihor Plotnitsky, recounted the key role of Russian military in seizure of Donbas territories and told about his unimpeded movement to Belarus and back to eastern Ukraine despite president Alexander Lukashenko's pledge to prosecute mercenaries regardless of the side they fight on.
The 43-year-old reconnaissance platoon commander Sergey Bondar started his eastern Ukraine ‘career' in 2014 when he fought in the militant "Zarya" battalion. In a short space of time he found out that Luhansk militants shelled the city themselves.
"Two mortar rounds came from the foliage just in front of us. We were right there and started to comb the bushes. Two mortar men were just near us, they started to run – we opened fire," Bondar recalled.
"Then came a phone call, from Ihor Plotnitsky personally, he was the minister of defence at the time. He orders to immediately return to base. I say: "We are about to take them! And he shouts: This is an order, go back right now!" added the Belarusian fighter.
After they returned Plotnitsky ordered them to surrender weapons.
"Even before we had a suspicion that the mortar men were Plotnitsky's people. It was necessary to fire to sow panic. Mortar men were all former policemen from Luhansk. They were specially trained operating mortars, and they knew the city like their bunch of fives. They moved around Luhansk by ambulances, water carriers, by any vehicle," said Sergey Bondar.
Sergey Bondar (Photo source: svaboda.org)
After the incident, the Belarusian mercenary joined the so-called "Batman" rapid response group [its commander Alexander Bednov was liquidated on January 1, 2015] where he got more evidence of LPR militants' involvement in Luhansk shelling.
"Once I personally captured a spotter. We threw him in a basement, I drew up a report. Three days later I was told that Plotnitsky's people came and took him away, and that he was freely walking around Luhansk. I went to Bednov and told him about it, but he just waved off," Bondar summed up.
As the interview proceeded the militant told journalists that it was already his third come back to Belarus from Donbas, and he was not afraid to be arrested because he fought for the right cause - "against fascism." Once he was even interrogated by Belarusian security service officers, who were interested whether he had been fighting for money.
"I replied that I had been fighting for ideological reasons. They asked whether I was engaged in combat action, whether I killed. I looked at them and thought: Are you fools? I am a reconnaissance platoon commander!"
When asked by the Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty journalist, Bondar said he did not know exactly how many Ukrainian soldiers he had killed.
"I did not count them. How can I know how many I killed? A sniper can say for sure: one shot - one killed. Burst fire can immediately kill five. Battle is going on and so you shoot," he explained.
Sergey Bondar's military identification documents issued by Luhansk People's Republic (Photo source: svaboda.org)
Off the record, the militant confirmed that the rise of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk Republics, which Ukraine officially considers terrorist organizations, would be absolutely impossible without Russia's military and financial support.
"Who helped to defend Luhansk in 2014? Russian army did. They deployed Grads, Smerchs [multiple rocket launchers] and even Tochka-U [tactical ballistic missile complex]. Some of them did not know that they had crossed the border. They were told that they went on exercises," he said.
Now, according to the Belarusian mercenary, there are no Russian military units in Donbas, but instead the LPR/DPR militants are commanded by regular Russian army officers who are sent there for "temporary duty trips."