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Laundering the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

"We are coming to the southeast," declares a Crimean militia. May 2, 2014, YouTube.

“We are coming to the southeast,” declares a Crimean militia. May 2, 2014, YouTube.

Earlier today, a YouTube video appeared featuring a large group of heavily armed men wearing various military and police uniforms in Crimea. The group's apparent leader declares that two battalions of Crimean militiamen will come to the aid of combatants in Slaviansk, where Ukraine’s national army is fighting against pro-Russia separatists, who have occupied parts of the city.

According to the Russian newspaper Moskovskii Komsomolets, Crimea’s militia fighting force includes over two thousand men. The paper reports that Russia’s May holidays (culminating on May 9, the 69th anniversary of the USSR’s victory in World War II) have brought Crimean locals into the streets for celebrations, helping facilitate the gathering of men willing to go fight in Ukraine’s southeast.

Irregular militia marching on Slaviansk and other southeastern cities in Ukraine could present Kiev with a tricky legal situation. Though Moscow exercises de facto control over Crimea, the national government refuses to recognize Russia’s annexation, complicating Kiev’s classification of any combatants marching into the Ukrainian mainland from Crimea, which formally remains a part of Ukraine. Would these soldiers be Russian troops? Or are they more Ukrainian “terrorists,” as Kiev now identifies combatants throughout the southeast?

In other words, the Kremlin might project its power into Ukraine’s mainland by encouraging, and perhaps arming, Crimean militia, who in turn would advance on Slaviansk. In theory, Moscow might succeed, if only semantically, in “laundering” an armed intervention in this way.

What follows is the video and a full translation of the public address by the supposed Crimean militia leader, which was published on YouTube today.

Сегодня 2 мая 2014 года. Мы – ополченцы Крыма. Обращаемся к народу юго-востока. Братья! Сегодня в составе двух батальонов крымское ополчение выдвигается на юго-восток. Мы услышали, как регулярная армия и правый сектор бомбят Славянск и другие города юго-востока. Я обращаюсь к матерям и женам правого сектора. Уберите своих детей оттуда. Наша задача не брать ни пленных, никого. Мы идем на уничтожение. Теперь обращаюсь к народу юго-востока. Выдвигаемся туда и будем сносить все что у нас на пути, все то, что противоречит и противостоит простому народу. Держитесь, мы с вами!”

The date is May 2, 2014. We are the militia of Crimea. We appeal to the people of [Ukraine’s] southeast. Brothers! Today, the Crimean militia, consisting of two battalions, advances on the southeast. We have heard how [Ukraine’s] Army and Right Sector are bombing Slaviansk and other cities of the southeast. I would like to address all the mothers and wives of the men in Right Sector: get yours boys out of there. Our mission won’t be to take anyone prisoner. We intend to destroy the enemy. Now I’d like to address the people of the southeast: we are coming and we will demolish everything standing in our way—anything that contradicts or stands against the common people. Hold strong! We’re with you!

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