Unofficial fighting in eastern Ukraine continues to draw in volunteers from other parts of the country. Since pro-Russian separatists forced Ukrainian troops out of Debaltseve in mid-February after the Minsk cease-fire agreement was signed, there have been sporadic exchanges of fire.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called it a pseudo cease-fire and said nearly 11,000 Russian troops are currently deployed in Ukraine.
Our correspondent Beatrix Asboth talked to a soldier from Ukraine’s Hungarian minority. Peter Filipovics lives just a few kilometres from the Hungarian border in Ukraine’s western extremity.
Filipovics said: “When they agreed to the Minsk Protocol, we got the heaviest shelling and the so called recapturing of Debaltseve. That’s how we experienced their commitment to Minsk.”
Uzghorod, the capital of the Transcarpathia region, was once Hungarian. Mostly Ukrainians live here now. Right at the Slovakian border and only 26 kilometres from Hungary, it is both a gate to the European Union and an example of EU ideology.
Ethnic Hungarians, Slovaks, Russians, and Germans live in peace together with ethnic Ukrainians, respecting each others’ culture and religion.
Journalist Attila Sterr said: “Nobody suffers any disadvantage from his or her native language here in multicultural Uzghorod. If there are any tensions, they’re imported. External forces come to Transcarpathia.”
Laszlo Brenzovics, the only ethnically Hungarian MP in the Ukrainian parliament, says that although Uzghorod’s streets are peaceful, it still feels that the country is at war.
Brenzovics said: “The war affects Transcarpathia just as hard as any other part of Ukraine. Recruits are sent; hundreds of people are involved in eastern Ukraine operations.”
Filipovics came back from the tension zone two weeks ago. He said it was natural for him to go and fight for Ukraine because he lives there. Ironically, most of the men in his unit speak Russian although all of them except him are ethnic Ukrainian. And they are fighting against Russian-speaking soldiers.
Filipovics underscored to Asboth: “They need a road to Crimea. They need Donbas, they need Donetsk and Luhansk. The main objective is a land route to Crimea. They get support from Russia. I mean ammunition, technical equipment and people, not bread or canned food. The [pro-Russian separatists] don’t follow any orders from outside their units. They have their own commanders, but they don’t listen to anybody from higher positions.”
And who is helping the Ukrainian soldiers defend the country? Filipovics told euronews that it is mostly volunteers.
“The government doesn’t help much. It helps, but not as much as ordinary people, volunteering. They come by coach every week with clothes, or other goods. Not ammunition but other equipment, for example thermal cameras. This is a war, like in the movies, but here the shooting is real.”