As the civil war in Ukraine continues, it seems the cause of the break-away republics of Lukhansk and Donetsk is attracting support not only from ex-military from the former Soviet bloc – such as Russia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia – but perhaps more unexpectedly from western countries such as France.
Indeed when a French sergeant, Mael Shle, left his post in the French army last week to fight in Donbass, it caused nothing less than a scandal in the country. Mael, along with fellow ‘deserters’ Francois Mau D’Eme and Nicolas Perovich spoke about what motivated them to change allegiances, and the dissatisfaction with French society and the army which led to this:
All of us served in the French army as mountain shooters and we believe that we’ve done enough for our country, much more than the average French person would do, and yet we’ve not received any special recognition for it. France doesn’t look after its military…So when we left France we didn’t look back, but instead searched for something of our own, something entrenched in tradition and ideology. It is a classic literary scenario: leave everything in the past and start life again from scratch…The soldiers were also affected by the broader geopolitical picture:
We were very concerned when we saw what was happening in East Ukraine. It is a key strategic area, where the fate of Europe and the world is decided…On the whole, the goal of the US and NATO allies is to create a unipolar world under US control. We’re against this…Russia should be seen as a friend, not an enemy…France blindly follows the politics of NATO and takes part in futile conflicts which only worsen the global situation.
Indeed the volunteers have rejected French politics and values as a whole, which they consider too liberal, in favour of Russia’s traditional conservatism. They cite as an example the difference in perspective with regard to issues such as homosexuality:
Our ideology combines traditional and family values with modern life. In France now we have an era of decadence: homosexuality, you can marry someone of the same sex. For me this is shocking…Therefore our task is to support Russia…. European values in most western governments have disappeared. We ‘d like to preserve them.For the volunteers it is very much a fight against ‘American imperialism’ in Donbass and they state that they have no quarrel with the Ukrainians, whom they consider to be their ‘brothers’. They also acknowledge the fascist element of the Ukrainian campaign which they say has been present from the beginning of the conflict on Maidan Square in Kiev:
A war is being fought with Nazi ideology, the very same that was fought against during the Second World War. Nazis have come to destroy the people of Donbass. For me this is wrong, which is why I am here.The French government, however, is naturally unsupportive of their actions and they may face retribution. Is Mael afraid of this on return to France? No, he states: “I am not returning to France or to the French army. I want to stay here”.