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What happens to the volunteers and do the volunteers go to the front
This is the third year of the so-called anti-terrorist operation (ATO) in the Eastern Ukraine. ATO gave birth to two parallel and interrelated movements: volunteers who came to defend their homeland and volunteers who left everything to supply those first with food, clothing, and with weapons.
Ukrainians have been recruited for military service through six waves of mobilization.
New and old volunteers
Official statistics of the Ministry of Defense cites dry figures, according to which the number of contract soldiers is growing.
It is not all as easy as it sounds. Based on official statistics, the number of the contract soldiers in the Ukrainian army has increased, and, in fact, contractors are volunteers who come to the front not by the conscription. Yet, the current volunteers and volunteers who went to the ATO, for example, in the summer of 2014, are two different categories.
"These who were two years ago, ended with the third wave of mobilization," says Vitaly Deynega, founder of "Come back alive" fund; he regularly visits the forefront and helps the soldiers.
According to him, everyone who wanted to fight, have already gone to the front. Contract soldiers have different reasons to join the ATO.
"These volunteers are not the same as those in 2014, when people could go to "Pravyi Sektor" with no wages, clothing, and ammunition. The pirates of the Caribbean. Those who go voluntarily usually has not found themselves in civilian life, or came for the money, or because they have rested and are ready to return to war," says Deynega.
Vladislav Zborowski with the call sign "Lecturer" who served in "Aydar" Battalion and now is a volunteer, says that there are two reasons: decrease of the volunteer battalions and the end of active hostilities. He also believes that if the fighting intensifies, all volunteers will come back to the front. In addition, he said, his friends volunteers who have served, feel cheated by the General Staff, the Defense Ministry, and the government.
However Maksym Riabokon, head of the volunteer organization "People's rear," says: "Many volunteers became contract soldiers. They have the same desires and goals. Everything is built on patriotism, not on the salary. The people protect their native land."
According to information by the Interior Ministry, for the first six months of 2016, more than half of those who came for the entire 2015 now serve for the National Guard. The figures in 2015 almost are twice as high as the number of contractors of 2014.
Obviously, a statistical increase in the number of volunteers is related to the fact that the former volunteers became contractors.
As you might know, many of those first fighters who came to Donbas, did not have the status of ATO participant and did not sign a contract. Thus, neither the Armed Forces nor the National Guard could reliably track their numbers.
A similar situation is with the volunteer movement. The number of volunteers and funds that they receive significantly decreased. And there is no official statistics.
Founder of "Come back alive" fund Vitaly Deynega describes the situation as a whole: only a small number of volunteer organizations is left, their capacity has significantly fallen.
"It happened a year ago, last September, when Merkel, Hollande, and Poroshenko met for the negotiations. Everyone was convinced that the war will be over tomorrow, and the spirit of the volunteers simply burnt out. Someone burned and gone, and someone burned and left."- says Deynega.
‘Volunteers’ that work for money
"Personally, I know organizations that collect the money into a special box, and they take some sum of money from each box. It is like a salary for volunteers. It is a shame that those organizations are called volunteer," says Alina Mikhaylova, a volunteer of "Army SOS".
Well, major sponsors provide funds separately for the volunteers who collect the money and do all the logistics. Thus, it is enough for a trip to ATO, for paying salaries, and for the office rent; it is a separate budget.
"In 2014, we have collected 50-60 million UAH ($2-2,4 th.-ed.), and by 2015 - more than 80 ($3.2 th.-ed.)," says Maksym Riabokon.
In addition, the volunteers are responsible for some basic things, like clothes and food. The state does not provide its soldiers with the necessary things.