Spaniards join Ukraine’s pro-Russian fighters

Rafael Muñoz Perez, 27, and Ángel, 22, have posted videos on YouTube showing themselves posing with weapons after enlisting in the notorious pro-Russian Vostok Battalion fighting in the east of Ukraine.

Spaniards join Ukraine's pro-Russian fighters
The Spaniards have been shown posing with weapons but it is not known if they have taken part in active fighting. Screen Grab: YouTube

Both men travelled to Ukraine from Madrid in July with only €500 ($669) in cash and no return ticket, according to Asturian daily La Nueva España.

After spending five days in Kiev, they travelled to the Crimea and enlisted in the insurgent, pro-Russian Vostok Battalion under the command of Alexander Khodаkovsky, a defector from the Ukrainian security forces and head of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) security force.

Muñoz Perez, originally from Madrid, has been resident in Gijón, in Asturias, Spain since 2010 where he was active in the United Left Youth movement. Ángel from Murcia, is a member of the youth wing of Spain's communist party according to Spanish daily El País.

The battalion has incorporated many international volunteers but the two men are the only known Spaniards to enlist.

It is not known if the men have played an active role in the fighting but they have given a number of interviews and posted videos to explain why they are there.

In broken English, they claim that what is seen on Spanish and American TV "isn't the truth".

"There people aren't terrorists, aren't criminals; they are only defending their homes and their families," said Muñoz Pérez in one YouTube clip.

He also asserted the right of the pro-Russian insurgents to have a referendum.

"We are here to defend civil people", said Ángel.

Muñoz Pérez has claimed that he is doing the same as international volunteers did in Spain during its civil war.

"Viva la republica," he added.

The men denied that pro-Russian forces were responsible for downing the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in an incident which killed 295 people.

"It's impossible. There is no gun that can kill [sheet down] a Boeing," said Muñoz Pérez.

The Vostok Battalion has been accused by the Kiev government of committing acts of cruelty. It is said to consist largely of untrained locals and Russian volunteers.

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Spain backtracks and will send weapons to ‘Ukraine resistance’

Spain will supply "offensive military hardware" to Ukraine following Russia's invasion of its pro-Western neighbour, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told parliament on Wednesday, only two days after he'd ruled out that Spain would send weapons to Ukraine separately from the EU.

Spain backtracks and will send weapons to 'Ukraine resistance'

“I want to announce to you that Spain will also deliver offensive military hardware to the Ukrainian resistance,” Sánchez said.

Until now, Spain’s Prime Minister stressed he would send military support only as part of a wider package unveiled by the European Union on Sunday, in which Brussels agreed to unblock €450 million ($500 million) for member states to buy arms for Ukraine.

Before Sánchez’s announcement, Spain was left as the only large EU country that was not going to send weapons to Ukrainian forces individually in the form of a bilateral agreement.

Members of governing coalition party Unidas Podemos have criticised that the EU is contributing weaponry to the conflict, which may explain why Sánchez was dragging his feet on the matter.

But the Spanish government has finally backtracked and will send “offensive military hardware” to the Ukrainian resistance.

In an interview on Wednesday with Antena3 television, Defence Minister Margarita Robles said that “in this first shipment that will go aboard two planes, we expect to send 1,370 anti-tank grenade launchers, 700,000 rifle and machine-gun rounds, and light machine guns”. 

The only EU nations that won’t send weapons directly to Ukraine are currently Ireland, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Malta and Cyprus.

Sánchez said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine “is a brutal attempt to stop the construction of a European space based on values radically opposed to the authoritarianism he represents”.

The announcement comes a day after Spain said it would send 150 additional troops to Latvia as part of a wider Nato build-up in the Baltic region.

READ MORE: Spain to take in Ukrainian refugees and send troops to Latvia

The country already has 350 troops in the alliance’s enhanced forward presence battlegroup in Latvia.

The United States, Canada and more than a dozen European countries have so far responded to Ukrainian appeals for military equipment.