On Saturday, January 26th, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ukraine’s primary government security agency, captured a member of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR)—a Russian-backed separatist formation—while the man was on vacation. The SBU made the capture while conducting a raid in Kharkiv, a city in northeast Ukraine.
Although it may seem bizarre for a soldier to be captured while vacationing in enemy territory, it is not uncommon for combatants to return to the Ukrainian side for vacations. Some soldiers will come home to visit their families or loved ones with the hope of enjoying a period of rest.
The SBU has been cracking down on such fighters, as is the case in this report. The militant was a member of the DNR and of the Zarya Battalion of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), a unit with a rather unsavory reputation that was engaged in the Debaltseve offensive.
The captured militant resided in the city of Kharkiv before the war began. With the onset of the war, he chose to enlist in the Russian-backed movement to wage war against Ukraine. During the arrest, the man was found to be in possession of several grenades and a 400 gram charge of TNT, inviting the question of whether he intended to carry out an attack while on Ukrainian soil.
Why was he carrying the munitions?
When I was down in the east I would repeatedly hear how members of the DNR and LNR would come over and purchase small arms, ammo, etc. This was common practice back then, but it still happens today. The captured fighter likely acquired the munitions on the Ukrainian side with intent to smuggle them back to his unit. He’d only have taken such a risk if his unit lacked sufficient equipment. Contrary to popular belief, Russia can’t adequately support every separatist unit.
According to the Unian Information Agency, “The terrorist was detained under Article 208 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine. SBU investigators in Kharkiv region informed him about a suspicion of committing crimes under Article 258-3 (participation in a terrorist group or a terrorist organization) and Article 263 (illegal handling of military supplies and explosives) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian government should question how long it will be before enemy combatants begin to target their civilian communities with terrorist attacks. Doing so might gain the separatists political influence and global recognition, put pressure on the Ukrainian people, and pressure the Ukrainian military to vacate the Donbass region.