separatist. The separatists, or pro-Russian Ukrainians. They fight alongside Putin’s soldiers. Yet they are far from safe from the Russians. If they flee from the battlefield, the Russians either execute them or ensure the Ukrainians know where they are.
Ukraine is not a solid anti-Russia bloc. Many Russian sympathizers and immigrants hope to join “the motherland”. Most are in the eastern region of Donbas, with the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk bordering the Russian border.
After the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, in which pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted, Putin managed to tighten his grip on Ukraine by bringing to power a Russian-minded puppet regime in Donetsk and Luhansk. And he supports the pro-Russian people’s militias. So they were ready to join their “friends” when the Russians invaded in mid-February.
Now that friendship is not really reciprocal. This is evident from stories in the Ukrainian press about the battle in Kharkiv, in the east of the country. After the failed attempt to take the capital Kyiv, the Russian army now concentrated on that region. That would be easier because there, they could count on the full support of the separatist fighters.
But things are different. In Kharkiv, for example, the Ukrainian army seems to be driving out the enemy. Many Russian fighters and separatists are withdrawing from the battlefield. Then they have to get out of the encirclement that the Russians have widened around the city. They have checkpoints installed everywhere. Because they can identify themselves, the retreating Russian fighters get past those checkpoints. It is different for the separatists.