Ukrainian Interior Minister: Veterans and volunteers are in Zolote legally

At the start of the “RE: Think. Invest in Ukraine” forum in Mariupol on Tuesday, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said that the veterans and volunteers in Zolote have not done anything illegal, reports news outlet .

“They are citizens of Ukraine who have decided to be there, and they are there, without breaking any laws at this moment in time. There are no conflicts, as far as I know. I spoke about it this morning,” said Avakov.

He also said that he is wary of provocation, but “there is a certain order of things that a true patriot of Ukraine will not violate”.

“There is a certain order of things that a true patriot of Ukraine, including (National Corps leader Andriy) Biletsky, will not violate… This is the order of things: this territory has been declared a yellow one, no people with weapons can be there. These patriots who are there have complied with the requirements and taken away their guns,” the interior minister stressed.

“They were standing there not just with guns, but with their own legal hunting weapons. They stood there! Not breaking any law, since the area hadn’t been declared a yellow zone. Now that it has been declared a yellow zone, they had to hand over their weapons. They have handed them over and, as citizens of Ukraine, can be there completely legally,” Avakov added.

Between October 25 and 26, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the Luhansk region. While in Zolote, he learned from the locals that armed persons, members of the “National Corps” who oppose the disengagement of forces in the region, had moved into one of the houses.

On October 26, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Zolote as part of an official trip to the Luhansk region. The withdrawal of forces and heavy weapons, as agreed in Minsk, was meant to begin there, but it has been opposed by veterans and volunteers from the Anti-Terrorist Operation, who believe that withdrawal is tantamount to surrender. The veterans and volunteers recently uploaded a video of a heated argument between one of them and President Zelensky.

“I came and told you to withdraw the weapons. You’re putting the blame on me. You can’t make any ultimatums to me… Listen, I’m the president of this country. I’m 42 years old. I’m not some schmuck,” said Zelensky. The volunteer who was arguing with him is Borys Hanza, who set out for the front line as an 18-year-old, and was involved in the fighting around Ilovaisk, Marinka, Shyrokyne and Mariupol between 2014 and 2017.

The Joint Forces Operation (JFO) headquarters insisted that the armed veterans and volunteers are in Zolote illegally, because they are not active members of the security departments or Armed Forces of Ukraine and are not authorized to operate in the JFO area.

The preparation to disengage forces near Petrivske (Donetsk region) and Zolote (Luhansk region) is not the first attempt to bring about a sustainable disengagement of forces along the demarcation line in the Donbas. However, after a successful start, the militants are returning to their positions, and the Kremlin has already said that Moscow cannot guarantee the withdrawal of pro-Russian Russian forces.

  Avakov, Zolote, Donbas, Zelensky