Video Claims to Show Turkmen Fighter in Ukraine
Some media outlets in Ukraine have charged that Central Asians are fighting among pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east.
The most recent fodder for the rumor mill is a video interview, posted July 8 on YouTube, where a man describing himself as a native of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s capital, explains why he is fighting with the separatists.
The man in camouflage, whose identity cannot be independently verified, is standing before a military vehicle and appears to be holding a weapon. "I decided that the weak should be defended," he explains. He says he is not paid but is fighting because of what his interlocutor described as his "sense of injustice.” He vows to fight "until the end of the war.”
In recent months, several Uzbeks have also reportedly appeared among the separatists.
On June 22, Reuters published a picture of a man carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle who was identified as "Bakhtiyor” from Uzbekistan. A few days later, RFE/RL said recruiters in Moscow told their undercover correspondent that he and an Uzbek friend could join the separatist fighters in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk "in principle."
One Uzbek citizen with pro-Kiev sympathies told RFE/RL he had been offered $50-$100 a day to fight with separatists in Luhansk.
Authorities in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have not commented on the allegations.
In June Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry denied reports its citizens were fighting in eastern Ukraine and pledged to investigate. "We don't have any information now. As for these rumors and assumptions on the alleged mass participation of Kazakh citizens [in fighting in Ukraine], we've come across this [such allegations] during the conflicts in the Caucasus and Trans-Caucasus," Deputy Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev said in June. "Such information appears frequently but it doesn't get confirmed or it turns out to be about citizens of other states who were simply born in Kazakhstan."
Since shortly after the Syrian civil war began, there have been regular reports that Central Asians have joined the fight there on the side of the jihadist insurgents. See this EurasiaNet.org story about a Kyrgyzstani who was killed fighting in Syria.