Vilka and Step [alias de dos jóvenes activistas ucranios] receive EL PAÍS in a mechanical workshop in the province of Lviv, a Ukrainian region bordering Poland. The video report that accompanies this news shows that Vilka and Step have just received a shipment at the hands of three Polish colleagues. A van has just crossed the border loaded with boxes containing, above all, medicines, surgical material and bulletproof protection elements. There are also electric generators, gasoline drums, compresses… These are goods bought by anarchist groups from Poland, Germany and the Netherlands and they are destined for the Resistance Committee, the battalion made up of anarchist, anti-authoritarian and anti-fascist militants. The Resistance Committee is part of the Territorial Defense Units, the civilian-based militia sponsored by the Ukrainian army. Most of the Defense Units are formed with a geographical criterion: by towns, by neighborhoods, even by streets in the largest cities. Although the majority of those who form the Units do not share the ideology of Vilka and Step, they believe that the self-organization and autonomy by which the militia is governed fits like a glove with their anarchist ideas. “The idea of the anarchists who participate in the armed struggle is that they are not fighting for the state of Ukraine but for the people of Ukraine,” says Vilka.
Since 2014, far-right movements have been able to capitalize on the war in Lugansk and Donetsk provinces to increase their power and influence. The Azov Battalion, formed by neo-Nazis in the form of a militia, is now a regiment integrated into the regular army that continues to use Nazi symbology. However, Vilka and Step believe that, unlike in 2014, in the war of 2022 so many diverse people have taken up arms in the Territorial Defense Units that the influence of far-right groups has been diluted. They still exist but their influence is less, according to Vilka. It is an idea shared by other female soldiers interviewed by EL PAÍS in previous reports. The existence of far-right militias is used by Russia to classify all Ukrainian military units as Nazis. Step considers that Vladimir Putin makes a crooked use of anti-fascism. “They are false antifascists who imprison the true antifascists of their country. In Russia there is a fierce repression against all opposition, also against anarchists. Many of our friends are in jail and many Russians had taken refuge in Ukraine to escape the Putin regime,” says Step.
Anarchism is not new in Ukraine. Here, a century ago, Nestor Makhno’s Black Army created a federation of peasant communes that spread across southeastern Ukraine, the Black Sea coast, and the Crimean peninsula. It was the largest territory “without God or master” in contemporary history. Although there is no historical continuity with the Makhnovists, the Ukrainian anarchist movements are inspired by them, as well as by the Spanish CNT and its role in the Spanish civil war. So, Spain received thousands of volunteers who formed the International Brigades. Now the Resistance Committee has called for anarchists and anti-fascists from other countries to join their fight in Ukraine. On their Telegram channel they have a form to join their battalion on the kyiv front. “The current regime in Russia is similar to and under fascism and we would suffer much more under that homophobic, sexist and xenophobic regime. In addition, our national identity is also important”, proclaims Vilka to explain why the libertarian groups have decided to respond with arms to the Russian invasion.