The self-organized, unarmed volunteers huddle together near an orange and black St George flag that symbolizes Russian military valor.

“We’re stopping buses that are moving around this country to check that there are no guns, weapons and stuff like that and some strange people,” Vitalik told IPS. “We are protecting Donetsk.”

The 30-year-old construction worker said he’s especially concerned about the new 60,000-strong Ukrainian National Guard, which would include members of the Right Sector paramilitary group who fought in the Euromaidan protests in Kiev.

“It’s not like we don’t trust the Ukrainian military. We don’t trust the heads of the Ukrainian military,” he said.

More than 700 kilometers away in Kiev, Vitalik Coida is also a volunteer guard, protecting the entrance of the Euromaidan protest area in central Kiev. He is a member of the Svoboda party, considered by many pro-Russians as one of the main “extremist” groups.

Cojda watches out for “provocateurs” who bring weapons and bombs. “But we patrol, we stop them, anyone who looks suspicious. All of these are people sent by Putin because you can hear their Russian accent,” he told IPS.

Cojda arrived at Euromaidan on Nov. 26, shortly after the protests began. He said his 19-year-old friend died in his arms after being shot during a battle with the Berkut, the elite riot police of Ukraine. “It was very difficult to look into his mother’s eyes because it was me that invited him to come here…to protect the country from bandits.”

The Svoboda party, he said, is “really fighting for truth and for freedom.” He said he would remain at Euromaidan until Russian troops leave Ukraine.

The mistrust of the Euromaidan activists is the result of an “information war” led by Russia and Ukrainian elites, according to Donetsk Euromaidan activist Aleksandr Beznis.

“The people do not know the truth,” Beznis told IPS. “There are no extremists from my country from Maidan.” He said Ukraine’s biggest problem is now Russia.

Beznis came from Donetsk to Kiev this week to get weapons training.

“We like Russia, too, but we don’t want any war here,” Beznis said. “As we don’t want to be involved, we need to support our safety and democracy in Ukraine. We must protect our democracy and we must train for our power.”

His biggest fear is civil war. “I hope that it will not happen. I really hope. I try not to think about it,” he said.

Vitalik, the pro-Russian checkpoint guard just outside of Donetsk, says much the same. “Nobody wants a war, everyone wants to stay in peace.”

© 2014 Inter Press Service

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