Who is the Pontian Greek fighting in Mariupol against the Azov Battalion?
A Greek soldier in the Russian Army fighting in Mariupol has caused a sensation, with many asking who exactly he is.
It has now been revealed that the soldier, identified only with the codename of Vaha, joined the Russian Army in Mariupol with the intentions of fighting the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion to help protect Greeks.
Although he was born in the Tsalka region of Georgia, he works for an oil company in Russia.
Tsalka, in Georgia’s southern Kvemo Kartli region, is the cultural centre of the country’s Greek population.
The region was once home to about 50,000 Greeks, however, according to the 2014 Georgian census, there were only 2,113 Greeks in all of Kvemo Kartli.
The vast majority of Greek communities in the Caucasus date from the late Ottoman era, and are usually defined in modern Greek academic circles as Eastern Pontic Greeks, as well as Caucasus Greeks.
Vaha decided on this codename in dedication to his father, who grew up in Chechnya and was named that, as he died only three months ago.
The Georgia-born Pontic Greek decided to join the Chechen battalion as a volunteer due to his own connections to Chechnya and for the fact that the Chechen battalion are the leading Russian force fighting the Azov Battalion in Mariupol and its surrounding villages.
It is recalled that Mariupol and its surrounding villages, including Sartana, are home to an ethnic Greek community numbering 120,000 individuals.
In speaking to media, he revealed that he first went to Sartana with the goal of protecting his compatriots in Greek villages from neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, which is a unit of Ukraine’s Republic Guard which is under the command of the Interior Ministry.
Last week, Vaha explained the reason why he was currently in Sartana.
A reporter for RIA asked the soldier: Are you really Greek?
Soldier: Yes, indeed I am.
Reporter: Do you know that you’re in a Greek settlement now?
Soldier: Not only do I know this, but it’s one of the main reasons I actively pursued to be deployed here… we’re here to help and defend both our great and small mother nations [Editor: a likely reference to Russia and Greece].
Reporter: Are you here as part of a group?
Soldier: Yes, we have already completed a part of our mission, just reaching this place. Thank you for the warm welcome and I wish us all good luck.
It is recalled that on February 14, only 10 days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the Azov Battalion killed an ethnic Greek and short another two in Mariupol for only speaking Russian.
In late February, SKAI news spoke with Mr Kiouranas who lives in the city and described the Ukrainian “fascists.”
When asked by SKAI news if he planned to leave the city, Kiouranas responded “how can I leave? When you try to leave you run the risk of running into a patrol of the Ukrainian fascists, the Azov Battalion.”
“They would kill me and are responsible for everything,” he added.
A 2016 UN report found that:
“In Shyrokyne, a key location in the ‘grey zone’ between the Government-controlled city of Mariupol and the town of Novoazovsk controlled by the armed groups, OHCHR documented extensive use of civilian buildings and locations by the Ukrainian military and the Azov regiment, and looting of civilian property, leading to displacement.”
The UN in another report found that when compared to the previous period, there was a 51% increase in Donbass (areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine) casualties between February 1 and July 31 2021.
This accounted for 62 killed and wounded civilians. 81% of civilians died from Ukrainian shelling, including from the Azov Battalion.