When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

In Donetsk, The Chechens Have Arrived

From a once-contested region in the Russian Federation, anti-Kiev forces are spotted in the battleground eastern region of Ukraine. They are "more Russian than the Russians," says one.

A member of the Vostock Battalion in Donetsk
A member of the Vostock Battalion in Donetsk
Lucia Sgueglia

DONETSK — The pro-Russian residents of Donetsk woke up this morning to the sound of rumbling engines rolling into the center of the city. And they began to get nervous.

As the death count rises, rage has spread toward the newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the "Willie Wonka who launches rockets from Mi-8 helicopters."

He had made clear his determination to crack down on the pro-Russian insurgency in and around Donetsk — and dozens have been killed this past week in fighting around the airport.

"We’re outraged by his behavior," says Irina, 50, a bookkeeper from nearby Donbas, which was besieged Monday by pro-Ukrainian troops. "He has only just been elected and he already has his hands stained with blood — he’s a murderer. I don’t understand how half of Ukraine could have voted for him; it’s a strange country."

"Maybe we could have accepted him as president if there hadn’t been a coup in Maidan," adds Dmitri, who volunteered for the rebels in Donetsk’s Lenin Square, where a protest of more than 2,000 pro-Russian separatists and their supporters rallied in Donetsk’s Lenin Square Sunday.

By evening, a humming from overhead patrol planes fills the sky, and on the deserted streets, black cars are whizzing at high speeds. The insurgents are getting ready for the final battle, lest Kiev — which regained control of the airport Monday — attacks again.

"True patriots"

Meanwhile, the presence of Russian fighters seems to be increasingly confirmed — Chechens in particular. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov denies this, saying the republic "has no armed forces as it is an entity of the Russian Federation." Still, he concedes that some of his fellow citizens "may be in conflicted areas of eastern Ukraine of their own accord."

Outside Studencheskaya, the hospital where those injured from this week's airport attack are recuperating, the militiamen refuse us entry: "It is forbidden to talk to the wounded, this is an order coming from above." One of them is wearing a white T-shirt with "Dagestan — region 94" written on it. Another who looks like a body builder has an armband that reads "Battalion Vostok" ("East Battalion"), just like the famous Chechen commander Sulim Yamadaev.

Alexander Borodai, the "chief separatist," concedes that there are foreign fighters among the ranks of the rebels. "They are Russian volunteers, from Russia," he says, explaining his blind trust in the Chechens. "Since Kadyrov came to power — a leader who is unquestionably loyal to Putin — the Chechens are more Russian than the Russians themselves. They’re true patriots."

Borodai continues, "They have already defeated their own internal enemies — the Islamist rebels. And now they are ready to fight to protect Russian land."

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest