The BBC have reported that there are two known British men fighting for the pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine. One man is said to come from Manchester while the other, who declined to be interviewed, is said to be of Scottish origin. The man from Manchester claimed to be ex-British Army having seen frontline service during United Nations peacekeeping operations in Bosnia. During the interview the man claims that he was inspired to join the rebels after empathizing with the local rebel population in Eastern Ukraine.
He told the BBC;
I see this as more western imperial aggression towards Russia, to people who aren’t playing the western game…I’m not a terrorist.
The man claimed that despite being in-country for three months now he had yet to fire a shot in anger due to the ceasefire apparently holding. He did however declare that should he die in Ukraine that it would be a cause worth dying for.
What is worrying for the UK government is that both men did tell the BBC that it was “non-mainstream” media that was a major factor in their decisions to leave the UK and fight for the pro-Russian rebels. This refers to both Russian-backed online sources and the RT news channel that has become the symbol of Russia’s propaganda effort. There is now an RT UK that reports directly on UK matters offering an “alternative” view to the mainstream such as the BBC and Sky news among others. RT UK produces news stories contradictory to the BBC and Sky views which are often pro-Western and even shows commercials that intend to emphasize what it calls the “lies” of these news outlets.
The British concept of freedom of the press means that attempting to stop RT UK and others like it from reporting pro-Russian news is a violation of British law despite the strong anti-UK government stance the channel takes while pro-Western news reports are heavily suppressed in Russia. This along with a traditional Western mistrust of commercial news services gives the Russians a strong advantage in the “media war”.