Ukraine ceasefire helps volunteers bring dead soldiers home

Ceasefire in eastern Ukraine allows volunteer group to collect remains of Ukrainian soldiers killed in action without risk of being caught in crossfire

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A new volunteer for the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's Azov battalion embraces his girlfriend before he and other volunteers depart to the frontlines in eastern Ukraine

A ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is helping the volunteer group Black Tulip to collect remains of Ukranian soldiers killed in action without facing the risk of being in crossfire between rebels and goverment forces.

The ceasefire has been in place since early September and hopes are increasing for a permanent peace and safer access for Black Tulip to the no-man’s land between Ukraine's government and pro-Russia separatists who wants independence for territory in eastern Ukraine.

They renamed theirself after the planes carried the bodies of Soviet soldiers from the Afghan war.

The volunteers decided to help more recent victims of conflict when Ukrainian troops were killed in the battle of Ilovaisk last year and they have brought back more than 600 bodies from the frontline since last August. They usually moving into separatist territory where the Ukranian military cannot reach them.

The head of Black Tulip, Alexander Guz, told Reuters, "When a man is unidentified, it's one thing. When he has his name, relatives and everything else, then you feel the pain of this family. When you find this man, they lose any hope."

The Former Head of the Black Tulip group, Yaroslav Zhilkin, said, "These soldiers died fulfilling their duty. Their relatives are waiting for them. If the government does not bring them back home for some reason, than we will do it as long as we can."

"That is exactly what keeps us moving,"

'Desperate for support'

Black Tulip has been trying to manage hundreds of requests from families to be find their relatives.

The volunteers have complained that they only receive money from donations and not from the Ukranian army but only fuel.

Yaroslav Zhilkin, who was previously a successful businessman, said, "We are desperate for government support," 

Yaroslav said, "We need proper protection equipment and funding," 

"Our legal status needs to be sorted out, because volunteers have started having problems at work. We may have to terminate our mission."

TRTWorld and agencies