Support independent journalism in Central & Eastern Europe.
Donate to TOL!

× Learn more
No, thanks Photo: Abbas Atilay
back  |  printBookmark and Share

Donbas Rebel Star Defects to Ukraine

A movie celebrating the exploits of a female rebel fighter in the Donbas could be shelved, because the hero has switched sides.

5 March 2019

Ukraine’s SBU security service yesterday confirmed the news that Svitlana Driuk, who once led an all-woman tank crew fighting against Ukrainian forces, recently defected with the help of Ukrainian intelligence, the Kyiv Post reports.


According to a report broadcast Sunday on the news channel of the 1+1 TV network, Driuk leaked information to the Ukrainian side adding new details about direct Russian military involvement in the five-year conflict that has taken some 13,000 lives.



The SBU statement quoted agency head Vasyl Hrytsak as saying the operation to recruit Driuk “was a battle of intelligence and professional skills between the Russian and Ukrainian secret services, and the result is more evidence of Russia’s armed aggression.”


Driuk claims a Russian regular officer, Aleksei Berngard, is the true commander of the rebel Vostok Regiment. She once served as the regiment’s chief executive officer.


She also claimed to have seen documents outlining a Russian plan to quickly deploy up to 100,000 troops to the Donbas, the Post writes.


According to Unian, she also supplied documents showing that an upgraded version of an aging Russian main battle tank was secretly tested in Donbas.


The police of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic accused the SBU of using “savage methods” to influence her through her children and others close to her. They claimed Ukrainian agents detained her in Moldova and brought her to Ukraine, according to Crime Russia.


Driuk started in the rebel forces as a health assistant, then quickly rose through the ranks. Her story is told in the first feature film shot in the separatist territories, “Opolchenochka” (The Little Militiawoman), but whether the film will ever be shown is doubtful, the Kyiv Post writes.


The film was scheduled for release in Russia on 9 May, the holiday celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.



  • The movie was shot last summer in the separatist-controlled Luhansk region.


  • Duma deputy Natalia Poklonskaya, who rose to fame as the first Russian-installed prosecutor in annexed Crimea, appears in the film as herself, according to IMDB.


  • The film’s trailer features videos of her in real life, Unian says.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer
back  |  printBookmark and Share


We would like to invite you to meet Kathryn Thier, a recognized expert and instructor of Solutions Journalism from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.


Join us to learn more about the connections between investigative reporting and Solutions Journalism and discover the impact that bringing the “whole” story has on communities. Kathryn’s keynote speech will be followed by a panel discussion on bringing the solutions perspective into reporting practices with Nikita Poljakov, deputy editor in chief of the business daily Hospodářské noviny. Nikita is also head of the project “Nejsi sám” (You are not alone), which uses the solutions approach to tackle the issue of male suicide. The main program will be followed by an informal wine reception. 


The event will take place on Monday, 25 March at 5 p.m. in the Hollar building of the Charles University Faculty of Social Sciences (Smetanovo nábřeží 6, Praha 1). The event will be in English. 


Attendance is free upon registration - please, fill in the registration form.


Feel free to check out and share the event on Facebook.





Moldovan diaries

The Moldovan Diaries is a multimedia, interactive examination of the country's ethnic, religious, social and political identities by Paolo Paterlini and Cesare De Giglio.

This innovative approach to story telling gives voice to ordinary people and takes the reader on the virtual trip across Moldovan rural and urban landscapes. 

It is a unique and intimate map of the nation.


© Transitions Online 2019. All rights reserved. ISSN 1214-1615
Published by Transitions o.s., Baranova 33, 130 00 Prague 3, Czech Republic.