kyiv: His forearm is tattooed: “Never forget, never forgive” is written there. The head of the Georgian National Legion, Mamuka Mamulashvili, listens carefully to a presentation on the need for foreign fighters in Ukraine to respect international law.
The event is organized in Kyiv by a Swiss NGO, “Appel de Genève”, whose role is, in particular, to impart the rudiments of international law to foreign fighters who came to help the Ukrainians face the Russian army, summarizes Marie Lequin, leader of the “Eurasian region”.
In the small room, Mamoulashvili does not go unnoticed, as does the Legion’s flag, a wolf’s head surrounded by the Ukrainian flag. At ease in English, he leads some 800 fighters from around 32 countries, deployed several months ago in southeastern Ukraine.
“Today, this is a step in a process of +humanitarian commitment +, to establish a dialogue with the armed formations to provoke a change of behavior” in the field, details Lequin, at the time of signing a document committing Georgian fighters to respect international law.
– “Blurred lines” –
In Kyiv, Lequin wants to warn against possible “blurred lines” in the war, stressing “the importance of humanitarian work being separated from military operations”.
Mamoulachvili defends himself from any confusion: the work of his men and NGOs is complementary, he says.
He states that his teams “provide food” to the local populations, “which the NGOs then distribute to the inhabitants”, in a positive synergy.
The work of evacuating civilians from dangerous areas is also partly the responsibility of Mamoulashvili’s troops: “We rescued civilians in areas bombed by the Russians,” he said during the exchanges.
“We do this with cars that we buy with our own means and that are not armored,” he insists.
– “Serious breach” –
“It remains confusing from a civilian perspective to understand whether you are there to help humanitarianly or whether you are there to lead military operations to protect civilians,” Lequin told Mamoulashvili, however.
For her, “it is very difficult to know whether the presence of these soldiers” can make NGOs working in the field “targets or not”.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, some Ukrainian fighters have indeed used schools to house soldiers or buses formerly used by schoolchildren to transport soldiers, AFP noted, making them key targets for the Russians.
But for Mamulashvili, the problem lies with the Russians, who “break all the rules” and whom he accuses of using “fake” NGOs to transport weapons on Ukrainian soil, “a serious violation” and “treason” in his eyes.
Meanwhile, Lequin and his organization are trying to ‘document’ the war crimes attributed by Kyiv and its western allies to the Russian military – which Moscow rejects – because the war will stop and ‘go to court at some point’. , according to her.
On the ground, Mamoulashvili and his men have faced Russian firepower recently.
“The fight is more and more complicated for us because Russia now only uses its artillery and is no longer in a hand-to-hand combat strategy,” he said.
“Ukraine must protect its civilian population, but the country is being bombed daily and we have no weapons to respond to that,” he laments, urging the international community to provide more heavy weapons to thwart Russian planes.