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Beness Aijo 'on the front line' in Ukraine

A month after he fled Latvia rather than face a court appearance on charges of plotting to overthrow the state, controversial Latvian 'National Bolshevik' Beness Aijo has reappeared in Eastern Ukraine where he claims there are dozens of other Latvian volunteers.

Speaking to LSM, Aijo claimed to be fighting "on the front line".

He provided pictures purporting to show destruction in the city of Luhansk as well as images of himself in uniform alongside other rebels.

"Yes, I take part in military operations, for example in Debalcevo (Debaltseve) and also near Stanica Luganska," he told LSM.

"At first I was a gunner on an artillery howitzer and fired at a concentration of Ukrainian military equipment, which moved towards residential areas of the Luhansk People's Republic.

"In the last month, I have been a member of a motorized infantry brigade and defend the territory of Luhansk People's Republic by firing mortars and using a machine gun."

"We, the army of the People's Republic of Luhansk always try to save the life of the enemy, take Ukrainian soldiers and officers into captivity and exchange them for our captive soldiers," he added.

Aijo also claimed there were "about 50 Latvian volunteers" fighting for rebel forces.

"Some of us have come here through International Brigades like me and Valentin Milutin, Anatolijs, Vjacheslav Visockij, Grigorijs Kosnikovskij et cetera, some came as ordinary volunteers. We ­ Latvians communicate with one other and we call the Latvian volunteers in the Donbass army the 'Latvian Red Riflemen'.

"We discuss the political and economic situation in Latvia and are planning to take part in Latvian politics after we return to Latvia," Aijo claimed.

Asked why he chose to flee Latvia rather than show up in court, Aijo said he was invited by his "comrades" in Donbass and that escaping from the country was relatively simple despite the fact he was under police surveillance. 

"During the weekend before New Year, when the vigilance of the Security Police and Border Guards was dulled, I managed to escape at night.

"I hitch-hiked to Estonia... I went to Tallinn, took a ship and went to Finland, to Helsinki. Finnish communists helped me to do it! And from Helsinki I took a bus to Leningrad (St Petersburg). Then I went to Moscow and later to Luhansk."

However, in a sign that he may not fully comprehend the consequences of his decision to go on the run, Aijo said that when the war was over he would "definitely go back to Latvia or maybe to the UK. I'm a biologist and in the UK it is easier to find a job in my speciality. But I will definitely visit my relatives and friends in Latvia." 

"I will go to court and will defend my honest name and ask the Latvian State to pay me compensation for moral abuse and time spent in prison," he said, adding that his decision to fight in Eastern Ukraine had the "full support" of his relatives.

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