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Catalans Vote in Favor of Independence
Barcelona
By Ramon Fornell Gatnau
09 Nov 2014

Catalonia’s population went to a non-binding referendum on November 9 on whether to become independent or not from Spain. The polls showed that 80,72% of those polled voicing opinions favorable to independence, and the confidence vote may just be an historic precursor to an official Catalan referendum.

Although the Spanish government had threatened to prevent the query from taking place, a calm atmosphere reigned as over 2 million came together to vote on whether or not they would prefer to live in Spain or an independent Catalonia.

The inquiry is has no legal value but the result of the vote is a widespread understanding in Spain of what a large majority of Catalans aspire to. At the same time, the refusal of the Spanish government to take into consideration the pro-independence sentiments of many Catalan citizens and its immutable, almost threatening position, against the process has led many Catalans to believe that an independent state is in their best interest.

The confidence vote comes just under two months after Scottish citizens of the United Kingdom voted against independence by a small majority. Many feared that the failure of the Scottish referendum would have negative consequences for the Catalan movement. However, the large majority voting in favor of separation has calmed these fears and given new legitimacy to the separatist movement.

Spanish far-right nationalist and fascist groups demonstrated to show their discontent with the query, but drew a very small crowd of around 50 people, and failed to significantly disrupt the pro-independence sentiment of Catalan voters.

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The Black Men: European Fighters in U...
By laura.lesevre
24 Jul 2014

European volunteer fighters and far-right activists have travelled to Ukraine to fight along side pro-Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian separatists. They come from France, Sweden, and other parts of Europe. They have different motivations for participating in the conflict, but they all say that they are not paid to fight.

Journalists Fausto Biloslavo and Laura Lesevre travelled to Ukraine and interviewed, among others, Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper, with seven years' experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. Mikael is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He says there is a bounty of nearly 5,000 euros on his head.

This 11:26 minutes video story includes footage of the Azov Battalion training and fighting against pro-Russia separatists. It also include interviews with an Italian and a Russian volunteer fighter. It also includes an interview with Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper.

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The Black Men 14
By laura.lesevre
20 Jun 2014

A volunteer fighter wearing the t-shirt with the emblem of the Azov Battalion. The battalion is under the control of Kiev’s Interior ministry.

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The Black Men 9
By laura.lesevre
20 Jun 2014

46 year old Gaston Besson from France says he wants to defend Ukraine’s independence. Besson, who has also fought in Croatia, Bosnia, Burma and Laos, is in charge of recruiting foreign European volunteers to fight against pro-Russian rebels. "Every day I get dozens of e-mail with requests of enlistment, but I reject 75% of them. People who want to join us are to buy the plane ticket with their own money. Then they go over an initial period of training in Kiev before being sent to the front line. We do not want fanatics, trigger-happy people, drunkards or druggies. We need unpaid idealists, not hired mercenaries”, he says.

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The Black Men 12
By laura.lesevre
18 Jun 2014

Volunteer fighters from the Azov battalion during urban warfare training.

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The Black Men 11
By laura.lesevre
18 Jun 2014

Francesco F, an Italian volunteer fighter in the Azav battalion's base in Berdyansk.

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The Black Men 15
By laura.lesevre
18 Jun 2014

An armed member of the Azov Battalion at a check point near Berdyansk in Eastern Ukraine.

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The Black Men 8
By laura.lesevre
18 Jun 2014

Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper, with seven years' experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. Mikael is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He says there is a bounty of nearly 5,000 euros on his head.

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The Black Men 13
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Members of the Azov battalion in their base in Eastern Ukraine.

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The Black Men 10
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Francesco F. an Italian volunteer fighter with the Azav battalion during training. Francesco gave up his life as a manager in order to fight alongside Ukrainians against pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine.

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The Black Men 16
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

A member of the Azav battalion. All fighters wear masks to cover their faces for fear of reprisals.

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The Black Men 1
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Fighters from the Azav battalion resting on the grass.

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The Black Men 7
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Volunteer fighters from the Azov battalion during training.

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The Black Men 6
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Volunteer fighters from the Azov battalion.

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The Black Men 3
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

A fighter from the Azov battalion during a shooting training.

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The Black Men 4
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

The Azov battalion fighting in east-Ukraine counts 250 men. Most of them are far-right activists. The battalion also counts a dozen of foreign volunteers fighters from countries like Sweden, France, Finland, Italy and Russia, as well as football ultras. They claim they are not paid to fight.

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The Black Men 2
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

Fighters from the Azov battalion during shooting training.

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The Black Men 5
By laura.lesevre
17 Jun 2014

A fighter from the Azov battalion during training.