Greeks and Greek-Armenians say they are ready to go to war in Artsakh. Among them is a Greek former non-commissioned officer who explained to Sputnik Hellas the reasons behind his decision.
"I will not fight next to the Armenians, who are my brothers, to be glorified, nor to get publicity, or when the war is over to go to the commander and get a medal and for him to say 'well done' and then get me on television. I want to help our brothers, because they are Christians. I am a Greek," these were the first words of the 39-year-old former non-commissioned officer in the Greek army, with whom Sputnik Hellas spoke to by phone.
He has experience in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Searching for a link to go to Artsakh, he discovered a website with the "Call for Voluntary Enlistment in the Army of the Republic of Armenia," which was posted on September 28. He responded to the call from the Prime Minister of Armenia, the President Artsakh and the leader of the Armenian Armed Forces that was directed to the youth of the Armenian Diaspora.
This did not stop him, despite being "100% Greek," as he told Ioanna Kleftogianni of Sputnik Hellas, to send a message to the e-mail he found on their website.
"I do not know exactly when I will finally arrive in [Artsakh]. Those who are interested, we sent to their e-mail. Beyond that, I do not know what will happen. But we want to help the Armenian brothers in every way, we want to crush the Turk. Make them run out! We are drowning in justice. They kill innocent people. We also asked here in Greece to make the 'bang.' We prayed. Unfortunately, nothing is done here. Everyone is sold," said the 39-year-old.
Kleftogianni asked him if he knows other Greeks who intend to go to Artsakh.
"It simply came to our notice then. About 500-800 people I know so far. There may be more from day to day. I spoke with a lot of people yesterday, we all want this: 'Let's go fight on the side of the Armenians.' At the moment I am trying to contact other colleagues and friends who were with us in the army, some were not non-commissioned officers, soldiers served, but in special security forces. That is, they know how to handle situations. I had some communication with them again in the morning. But right now, when I get them on the phone, someone else is at work, someone else can't talk, someone else is on a date. But they also want to go."
"Let's go to help our brothers, the Armenians"
As he prepares for Artsakh, he continues to work in a store.
"But I served in the special forces and in the Marine Corps. Of course I know how to use a weapon. I tell you again, I am a former non-commissioned officer. I am not a soldier. And the rest of the Greeks who want to fight in Armenia know how to use weapons because they were also in Special Forces and UAV corps. We are not going for a wicked purpose," he said.
"Let's go to help our brothers, the Armenians, because they are Christians."
For the trip to Artsakh, he was informed by the Armenian Social Cultural Center that "we will go by air. As far as I know, some airports flying to Armenia have not been closed. I do not know anything more, except that as soon as you get there, the conscription takes over."
Are there any conditions to be accepted, Sputnik Hellas asked the volunteer?
"We were told that they want you to have your ID with you and a doctor's certificate certifying that you are in very good health and in good physical condition. Then the one responsible for taking you takes over responsibilities," he said.
Kleftogianni said he got annoyed when asked if he was scared when he thinks that on the battlefield he may have his last breath.
"No, I am not scared. I'm not afraid of anyone. Why should I be afraid? For my life? I only fear God. I'm not afraid because I'm trained. It is like telling me that there will be a war in Greece with Turkey and I will go and hide in my basement. Ma'am, you are not talking to someone by chance. All I have to say, my last words would be 'good luck to the Armenian people,' because the Armenian believes in God, is Christian Orthodox and gives up everything to defend their homeland. What are our people doing? Tell me! Very well, because with the recent tension, I was on alert too," the volunteer said.
The volunteer also heard that there are minors from Greece who want to go to Artsakh.
"They are too young to take part in such a thing and I would not risk it. You cannot send to war a man who has never held a weapon in his life. You never risk this thing. Because I have done both in Kosovo and Afghanistan and I have seen with my own eyes minors holding guns, I know it is wrong. That's all I know," the volunteer explained.
"They want our lands - I'm not afraid to lose my life"
Sputnik Hellas met with 16-year-old Greek-Armenian, Armen Panoutsarian, at the Armenian rally in Syntagma on Wednesday.
Although he has not finished school and has never held a gun in his hand, he will try to reach Artsakh through the Armenian embassy.
"I think it is my duty. I will go to fight for the existence of Armenia tomorrow. I want to live and know that tomorrow and the day after tomorrow my second homeland will still exist, because there are some who believe that the whole world is theirs. The Turks do not want Armenia to exist," he explained to Kleftogianni.
His mom, next to him, waving an Armenian flag, seemed upset, but does she let him go?
"Of course. She also wants to go if she has to fight," said her son.
Kleftogianni asked her and the mother confirmed it.
"Armenia has no reason to go to war," Armen continues. "It simply came to our attention then. They want our lands. Azerbaijan is Erdogan's puppet. I'm not afraid to lose my life. And if I lose it, I know it is worth it. I would fight the same for Greece."
The 27 year old Ellinoarmenis Mars, who works at a call center has not yet made the move to transition in Armenia.
"I will speak to the embassy as soon as I see that the time has come. I will go to support. I have done military service. I have a gun in my hand. There is chaos in [Artsakh]. A war is raging. Both Armenians and Azeris are firing from both sides. There are losses on both sides. It is simply an unequal battle. If we put the numbers down, obviously the Armenians are much less in number and budget. Anyone from Greece can help. Although it is not the only way [...] It is the love for the Armenian nation. You want to be over there," he said in a calm voice, wearing a red mask with words embroidered in Armenian.
"I think it is worth dying for Armenia"
"All the families, and mine, were definitely scared when I told them I wanted to go to [Artsakh]. We do not know how things will turn out. Okay, there is fear for sure, and I'm afraid I might be killed. Have I fought to know how to fight? Just because I have a gun in my hand in the past does not mean I know. But I have only one thing on my mind: To help, as children much younger than me will do. I think it is worth dying for Armenia. Especially when you were born and raised away from her, like me."
His close friend, the 26-year-old insurer Vangelis, also born in Athens and a Greek-Armenian, will go to Artsakh, "although I do not know how to fight, I have done service in the Greek Navy because I grew up with my parents telling me that we have another homeland. We are certainly Greeks and Greek citizens, but we also love our second homeland. I may have only been to Armenia twice, but I consider it my homeland."
"It is difficult to go to [Artsakh] by road, because you have to make a big circle to get there. The Azeris have closed the border. The trip is done by air. The fact that about 600 people have stated that they want to go does not mean that they have been taken. I also do what I can through social media. We must get rid of the daily propaganda of Turkey and Azerbaijan. It is a dirty war. Is it a coincidence that the US embassy in Azerbaijan said that all Americans should stay indoors? They knew what would happen," he said.