This week I was supposed to be in the territorial defence battalion “Aidar” with the Ukrainian Defence Ministry. Instead of this, I am writing this blog in Somy.
I will try to avoid being emotional in describing our adventures to the maximum.
About a dozen young volunteer guys from the Black Committee wanted to go to “Aidar” battalion. Personally, I was going there to receive basic military training and aid the battalion to the extent of my abilities.
I had known some of the guys from the Black Committee earlier, I met the majority on Maidan during the events on Hrushevskogo. Our visit was approved as their acquaintance Maidaners are already serving in the battalion. We gathered our personal belongings, stocked up on condensed milk, cigarettes, bulletproof vests for “Aidar” soldiers and left for Kharkiv. We took the charter bus to Starobelsk there, where the military battalion equipment was to pick us up.
When we saw a roadblock with Ukrainian flags near the village of Kucherivka, we were even a little glad. It was interesting how the control of the territory near the ATO is being conducted? Will a separatist not be able to pass through the Ukrainian roadblock?
We were greeted by people with weapons and blue-and-yellow ribbons. Some of them still had chevrons of the long-disbanded “Berkut.” That was a bit jarring. But it could have been “our” “Berkut,” the re-educated ones… When our documents were checked, it was not strange at all.
It was not strange when they asked to show our things. Even when we were lain onto the grown and had rifles pointed at us, when they saw someone’s worn-out boots in the rucksack; personally I regarded this with understanding – heightened security measures, all in all. Spitting out sand, we explained who we were and where we were going. About 20 minutes later a confirmation by the “Aidar” combat came by phone, that we really are volunteers and are going to the battalion.
It would seem the incident had exhausted itself and we could continue going. We were allowed to get into the bus. Then they asked us to exit it once more – to take pictures of the documents. And then a real search began. With the smallest things.
Here is a small list of complaints that sounded in my direction. Why is your military ticket issued so recently? (when I became 25, they issued it. With a delay of several months). Why are the boots worn out? (I have been going hiking for a long time, I have been in boot camps and games since I was a child etc.) Why is your vest better than mine? (how should I know?), what is this pin of the “Young People’s Movement,” what is this organisation? You’re wasting time, why are such organisations even needed? You’re an assistant to a Parliament member, isn’t your salary enough? Why would you do it?
The questions that were everyone was asked: Why are you going there? Do you have nothing to do at home? How much are they paying you? Who is financing you? Where did you meet? You were in Maidan? Did you throw cocktails?
They found a photo from Maidan on someone’s tablet and there was even more aggression: “You’re from the Right Sector, you killed our guys. Now we will shoot you and nobody will come looking for you!” The attempts to come out to the conversation that Maidan is over and now we are all on Ukraine’s side turned out to be in vein.
We were put on our knees facing the field. A shot rang out. Turned out, they were testing a bulletproof vest. It looked like the vests passed the test, as after the “search” we lost a couple of them. Just like we lost about a dozen pairs of tactical gloves, glasses and other additional ammunition which we planned to leave for the guys in “Aidar.”
It is notable and especially deserves attention that while the law enforcement was dealing with us, a car with armed people passed the roadblock. One of the policemen screamed: “stop the car!” but the “Berkuts” pretended that they were unable to react on time. The car left towards Kharkiv. I would like to hope that these were ATO participants and not terrorists.
An investigation group arrived. We were forced to explain ourselves: who we were, where we were going and what for. Meanwhile two of our guys, Bohdan and Ivan, were taken to the forest. In the forest, they were made to kneel, they told them they would shoot them and bury them, they shot in the air and at the ground. I will wholly believe that they would have shot them, if only “Aidar” had not phoned regularly and asked why we were still being held, as night was approaching, and it was dangerous to move around at night.
In the end, when it started going dark, we were let go. Without part of our things, but they hinted that we shouldn’t complain too much, as the rest would be taken at the following roadblock.
We walked towards the nearest town of Kupyansk in full equipment and with the things for the battalion soldiers for about 5 kilometres. During the “exercises” at gunpoint, I sprained my leg. So I was limping a little. Finally we were lucky enough to spend the night at a hotel and not in the street.
In the morning my leg was bloated, and my trip ended here – I was forced to return to Sumy. At lunchtime, the guys were picked up by a car from the battalion. They were forced to take the car over many kilometres, burn extra duel only for the volunteers to safely pass through the roadblocks… Now they are already in “Aidar” battalion.
This is the end. I don’t want to impose any conclusions. Only facts as food for thought.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina