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Combatant Stepan

“Two brothers in arms died immediately, and I got hardly injured. I am most likely to have some more operations ahead.” — A Russian man, a Ukrainian volunteer without citizenship. July 16, 2022. Author: Artem Shyrobokov (Pozyvnoy Esenin). Stepan is a Russian who fights for Ukraine. Since 2014 Stepan has been a volunteer within Azov and Right Sector. In 2022 he was badly wounded near Kyiv, protecting our country once again. Now he is in rehabilitation. But he still doesn’t have a Ukrainian passport. 1. When and how did you decide to abandon your life in Russia and fight for Ukraine? I sympathized with Ukrainians back in the times of Maidan but, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to participate in it due to some personal reasons. That’s why I helped some activists financially. But when the armed conflict in Donbass has started, without a second thought I decided to go and fight on the side of Ukrainians. There were problems with crossing the border, so I arrived only in July 2014, not earlier as I’d planned. 2. What was your motivation? Due to the fact that before arriving in Ukraine I was a participant of nationalist movement for a long time and stood against putin’s government, my motivation was simple — to counteract the government of RF and its protégés and also to help the people of Ukraine save their integrity and independence. 3. Did you serve in the russian army? Yes. I served term service and contract service in the Armed Forces of the RF, in one of the units of Special Forces. There I got the necessary experience, which then came in handy for me in Ukraine in combat operations and in training new recruits. 4. In russia lots of people call you “traitor of the motherland”. What can you tell them in response? People who would call me a “traitor of the motherland” usually understand very badly the difference between the concepts of motherland and regime. So I could tell them one thing — if all the citizens of Russia had been such “traitors of the motherland” like me, you would have lived in a completely different state. 5. Your relatives, your friends in the RF — how did they react to such a decision? At the beginning my relatives were against it, but as time passed they got used to it. As for the friends and acquaintances — some of them supported me, others had a neutral reaction and with the third part I ended communication as they condemned my choice. 6. What did you do on February 24? Once a full-scaled invasion has begun, I started looking for a possibility to join any unit because at that moment I wasn’t a soldier anymore. Of course I wanted to serve with experienced people I knew. For several days I’d been calling my friends, solving household issues, collecting equipment that was missing, and as a result I came to the guys. It was very ironic to see long queues stretching for kilometres for departure from Kyiv, full of healthy Ukrainian men, while I — a Russian with a Russian passport — drove with uniform and assault rifle in the opposite direction. It’s surrealistic. 7. Where did you serve and in what battles did you participate? From 2014 to 2016 I served in Azov, participated in the assault on Maryinka, on Ilovaisk, took part in the battles in Hrabske, near Pavlopil, in Shyrokyne. From 2016 to 2017 I fought in UVC [Ukrainian Volunteer Corps — Ed.] in the Industrial Zone of Avdiivka. And in 2022 I joined the group of volunteers of the 10th Mountain Assault Brigade that fought as a part of the 8th Mountain Assault Battalion, operating in the Boryspil direction. I participated in the assault of the Lukianivka village, where I was wounded. 8. What was the most memorable battle? I can’t choose just one memorable battle. Every battle is good in its own way and is memorable in its own way. When we assaulted Maryinka, we had very close contacts, near 10 metres, in Ilovaisk we just walked in a chain across a sunflower field under the enemy fire, in Shyrokyne I was running from the enemy IFV which was driving in 20 metres behind me, and in Lukianivka we burnt a lot of vehicles and captured about the same amount of it, though we assaulted with only one tank. There is always something new. 9. Tell me, how did you get injured? Are you still going through rehabilitation? I was wounded on March 24 during the assault of the Lukianivka village. We suddenly attacked the enemy forces, destroyed several vehicles, captured some more and completely took the village under our control. After that three tanks moved from the closest village to us in order to fight us back. When we shot one of the tanks from a grenade launcher — he shot back at us. Two brothers in arms died immediately, and I got badly injured. I was severely shell-shocked, got multiple shrapnel injuries, fracture of both legs, puncture of small and large intestines and shrapnel injuries of eyes. I lost a lot of blood. Fortunately, I was very lucky with the doctors, who practically took me out of the other world. Now I’m in rehabilitation but I am most likely to have some more operations ahead. 9. How do Ukrainians treat you, knowing you are Russian? Do you feel any discrimination? Ukrainians treat me wonderfully! During the 8 years I’ve spent in Ukraine I personally haven’t faced any discrimination based on nationality or language. Everywhere I was greeted with warmth and welcoming, no matter if it was in the East or West of Ukraine. 10. How do you imagine the victory of Ukraine? I see the victory of Ukraine only as a complete and indisputable military triumph. I think that we have passed the point of no return, and the way of diplomacy is unpromising. The government of the RF understands only force and will only reckon with force. 11. Would you like to return to Russia? I won’t hide it, I miss my native people and native places. If I had an opportunity, of course I’d visit them. But I would never agree to live in Russia nowadays with its regime, laws and repressions. 12. How come you still don’t have Ukrainian citizenship? I still don’t have Ukrainian citizenship because there was no legal basis for this until recently. Last year I started the registration process as a PCO [Participant in Military Operations — Ed.] to obtain the citizenship later, but the war that started in February slowed down this process. I hope that in the near future the question of citizenship will be resolved, and hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers will acquire it. 13. What problems do you face, living in Ukraine illegally? First of all, there are problems with official employment. Also I faced notarial problems when it was necessary to certify certain papers. Of course, it is a problem to get a VISA and go abroad. And just some obvious trivias like issuing a bank card. 14. What will be the first thing you do when you’ll have the Ukrainian passport? I think, first of all, I would celebrate it. And after the end of the war I’d like to travel the world. Because now it’s impossible to do that with my passport. 15. How do you see yourself after the war, when Ukraine wins? After the victory of Ukraine I think I’d associate myself with the military service or instructional activity. One way or another, while having such a neighbour, Ukrainian society must be militarized at its maximum in the future. 16. What would you like to say to all the Ukrainians? I’d like to say the words of admiration for the Ukrainian nation. It became united as never before, and the people of Ukraine are making the impossible! Also I’d wish not to relax and get ready for a long-term conflict, to be prepared that life will not become the same as before soon. 17. What would you like to say to all the russians?

I’d wish to all the russians to open their eyes to themselves, to their lives, the government and the world around them. To realize that an antinational and antirussian regime by its essence is ruling the state out of the kremlin. To realize that Ukrainians are not and never were the enemies. To understand that the masses are being controlled like a herd for the benefit of the ruling clique. From the author: I will be grateful to everyone for sharing this article about Stepan. If you have any contacts of journalists, or you are a journalist willing to talk about the difficulties with the Ukrainian citizenship — feel free to write here @landskneht818 (instagram) Pozyvnoy Esenin Twitter ( Instagram ( Telegram ( Ukrainian Text by Artem Shyrobokov. Translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — Jul 21, 2022

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