“We want the pro-Europeans to see we are strong, too”
I joined the popular militia on Sunday. I didn’t take part in the pro-Russian movement before president Yanukovich’s removal, but I’ve since decided to join in. It’s important for me to protect our ethnic and national interests. My parents and I were born in Crimea and have always lived here.
The militia is not aggressive; we’re not radicals. Our approach is preventive. We want to be in a position to defend ourselves against decisions by the new leaders that may harm Russian speakers. We will only take up arms if we are forced to; in other words, only if the pro-Europeans provoke us. We want them to see that we are strong, too.To sign up, I just had to give my name and phone number. They didn’t ask for anything else. They didn’t give me any specific instructions. Of course it’s best if members already have some self-defence skills, but it’s not a prerequisite. They taught how to load and unload a machine gun to those who didn’t know. I already knew how to do it. I had military training during my studies and was a reserve lieutenant.It was predictable that Ukraine would one day be torn between pro-Europeans and pro-Russians. But we are very angry with Victor Yanukovich; he was a weak politician with little character. Now, submitting to “ukrainisation” against our will is out of the question. I wouldn’t be opposed to Crimea joining Russia. I think it would be good for the region’s economy. But this needs to be done democratically, through a referendum. Making Ukraine a federal state with and giving regions more autonomy is also an acceptable option to me.
“These militias now think of themselves as the real police of Sevastopol”
I’ve been organising protests in Sevastopol since November 22 [when the Maidan movement started]. From the start, we’ve had to deal with violence from pro-Russians. At first, there were a few hundred of them who would insult us and hit us during our demonstrations.. But there have been many more of them ever since Yanukovich’s fall. There were perhaps 20,000 people who protested over the weekend. I went to see their leaders and asked whether they support the idea of Crimea joining Russia. All I got as a response were punches.
Many now gather in town at the end of the workday. They are often armed with batons and baseball bats. I haven’t seen any guns, but many of them are former Marine officers, so there’s no doubt they’ll be able to find them easily. There are quite a few that are members of the city’s boxing club, which is run by former champion Alexander Sinyavsky.These militias now think of themselves as the real police in Sevastopol. They treat us like fascists and Nazis. It’s quite ridiculous: since we’re pro-European, they see us aggressors from Europe, like the Nazis in 1941. I’d really like to see the tension subside. Everything depends on the next government and the way it deals with issues related to Russian-speaking citizens.