On August the editor’s office of a Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta got an e-mail telling of a Russian army lieutenant major Zakhar Vladimirovich Timin being killed in Ukraine.
“Today my friends told me grave news. Yesterday, on August 16, a great man was killed – Zakhar Timin,” says the letter. “He died on duty in the Ukraine (as far as I know). Zakhar is a great man, a good, loyal friend, a loving father and husband. He deserved a long and happy life. I find it unfair that he was killed on a stupid war that no one needs! It’s awful! I’m very sorry… I express sincere condolences to his friends and relatives…”
Novaya Gazeta found Zakhar’s wife Irina Timina through social networks.
“He told me he was near Rostov”
Irina was reluctant to meet with a reporter in person, as she was in the middle of gathering a heap of certificates Russian bureaucracy demands for a widow’s pension (still complicated by the fact that officially her husband wasn’t killed in Ukraine). Zakhar’s mother probably wouldn’t be of any help either, as her social network page contained posts criticising Ukrainian nationalist “Right Sector”. Finally she did agree to answer the newspaper’s questions in writing.
Was your husband a professional soldier and did he come to Donbas not as a volunteer?
Yes, he was. He was an officer. He was no volunteer. He just obeyed his orders as he had no other choice, you see.
Please tell me what was your husband’s unit, post and rank? How long has he been serving in the military?
Zakhar served in unit No 27777 in Chechnya, recently he got promoted to Lieutenant major. He was a platoon commander.
When did you find out he was going to Donbas? When did he tell you that?
He didn’t tell about Donbas. My husband is an officer, not a contract soldier or a draftee. The officers have it a lot more strict. Even if officers know something, they never tell. He never even told me anything at home.
How did you find out he went there?
It all started when in the night from July 23 to 24 he texted me that they were going to Rostov. Later by phone he added that he hadn’t slept all night as they were preparing for the journey until morning. Everything was so sudden that he himself didn’t really understand what’d happened and where they were going. Although I believe it’s possible that he knew but kept that to himself as it was forbidden for him to tell. At first I was very worried. But when he arrived he calmed me down, told everything was ok. He sent photos from the training grounds. Everything was ok and nothing told of trouble. When he suggested I could come to him in Novocherkassk, I finnaly was sure I didn’t have to worry. I was planning to buy the tickets there when he called me and said I shouldn’t come. He didn’t explain why. Then he disappeared for three days. Then, when he got back to me, he said he couldn’t charge the phone because the camp had no electricity. I was surprised with his answer but back then I didn’t pay any special attention to it.
On August 11 he called me the last time. We talked, as usual, of everything. And then he told me he again won’t be able to charge the phone and doesn’t know when he could contact me now.
On August 16 I found out my husband was killed. The date he was killed was the 13th. I understood right away where this happened. He was buried on the 8th day after his death.
Who told you he was killed?
On August 16 a major from the draft center came to me and said he had bad news, that my husband died on duty. I couldn’t hear what he said after that.
Did they let you say your last farewell to your husband?
They did. The brought him in a zinc coffin. There was a window. But we decided to open the coffin. We got his face fixed at the morgue, because his eyes and mouth were open, and there was terror in his eyes. I don’t know why the didn’t even bother to fix his face in Rostov. So we did it at our morgue in Bugulma.
You know, Zakhar has always wanted to be a soldier. Since he was young. He liked to tinker. First he was working with tanks. Then he was transferred to a motorized infantry unit. He didn’t like that much, but he got used to it. Later he tried to choose a more calm occupation, especially lately when he started getting really tired and exhausted, telling he wouldn’t like to work like this all night. He wanted to retire early and do something else.
You must take me for someone else
After Zakhar’s death Irina was contacted by Kristina Gershwild, a representative of the state channel NTV.
“We are preparing a piece on the lies of Ukrainian media. We’ve been seeing really awful cases when they pronounced people captured while they were home, safe and sound. <…> Are you Zakhar Timin’s wife? You’ve had a similar case, please excuse us in advance is something is incorrect. We contact people who fell victim to such lies,” Gershwild wrote to Irina.
“I would help you, if you were telling about the lies of Russian media,” Irina replied. “What “similar case” did I have? You must take me for someone else. My husband was killed, and his death is the fault of out government”.