Cadet Hladun: Ukrainians are fighting for their country and families; Russians aren’t fighting for anything or anyone

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2016/03/28 • Crimea, Russia, Ukraine, War in the Donbas

Article by: Valentyn Baryshnikov

Cadet Andriy Hladun refused to swear allegiance to Russia in Crimea; he has just finished his studies in England and will serve in Eastern Ukraine

Andriy Hladun is 21 years old. He is a lieutenant in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He decided to enroll at the Military Academy when he was still a teenager, when it was neither prestigious nor rewarding to be a soldier.

– I’m not from a military family. I don’t know why I chose to serve my country, maybe because I’m a difficult person. I felt that I could get on in the army. I didn’t have much future in Uzhgorod; it’s a small town. I wanted to get somewhere. When I graduated from the Military Lyceum, my platoon leader suggested university. I applied to the university, passed all the exams and was accepted. I said thanks… I’m staying here. That’s how my life as a cadet began.

Andriy spent three years in Crimea. When Crimea was annexed by Russia, he and several other cadets who refused to swear allegiance to Russia were transferred to the Odesa Marine Academy.

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He passed an English test within the framework of a foreign training program for cadets and was invited to the Royal Navy College in Dartmouth, England. He completed 18 months of study and has just returned home, ready to serve in the Ukrainian army.

He doesn’t remember the exact chronology of events in Crimea. He describes how the Ukrainian cadets tried to defend their academy and how the Russian troops tried to convince them to join the Russian army.

– Our food was not very good. So, they began delivering full meals, even pelmeni (dumplings). You should understand that students really appreciate good food. Different salads, omelets in the morning… Good food lures everyone; the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. They told us the salaries would be good. But, we understood that it was complete nonsense to swear allegiance to one country and serve in another where you had no one.

– Do you remember how it happened? Did you feel that something was going on, that Crimea was being occupied?

– I just remember that strange people dressed in strange uniforms were driving around in the streets of the city. The people were saying that Crimea would soon join Russia. Then some hot shots –  generals and admirals – came to our academy. I realized that it wasn’t going to be easy. We said that we wouldn’t abandon the academy, that we’d stand to the end. But, no one wanted bloodshed and we had to surrender our weapons. Some officers jumped ship and crossed over to the enemy… to stay afloat, so to speak.

– When you came to Crimea, didn’t you realize that the people around you had other opinions?

– No, not really. People lived normally. It was quiet. The Black Sea Fleet was there. I knew there were many Russians in Crimea because a lot of Russian ships were stationed there. I didn’t notice that the locals were especially pro-Russian. Everything changed when people started parading around with flags and shouting “Crimea is Russia”. Crimea has a large Russian population and these people have always looked to Russia.

– Did you and the other cadets talk about resisting the invasion when “the little green men” appeared?

– Yes, of course, we were ready. We were always on patrol, our machine guns were loaded, and extra ammunition was close at hand. We were told to fire a warning shot if we saw anyone trying to get in. If anyone had openly attacked our territory, I think we would’ve shot back.  I talked with the guys and can say that no one was afraid. Maybe we didn’t realize how serious it really was, but everyone was ready to defend the academy. Then, our weapons were taken away; we were told the academy would be attacked at five. We went out and surrounded the building, standing shoulder to shoulder. It was fun… but no one came.

– Were you also surrounded when unmarked Russian soldiers began blocking our military units?

– We were stationed near the port, we had a lot of ships and our submarine was close by. Russian tugs completely blocked the bay. Our ships were blocked. We were told that we might be attacked by divers. We didn’t give up, we manned all our positions. But, we weren’t allowed to shoot. So we threw stones. Several divers swam up, but we I didn’t know whether they were Russian or not. We just pelted them with stones, and forced them to swim away.

Did you ever run into Russian “green men”?

– We saw them in the city. We went out in civilian clothes, so we didn’t run into any trouble.

– There were attempts at the academy to get you on the Russian side. Can you say something about that?

– They just said that the guys who wanted to stay should swear allegiance to Russia. Then, a few words about the salary, the future of the academy, that they would rebuild it completely, that they’d put in a swimming pool and a skating rink. I didn’t listen to them, I left and so did many other guys. We lived separately, performed our military duties on the parade ground of the Lyceum, raised our flag, sang our national anthem until we were taken from Crimea.

– Did you talk about your mission and values…Is Russia our country or is it Ukraine? Or just ordinary things…What will happen to our salaries?

– We have one country – Ukraine. We didn’t even think of Russia.

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– Some of you did… How many persons switched to the Russian side?

– More than half; 103 persons left Crimea

– How many cadets were there in all?

– About 300, maybe a little more.

– Had you already sworn allegiance to Ukraine?

– Of course, I was already in third year.

– So, the students that remained swore allegiance to Russia?

-Yes.

– What happened then?

– There were many officers who refused to swear allegiance to Russia. They told what we should do and what documents to take. We slowly collected our belongings and waited for the “green corridor” to be set up.

– How were you evacuated?

– We got on a bus and left. We were checked on the border by Russians. They searched everything, checked for weapons; they missed nothing.

– Where were you taken?

– We got to the Military Academy in Odesa. We arrived at night; we got a great welcome and then were accommodated us in new barracks. Then the guys were transferred to the Odesa National Maritime Academy, but I’d left by then.

– What was the reaction in Odesa? You were greeted as heroes as you didn’t betray your oath…

– Yes, we were greeted with great honours. I don’t see anything heroic in our actions; every person should act this way.

– Are you in touch with the guys who remained in Crimea?

– No, I haven’t talked to anybody; our interests and opinions differ.

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– Were there conflicts?

– We needled them quite a lot, but in a joking manner. It didn’t turn into a conflict. We didn’t judge them; it was their decision to make. After all, we spent three years together.

– Did anyone disappoint you?

– Yes, of course. There were quite a few guys from Lviv Region. They couldn’t say a single sentence in Russian… and they stayed behind. It was plain ridiculous…

– Did you feel that truth was on your side?

– Of course. In any case, we did nothing wrong. We went home, knowing that we’d continue our studies and earn the rank of a Ukrainian officer.

– When did you go to England?

– We stayed in Odesa for about a month; we went out on patrols every day. Then we were asked to write a test in English, all 103 cadets. Five were selected for further tests. We arrived at the British Embassy in Odesa, passed the tests, and three were selected to study in Britain. Then we went to Kyiv, got our visas and left.

– How long were you there?

– A year and a half.

– Was it a shock after Ukraine?

– Not really, I got used to it very fast.

– Did people know you were from Ukraine, that Ukraine was at war with Russia?

– Yes. We were treated very well. I gave a presentation every Wednesday, reported on the situation in Ukraine. I followed the events closely on the Internet.

– Did the people around you support you? Were they on your side?

– Yes, definitely. I’d say they don’t really like Russians. Not only because of what’s happening in our country, but there’s some kind of hostility towards them…

– You’re back now. So what’s next?

– I graduated as a lieutenant. I’m currently with the 36th Marine Brigade in Mykolayiv. My whole platoon is in the ATO zone. I’m finishing up here and going to see the others soon, get to know my comrades-in-arms and pick up my gear.

– Do you think Ukrainian soldiers are more motivated than the Russians?

– I believe we are. We’re defending our country; we’re fighting for something. The Russians, I think, know this; many don’t want to fight because this war is sheer folly. Why should they go to war? What are they fighting for? They don’t need this territory – it’s all a political game, big money and political greed. Ukrainians are fighting for their country, their mothers and their families. And, of course, we definitely have a stronger fighting spirit.

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
Source: Radio Liberty

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  • Randolph Carter

    Adrian, he left UKRAINIAN Crimea. I hope his loyalty to his own country brings him an excellent career in the Ukrainian Navy. “We’re defending our country; we’re fighting for something.” – you’re right, Andriy Hladun, you’re fighting for freedom, for self-determination, for a national identity. It may be a cliche, but you’re a credit to your country and your uniform. God Bless you and your fellow Ukrainian navy cadets.

    • Lev Havryliv

      Top comment.

    • Randolph Carter

      “Crimeans are not a gift (?) of a soviet dictator?” Then Putin should have no problem in pulling out his “little green men” and allowing Crimeans to return to their homeland (see “Deportation, autonomy, and occupation in the story of one Crimean Tatar” in Euromaidan Press), teach the Tatar language, decide whether to ally themselves with Russia or Ukraine or the EU, submit a legitimate vote (“In an interview on 22 January 2015 Igor Strelkov admitted that his militia group coerced Crimean deputies to vote in favor of secession from Ukraine” – Wikipedia “Crimean status referendum, 2014”) and, in other words, truly practice self-government and self-determination without interference from Russia.

      But Putin’s men are still there, aren’t they? Teaching of the Tatar language is still forbidden, isn’t it? There is a forced diaspora of Crimean citizens to other countries (“Authorities have required Crimean residents either to become Russian citizens or, if they refuse, to be deemed foreigners in Crimea.” – Human Rights Watch, “Ukraine: Fear, Repression in Crimea”). If they are so happy and have so many rights, why are they being forced to become Russian citizens?

      When Putin takes his “fleet of 15 new ships, including two submarines, two missile corvettes, seven counter-sabotage boats, support, rescue and auxiliary vessels.” (Ibid) and sails off to find other countries to dominate, then I’ll give some credence to the idea that the Crimean people have “freedom, self-determination and a national identity”. Until then, they’re under Russian dominion and any references to national identity are a patent lies.

      • Randolph Carter

        Why is it that Tamila Tasheva together with several other people, the co-founders of Crimea SOS, cannot enter Crimea. Under Russian law, they are considered citizens of Russia. To quote: “A denial to recognize Crimea as Russian territory is considered a call for dismantling the Russian state, an extremist activity, and so on. They have specific articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation for this. So for us it is simply not safe to go there. We do not even try, because from the very first days of the occupation we had a clear position and we expressed it. We did hundreds of interviews. The Russian occupation authorities monitor it all and we know that they know about us very well. So as to not expose not only ourselves but also our relatives and members of the organization to danger, we just don’t go there.” [1]

        She is now a Russian, not a Crimean whether she wants to be or not. “Since the occupation in Spring 2014, authorities in Crimea have used the expansive and seemingly all-inclusive legal category of “extremism” to frighten the local population into submission and repress dissent. This has entailed closing mass media outlets; searching homes, schools and religious establishment for “extremist” materials; blocking informational sites on the internet; prosecution of people who make unfavourable statements on social networks; detention of journalists and people suspected of disloyalty; prosecution of ideological dissenters for “incitement to separatism;” bans on entry of activists and leaders like Mustafa Dzhemilev; and prosecution for belonging to certain Muslim currents. On top of these rights abuses, there has been an ongoing string of disappearances. The authorities claim to be investigating, but so far most of the cases remain unsolved.” [2]

        “In yet another ominous echo from Russia’s Soviet past, Refat Chubarov, Head of the Crimean Tatar representative body, the Mejlis, has been prevented from returning to his native Crimea. In Soviet times, dissident and champion of Crimean Tatar rights Petro Grigorenko, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and many others were stripped of their citizenship while abroad, thus dooming them to exile.” [3]

        You state: “In fact, Greeks arrived to Crimea 2,000 years before Turanids.” If this is true, then shouldn’t Crimea be Greek? Some other observations:

        All 28 member states of the European Union believe the separation of the Crimea from Ukraine to be unacceptable under international law. [4]

        On March 15, the United Nations Security Council voted 13–1 (with one abstention: China) to condemn the referendum, but Russia vetoed the draft resolution. [ibid]

        The United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution describing the Crimean referendum as illegal. [ibid]

        The Monitoring Committee, in its report that was the basis for PACE resolution No. 1988 (2014) of April 9, 2014, questioned the official outcome of the referendum. [ibid]

        NATO – Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on March 14, “a planned referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region would violate international law and lack legitimacy”. [ibid]

        Venice Commission – Experts of the Council of Europe for constitutional law have said that the referendum in Crimea on the peninsula’s joining Russia which the Crimean authorities plan to hold on March 16 is illegal and it is not in line with the Constitution of Ukraine. [ibid]

        Following the annexation of Crimea, according to report released on the Russian government run President of Russia’s Council on Civil Society and Human Rights website, Tatars who were opposed to Russian rule have been persecuted, Russian law restricting freedom of speech has been imposed, and the new pro-Russian authorities “liquidated” the Kiev Patriarchate Orthodox church on the peninsula. The Crimean Tatar television station was also shut down by the Russian authorities. [ibid]

        After the annexation, on 16 May the new Russian authorities of Crimea issued a ban on the annual commemorations of the anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars by Stalin in 1944, citing “possibility of provocation by extremists” as a reason.[220] Previously, when Crimea was controlled by Ukraine, these commemorations had taken place every year. The pro-Russian Crimean authorities also banned Mustafa Dzhemilev, a human rights activist, Soviet dissident, member of the Ukrainian parliament, and former Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars from entering Crimea.[221] Additionally, Mejlis reported, that officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) raided Tatar homes in the same week, on the pretense of “suspicion of terrorist activity”.[222] The Tatar community eventually did hold commemorative rallies in defiance of the ban.[221][222] In response Russian authorities flew helicopters over the rallies in an attempt to disrupt them. [ibid]

        [1] Euromaidan Press, “Deportation, autonomy, and occupation in the story of one Crimean Tatar”
        [2] Euromaidan Press, “Entire indigenous population of Crimea endangered with looming Mejlis ban”
        [3] Euromaidan Press, “KHPG: Russia resurrects Soviet ways in treatment of the Crimean Tatars”
        [4] Wikipedia, “Crimean status referendum, 2014”

    • Eddy Verhaeghe

      O yes, Crimean Tatars are free. Their language is suppressed. Their political rights as the original population of the Crimea are being trampled upon. O yes, they are free people.
      O yes, Ukrainians are free in the Crimea. Their language is suppressed. Their political rights are being trampled upon. O yes, they are free people.

      • MPK

        Adrian, I don’t disagree with your demographic history of Crimea, in fact it is pretty accurate. However, you show yourself to be a troll or an idiot on two points. One, the referendum was far from democratic or free. For you to imply that it was is ridiculously ignorant. Any election or Referendum held under an occupying force is not “free” – unless you are an ignorant Russian sheep who are used to such farcical elections. Second, Ukrainian & Tatar languages are being suppressed actively in Crimea. Again, to imply otherwise is absurd; but you are a pathetic Russian troll so it’s not surprising. Alas, your countrymen can enjoy a crashing ruble (please advise on Russian foreign currency reserves from 2012 until 2015??), a rising HIV/AIDS rate (the only “developed” nation that can make such a boast), and male life expectancy of 66 (below many African nations Russians despise because they are so racist/xenophobic)… So enjoy Putinstan, the future is bright…

        • Eddy Verhaeghe

          ‘The Russian population is, albeit slowly, growing.’
          O yes, it is. But have you noticed that the percentage non Russian speakers is growing very, very fast?

        • MPK

          The only reason Russian population is growing (if you call 0.1% growth) is because of migrant workers; especially in Asian russia. Low birth rates and educated workers still leaving Russia in large numbers. I do not care about demographics of Russia compared to Ukraine; Ukraine did not have the benefit of a natural resource boom like Russia. But what did Russia do with all the wealth – nothing. It is tied up in the hands of the Kremlin mafia. Russia is an autocratic kleptocracy; and until 2014 Ukraine was a vassal state. A more useful comparison would be Russia & Poland. Poland is enjoying peace, prosperity, personal freedoms, free press, rising living standards… While RU is regressing into USSR 2.0… I know you are a poorly paid, ignorant Russian troll; but this is why Ukraine wants the Poland model, and not broken Russian version….

      • HitchensImmortal .

        Tatars got there a lot fucking earlier than the Russians did.

  • Being

    What a Top Bloke that Cadet Andriy Hladun.
    Sympathetic from beginning reading.

    Good luck with you Andriy.

    As Randoph said earlier: “God Bless you and your fellow Ukrainian navy cadets.” + to Ukraine people as well.

  • Eddy Verhaeghe

    There’s more to life than careers and money.

    • Eddy Verhaeghe

      National identity? Like being a Crimean Tatar? Like being an Ukrainian? And of course like being a Russian?