- Ilya Barabanov
- BBC Russian Service
“Sir, sir, your colleagues are not reachable by phone. It seems that we are being bombed,” – I never thought that I would wake up someday from such words in the center of Kiev.
Since the beginning of November, when the American face began to warn of an imminent invasion from Russia, that this is simply impossible.
In 2014, I worked on the Maidan when the Ukrainians overthrew Viktor Yanukovych, then in Crimea when it was annexed by Russia, and then in the manufacturing plants of Ukraine, where self-proclaimed republics were then just emerging.
From the first day, Russia denied its participation in this conflict, stating that there were no troops in the Donbass. But I perfectly remembered September 2014, when Russian tanks were advancing and taking Novoazovsk, a small town on the shores of the Sea of Azov.
On that day, my colleagues and I drove up to the dense Russian-Ukrainian border and just live, from where almost tanks were coming at us. They went from Russia, there was simply nowhere else for them to come from. But I went live on the Moscow radio station with which I used to work, I heard about it, but no one told me: “You’re confusing something.”
I remember February 2015, when Russian troops stormed the city of Debaltseve, after which the hot phase of the war ended with the signing of the second Minsk agreements. Then I was the first to write that servicemen from Buryatia, a republic made in Russia with a predominantly Buddhist population, were taking part in the storming of the city.
I remembered all this very well, and I also remembered the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the horrendous electoral fraud, and the rewriting of the Russian Constitution in order to “zero out” the president’s term of office. They still do not believe that Vladimir Putin can launch a full-scale second invasion of Ukraine.
But now a hotel employee was standing in front of my bed and scaredly saying: “It seems that we are being bombed.” Despite the fact that the bank terminal continued to work, we had a hitch – the girl’s hands were trembling so much that she could not fill out the documents.
In my opinion, my Kiev friend and chosen one, does not have my driver in Odessa, because this city is also bombed and he has to deal with a girl towards Moldova. We solved this problem in about an hour, finding out along the way that taxi drivers managed to double the prices.
A friend who left Kyiv in the afternoon in Lviv for a job interview was advised: is it worth returning to the capital of Ukraine by train? We have decided that train stations and railroad tracks will be a target for missiles, so it’s not worth doing this yet.
A former military man from Vinnitsa, whom I visited two weeks ago, was very worried and said that he was trying to evacuate his ex-wife with a child from Kharkov. But there are tickets only for tomorrow, and the battles of this are already going on on the outskirts of a city of one and a half million people – to go from it to the border with the western part of the country.
I went outside to go to Podol and work from there. You only had to walk two blocks. And these were probably the two most empty neighborhoods in my life. No people, no cars, although usually Podol is the center of Kiev life, a place where there are always crowds of young people and tourists.
Low clouds hide not only the sun, but also combat aircraft. By the middle of the day, fighters began to constantly fly over the office of Kiev, but we did not even suspect that these were planes: Ukrainian or Russian? Hide in anticipation of the bombing or stay at a high level to be the first to break the news if it starts?
Several times the reader repeated the air raid alert, but the mobile Internet worked intermittently with the producers, so I had to take a 10-second video to Twitter for 20 minutes.
I don’t know if there was at least one German citizen in Kiev on June 22, 1941, when Adolf Hitler attacked the USSR, but today I felt like such a German with my passport.
None of my representatives of Ukrainian friends said a single bad word to me that day, while Russian aircraft bombed one Ukrainian city after another. Although, perhaps they are necessary on this full right. But for me, a big moral dilemma remains: how, after this business trip, when the horror of the war subsides a bit, should I return home to our country, the authorities that did this to Ukraine today.