Today continuing the saga of Ukrainian citizen Alexander Akopov, the Hero Pilot. I decided, for the sake of fairness, it was necessary to translate Akopov’s entire interview, instead of just paraphrasing or excerpting sound bites.
Recall that Captain Akopov was awarded with a “Medal of Valor” by Ukrainian President Poroshenko. Very soon thereafter, Ukrainian Nationalists discovered that Akopov possibly has “incorrect” political views, and they began to clamor that his medal be revoked. There was even talk of putting him on Avakov’s infamous “Mirotvorec” (“Peacekeeper”) hit-list. Which is a website maintained, in Orwellian fashion, by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, and contains the names and addresses of political dissidents targeted for assassination.
Ironically, Avakov and Akopov (apparently) share some Armenian DNA, along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. All three men hail from the Soviet era, where the various nationalities got along fairly well and there was lots of inter-marriage. Hence, all have similar facial features. But it is telling that Hero-Pilot Akopov chose Lavrov’s schnozz and not Avakov’s as the avatar for his Facebook page.
That was the very first thing that jumped out at the Nationalists, as well as the fact that Akopov hails from the city of Donetsk – gasp! Inside that thuggish mush that passes for their “brains”, they determined that Akopov is not really one of them. And they are probably correct about that. Akopov claims to be non-political, but one thing about him really stands out: He is an outstanding professional, intelligent and highly skilled. Those traits alone separate him from the general herd.
Akopov: “I am not a Separatist.”
A few days ago (July 31) Akopov got a chance to tell his side of the story on the Ukrainian portal Strana.UA. The two interlocutors are Svetlana Kriukova and Anastasia Tovt. Akopov himself is currently residing in Istanbul [a wise choice], and the interview took place over the phone.
Strana: When you heroically landed the hail-battered plane in Istanbul, everybody applauded you, and the President gave you a medal. And then people began to bay about “zrada” [=”betrayal”], because of your profile in the social media. Have you been following the things they write about you?
Akopov: I don’t really follow it, but certain things were brought to my attention.
Strana: And how do you feel about this?
Akopov: It is very unpleasant, of course. But this is how I see it: You can’t place a napkin over every mouth [yalensis: Russian rhyming proverb: на каждый роток не наденешь платок]. In the times in which we live, this is a normal phenomenon. Once they call a man a hero, then they have to criticize him.
Strana: Among other things, they accuse you of being from Donetsk.
Akopov: I was actually born in Borispol, near Kiev. But I do actually reside in Donetsk, yes. When I was 13 my father was transferred to Donetsk. He is also a pilot, we are actually a dynasty! And I lived there (in Donetsk) until I was 21. And then I continued to fly out of Donetsk.
Strana: Tell us some more about yourself. Where did you learn to fly?
Akopov: I graduated from the Krasnokut Aviation School for Civil Aviation, in 1987. Then the St. Petersburg State University for Civil Aviation. I worked in the Donetsk Unified Aerial Unit, and then for the [private] company “Rose of the Breezes”. And after all these events happened in Donetsk, I started working for the Turkish company AtlasGlobal. I have been working there for 3 and a half years already.
Strana: What is your level of seniority in aviation?
Akopov: I have been a pilot since 1987. Hence, as it turns out, 30 years!
Strana: You’re saying that when the Donbass conflict began, you left Donetsk?
Strana: And that profile in the social media, the avatar with the photo of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – that belongs to you?
Akopov: Yes, that’s mine.
Strana: Just one question: Why Lavrov?
Akopov: One of our flight attendants took my photo [that I used for the avatar]. I simply look very similar to Lavrov. We have the same facial structure, the same features. Yes, I placed [these photos side by side] on my avatar, but that was a long time ago, before the war broke out in Donetsk.
Strana: But you didn’t change it after the war started.
Akopov: No, and I do not intend to change it. Although, after I landed that plane, and people started to write about me in the social media, various people began to advise me to change my avatar. But I understand that these are mercantile interests. I am not connected in any way with politics.
[to be continued]