We continue on with this piece from RIA News.
Andrei Veselov’s next subject, an officer in the Prilepin Battalion, preferred not to give his name. He says he does not fear anything, he just doesn’t like to be singled out as somebody special. We will call him Officer N. Yesterday I mistakenly posted that N is from Kazakhstan — that was a too-quick pre-skim. N is actually a local, born and raised, but his father came here from Kazakhstan. As a youth N was an athlete, a boxer. He received a serious injury, which ended his athletic career. He subsequently went on to study law. He reports that half of the students he studied with “fight for the other side”. Initially N fought in Givi’s “Somali” Battalion and was wounded several times. Now he fights in Prilepin’s Battalion.
N complains that the worst thing about this war is its indeterminate character. Now that it has assumed a long-term “positional” character [not unlike the trench warfare of WWI]. “It’s not like the war we had in 2014, but it also cannot be called peace. It’s aggravating to be constantly wondering: Is it okay to go for a stroll with your girlfriend around Donetsk? And knowing all the time that your comrades are going hungry in the trenches, and being shot at. It really sucks to exist in this type of situation.” Nonetheless, N has no intention of laying down his weapons until the conflict is truly over. “And when this war is over, then I may just take off and go live in a different country. Why shouldn’t I travel the world? I have been in other countries, I even know English. I really like rap-music, and for a long time I was fully engaged in American culture. I consider myself a highly multicultural person, as the expression goes. But I have vowed not to leave until all is quiet here. At that point no bastard will be ever be able to say to me: What are you doing here? You have a war going on at home.”
The next fighter interviewed goes by his call-sign “Graf”, which is Russian for “Count”. As in, for example, The Count of Monte Cristo. Graf explains his call-sign, which is actually part of his real name: “I have divergent roots. One grandfather was Reinhold Reinholdovich Graf. The other grandfather was Ivan Ivanovich Safonov. My mother did not want to part with either set of names, so my parents decided to combine them. My first name is Rodion, and my family name is Graf-Sofonov. With a hyphen.”
Once again, and God please forgive me again, here is Graf’s hit-list page. Which reports that he was born on February 27, 1992. Oh, and I just noticed a strange coincidence: Crash-Top’s hitlist page also reported his birthday on February 27, but in 1986 in his case. Is that just a coincidence that both men share a birthday, or does the hit-list page just use February 27 as a default date when they don’t know the actual one? I confess I do not know the answer to that question. And one thing that truly irritates me about the Mirotvorec site, besides the fact they are inciting to assassination, is that they blast you with egregriously schmaltzy Russian music when you click on the site. Avakov’s little joke, no doubt.
In any case, if the 1992 year is correct, then Graf is a mere youth, only 25 years old. He tells Veselov that he was one of the first members to join the Prilepin Battalion, having first served in the “Mangust” Company. Graf started out as a trainer and worked his way up to Commander of his unit.
Rodion hails from Luhansk Province, to be precise from the village of Petrovka, which is close to the city of Schastye. “That’s occupied territory now, under the control of the Ukrainian army. I went off to fight in May of 2014. I have not been home since that day. The front line is 3 kilometers away from my home. And in the past 3 years the front line has not budged one inch.”
Prior to the incidents on Maidan, Rodion actually served in the Ukrainian army. At first in the training center of “Desna”, then in the 15th Mountain-Infantry Battalion. After his demobilization he worked for a while as a manager in the sale of parts. When Maidan erupted in 2014, he considered joining the demonstrators: “At first I liked what I saw there.” But soon enough he came to see the “true face” of Maidan: “The Right Sektor, the Banderites, the chants of Lynch All Moscowites! I didn’t like any of that.”
When Graf went home in April of 2014, his father told him that there will be war. “He was right, of course. I shot back at him: Okay, then give me a gun. I honestly don’t know if I was being sarcastic or not, but soon enough I was given an AKS-automatic rifle and two cartridges. That’s how it all started.”
Next: The story of Shaman, from Moscow.
[to be continued]