Azovstal defenders: Refugees should be asked if Crimea is part of Ukraine

Dmytro Andryushenka a.k.a Diplomat on the left, Serhi Judin a.k.a Walter in the middle, Astrid Kannel on the right.
Dmytro Andryushenka a.k.a Diplomat on the left, Serhi Judin a.k.a Walter in the middle, Astrid Kannel on the right. Source: Krista Rannamäe/ERR

A corrupt official stealing humanitarian aid is an enemy just like a Russian who shows up to kill people, Azov Regiment fighters codenamed Diplomat and Walter told ERR in an interview. The men are critical of the authorities for failing to sufficiently prepare the population for widespread war in Ukraine.

Diplomat or Dmytro Andryushenka and Walter or Serhi Judin visited Estonia together with Lithuanian director Rimas Bružas who has made a film about Azovstal fighters called "Soldier." The film and the full interview (in Russian) can be caught on Jupiter.

There are a lot of Ukrainian refugees in Estonia. Do you think they're all Ukrainian patriots too?

Diplomat, Dmytro Andryushenka: I think it is normal that women and children are coming. Also those who have left physically occupied territories and whose homes have been completely destroyed. For example, from towns like Bucha, Irpin, Izium, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Bakhmut or Soledar, where people have nowhere to live. Not everyone has access to support or donations etc.

For example, people were quickly given aid, places to stay after the recent act of terrorism in Dnipro. But to find space for all Mariupol residents, with recent estimates suggesting 300,000 people relocated to other parts of Ukraine – it is an insane figure! There is a massive different between [helping] 100 families and 300,000 people. You cannot find lodging for all of them.

Therefore, most people leave to save their children. They have seen bombing, people dying and their homes being destroyed. They travel to Europe to save their children, if only psychologically.

That said, I do not understand why families are leaving Central and Western Ukraine. Who are the loudest when demanding shelter, aid, social benefits, guarantees from Europe? Based on what I've gathered from talking with friends, it's people from the westernmost part of Ukraine. People who haven't even seen the war. They see it on photographs, television and the news.

We need to take care of our women and children, especially children. They do not need to see all of this misery. But as concerns the men, and this surprised me everywhere – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia also has a lot... Poland! In Poland, Warsaw especially, every fifth "tourist" speaks Ukrainian, I've heard it for myself... Their average age is 20-40, a conscript's age. I do not understand why they have left, why they're staying abroad instead of doing their duty in Ukraine? I'm not even talking about the military or a soldier's duty.

Ukraine needs everyone: builders, handymen, doctors, drivers, you name it! You do not have to sit in a trench assault rifle in hand to be useful because not everyone can or wants to fight, some are mortally afraid, and I understand all of it.

But you can help in other ways, by contributing to the country's economy, just working a job. We have all manner of investment programs for small and medium businesses. We have domestic and Western investments. Ukraine is trying to refrain from complaining because of the war, saying that everything is doomed but rather live normally and keep developing despite difficult conditions. Business and industries are still going... The state and its people are trying to lead full lives.

I do not understand the men who are leaving. Recent experience suggests pro-Russian men are the quickest to leave. People who were shouting the loudest, waiting for Putin and Russia to come. But once Putin did come, they quickly sought to escape to Poland, Lithuania, the U.K., France, Germany etc. Suddenly, they no longer want Putin. I find that extremely peculiar.

I agree with my friend Walter who says that these people, when they arrive, need to be asked three questions. People who arrive in Estonia should immediately be summoned to the embassy and asked who does Crimea belong to, who is Putin and... I forgot the third one.

Walter, Serhi Judin: What is happening in Ukraine? Is it a civil war or a war between Russia and Ukraine?

Diplomat: Three questions, let them answer and sign their name on the bottom. Also, take their fingerprints, so they couldn't deny it later.

How does it make you feel to read about corruption in Ukraine after Azovstal? High-ranking officials pocketing funds meant for the front?

Walter: There is a good expression, "Spanish shame." It means feeling embarrassed not because of what you do but because of the actions of others tied to you through citizenship and state. What is happening in Ukraine every day, was happening and will continue to happen, is officials coming to work not to serve their people and country but to line their own pockets.

Unfortunately, high-ranking officials in Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and other oblasts simply stole humanitarian aid. That is why, if you want to help Ukraine, we would urge you to keep an eye on how that aid is distributed, who gets it and whether it reaches the right people.

Unfortunately, 15-20 percent of people in the country still believe and are waiting for Putin after 11 months of war. And those 20 percent are not pensioners sitting at home but people serving in the military, police, courts, prosecution, tax authority... All walks of life.

They could simply hold aid back, fail to forward it to the front or those who need it in time. It is very important not just to help but to see where aid ends up, in whose hands. Why them and not straight to the front?

There are many such moments, which Dima mentioned. There are three lines of defense on the front. The first, second and third. If the first line scares you, be on the second, carrying ammunition and shells, give the medics a hand.

I agree that not everyone is born a soldier. For example, I was a businessman in Odesa before the war. Diplomat used to be a lawyer in Mariupol. But we understood that we were under attack, that the war would not be contained in Mariupol and could come to Odesa, which lies 650 kilometers away. That is why I packed my things and went to the front. I did not wait for the summons. I packed my things and went. Left behind my company and family. I have two children aged six and 12. They were five and 11 when I left. I packed my things and went to the front. Because if I don't go and he doesn't go, they will come to our homes.

My home is not just Odesa or Southern Ukraine, it is all of Ukraine. Mariupol is also my home. And Dima (Diplomat) is a relative, like my own brother or sister. We have long been taught the phrase, "I'm Ukrainian and my house is the outermost." As if I were a traitor. But really, the other half of the sentence goes: "... that is why I will be the first to meet the enemy." And Dima's home was in Mariupol. He met the enemy first, with me. And I met the enemy with him because Ukraine is our home.

I visited Kyiv immediately before the war. Analysts were saying there would not be one. When did you realize that there was going to be war?

Walter: We felt that war was coming back in 2014. It was a frozen conflict meant to give the enemy time to prepare. Unfortunately, our country did not prepare for the coming war thoroughly enough. Before the war, 30 percent of residents supported Russia. People whose roots were back there. They were brought to Ukraine by force after Holodomor and World War II and left there, while their roots remained in Russia. That is why they were waiting for Putin, for Russia to come. Unfortunately, our country did not prepare as it should have.

Diplomat: I would elaborate... We have been discussing cases of corruption in Ukraine in recent days among friends. Wartime rules mean that stealing from your country equals stealing from the taxpayer. Stealing from the taxpayer is the same as stealing from those who elected and appointed you.

Officials serve the country, and the country serves the people. The constitution clearly states that supreme power is wielded by the people. In Ukraine and any other normal developed country. Therefore, it constitutes treason, and those who perpetrate it are enemies, just like Russians who show up to kill people. They are also killing us by taking money from the budget, money that could be spent on weapons, food, drones, generators. Instead, they just pocket it. It should carry a life sentence, not just five or ten years.

Now, about the war. We realized that it was war when they took Crimea. Having a piece of your territory taken away is war. They moved in troops, started developing infrastructure etc. There is no louder alarm than that.

Coming back to full-scale war: between Crimea and February 24, we had the eastern front in Donbas for eight years where news of casualties was monthly. Not by the dozens or hundreds, a few guys, but our people were getting killed nonetheless. It was war. The war was ongoing, stationary positional warfare so to speak. As concerns full-blown war, I honestly cannot imagine how the "wise" analysts could have said there would be no large-scale war when Russia amassed 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, moved in over 74 battalion tactical groups, built new landing strips for planes and helicopters etc. in December and January.

People who show up for exercises do not construct airfields or come with aircraft. We also discussed it with Walter – they started bringing in stationary field hospitals, blood for transfusions... Things you don't do without a purpose. These were clear signs which we analyzed for ourselves in the Azov Regiment and realized there would be war. We knew but the generals and the brass did not? Foolishness! One doesn't even have to be military, it's enough to read the news and think for a spell, analyze the situation.

On February 16, access to the Black Sea aquatic area was cut off, allegedly for military drills, with the Sea of Azov cut off completely. That was it! The reason was obvious. I cannot fathom who could have failed to realize there would be full-blown war. All the signs were there to see. Besides, it was reported that British and American intelligence had warned there would be war. That was another alarm that went off in my head. I read it all – Russian news, Telegram, Western and Ukrainian news, and compare them... I'm not concerned with who is right. I just read it all, analyze it, take notes and put the pieces together.

French President Emmanuel Macron visiting immediately before the war (I do not remember the exact date) to engage in talks was another sign – the last of Europe's geopolitical leaders trying to talk sense into Putin and convince him not to launch his war. It was obvious. I watched Macron's press conference upon his return. Reading the summary, I immediately realized that he failed to reach an agreement because Putin had lost it. That was it! It was crystal then.

I told the boys that we should prepare. I honestly cannot tell you who failed to realize it was coming.

They thought that there might be war but not in Kyiv.

Walter: That is what Dima and I thought. That something would happen in the east, they would deny involvement, saying it was the DPR or LPR and that we should take it up with them. But I am sure our country, our president knew it was coming. The Americans and Brits told him the offensive would come from four or five directions. Crimea, which gives access to Mariupol and Odesa; the Kyiv direction through Belarus; Sumy and finally Kharkiv. They knew. We didn't but they knew it. And they did nothing.

Embassies panicked and packed up, while our information was that everything was just fine. Zelenski said we would be cooking shashlik around the May holidays as usual. But at least 100,000 people didn't because they were killed. People who believed Kyiv was dangerous when the war started and decided to go to Bucha or Irpin, found themselves besieged and spent a month sitting in basements. Some survived, other were killed.

Who is to blame? Who failed to warn people? Who lacked the courage to say, friends, the situation is precarious, let us come together and prepare. The major sitting next to me got to tell his lads to start making preparations a month, two weeks before the war, while the supreme commander failed to send that message to his subordinates.

You took refuge in the Azovstal steel works together with thousands of people. How was life organized there?

Diplomat: Journalists in Ukraine have sometimes referred to us as the defenders of Azovstal. But we were not Azovstal's defenders. We were the defenders of Mariupol. Or of Ukraine. Azovstal was simply a reinforced location, the last stronghold we could use to defend the city. We were not protecting the factory. That way, we could also say we were the defenders of the Builders Street or building number 186 on some other street, defenders of the Peace Prospect, two kiosks and a grocery store... We dig in where it's advantageous.

/..../ Azovstal simply became the symbol and, besides, it sounds good: Azov and stal (steel). It was just symbolism. But we were not the defenders of the plant but rather the city.

How was life... We lived underground, broadly speaking, in communication tunnels and bunkers. We basically had an underground city there. It was like living in the movie "District 13." Everyone had their own quarter. It was a sprawling underground city. We set up our tents, field kitchens, or rather underground kitchens, hospital and food warehouses.

Walter: The civilians who were there with us were plant workers or former workers, family members of Mariupol's defenders. People who believed in Ukraine but could not leave Mariupol because it was surrounded. Their homes had been destroyed and they had nowhere to live. They sought refuge in the Azovstal plant when they lost their homes. They were given their own bunkers.

Did you see them there?

Walter: I knew they were there but did not see them for myself. I knew they were in some of the bunkers, that they were being given water and medicines. When the window to get the civilians out opened, we wanted to get it done as quick as possible. It freed up some of the bunkers, freed up food, water and drugs, all of which we needed. We were sharing all of it with the civilians. That is why the leaders of the regiment decided to hand them over as quickly as possible, send them safely to Ukraine.

I remember there were small children there. One child was really very young. Do you happen to know where they are and how they're doing?

Diplomat: From what I've gathered from social media, most of them are abroad. They are refugees in different places: Poland, Czechia and Germany. Their fate is the same as that of other people who used to live in the conflict zone.

How much sleep did you get in Azovstal during the siege?

Walter: It varied, while it was hardly ever more than four or five hours. We had to relieve one another. Besides, you couldn't sleep long because of constant explosions nearby.

The bunker I was in was not a purpose-built bomb shelter. They were civilian bunkers for workers in case of fire or when a cistern or workstation blew up. When bombs and missiles from aircraft landed next to us, our bunker swayed like a hammock.

You were under constant bombardment. What did you do when you feared for your life?

Walter: Personally, I tried not to think about it. Allow me to give an example. I was wounded, while there was some food left after dinner in our bunker. The wounded usually got the leftovers.

My friend asked me: "Should we leave the food for the morning or eat it now?" I asked him whether he was sure he would last until the morning. We didn't know what was going to happen the next minute. A bomb fell in my bunker on two occasions. It was a miracle I escaped with my life. I shouldn't be alive, I could have died many times in Mariupol. But I lived.

And my friend... We were in sleeping bags because it was cold. He took his pistol with him into the sleeping bag so he could shoot himself should it come to that. For example, should the bunker collapse with no way to save him, he could shoot himself. I asked him how he planned to shoot with the gun in the sleeping bag and his hands in there too, blocked by a ceiling panel that fell on top.

In other words, you had to sleep in a way that would still allow you to do something if the bunker collapsed. There was no way out because the concrete slabs weighed several tons, and we had no cranes with which to lift them. We could not get to people trapped under rubble. It was possible in Dnipro because the site was small, the bombing had ended, and there were many people and equipment at hand to tear it apart.

We had no such luxury. A light wound could see you dead in a week as we had run out of antibiotics. There was nothing left with which to treat injuries. That is why the leadership decided to lay down our weapons.

What did you think and feel when it became apparent no one was coming to save you?

Walter: We believed until the very end. I believed something had to happen. At first, we believed there would be a military breakthrough. That they would create a corridor and we could slip through. Then we realized that we were over 125 kilometers inside the besieged area. We realized that military options simply didn't exist and that there were only political ones.

We hoped Erdogan would talk to Putin and we could take a ship to Turkey. That plan also failed. Next, we thought they might come to an agreement. We just kept fighting until the last minute. We hoped the horror would end soon. We were out of shells and down to cartridges. We had a little food and water left. At most, we could have held out for another month. That was it.

Which was worse? Being trapped in the plant or prison in Russia?

Walter: Talking about myself and my friend here, we got lucky. We only spent four months in jail. But the boys who have been in prison for eight-nine months by now... I believe that had they known, they would not have laid down their arms and would have fought to the last.

The thought also came to me in prison that I was a fool to follow orders. That I should have kept fighting until the end. Dying in combat is boom and you're done. It is better than suffering through the horror of imprisonment day in, day out.

Can you talk about what happened in prison yet? Or if you cannot, why not?

Diplomat: First, because it will reach Russian special services. Secondly, because every word we utter could be used against our boys. They have it worse then we do. We can get in the car and go out for croissants, while they cannot. That much is clear.

Once they're all out, I believe every guy will write his memoirs, give interviews and talk about it all. We have a few things we could say, while they have more. They will talk when the last fighter is free. And this does not only include Azovstal fighters. Lads from other places are being held; from Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Chernobyl... A lot of lads from different units are being held prisoner.

When the last fighter is out of jail, everyone will say what they believe should be said. What you must realize is that our conduct today, also our silence, is indicative of the attitude we experienced, why we don't want to talk about it. I believe that had it been like Swedish prison, we would be telling you how we played tennis and computer games, went on 30-minute excursions...

Walter: Hit the tanning salon...

Diplomat: But, unfortunately, it was all very different.

Walter: Just 10 percent of the Azovstal lads have been released, with 90 percent of Mariupol's defenders whose last stronghold was in Azovstal or 1,800 people still held prisoner. In very difficult, grueling and tormenting conditions.

Your commanders, Denys Prokopenko and Svyatoslav Palamar, are currently in Turkey. What do we know about them?

Diplomat: I believe they are fine. We only know what we have picked up here and there. They cannot communicate with the outside world. That is their deal. Basically, they are still being held prisoner, simply in Turkey and under normal conditions. I know they are fed well, they have hot water for washing and are not under the kind of stress and psychological and physical pressure like in Russia. That is good in itself, and we're glad.

Knowing our commander, he wants to return to Ukraine. I know he would gladly come back and lead units to war. It is a million percent certain, and it is weighing on him that he cannot come, gather the lads and lead his unit against the enemy once again. It is eating him, we know. But the conditions are what they are.

Do you plan to return to the front?

Walter: We specifically – yes. 80 percent of our lads are still there. The only way to free them is to win this war.

We are speaking Russian. It is the language of our common enemy. How do you see the future of Russian in Ukraine?

Diplomat: It has no future.

Walter: There is no place for Russian in Ukraine.

Diplomat: That much is for certain. The fact that 40 percent of Ukrainian residents speak Russian, especially in the south and east, is not because we're terribly fond of it. It is the result of centuries of occupation, the imperialist program of forcing their culture and language on us.

It has been centuries of hybrid warfare that picked up around the time of the red terror and under the guise of so-called Bolshevism and communism during the Soviet period. It has been forced on us for decades, and people in Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol had to attend Russian school from a young age, where Ukrainian language and culture were minor subjects taught a few times a week. There was a lot of Russian language and literature.

Walter: School was entirely in Russian.

Diplomat: We were occupied. Russian is merely a tool for international communication for me today. We find it more convenient to speak Russian in former Soviet occupied territories because our English is not good enough for proper self-expression yet. But we're getting there, which I really felt in Lithuania. Young people there speak English. It's the same in Georgia. These are people who know the meaning of Russian terror. Young people in Georgia and Lithuania speak good English, and it is very nice to see.

Coming back to Ukraine – many have polished their English to shake having to use Russian internationally. For example, so they can speak English when going on holiday. We are also in the process of complete Ukrainization, which started in 2015-2016. Schools and kindergartens are in Ukrainian. Russian language and literature are no longer separate subjects but just one part of the chapter of "foreign literature." A part of foreign literature, no more.

The Ukrainian society is switching to Ukrainian, even though some may not be fluent or speak Surzhyk. It is tough if you've spent your whole life speaking Russian.

Is Surzhyk Ukrainian or Russian?

Diplomat: For us, Surzhyk is Russian. (Surzhyk refers to a range of mixed sociolects of Ukrainian and Russian languages used in certain regions of Ukraine – ed.)

We feel that Russian is a mix of many languages, they have stolen everything from Western and Eastern cultures. One does not have to be a philologist so see that. We are in many ways similar to the Poles, Czechs, Croatians, Slovenians and Slovakians. We understand one another if the person speaks slowly and clearly. It is the same with Belarusians. When a Belarusian person speaks Belarusian, it is quite similar to Ukrainian and we understand them. But a Russian doesn't understand us or the Belarusians. How can we talk about brotherhood? They forced themselves on us, they are forcing their language on the Belarusians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, also Estonians back in the day, during the Soviet period I mean.

I have seen patriots who only speak Russian in Ukraine with my own eyes.

Walter: It's enough to look at us...

With both Russian and Ukrainian-speaking people on the front, which language is used?

Walter: Whichever is more convenient at the time. You're constantly under a lot of stress on the front. When stressed, you use the language that comes to your first. It could be a Ukrainian word or a Russian one. It is impossible to retune yourself there. It is possible in civilian life.

I'm from Odesa, and just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. In 1920, 80 percent of the residents of Odesa spoke Ukrainian. By 1990, 90 percent spoke Russian. If back in 1950, Odesa had 50 Ukrainian schools, there were just two or three by 1990. I consider myself a victim of occupation because I had to spend 48 of my 50 years speaking Russian.

Diplomat: For us, Russian speakers, it became our native tongue simply because it was forced on us from when we were kids, and it was not just our parents' fault. For example, when the state, which should serve as a guarantor of its citizens' protection, did nothing to change it. Nothing was done even in the last few decades, since independence, in the 1990s and 2000s. Only now, after 2014, when things became painfully obvious, did we launch Ukrainization in earnest. That is when our national self-determination began.

By now, even many Russian-speaking people consider using Russian to be in poor taste. I have started writing in Ukrainian only. When I'm due to speak publicly, appear in videos, post on Instagram or Telegram, I do it in Ukrainian. I only speak Russian to other Russian-speakers as it is more convenient, gets things done faster. Otherwise, individual words would have to be translated, and it would slow things down and get in the way.

I hope that Russian will disappear from Ukraine in the next decade and will perhaps only be used as a foreign language, the language of the enemy that you need to know to understand what they're saying.

What would have to happen for Ukraine to forgive Russia?

Diplomat: There's nothing to be done. It is no longer possible. There will have to be reparations in either case. They will have to rebuild our cities, that much is for certain. Not the European Union, they have to do it!

It needs to be them but not in person. We don't want them here physically building our cities as they would erect slanting wooden huts with outhouses. I mean in terms of money, finances and possibilities.

But to forgive... It is impossible to forgive losing a single loved one, but thousands of lives... And those thousands include the lives of hundreds of Ukrainian children! It is unforgivable.

We can look at the history of Byzantium, the Roman Empire or the Third Reich –they also had wars. But you look at it simply as history, from a distance; they're just lines of text in a book. If you're part of history and war, you feel it in the present, in the civilized 21st century where we have technology, people ponder space flight and floating cars, while someone is firing missiles at you, bombing residential neighborhoods and destroying your infrastructure.

Such things are fundamentally unforgivable. Besides you cannot forgive people who – and I'm not talking about the government or the state but Russian people – they are completely insane! Look at interviews with them on YouTube – they sincerely believe the nonsense they're being fed. You can't do anything but look at that nonsense and laugh.

All of their shows – "Rossiya 24," "60 Minutes," and I tune in regularly to see what they are saying, or appearances by Skabayeva, Kiselyov or Solovyov – they are like stand-up comedy. They're like comedy shows for me, good for a laugh. What kind of an idiot believes them? "We will decimate America, throw them a nuclear bomb!" I imagine that if someone would show these performances to C. D. Payne or Kim Jong-un, they would think – what a bunch of idiots! I believe people would tell Kim Jong-un: "You are a true democrat!" And he would say, "Yes, I am a democrat!" I'm being serious!

Walter: I have boys aged six and 12. When I was in the hospital, my six-year-old told his mother: "When I grow up, I will defend Ukraine from the katsaps just like father!" Katsaps are those you call Moscovites. I believe that the generation currently growing up in bomb shelters... my six-year-old son knows from experience what it's like to spend hours on end sitting in a bomb shelter, or if you only have electricity for a few hours every day during which to cook and eat. You have to eat food cold at other times, as there is no way to heat it or cook more.

Odesa lies 650 kilometers from the front. Even less now – 400 kilometers. They are not being bombed right now – thank heavens, while they still spend time sittings in basements every day because of air raid sirens. My six-year-old son will not forgive them. He will live to be at least 78-80, and for those 70 years at least he will not forgive them. It will start to be forgotten after that, political scientists will come and say that we need to forgive and forget... Personally, we won't forget.

Diplomat: You know, I just remembered an interesting episode. A representative of Russian special services said to me during my interrogation: "You hohols..." He first tries to demean you simply in the way he addresses you, and then he continues: "I'm asking you in a civilized way!" He starts by insulting me, thinking he's being civilized. And the question: "Tell me, why do you hate us so much? What have we done to you?" I ask him in return: "Are you serious? You took away a part of our territory, annexed Crimea, occupied the Donbas, have spent eight years waging war against us, which is now in full swing, you destroyed and wiped away several of our cities, including my hope town Mariupol, you leveled it..."

Can you imagine Tallinn being leveled in a month? Mariupol used to cover a territory of 250 square kilometers, it used to have 600,000 residents, it was a major industrial city. It was simply wiped off the face of the Earth. And you ask me why we hate you? Seriously? Imagine that I come to your house. Let's say you live in a three-room apartment. I walk in, throw you out, tell everyone to get lost if they don't want their throats cut, and then come up to you and ask: "Friend, why do you hate me? What have I done to you?" It is exactly the same. Are you serious?! It's not in any way sane. You attack someone from behind, stab them in the neck, beat them, and while they're gurgling on the floor ask: "Why do you hate me, dog?"

When I asked him, his answer was something along the lines of, you started shooting first in the Donbas. That is when it hit me. I asked him how on Earth did we start it? You invaded us, you had the Strelkov-Girkin group. He told me how important he was, how he went to Slovyansk, Donetsk, how he organized it all. That he was an FSB operative, how he set up the special operation in Crimea...

A year later, Putin publicly admitted there was no self-defense or little green men there, that it was Russia. You publicly admitted it.

Or when Mariupol was being bombed from the air, I saw Lavrov say on YouTube that, yes, we bombed the maternity hospital because we thought Nazis were taking refuge there. Naturally, no one was hiding there.

I asked in return whether they would be bothered if the Ukrainian military, whom they theoretically weren't fighting, would fire a missile at the maternity hospital in Belgorod, with the Ukrainian foreign minister saying that, yes, we bombed the maternity hospital because we thought there were Nazis lying low there. What would be your reaction? Would you hate us? We did not come to you, in Belgorod or Krasnodar. We are not laying claim to your lands, we're fighting at home. But the people there are wearing blinkers. You knock on the door but no one answers. You cannot reach an agreement with such people.

And people like that make up 90 percent of the Russian population. Yes, they have young people still with the ability to think, opposition forces, liberals who think along Western lines and understand that war is bad. I have heard a few Russian actors and celebrities speak up. However, they really are few.

Walter: Navalny said of Crimea that he would not give it back as it is not a sandwich to be passed back and forth. Navalny is in jail and let him be there.

Diplomat: We have no problem with that. Let him sit there.

Walter: We want to thank you for rooting for Ukraine. Thank you very much for the Ukrainian flags we keep seeing all over Tallinn. We took a walk last night and it really made us feel all warm inside to see so much support.

We can see aid being collected for Ukraine right here (the interview took place in the warehouse of NGO Slava Ukraini – ed.). A great thank you goes out to all of you! It would be very hard for us there without your support. Every delivery you send us saves a life. The person would have frozen to death but lived because you sent them a warm sleeping bag. You collected donations and bought a drone that picked up on the enemy en route to our position, and you saved an entire outfit. You saved up, bought a thermal camera and saved ten people. A thermal camera saves at least ten lives every day. Every drone saves at least ten people daily.

Diplomat: And helps destroy enemies, which is paramount. It is so important that we have friends and allies like the Baltic countries. It is heartwarming when such small counties in terms of geography and population have much more heart and strength of spirit than geopolitical giants like France or Germany. It is simply powerful! You need to sell it to your people, young people, and especially Russian youths. I'm sure there are young Russians here whose parents hail from there and are putting a lot of pressure on them.

But they live here... and watch Russian television! It's all well and good living in a cool European city where there's grand architecture and bright lights, everything is beautiful and exciting around you... to sit here and say: "That Putin is a fine fellow, I wish this was also part of Russia!" Just go to Saratov or Voronezh and live there.

If you do not address this today, you will be where we are in 5-10 years. Russia will not calm down or give up its imperial ambitions.


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Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Marcus Turovski

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