The Russian who would defend Ukraine | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 11.03.2014
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The Russian who would defend Ukraine

In Crimea, Russian-speaking Ukrainians seem prepared to be annexed by Russia. Not all Russian speakers share that opinion, though. Meet Fyodor and Halyna, who might lack power but can certainly shake their fists.

The Solomachin family has hardly slept over the last few days. The dramatic events in Crimea worry them. Fyodor is Russian, and his wife, Halyna, is Ukrainian.

"Putin should defend the Russians in Russia, and I'll defend my Ukraine," Fyodor said resolutely. He is angry about Russia's action in Crimea.

Kakhovka is a provincial town in southern Ukraine. The Solomachin family has lived here for many years. Now, the television is on in their house nearly 24 hours per day. They mostly watch the Ukrainian TV station "5. Channel." Again and again, Kolya, their neighbor, comes in and asks, "Did you hear that? The fascists on Russian TV claim that we Ukrainians are fascists!" Kolya is also an ethnic Russian.

'Fascists' on both sides?

Two women and a man sit in front of the TV (Foto: Alexander Warkentin/DW)

The Solomachin familiy watches the news in TV

In the heated, nearly hysterical atmosphere, both Russia and Ukraine are accusing each other of being responsible for the situation in Crimea. The term "fascist" is easily used, but often it's not clear what exactly is meant. The dispute does always not run along ethnic divisions, as the example of the Solomachins and their neighbor Kolja shows. Many Russians in Ukraine are worried and horrified by Russia's action in Crimea.

Kakhovka is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the "EU prepares Russia sanctions, NATO sends planes to monitor Ukraineborder" of Crimea. Nevertheless, one gets the impression of being in a frontline town. Fyodor is more than 50 years old and says he would still volunteer if Ukraine mobilized its troops. He was good at shouting during his time in the Soviet army, he adds. His wife, Halyna, grumbles that he should rather stay calm. If he really were to sign on with the army, however, she says she would follow him to the front lines as a nurse.

'Putin and Yanukovych are bandits'

The Solomachin family does not think highly of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He's a thief, a liar and plain megalomaniac, they say. It's obvious, in their view, that former Ukrainian President Yanukovych just wanted to transfer Putin's corrupt model to Ukraine.

"They're both bandits," Halyna says.

On television, there's news of a convoy of 70 Russian military vehicles that reached Simferopol. Fyodor asks, "What is Putin thinking?"

People with Ukrainian flags demonstrate (Foto: Alexander Warkentin/DW)

People in Kherson protests against Russia's action on Crimea

The children of Fyodor and Halyna work as lecturers at the University of Kherson, the neighboring city. Both are Ukrainian patriots. Both organize demonstrations in Kherson against Russia's action in Crimea. During one of the demonstrations, the Lenin memorial was toppled, and an arm was broken off. The arm was stolen during night time, with thieves selling the revolutionary's body part as scrap metal, according to the rumors in Kherson and Kakhovka.

"Putin is not a Russian, he's a KGB spy. He has no nationality," says Halyna. She's the principal of the Russian school and a representative in Kakhovka's city council. She proudly emphasizes that, in spite of the pressure, she never voted for Yanukovych. It is good that the government in Kyiv finally changed, she says.

Two different worlds

Halyna has no understanding for the reporting about her country on Russian television.

"Oh my god! What kind of nonsense are these lunatics telling there? What could I have against Russians? They are our brothers, it's my Fyodor," Halyna says. And then she asks: "Why are they tolerating this hypocritical system in Russia?"

Back once more in Simferopol on Crimea: The woman at the reception of the hotel, a young Russian, asks me if I have interviewed all of the "fascists" in Ukraine. They're planning bombings in Crimea, she says. They want to blow up all the Russians. She says she heard this on Russian television.

Just 100 kilometers separate Kakhovka and Crimea. Reporting by Ukrainian and Russian media couldn't be more different. It seems that the people live in two different worlds.

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