Yarina Arieva and Svyatoslav Fursin were to marry on May 6. But Vladimir Putin rushed their plan. Last Thursday, the day Russian troops launched their offensive against Ukraine, Yarina, 21, and her lover Sviatoslav, 24, decided to get married at full speed in Kiev.
The celebrations were minimalist. The next day, the newlyweds swapped the traditional Ukrainian clothes worn during the ceremony for military fatigues. And they joined a Ukrainian territorial defense unit from the capital.
“It’s a strange honeymoon,” said Yarina, reached by phone Sunday evening, when her husband had just returned from his first two-day mission outside Kiev.
They both live in an office building converted into barracks, near the district that houses government buildings in the Ukrainian capital.
There are hundreds, maybe a thousand, says Yarina Arieva. The young recruits of the improvised territorial defense in disaster after the Russian invasion sleep on mattresses of ground or squarely on the ground.
The atmosphere is extraordinary, we sing, we laugh. We are so positive, we all believe that we will win, that we will not surrender, that we will free our country from these animals that have entered our land.
For the moment, the bulk of the Russian troops are stationed about thirty kilometers from Kiev. Over the past few days, Ukrainian authorities have imposed a curfew in the capital to protect against “saboteurs” – Russian soldiers who infiltrate the city, sometimes posing as Ukrainian soldiers, to prepare for the final assault. Some have already been spotted and arrested.
The Ukrainian government has issued a decree banning men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the city. Civilians are massively busy preparing Molotov cocktails to welcome the Russian tanks. The Ministry of Defense claims to have distributed 25,000 assault weapons to civilians. And many public figures have swelled the ranks of the territorial defense.
Among them, ex-president Petro Poroshenko, former boxer and mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, or even opposition MP Kira Rudik, who claims to have learned to handle a Kalashnikov in recent days.
Yarina Arieva and Sviatoslav Fursin are among the volunteers ready to defend their city and their country.
Yarina is a young member of the Kyiv City Council, where she represents the European Solidarity Party.
Many of her fellow workers and party activists also took up arms, she said.
His father, Volodymyr Ariev, that The Press had met in 2014 in the midst of a protest against the former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, represents this same party of European Solidarity in the Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament.
Sviatoslav Fursin is a computer engineer. Like his wife, he has no military experience. He says he learned to handle firearms from his father over the years.
And like his young spouse, he wants to stay in Kiev, no matter what.
“I have no intention of giving my city to this character that is Putin,” Svyatoslav drops, in an exhausted voice.
Two days at the front
When we reach the couple on Sunday, Sviatoslav Fursin has just returned from the Ukrainian defense station where he has not slept a wink for 48 hours.
He had previously procured a used fatigues from the British Army and was given an AK-47. “I provided my own boots,” he insists.
His battalion was posted about twenty kilometers north of Kiev, with anti-tank weapons.
“I lead a team of 10 men, we must prevent Russian tanks from breaking through our line of defense”, explains the young man.
In a hoarse voice, he says that, until now, seeing the Ukrainian defense, the Russian tanks have turned back or branched off.
“Several have entered the forest,” he said. At the time of our conversation, Sviatoslav Fursin had not taken part in any fights.
After spending two days fretting over him, Yarina was relieved to find him. “He is now allowed to sleep for eight hours, but he will have to leave tomorrow morning,” she said. To go where ? Svyatoslav didn’t know. “It could be anywhere. »
Yarina Arieva also got herself a combat weapon, but does not intend to go to the front. “My physical condition does not allow it,” she explains. On the other hand, it is active behind the scenes. She works in the collective kitchen. And she is trained in first aid, in case there are injuries.
The example of Crimea
Sviatoslav Fursin says he lived for five years in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
What he saw there encouraged him to fight against Vladimir Putin’s troops.
“In the old days, in Yalta, when it was a Ukrainian city, there was music everywhere, jazz, classical music that you could hear by the sea. Since the Russians occupied Crimea, we don’t ‘hear more than Russian songs, there are police everywhere, they stop you for nothing and can put drugs in your pockets to ask you for a bribe,’ he laments.
I lived in occupied Crimea and I don’t want my country to become like occupied Crimea.
Isn’t he afraid of what awaits him the day the Russian army launches its general offensive against Kiev?
“I am not a hero, assures Sviatoslav Fursin, I do not want to die. But I’m not afraid for me. I lead 10 men, I’m responsible for them and I have a job to do. »
His wife remembers the shock she felt when she heard the first sirens at dawn last Thursday. “At first it was panic, fear, then tears, depression,” she says.
Then Yarina realized that she had to take action. And she decided to join the Kyiv Defense Force.
“I understood that my place was here and that’s what I have to do. »