«Then four more people came and kicked me for a couple of minutes»

Eyewitness interview with Vyacheslav Nikolaev

An affair in Germany.
Photo from the hero's personal archive

Roman is 48 years old. He lived in Torez, Donetsk region. He worked as a truck driver. In 2015, he was in a traffic accident, in which he miraculously survived, but lost his health. In April 2022, he was forced to move to Germany.

"P***r, you're lucky you're from Donetsk and you have a Donetsk car."

- I have literally experienced what the "Russian world" is like on my own skin.

There was a special checkpoint between Mariupol and Donetsk at the dawn of the "new government" in 2014. The most fierce of all. A dirty man with a machine gun asked me to open my trunk. I opened it - it was empty. He said: "What are you blabbing to me for?

First he put a cold muzzle to my temple. It was a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. Then the man stepped back and shot me twice under my feet. More men came out and threw me under the road on the embankment. Then four more people came and kicked me for a couple of minutes.

 He was kicked from above. It was a new kid, a doped-up kid, who got hit in the temple. Then a man sat above me and began to lecture me: they were fighting for me, but I was "blatant. They lifted me up from under the embankment. There was a barrel there and they gave me a wash.

Some jeep without license plates arrived - probably the commanders. I don't know what they were talking about. The one who pulled me over came back to me and said, "Well, p***r, you're lucky you're from Donetsk and your car is Donetsk. They let me go.

I drove away for a while, then got out of the car, took off all my clothes, they were all torn and bloody. I changed my clothes as best I could and put a band-aid on my eyebrow. After that came the final realization of the "Russian world.

There are no laws. He who has a gun in his hands is right.

It all started with deception, and it all ended with deception. In 2014, the Russian press called all these miracles "an uprising of miners and tractor drivers. But in fact my native Ukrainian land was simply seized, and the people were provoked and seduced with artificial slogans about "Russian peace.

Who were these "green men" who deprived us of a normal life? Here's an example. I was driving from Kiev to Verkhnee Toretskoe, carrying tea. It was early May 2014.

I approach the checkpoint, a guy in his 30s is sitting on a chair, wearing pants and a AK, with tattoos all over him. I could see that the guy had been sitting there for a long time.

He asked me, "What are you carrying, brother?" 
I said, "Tea." 
He remarked, "Tea is good." 
I said, "It's not the tea you think it is. It's road dust, the stuff they sweep up in the shops where they make tea, in bags." 
He said, "Oh, well, we don't drink that stuff," and let it pass. 
I understood that they let the convicts out and armed them.

And this is how they chose their "prey. I was standing outside the supermarket. Out of the corner of my eye I see a jeep. I see holes in the front bumper, just rolled up with wire. No plates. Passed on, I see: two good-looking guys sitting in the car, in camouflage without identifying marks. They're watching a man arrive in a Gelandwagon and load purchases into the trunk from the carts.

They waited for him to load up, took him to the woods... And then I look, they get into his Helic and leave. It was called "snatched" in their language. Where the owner went, I don't even know. 

I called my wife after that and told her I had to leave for Ukrainian territory. The main reason was the lawlessness that had begun, when a person sees that he is not worth anything. There are no laws. He who has a gun in his hands is right.

"If you don't need it, unload it."

When we were leaving the DNR for Mariupol, a boy of about 25 came up to us at the checkpoint with a Kalashnikov and no teeth.

Pointing at his wife, he asks: "Do you want her?" 
I said, "What do you mean?" 
He replies: "If you don't need her, unload her." 
My wife is petrified by these words. 
I squeeze it out: "She's my wife. I need her." 
I don't remember what the guy said afterwards, but the meaning was: "All right, you can keep her, we'll find another one. 

It's a shock for a normal person to hear that. I saw how these people at the border just left their cars, and those in the car just walked back to Ukraine.  

"You can report me and you'll get a medal from the DNR."

When I had to return from Ukraine to the "DNR" in 2018, I saw how everything had changed there during the years of the "Russian world. If in 2014 they were softly agitating, in 2018 they started to beat the "Russian idea" into my head hard. 

In 2014, if you said something, it was still okay. But now it was just "to the basement," it was commonplace.

To criticize the new order even at the table was dangerous, a very faithful interlocutor must be.

I was once sitting on a bench in the yard. Two elderly neighbors came from the store, sat next to each other, and started a conversation that for some reason always turned into politics: what scoundrels Ukrainians are. 
I asked them: "Then why do you get two pensions - both Russian and Ukrainian - if you don't like them so much? 
In response to the uncomfortable question, they immediately attacked me: "Nazi, fascist. 
I said, "You can report me, and they will give you a medal from the DNR.
Registration of a militiaman's apartment" in the "DNR".
Photo from Roman's personal archive*

*The only photo Roman had of the DNR. He erased the rest because Russian border guards at the Russian-Latvian border crossing were meticulously looking through photo albums in their phones for compromising images.

Paradoxically, we in the "DNR" barely noticed the beginning of the war. We had nothing. The war started on the Ukrainian side. A friend from Avdeevka (it's a 10-minute drive from Donetsk, if it's a straight line) calls.

- We're being bombed. Remember that ATM on the corner? It's gone. 
I said: 
- What do you mean, gone? 
- Well, that's it. No ATM, no supermarket. 
The next day she called me: 
- We're going to Poland. 

She sent photos of her house, all covered with shell holes. She cried and said: this one was killed, that one was killed. Avdeevka is practically gone already. Already in March, I think, it was gone.

In Russia, you'll be the center guy for the video camera, and the next thing you know, you'll be dumped.

A person who does not understand what the "Russian world" is must imagine a complete lack of laws. Plus corruption. Whoever says that everything in the "Russian world" is fair and true, let him clear his head.

A neighbor's roof was bombed in his house. It took six months to make a temporary roof and six months to make a permanent roof. Not a single new house has been built in the entire existence of the "DNR. 

People were being profited from all these eight years. And all the propaganda for the "new world" was through memories of the USSR. Remember how good it was in the Soviet Union, and how we were confronted by the decaying West?

An affair in Germany.
Photo from personal archive of the hero

A month of war passed, and I realized that I had to leave. I couldn't live through it, to see it all and to keep it to myself. Especially since there was some chance for me to get treatment and rehabilitation after my accident in Germany. I chose Europe, even though I have nephews and a sister in Moscow, and my Moscow friends helped me, an invalid, to move and bought me tickets. But I didn't even consider Russia as a new place to live, because I had seen enough of that "Russian world" at home.

Moscow is the same as the "DNR," only the label is different. In Russia you will be the center guy for the video camera, and the next thing you know, you'll be dumped. I knew there would be no such thing in Germany.

Truth will win the war, and there is only one truth. There can only be one legitimate result: Ukraine will win. It is unclear how many more people will die. It is unclear how long it will last. But my native country will win. All honest people are fighting for us now. Even the foreign legion: the Belarusians, the Russians, the Chechens. Real Chechens, not Kadyrov's "Tiktokovs." Eventually, Ukraine will become a member of NATO and the European Union. Russia will be economically boosted, even in spite of the war and destruction. And Russia will collapse. I don't know if it will disintegrate completely or partially, but it will after a critical moment. Russia will spend decades cleaning up the economic consequences of what it did. And sooner or later I will return from Germany to my native Donetsk Oblast, over which the flag of Ukraine will fly.

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