Putin is a dragon who wants more gold

When Russia annexed  Crimea in 2014, Philip was a teenager and did not yet realise that a tragedy had occurred. He said that many Crimeans started calling themselves Russians at one point. Over time, Philip realised that it wasn't safe to live in Crimea. After graduating from school, he managed to live in Moscow and enrolled as a sailor at the Kerch College. But the training had to be abandoned. After the full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine began, Philip left for Armenia.

Tell us about yourself

—  My name is Philip. I am 24 years old. I was born in Crimea, Ukraine. I lived there for a while, then I lived in Korolev, near Moscow for three or four years. Then I returned to Ukraine again. I finished eleven classes. I almost got higher education, but because of the war I left. I studied to be a sailor, a ship engineer. I never liked studying, just really, since the occupation of Crimea I have been living by inertia. There were some glimpses of becoming a model, or something else. I tried to travel, but it was never possible to get a visa because of the Crimean Russian passport. I kept getting refusals. Now, as soon as I got away from Russia, things are getting better.

Why did you leave Crimea?

—  The idea of moving was always in the air. I always wanted to go back to Ukraine. It wasn't that I couldn't, I was just too busy with my routine. Perhaps the last straw was the war. Yes, it was very easy to leave. Because I wasn't originally moving alone. I was moving with my ex-girlfriend and a good friend. We were going to move to Batumi, but at the last moment they did not let me in at Upper Lars, at the border, and for the second time at the Armenian-Georgian border. I decided to stay in Armenia.

How did you find out about the outbreak of war?

—  I remember finding it out on Instagram, in some post, that Kiev had begun to be shelled. We called our friends right away. There were six or seven of us in Zoom. We started discussing it all. Immediately we looked at ticket prices to leave. My parents didn't take it seriously. Well yes, you can go to Georgia, be there for a month, then come back. It wouldn't last long anyway. It's all some kind of mistake. None of this is true. My last effort at my profession was in Kamchatka. I got off the ship because the conditions there were awful. Kamchatka itself is not a very favourable place to live. So I discharged, I left. The guys who had just recently come back from the voyage, they were cut off from communication altogether. They didn't know there was a war. So they came in like shell-shocked, they just don't know what to do. But, still, they're not going to move yet, sort of. The younger brother, I don't know, he thinks he's being protected by some acquaintances of his, who at some point will take him to a village near Moscow. He'll wait it out there and nothing will happen. God willing! But practice shows that a summons reaches every nook and cranny.

How do your loved ones feel about the war?

- My mom understands everything. I often talk to her on these topics, I try to straighten her out in this respect and try to make sure she also follows the news, follows the information. My father, he's in favor of the special operation, this version. When I might have mentioned the occupation of Crimea in 2014, he didn't like it and that was it. This conversation in elevated tones was immediately interrupted. So I try not to talk about it. But, we communicate well.

When did the war begin for you?

— Naturally, it started back then. It's Donbass and so on. But I feel like, of course, I only on February 24, when Russia attacked Ukraine. Because it touched me. When it doesn't affect me, I think a lot of people had this policy before these events, that if it doesn't affect me, then I don't really feel it. So I can somehow get around it emotionally, or physically. Since it touched and involved, it can't help but get involved, I started to get interested. Stopped being apolitical in a way. Even though I'm not particularly an expert on politics right now, but I'm watching and understanding what I need to do to feel good about myself and help people feel good about themselves.

How did you perceive the events of 2014?

— I wasn't interested at all. I didn't understand what was going on. I was a little kid. I was still in school. At school it was eighth or ninth grade. I remember that just in a second everyone became Russian and hung Russian flags. At homeroom at school the teacher, the form tutor, who always was in a tank for Ukraine, we had the coat of arms of Ukraine hanging, we knew the anthem, she immediately made us learn the Russian anthem. We all just sneered, did not want to learn and gloated to the maximum, like, Rashka-Rashka, all that. It wasn't nice, but it didn't sting us in any way, we were just like: "Oh, cool, the ruble came, but the prices are still Ukrainian, let's go drink beer". Like that, and then over time I began to understand and regret that there were no adults around who could explain that this is not good, and you should leave as soon as possible, otherwise you will get caught up in it and stay in Russia.

How do you feel about the concept of collective responsibility?

— Collective responsibility, of course, it will be felt in Russia one hundred percent, there is no escape from this, and there is no point in escaping, because all of this will drag on for many years to come. Also Russians will have to bear all this because many Russians even after leaving for other countries don't go to rallies, in Turkey, in Yerevan, like it's very easy to trace and it's visible. I think, yes, that it has a place.

Did you go to the rallies in Yerevan?

— Yes, more than once. As soon as I moved to Yerevan, there was the first rally in support of Artsakh and Ukraine. It was very unusual to be at such an event, where you are not threatened, and on the contrary, the police even protected me from one Armenian man, who attacked me because I was carrying the flag of Ukraine in my hands.

Why would Putin want this war?
I think he's a dragon who wants more gold, like in The Hobbit.

Would you like to go back to Ukraine?

- I want to come back, and I will come back to Ukraine. It will be a super-progressive country that will not be inferior to European countries.

Do many Russians really support the war?

— When war started, I fully understood the power of propaganda. I think it's it, and only it. And this way of government that Putin has chosen, this whole philosophy of his, it's very competently tailored just for some narrow-minded people who, I don't know, are used to thinking in some categories. In principle, those, who wanted to leave, they left. Those who stayed these are either people for whom I have only respect, who have reasons to stay, they can not move for some reason, because of grandparents, or something else. Well, the rest are just zombified, or shallow-minded people.

What kind of future do you see for Russia and Ukraine?

— Man, I will not, like Durnev, hype about how Russia is forever in the abyss, and now everyone will wipe their feet with it, and never again will a Russian be friends with a Ukrainian. I do not have such a bright, wild hatred, for example, as the Armenians have of the Turks. We will have to live with strained relations for a while, I guess.

How do you think Armenians feel about Putin?

— A very small percentage of locals say that he is doing the right thing, that he does what he should do, Putin is a smart, clever old man. But it's a very small percentage. Basically, everyone says that he is a fucked-up old man who doesn't belong in power anymore, and that soon he will be gone and everything will be fine.

How did you settle in Yerevan?

— I settled into a groove in Yerevan. It wasn't from the first time that I got a buzz out of collective and enjoy now almost every day of being with them. We became friends, we became family, we celebrate holidays together, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, all sorts of fun. I feel very warm here, a lot of plans, very free, really life from scratch. I absolutely stopped doing what I was doing in the Crimea. I now work as a cook in MuKimChy, in a family place. At the same time I do music, started modeling again, taking pictures, blissing out.

What are you most afraid of?

— I'm afraid to go back to Crimea in Russia now, if I suddenly have to. I'm afraid that if suddenly some kind of hostilities start to take place to return Crimea and someone close to me gets hurt, and I will have to go, and I won't go, and it gets unpleasant. Here, somehow that's all I'm really afraid of. And it's also scary that my younger brother, who is 19 years old, is in Moscow now, and doesn't think much about moving.