Crimean crisis: Generational divide in loyalty to Mother Russia at the Perevalne stand-off

 

Crimea

“There were these young men, sitting in a bar, loud, drinking and laughing. One of them said ‘We are unlucky; if our stupid grandfathers had not won the war we would drinking good German beer instead of this piss’. Then they laughed again, can you imagine?” Nicolai Bogoluyvov shook his head, the recollection from the visit to Kiev still making him visibly angry.

He had served in the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan and had the campaign medals on his dusty brown overcoat to prove it. His father had been wounded fighting Hitler’s troops, an uncle died in the advance to Berlin. Late last night the former artillery sergeant was haunched beside a fire, in the field outside an Ukrainian army base, in support of Russian troops seeking to disarm the garrison inside.

The stand-off at Perevalne had drawn crowds throughout yesterday afternoon from both sides of the bitter divide in Crimea, the majority of whose population, of Russian extraction, are expected to vote in a referendum for secession from Ukraine, paving the way for rule by Moscow.

Heated arguments and a few scuffles had taken place, without interference from the Russian and Ukrainian soldiers outside and inside the gates. Now just a handful of opposing protesters were left, separated by the width of the stretch of road into the base, and very different views on Ukraine’s place in the world.

Those showing solidarity with the soldiers inside were a mixed group of women and men and two priests. The clerics, from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, stressed that they desperately hoped for peace; their voices in prayer floated across to the Russian supporters, almost all of them men. Some of these did not looking much different from rednecks in America, florid faced, tattooed, beer bellies hanging over their jeans and combat trousers. Instead of castigating "pinkoes and commies and the media" their grouse was against "Nazis and fascists and the media".

The complaint here was that the views of those who wanted to unite with Russia, their birthright, were being ignored, while the "criminals of the Maidan", Kiev’s Independence Square, which had been the centre of protests which overthrew Viktor Yanukovych, were being lauded as heroes.

There is, indeed an argument that the views of the Russian speakers on the streets had not been adequately expressed in international press and broadcasting. Some of those beside the fire were too drunk and bellicose to do so last night, but they quietened down when the old soldier Mr Bogoluyvov told them to do so.

As well as what he saw as the treacherous views exemplified by the young men in the Kiev bar, Mr Bogoluyvov was keen to remind the West of what was at stake. “Maybe people in London and Paris have also forgotten about the fight against the Nazis; but you still need Russia for Syria, there’ll be no settlement, peace, in Syria without us.”

Another man, Vladimir Churkin, an engineer, suggested loudly that people should go and join President Assad’s forces to beat al-Qa’ida. “America and Britain made a big mistake supporting them in Afghanistan, they are making a  big mistake supporting them in Syria, and now they are supporting the fascists in the Maidan and the Muslim extremists right here”. The last reference was to the Crimean Tartars, who are vehemently opposed to joining Moscow.

Speaking later, Father Ivan, the parish priest of St Mary Pakrova Savatoi, a church next to the garrison gate, keeping vigil in the Ukrainian "peace camp", stressed there was little evidence of radicalization in the Tartar community: “But it is easy in this atmosphere, as you know, to say your opponents are devils. Then ugly words turn into ugly action, that is what we really fear.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests