KYIV, UKRAINE —
Ukraine and Russia, former Soviet allies, are scheduled to jointly celebrate 70 years since the end of World War ll, but after Moscow's aggression in Crimea, some Ukrainian veterans are reluctant to take part.
The veterans of Kyiv's Golosiivskyy district never imagined Ukraine would be the target of Russian aggression. Veterans' organization council head Sergei Koropov says they are still stunned by their former ally's annexation of Crimea.
In the face of Moscow's continued military threats, plans to join Russia in marking the end of the so-called 'war against fascism' are being questioned.
“That is why all veterans are now worrying how are we going to celebrate and get ready for this date," Koropov said. "Because, on the border of our dear and beloved Ukraine are brothers - Russian soldiers. There are tanks, armored vehicles. And, in my consciousness, in my mind, I cannot imagine how this could have happened.”
World War II Navy veteran Dmitriy Prohorov, who fought with the Soviets to defend Crimea and lost an arm in battle, says Russia's taking back the Black Sea peninsula by force is absurd.
“This question should have been negotiated at a round table and decided for both countries, Russia and Ukraine," Prohorov said. "Both should own Crimea and work together to develop the territory and the Black Sea Navy. This would have been smarter.”
Like many of Ukraine's veterans, Koropov has a Russian wife and says the two countries' destinies are interlaced.
“I love our nation and do not want a feud," he said. "Even more, I do not want war. War should not happen between our countries. Let our politicians find an agreement, and we will support them.”
Infantry veteran Georgiy Kireev fought in the Battle of Stalingrad where more than a million died. Shot eight times, he was mistakenly pronounced dead twice.
“Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, are Slavic nations. It's one nation," Kireev said. "They should live in friendship and happiness. I hope that with time this will happen. Maybe, taking into consideration our age, maybe we will not be alive at that time. But maybe our grandchildren will unite again [in friendship] with Russia.”