Something seemed strange to Natalia when on the afternoon of March 5, eight Russian soldiers kicked into her house. Unlike what had happened in other homes in Bucha, the town near kyiv that symbolizes all the horror of the Russian invasion, they entered theirs more violently and with a larger group. While the houses of her neighbors were accessed in pairs, eight very aggressive soldiers entered her house — one story with a garden on Yablonska Street — looking for her husband. “Someone from the village had told the Russians that my husband was a soldier, so they quickly started looking for weapons, but luckily we had buried them. They tied his hands and asked for her phone number and once they had it they began to review the photos and messages, ”recalls Natalia, who prefers not to give her last name, in front of the door of the house of she. “On the phone there were messages that my husband had sent to his superiors detailing the number of tanks in Bucha, how many soldiers he had seen or the weapons they used and that greatly irritated the Russian soldiers, who said he was going to shoot him” , Explain.
The cases of alleged collaborators with the Russian forces are a minority compared to the feeling of patriotic unity that Moscow’s aggression has generated throughout the country so far. Even so, in order to banish them, the Ukrainian authorities are carrying out raids on alleged cooperators who have helped or provided information in the parts that were occupied by Vladimir Putin’s army.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), a central building in the capital protected with sandbags and camouflage blankets, works with the police, Territorial Defense units and the State Emergency Service to find suspected collaborators and prosecute them for treason. “These facts exist and we are working on it,” he confirmed to the local newspaper Kyiv Independent Oleksandr Omelianenko, chief of police in the Buchanskyi district, in the kyiv province.
Two weeks ago, on April 7, SBU spokesman Artiom Dehtiarenko announced that 33 suspected collaborators had been identified in kyiv province and a week later, on April 15, more than 300 suspected collaborators had already been detained. Since then, the SBU has continued to announce more arrests. The great doubt of the authorities is to know how many of these denunciations were produced by loyalty to Moscow, by coercion or by torture. Currently, the main search is focused on towns such as Bucha or Irpin, which spent a month under Russian occupation and where the fighting was heaviest.
“Knowing that your family has been ratted out by a neighbor or someone close to you leaves a very strange feeling. I don’t even want to think that people from my town can collaborate with something like this”, says Natalia, resigned, just as a brigade of five police officers goes through each house on Yablonska Street collecting testimonies of this type. Among other things, they want to find out how the lists that the Russians brought with the names and addresses of neighbors linked to the Ukrainian troops, to social movements for the defense of the homeland or simply more reluctant to the Russian presence were made.
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Within the framework of this wave of raids in search of collaborators, one of the most important captures was that of Viktor Medvedchuk, co-founder of a pro-Russian party and very close to the Putin family, who is even the godfather of one of his daughters. For decades Medvedchuk was one of the men of the Kremlin in Ukraine and became a millionaire with it until almost a year ago he was accused of high treason and sentenced to house arrest. When Russia started the war he tried to escape, until on April 12 he was arrested when he was dressed in a Ukrainian Army uniform.
Another recent case of an alleged collaborator arrested was announced on April 14 when police arrested a 62-year-old resident of Krivoig Rog, a municipality near the Russian border, in Bucha. His neighbors accused him of helping Russian forces patrol the city or providing information on Ukrainian Army positions.
Not even the mayor of Bucha is exempt from the accusations. Some neighbors pointed out Anatoli Fedoruk to be the Ukrainian Pétain due to the suspicions denounced by the neighbors. Members of the Territorial Defense committees have accused Fedoruk of having disappeared during the darkest days of March when the most savage repression took place.
News coming from towns near the front lines refer to similar suspicions. Izyum, in the Kharviv region, which once had a population of 50,000, has been occupied by the Russians for weeks and many of the victims were buried in family yards. The local press picks up the story of a neighbor who worked as a “fire corrector”, a collaborator who from the field helps the Russian army to guide the missiles. The man was stoned to death by the population and the body was left on the ground for three weeks, the Pravda newspaper reported yesterday.
The persecution of suspicious neighbors is very clear in municipalities near the capital, but more diffuse in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, where family origin is diluted with borders and dozens of people were arrested and then released for not having been able to prove any crime. But the patriotic awakening and the persecution that the war has caused is not limited to the neighbors, but extends to social networks and Telegram groups that contribute information or support to the Russians. Even the statues that commemorate the friendship between the two peoples have been demolished in different parts of the country and recently the legislation has been modified to judge and condemn those who provide aid to the invading army.
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