HomeLifestyles'I Don't Belong There': Ukrainians Avoid Front

‘I Don’t Belong There’: Ukrainians Avoid Front

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Ivan Ishchenko volunteered to fight against invading Russian troops, but after a month on the front lines, he was willing to pay thousands of dollars and risk prison to flee.

“Before I went to war, I imagined myself to be a superhero.” “However, all heroism ends when people see (war) with their own eyes and realise they don’t belong there,” said Ishchenko, 30.

“I witnessed someone being shot near his spleen; the pain was excruciating.” Then I noticed a severed head. It all added up… I wasn’t interested in seeing anything else.”

So one day, he abandoned everyone except his mother and fled Ukraine. Ishchenko is far from alone in this regard.

Despite societal pressures and warnings from authorities cracking down on draught evaders in the midst of a difficult counteroffensive, some Ukrainians are refusing to fight.

Despite a ban on all men aged 18 to 60 leaving the country, Ishchenko was able to leave.

He paid $5,000 (RM23,360) for a government-plated car to transport him to a forest near Hungary’s border.

He then ran away through a hole in the fence.

“The scariest moment was back then, when I left Ukraine and fled on foot,” he said.

According to State Border Guard spokesman Andriy Demchenko, authorities have detained 13,600 people attempting to cross the border outside of checkpoints since the beginning of the war.

Demchenko said that another 6,100 people, mostly men of fighting age, were apprehended while attempting to flee with forged documents.

‘Everyone is aware.’

However, officials contacted by AFP were unable to provide a specific number of suspected draught evaders and deserters.

According to a law passed in January toughening the penalties, they now face up to five and twelve years in prison, respectively.

Kyiv is cracking down on corruption schemes that allow men to avoid the army in the midst of a struggling counteroffensive.

In recent weeks, all top officials in charge of conscription were fired, and investigators claimed to have “uncovered large-scale corruption schemes in almost all regions of the country.”

Ivan, a 24-year-old who refused to give his last name due to legal concerns, stated that “everyone knows there are opportunities” to avoid serving time.

“Everyone has friends or acquaintances who can provide alternatives,” he said.

Ivan spent $5,000 (RM23,360) in May on a medical certificate that exempted him from service and allowed him to leave Ukraine.

He is not proud of his actions, stating that “everything felt wrong and disturbing.”

To avoid breaking the law, some men left before reaching the age of 18 or never returned after the war began.

Bogdan Marynenko’s family pushed him to leave for Poland two days before his 18th birthday in August 2022.

Marynenko has been working on construction sites to support his family while his father is fighting.

“If something happens to my father, I’ll be the only support system for my mother and sisters,” said the now-19-year-old, who was dressed casually in oversized streetwear and sunglasses.

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