NatSecMedia covers security issues around the globe. Currently, the focus is on Ukraine and related topics. Reports from in the country and abroad will focus on the Russian war against the Ukrainian people.

A discussion on Mariupol with Nikita Snakhovsky

In an interview with Nikita Snakhovsky, we hear about Russia’s propaganda war against the Ukrainian people and how Nikita and his family have survived the past 8 years of the war.

Misha: hello

Nikita: hello

Misha: What’s your name?

Nikita: My name is Nikita, Nikita Snakhovsky

Misha: What city are you from?

Nikita: From Mariupol.

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Misha: What can you tell us about the events that have taken place in eastern Ukraine since 2014?

Nikita: I remember exactly when the Maidan began in 2013 and all this was shown on TV, no one knew what was happening at all. I also remembered at that time, then we still had Russian TV channels broadcasting and a lot of people watched them.

Misha: Propaganda worked.

Nikita: Yes. A lot of people were watching Russian propaganda and no one knew what was going on at all. And I remember at some point .. it was at the beginning of March that Crimea left. And after the Crimea, all this lawlessness began already in our city. People started taking to the streets.   Always after that there were all sorts of fakes about the fact that some kind of Bandera, fascists were going to destroy our city, destroy Lenin, destroy everything. And a lot of people believed it.

I remember people organizing to patrol the streets to keep order. Accordingly, no one came anywhere, but nevertheless people were gathered.

Misha: Where were the Bandera people supposed to come from?

Nikita: That one is unknown, the Bandera people were just supposed to come. No one said where… Well, probably from Lviv, where else.. Russian propaganda could speak. And how many people believed in it. And then, even when no one came, people still gathered and stayed near the city council. I remember that there were a lot of people near the city council. And there was all this… propaganda, some people were with Russian flags. At some point, I even remember it was raised, and I also remember there were such marches among these people. But they were completely disorganized. Some random people were walking, someone was shouting “freedom to Donbass”, someone was shouting “for Russia”, some poetry was being read. But these were people, if you look at them like that, then they are some kind of outcasts, half-homeless, half-drunks. Cattle.

There were no practically normal people there. Outwardly normal people there were only pensioners. But pensioners… that’s a different story. After that, I remember, it was May 9, in my opinion, there was a purge or they tried a purge… when our troops were in the city, there was shooting. I don’t know very well what happened there…

Misha: In what way is the purge? Who should be cleared?

Nikita: Well .. I don’t know exactly what happened there, so as not to lie, but I know for sure that there were already armed conflicts and it was specifically our armed forces and there were protesters. After that, I understood that it was not successful. And after that the city became under the rule of these separatists. And it was occupied, in my opinion, until June or July, until it was de-occupied.

Misha: How many months did this happen?

Nikita: Well, it’s been a few months. And I had … from me just to see how much people there were either paid .. or it was not clear what idea they were for. Here I have an example from life, then I turned 18 years old. We then sat in a cafe, which is next to the city council, where they met. And we drank, after that I went up to them, where a lot of people are standing. And I ask them in Ukrainian: “Boys, why are you standing here?”. And immediately there were so many of them, about 20 people. And they: “We are for the freedom of Donbass.” I ask: “What will it give you?”. And I start talking to them in Ukrainian. And no one answered me anything, no one told me any clear answer why they are there and what they want. Well, it immediately became clear to me what kind of people they were and how it would all end. Well, thank God the city was liberated at that time. And the city flourished. I’ve been in Mariupol for as long as it has been improving. How many times have I visited since my move – the city only got better each time. This is what those events are about.

Misha: I understand. I have a question. I remember that in 2014 it was difficult to buy a Russian flag anywhere. Where did these people get the flags?

Nikita: I… honestly, I don’t know, well, given that Mariupol is not far from the border. Maybe people came from there. But I personally saw the rally with Russian flags, I counted more than 100 cars. Well, people had flags… And I just, I can’t… kind of, I can believe that people couldn’t understand who they were Ukrainians or Russians, but I don’t believe that every house had a Russian flag . Well… well, it can’t be that people just got it out from under the pillow. Well, it’s obvious.

Misha: Please tell me. Did you come under fire in 2014?

Nikita: I came under fire 2 times in my life. It happened once in 2015. I just lived in the easternmost district (Vostochny) of the city of Mariupol. And it was just fired on, I think on January 15th. This time it was. And the second time I went to a friend to rest in Pionerskoye, not far from Shirokino. And there were also very close arrivals.

Misha: What weapon did they shoot with?

Nikita: Honestly, I don’t really understand. But when it was on Vostochny, when it was 2015, there were supposedly Grad. So people said, I did not see these shells. Then I drove there nearby, saw everything destroyed there, saw fires, saw holes in the walls of panel buildings, battered houses. Some cars are on fire. But I didn’t see what it was.

Misha: Please tell us about how the war affected you? The war that is going on now.

Nikita: Yes, everything has changed now .. Well, there are much fewer opportunities, because I am in business and this greatly affects the fact that … the possibilities of my business, the possibility of a normal income. Because people now earn less and, accordingly, I have fewer clients. In addition to this … it’s all strange, scary for the future, because it is not known what awaits us and how and when it will end. And no matter how difficult, you need to come up with something all the time so that everything will be fine in the future.

Misha: How did it affect your family? Tell us about the events when your family got stuck in Mariupol.

Nikita: Well… my family, they have a very complicated history. I have been living in Kyiv since 2018. And the family is in Mariupol. And I remember how it all started. It’s just that it all coincided so well with me, my grandmother had her 80th birthday, February 24th. And I had to go there to Mariupol in order to celebrate it. And I didn’t go there, I don’t remember why. But the fact is that my whole family had to go to my grandmother. Anniversary of 80 years after all. And everyone got together and went to her. And it all started. I call them, I say that this is a war, you better… because Vostochny was already under fire. Do not return to Vostochny anymore, because it is closest to the border with Russia. Therefore, this area will suffer in the first place.

Misha: Did any of your relatives live in the Vostochny District?

Nikita: My whole family lived there, except for my grandmother. Grandma lived in a different district. And even more so, this is the left bank … there are bridges. It was difficult to get there. And so they went to their grandmother. Accordingly, they took everything to celebrate. And then they drove home one more time. After I said it’s better not to be in the Vostochny district. They went and took some essentials. They weren’t there anymore. As a result, thank God they left. Because in their only house, which is my parents, it was a direct hit.

There was nothing left of it, the roof collapsed, everything was completely destroyed. All the windows… all burned down. Everything that could be there, there is nothing else. As for my grandmother, when they came to her, I remember one moment when my stepfather called me and said … well, he just called to say goodbye. They thought that they would most likely die, because.. He calls and says: “Nikita, we’re finished.” And then, when they left the city, my younger brother told me how it was. The shelling began.

First, it flew to a neighbor’s house, there are several floors. After it flew into this house .. we have an extension there, there in this extension … Boiler room. There is a boiler, pumps for heating throughout the house. This boiler room collapsed with an explosive wave. The next projectile flew across the road, my brother says it was GRAD.. A projectile flew into the garage. Brother says he has never seen cinder blocks fly over power lines. Everything flew in different directions. And another shell hit the road. Thank God that nothing hit them, but all the same, all the windows flew out and everything that could be broken there was broken. And then they decided to leave and they went to our relative. And thank God, there was the area where they lived, it almost did not suffer.

Misha: Is this still Mariupol?

Nikita: Yes, it’s still in Mariupol. And then they left.

Misha: How did they survive in the city? All communications were gone. How did they get in touch?

Nikita: It was very difficult there. Just that they were in a convenient location. There are not many wells in the city from where you can draw water. And thank God they were not far from one of the wells. And so they went there, fetched water. There they had access to normal water. At least they did not drink water from the heating pipe, as was the case in other cases. As for food… My brother told me that if someone didn’t shoplift there, it was just starvation. It’s just that people didn’t have what to eat. And at some point, they just drove… well, my parents were doing charity work. They went to the warehouse, the military was standing there. They allowed everyone to take from the warehouse everything that anyone needed. Who could carry how much.

Misha: Ukrainian military?

Nikita: Well, of course ours. And the first time they took a lot of cookies. They ate the cookies. (The military) gave them frozen fish. Parents shared this fish, because there was a lot of it, and plus all the people there helped each other. They shared with our neighbors who were near the grandmother. Shared in this house. Other neighbors gave my parents some cereal. This is the only reason they survived.

Plus, it helped them that they took food for their grandmother’s birthday and there was still some food left. Plus grandma’s supplies. Flour, sugar, it all saved. Well, of course it was terrible there, because they were telling a story about how a girl of 17 years old came out and came under fire. And there everyone says… at first no one saw what happened to her. And then they came closer, began to examine, she just cut her entire back and her intestines fell out … but she was alive. She developed a blood poisoning, she was taken to the hospital. She was taken there, even though it was hard with gasoline. She was just taken to the hospital. And because there were no antibiotics, she died. As for my family… they managed to get a full tank of gas, plus they shared. This helped them, because they were able to leave on their own and helped others to leave the city. Something like that.

Misha: How did your parents leave Mariupol? How difficult was it?

Nikita: Honestly, I went to Zaporizhzhia to help them. There was no contact with them for a very long time. But on the 1st, as they moved in with their relative …

Misha: What month?

Nikita: March 1. Then there was no connection. They moved, they said that everything was OK with them, and then there was no more communication.

Misha: When did they move to the spit?

Nikita: This is not on the spit, this is when they moved from my grandmother to a relative in another area.

Misha: Is it still in Mariupol?

Nikita: Yes, it’s in Mariupol. From that moment on, there was no connection in Mariupol. It was impossible to contact them. And from there they then went to the spit. And on the spit they still caught a connection for a day or two, not at all for a long time, and then it disappeared. I was worried about them, I thought about going to them, picking them up, you never know. Maybe the car broke down there, I thought about different cases. And my friend and I went to Zaporizhzhia. And there I already actually … there no one wrote lists of which route the convoy from Mariupol would take. Because they were worried about the leak of information, they said it all orally. And I found out all this, relevant information. Then, the day before I was supposed to go to them, my uncle from Russia contacted me. My mother called him through some man on the spit. And the uncle said that my mother would then call me. Mom called, I told her how to go, and I’ll go to the meeting. They said well. And they left. They were very lucky, because then the filtering of people began. There were a lot of filtration camps where the Russians simply selected people, in terms of who could go and who could not. Everyone’s tattoos were checked. I heard stories, well, my friends saw … How people were simply stripped down to their underpants, and everything that was possible was checked. Tattoos, they checked the databases, they could leave someone, let someone through. And my family is lucky.

They first took a road through a field that few people know. And there, at the checkpoint, there were Russians from the Far East, who almost did not know how to speak Russian. That time it was already hot and they almost fainted from our Azov heat. And they let my parents pass. After that, they already went along the road that we were told. And it’s good that we then met in Zaporizhzhia and I took them to Kyiv. They were not affected by filtration, although there are a lot of filtration camps there. They could be sent to verify documents at any time, there are huge queues. A bunch of trouble out of the blue.

Misha: Please tell me how your parents feel in the free territory of Ukraine?

Nikita: Well, mom just doesn’t believe in what’s going on. She says that everything seems to be fine in Kyiv, but they didn’t even go anywhere, they didn’t want to watch anything in Kyiv. Not in the mood. The whole family has such a heavy heart, because … just take my grandmother. She lived all her life in Mariupol, built a house, started a family, and now there is nothing of that. The house remained intact, but again … not completely. All the same, it also suffered and it is not known what will happen to it next. Parents have nothing left at all, it’s hard for them. With what they left Mariupol .. there was a car and a few things, documents. It’s hard for them. I don’t know how it will develop further .. it’s difficult for them.

Misha: Please tell us how our viewers can help us? How can foreigners help Ukraine, for example?

Nikita: I think that any kind of help can help Ukraine. In the sense that now it is very difficult at every level. It is very difficult for an ordinary citizen, because he does not know what will happen next. It is very difficult for the military who are fighting. They might be missing something.

Misha: Weapons, humanitarian aid

Nikita: Yes, then, I don’t know about humanitarian aid, but I know for sure that everyone should know that Russians are vile liars who hide behind good ideas, but do sheer evil.

Misha: Thank you, Nikita

Nikita: Please.