As Russian invasion of Ukraine intensifies, with Kyiv now under siege, the European Union announces new measures designed to bolster Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and tens of thousands of Ukrainians arrive in Eastern Europe, fleeing the Russian invasion of their homeland, we have reached out to several Ukrainian artists to get their insider perspectives and their take on the crisis.
Kyiv based post-hardcore, stoner, progressive rock band VOVK, Kyrylo Brener from Kharkiv alt hardcore punk band KAT, post hardcore band DOOMED CITY and psych stoner rock act LOGLEG, and Artem Dudko, Volodymyr Puchkov, and Eugene Korol from are Kyiv psychedelic / garage rock band STRAYTONES have spoken to IDIOTEQ about the ongoing conflict with Russia, and what the rest of the world can do to help.
The frightful noise of gunfire, bombing and children’s screams in Ukraine reverberates across the world. The Russian invasion is an unprovoked, ruthless crime against Ukraine’s citizens, their sovereign democratic state and all the free people of the world. Putin’s actions are unacceptable, grossly violate international law and norms, and we express our strong condemnation of the shameful act of aggression against independent Ukraine.
Where are you at the moment and where were you at the very beginning of the invasion? How it looked and felt like from your perspective?
VOVK: I woke up at 6 am from my brother’s call. He said “the war has begun”. I was shocked and started call my relatives, checking the news. A couple of explosions could be heard outside.
STRAYTONES: Currently, we’re at our homes with our families – Artem is in Kyiv, Vlad is in the suburbs of Kyiv (the city Irpin), and Eugene is near the city Bila Tserkva, to the south from Kyiv.
The invasion has started at 5 in the morning on the 24th of February (yesterday), we’ve been sleeping at our homes. Some woke up hearing distant explosions, some a bit later, understanding that it has begun… Felt anxious and surreal. You won’t wish to wake up like that. From the early morning, it was understood that it was too late to get anywhere – the roads that lead from Kyiv all were with huge traffic jams. Citizens went to grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, gas stations – long queues everywhere.
However, people were very polite and kind to each other. The next thing you want to know is where the nearest bomb shelters are. Also, you want to have as much water as possible and all power banks fully loaded. You want to have all your documents and most important things in one small bag, to be ready for everything. Luckily enough, we all still have electricity, internet connection, water, and heat supply. Sounds of explosions and gunfights can be heard around the Kyiv area and in the suburbs, they are much more present.
Kyrylo Brener (KAT, DOOMED CITY, LOGLEG): I was at my home with my wife, sleeping as usual. At 5 AM we woke up because we heard noises and explosions. Even if we discussed this many times before during last months, we probably didn’t really believe that this will happen. It felt like a horror and the end of all your previous life.
What’s your take on this tough subject and how would you assess the current difficult political and situation between Russia and Ukraine? What’s your general stance on this subject?
VOVK: There is no such thing as “complicated political situation” or moral gray area. It’s not about politics at all.
𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑎 𝑓𝑢𝑙𝑙-𝑠𝑎𝑐𝑙𝑒 𝑖𝑛𝑣𝑎𝑠𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑟 𝑎𝑔𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑡 𝑚𝑦 𝑐𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑟𝑦.
As I’m writing this, soldiers, civilians, men, women and children die.
STRAYTONES: A sovereign country in Europe is under a massive invasive attack from all directions possible, without even declaring war! In the 21st century! Nobody has declared war on Ukraine, and still, Russian headed by a fascist megalomaniac attacked us. They call it an anti-terrorist operation on the self-proclaimed illegal territories (that have been under the control of Russia for 8 years now). What cynical bullshit! They took those parts of Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014, and have been spreading anti-Ukrainian rhetoric and propaganda since then. Their goal is to remove the current government, demilitarize Ukraine and place it its own puppet government instead.
How do they imagine that after what happened? Ukrainian people will resist! Our army has significantly improved since 2014! But even if they will take over (which is a very unlikely scenario) – it would be very hard or even impossible to put somebody pro-Russian in our government.
Kyrylo Brener (KAT, DOOMED CITY, LOGLEG): It’s very easy.
𝑅𝑢𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑎 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑃𝑢𝑡𝑖𝑛 𝑙𝑖𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 𝑑𝑜𝑛’𝑡 𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑡 𝑢𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑒𝑥𝑖𝑠𝑡 𝑎𝑠 𝑎 𝑛𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛, 𝑎𝑠 𝑎𝑛 𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑝𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑐𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑟𝑦.
That’s all. Just listen to latest Putin’s speach – he basically said that. He denies our right to live.
The complex relationship between your countries is something widely misunderstood, especially in the Western countries. Can you briefly explain the background of this conflict to someone not educated in this matter?
VOVK: For the past 300 years my country was under Russia’s rule in some form or another – Russian Empire, USSR. In 1991, we finally got out independence and chose a route to get closer with the western world. Russia doesn’t want that. Masking behind words about “brotherly nation” a lot of Russians see us as an inferior country, that our language, culture are a fake by-product of a ” great Russian folk”. This all is complete bollox. The 2013 revolution, when Ukrainians were unhappy with pro-russian president’s decisions and his corrupt rule, has untied Putin’s imperial ambitions. As far as i know, a lot of left-leaning movements in USA or Europe think, that Putin is an antagonist to the capitalist western world – nonsense.
𝑃𝑢𝑡𝑖𝑛’𝑠 𝑅𝑢𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑎 𝑖𝑠 𝑎 ℎ𝑦𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑑 𝑛𝑎𝑧𝑖 𝑟𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑚𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑎 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑡𝑡𝑦 𝑐𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑟 𝑔𝑜𝑎𝑙 𝑜𝑓 𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑖𝑟 𝑒𝑚𝑝𝑖𝑟𝑒.
STRAYTONES: It’s hard to explain this with a few sentences. I would recommend reading some history books, or at least reading a few articles on Wikipedia about Ukraine and our cities like Kyiv, Chernihiv, Lviv, Kharkiv…
What you need to understand, is that Ukraine is not Russia. We’ve been moving in our own way since the USSR split up. We have our own language and culture, our own history, we have freedom of speech – we’re not afraid to criticize our government or to protest against them when needed. We are pretty successful at that – two political revolutions in less than 10 years! Ukraine has been headed towards the west, slowly but surely we’ve been making steps in that direction. People wanted it.
Although, arguably we couldn’t be at this point without the US. They’ve been in a state of a cold war against the USSR and succeded in it, and when it split they immediately started “working” with ex-USSR countries, with some more successfully than with the others. Ukraine was one of those countries they’ve been working with, for their own benefits and geopolitical goals. What has been looking as full-scale support and guarantee of protection for one side, looked like using Ukraine as a potential threat for Russia.
The US and EU won’t send any troops, it will just shift this war into a huge pyre called WW3, I believe everyone understands that. Sanctions are not efficient and won’t stop Putin, once he decided to attack.
𝑊𝑒 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑎𝑙𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠.
However, it seems that the US goals are reached – the war has started – any war is always a good time for them to speculate on the economics/stocks/etc, the Nord Stream 2 project is stopped – now the US can sell its own gas to EU, and Russia will eventually become even more weakened due to the sanctions. There are hardly any benefits for Ukraine though.
Kyrylo Brener (KAT, DOOMED CITY, LOGLEG): Yes. Again it’s very easy – Ukraine at some point decided to be European country, while Russia is a terrorist state that’s living in the past. So, they started war 8 years ago and yesterday they escalated this war to a maximum level.
On the other hand, there’s a widely known fact that at least part of Ukrainian residents are pro-Russian. How do you estimate this ratio of the division between your people? Also, regarding your closest neighborhood, have you felt any palpable appreciation and support towards Russian politics and their agenda?
VOVK: Throughout the years of imperial and soviet rule, our language and culture were always either oppressed or outright prohibited – hundreds of years of conscious russification policies. Due to that most of Ukrainians at the very least understand both Ukrainian and Russian languages. A lot of Russians were sent to work to Donbass and Crimea regions during soviet times. Until Russia started heating up the policies for languages, on societal level, no one was really thinking about it. These policies of fear intimidation made this picture in Crimea and Donbass people of scary ukrainian-speaking “Banderites”. Russian propaganda machine stamps more and more of this bullshit about nazis, nationalists and other lies. For example I’m fluent in both languages. I speak Russian with my mom, and Ukrainian with my dad. All my life it was a norm to me until the war of 2014.
STRAYTONES: It depends on the region, but most importantly on the age of our citizens. There are some people who have sweet memories about USSR, and mostly that’s the pro-Russian audience. I can’t tell you how to estimate the ratio of the division, but I’m pretty sure it has drastically lowered after this invasion.
𝑁𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑚𝑦 𝑓𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑠 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑠𝑢𝑝𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑎𝑛𝑦 𝑅𝑢𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑎𝑛 𝑝𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑠.
Kyrylo Brener (KAT, DOOMED CITY, LOGLEG): Yes, that’s true. For example I’m living (or at least I lived before yesterday) in Kharkiv – which was pro-russian city at some point (let’s say like 70% of people supported pro-russian politicians). Because we have a border with Russia. I personally have relatives in Russia. But I think today that’s all burned. I feel nothing but hate to all Russians involved in war. I think right now even in Kharkiv no one is pro-Russian.
How do you think where it’s heading? What future do you see for your country?
VOVK: Putin’s actions made Ukrainians more united than ever. Even those who cant carry a gun, help by spreading intel with their phones and laptops helping our defenders. We take on one of the biggest armies on this planet.
𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑎𝑓𝑒𝑡𝑦 𝑜𝑓 𝐸𝑢𝑟𝑜𝑝𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑤ℎ𝑜𝑙𝑒 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑙𝑑 𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑖𝑒𝑠 𝑜𝑛 𝑢𝑠 𝑟𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 𝑛𝑜𝑤.
I truly believe we can make it, I’m sure, that in postwar times, we will continue to build our country with humanist views of XXI century.
STRAYTONES: It depends on how long we’ll hold on. Their initial blitzkrieg plan didn’t work out, thanks to our soldiers. Today we’ve already read in the news that they began talking about negotiations, so in the next 3 to 4 days, maybe a week a solution might appear. Putin is aiming to remove the government, however, they might have some plan B that will suit them and will guarantee that Ukraine won’t join NATO or any other anti-Russian military block and that we won’t be a threat for them. I hope that we will stand for our land and our own interests because after this invasion it’s hard to imagine some Russian pricks as our government.
Kyrylo Brener (KAT, DOOMED CITY, LOGLEG): I honestly don’t know. I just want to live in my home with my friends and family around – I’m really not sure that this will happen. I hope at least no one of my friends and relatives will be killed.
Lastly, how can we help?
VOVK: The ability to spread the word is already a great help, which we are really thankful for. Spread the truth about the events in Ukraine.
𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑒𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑓 𝑑𝑖𝑔𝑛𝑖𝑡𝑦 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑐𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑠𝑡 𝑜𝑛𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑟𝑒𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛, 𝑅𝑢𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑎-𝑈𝑘𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑟 𝑖𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑠𝑡 𝑜𝑛𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑟.
Do not trust Russian propaganda fakes. If you can, support helping funds for our defenders, refugees or victims. Thank you very much for the opportunity!
STRAYTONES: Spread the word, let everyone know what happens exactly. It’s not a conflict where you think which side to choose – it should be obvious! We didn’t attack any country – the truth is on our side. Demand some serious moves from your governments – sanctions don’t really help. There are a lot of memes about this sort of “help”. Also, I’ll leave this information for those who are willing to help with their money.
Support Ukrainian army – UA843000010000000047330992708 (multi-currency account by National Bank of Ukraine)
Donate to NGO supporting our Army HERE.
Support organizations that help people who suffer from war (children, women) HERE.
Kyrylo Brener (KAT, DOOMED CITY, LOGLEG): Support our troops HERE.