Beaten war trophies stir raw emotions in Ukraine’s capital
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Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) – For Valeriy Stavichenko, the sight of mangled Russian war material perched along the sidewalk in downtown Kyiv triggers a feeling of happiness in the heart of the 71-year-old Soviet army veteran.
“I’m happy,” he said with a smile after inspecting the pock-marked tail of a downed Russian fighter jet.
“The more enemy vehicles we have destroyed, the closer victory is,” said Stavichenko, who stumbled upon the pieces of Russia’s war machine during a recent drive through the Ukrainian capital.
The battered war trophies contrasted sharply with the chirping of birds and the blossoming chestnut trees lining the peaceful avenue of the capital’s government district.
The exhibit outside the National Museum of Military History – featuring the tail of the fighter jet and a wrecked infantry fighting vehicle – was unveiled last week as part of a project dreamed up by a another Ukrainian veteran.
Exhibit curator Pavlo Netesov hopes the freshly destroyed equipment will serve as a visible reminder of the war’s toll for residents of downtown Kyiv, who have been largely spared the harsh ground fighting that has erupted elsewhere in the country.
“I want people through these things to understand this war as I see it, as it is happening,” Netesov told AFP.
For weeks, Netesov witnessed the brutal toll of the war as a volunteer member of the Ukrainian army deployed to the outskirts of kyiv, where he helped repel Russian forces while collecting equipment, weapons and supplies. memories on the battlefield.
In addition to the trophies on display in kyiv, Netesov decorated his personal office with an array of war memorabilia amassed in Ukraine over the years, with lamps made from mortar shells and shoulder-fired rockets adorning the walls.
“We have to win”
Going forward, Netesov hopes to line the entire avenue outside the Military History Museum with various war relics, insisting that preserving memories of the brutal costs of the conflict will be vital for Ukraine as as the nation moves forward.
“It’s normal practice to display war trophies, but it’s not a matter of bluster,” Netesov said. “It’s important to me to preserve these artifacts to show that this really happened.”
The sight of detritus from the conflict a few blocks from President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wartime headquarters sparked a series of reactions from passers-by – blank stares, selfies and short laughs.
But not everyone was happy with the presence of the battered remnants of war.
28-year-old lawyer Inna Hopaitsa said the remains unearthed memories of the dark early days of the Russian invasion and the overwhelming fear that gripped people across Ukraine.
“It’s really painful and hard,” Hopaitsa said, her voice cracking.
But she admitted that preserving the “heroic deeds” of the Ukrainian military was a necessary undertaking.
Since Ukrainian fighters won a stunning defeat against Russian forces on the outskirts of kyiv in late March, much of the equipment and armor destroyed in the fighting has been towed away and cleared from the roads leading to the capital.
Ruined tanks, artillery pieces and armored fighting vehicles will likely end up in scrap yards or museums.
Examining the smashed infantry vehicle, Inna’s husband Valeriy Hopaitsa said he was more ambivalent about the future of the remnants of war, insisting there were more pressing matters at hand.
“We have to win first,” said the 26-year-old. “Only then can we decide what to do with these vehicles and remains.”
© 2022 AFP