07/06/2022

There are funerals every day in Kyiv, but these funerals were especially touching. Hundreds of friends and activists, dressed in Ukrainian flags, gathered on Saturday to commemorate Roman Ratushny, a prominent political and environmental activist who was recently killed in fighting near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

“Both the brightest and bravest of our children are dying. Activist Ivana Snina, 23, said on Thursday during a memorial service for Ratuchny that the war on society is enormous.”

He was one of the student demonstrators who had been beaten by brutal riot police in Berkut on the first night of the 2013 pro-Western Maidan Revolution. Then-pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to crack down on student demonstrations quickly sparked larger protests, eventually causing Yanukovych to flee from Kyiv to Moscow.

After Maidan, Ratushny worked as an investigative journalist, exposing local corruption. However, he is best known in Kyiv for leading the 2019 campaign to protect Protasiv Yar, a green space in the center of Kyiv that developers wanted to capture. Mourners gathered near Protasev Yar last week.

His death a few weeks before his 25th birthday underscores the enormous toll that Russia’s invasion is taking to Ukraine’s promising new generation.

He was the voice of a free and independent Ukraine. “He had such a bright future ahead of him,” said Snina, adding that none of her friends were surprised when Ratushny decided to join the army at the start of the war.

Thousands of young Ukrainians, previously only aware of independent Ukraine, volunteered to join the army and the regional defense forces when Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

While the country has succeeded in holding off Russian forces, it is now suffering some of the heaviest casualties since the war began as the battle for the east of the country enters its decisive phase. Between 100 and 200 Ukrainians are believed to die each day as the fighting escalates into a protracted war of attrition with no end in sight.

Many are fighting against a faltering Russian army but it still outperforms 10 to 1 with almost no military training.

In a recent interview with economicUkrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said the killing of Ukrainian youth was an inevitable consequence of the Russian invasion, and blamed it on Ukraine’s lack of heavy weapons.

“How could it be different? Young people end up on the front lines where no one wants them and they die… the world needs to know.”

Valya Bolchuk, a photographer from Kyiv, said her days are now “full of the transition from funeral to funeral.” “I was at another friend’s funeral when I heard about Roman,” she shrugged before kneeling as the car carrying Ratushni’s body passed by.

His friends say the contrast between the murder of a Ukrainian activist turned soldier like Ratushny and the murder of Russian contract soldiers is stark.

“Our golden generation is dying because they are fighting for an idea. In Russia, many are fighting for money,” said Snina.

Russia last announced its official death toll in late March, but independent Russian media are keeping their own tally of Russian casualties, illustrating the fact that poorer and more remote regions have been disproportionately affected by the war. According to the independent Russian website MediaZona, only eight soldiers from Moscow and 26 from Saint Petersburg, the second largest city, have died in Ukraine so far.

Most of the confirmed deaths – 207 – were among soldiers from the North Caucasus Muslim region of Dagestan, followed by Buryatia in Siberia (164), two regions where work in the armed forces is seen as one of the only ways to escape poverty. Some analysts have also linked this contradiction to Russia’s desire to keep the horrific realities of the war out of the largely affluent urban areas.

In an effort to highlight the perceived hypocrisy of the Russian elites in Moscow, anti-war activists launched an online campaign, tweeting to high-ranking politicians why they wouldn’t send their children to fight.

Massi Naim, 37, a prominent Ukrainian lawyer turned soldier, said the war will empower the new Ukrainian generation for many decades to come. Not only did the Romans die, but it’s part of Ukraine’s future as well. It will leave an impression on his friends.”

Naeem talked about it observer From a hospital in Dnipro, where he was recovering from serious head injuries sustained in combat earlier this month that left him blind in one eye.

“The new generation in Ukraine will be different – and they will remember this war for the rest of their lives. There will be no reconciliation with Russia in the next few decades.”

Certainly the war has stressed Ratushny, who wrote on Twitter a month before his death: “The more Russians we kill now, the fewer Russians our children will kill.”

In Kyiv, where anti-war and anti-Putin art can be seen in almost every corner of the city, young people not on the front lines found other ways to help the army. When war broke out, dozens of young-run restaurants in Kyiv quickly focused on cooking for the military, local hospitals, and famous young designers switched from high-end fashion to making Ukrainian military uniforms.

“The war created a new sense of unity and consciousness,” said Kyiv-based designer Anton Belinsky, one of the leading faces of the new fashion movement in Ukraine.

However, they fear that the war could lead to a demographic catastrophe in the country, as millions have fled Ukraine since the invasion began, while thousands of men are dying on the battlefield.

Perhaps feeling the urgency, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky recently reached out to Ukrainian students across Britain, urging them to return and rebuild the country.

“I can build a country for all of us, for our generation, for the elderly. We can try a lot,” Zelensky said. “But building a future without a young generation is impossible.”

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