Latest news on the Russian-Ukrainian war: live updates

CHISINAU, Moldova — Vova Klever, a successful young fashion photographer from Ukraine’s capital kyiv, didn’t see herself in this war. “Vi...


CHISINAU, Moldova — Vova Klever, a successful young fashion photographer from Ukraine’s capital kyiv, didn’t see herself in this war.

“Violence is not my weapon,” he said.

So, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Mr Klever snuck in, breaking Ukrainian law that prohibits men of military age from leaving the country.

Mr Klever’s mistake, which would have devastating consequences, was to write a friend about being smuggled out and going to London.

The friend betrayed his trust and posted their conversation on social media. It went viral and Ukrainians all over the internet exploded in anger and resentment.

“You are a walking dead person,” said a Twitter post. “I will find you in any corner of the world.”

The idea of ​​people – especially men – leaving war-torn Ukraine for a safe and comfortable life abroad has caused a moral dilemma among Ukrainians that revolves around one of the most basic decisions that humans can take: fight or flight.

Thousands of Ukrainian men of military age left the country to avoid participating in the war, according to records from regional law enforcement officials and interviews with people inside and outside Ukraine. Ukraine. Smuggling networks in Moldova, and possibly in other European countries, have done good business. Some people paid up to $15,000 for a secret overnight ride out of Ukraine, Moldovan officials said.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Draft runners are the big exception. This makes things even more complicated for them – morally, socially and practically. Ukrainian society was mobilized for war against a much larger enemy, and countless Ukrainians without military experience volunteered for the fight. To maximize its strength, the Ukrainian government has taken the extreme step of banning men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving, with few exceptions.

All this has forced Ukrainian men who do not want to serve to take illegal routes to Hungary, Moldova, Poland and other neighboring countries. Even among those who were convinced they had fled for the right reasons, some said they felt guilty and ashamed.

“I don’t think I can be a good soldier right now in this war,” said a Ukrainian computer programmer named Volodymyr, who left shortly after the war started and wouldn’t release his name. family, fearing repercussions for avoiding military service. .

“Look at me,” Volodymyr said, as he sat in a pub in Warsaw drinking a beer. “I wear glasses. I’m 46. I don’t look like a classic fighter, a Rambo who can fight Russian troops.

He took another sip and looked into his glass.

“Yes, I’m ashamed,” he said. “I fled this war, and that’s probably my crime.”

Ukrainian politicians have threatened to put draft evaders in jail and confiscate their homes. But within Ukrainian society, feelings are more divided.

The vast majority of refugees are women and children, who have suffered little backlash. But this is not the case for young men. Like the cities continue to be bombarded by Russian bombs, many Ukrainians have been ruthless towards the resisters.

Credit…Mauricio Lima for the New York Times

This is what made the young photographer explode.

In mid-March, Olga Lepina, who has worked as a model and modeling agent, said Mr Klever sent her husband a message saying he had arrived in London.

Her husband replied, “Wow! How?”

“Through Hungary with the smugglers for $5k,” Mr. Klever replied, according to screenshots of the conversation provided by Ms. Lepina. “But it’s just between us, shh!”

Ms Lepina said she and Mr Klever had been friends for years. She even went to her wedding. She had also left for France, with her husband, who is not a Ukrainian citizen. But as war approached, she said, Mr. Klever became intensely patriotic and a bit of a bully online. When she found out he had avoided the service, she was so outraged that she posted screenshots of the conversation on Instagram.

“For me, it was hypocrisy to leave the country and pay for it,” she explained. “I just decided to present it to the public. He must be responsible for his words.

Mr Klever, who is in his twenties, was bombarded with hate messages, including death threats. Some Ukrainians resented him for using his wealth to get away with it and called it “cheating”.

Responding to emailed questions, Mr Klever did not deny jumping on his serve and said he had poor eyesight and had “been through a lot lately”.

“You can’t even imagine the hate,” he said.

Mr Klever gave conflicting accounts of exactly how he left the country and declined to provide details. But for many other Ukrainian men, Moldova has become the favorite hatch.

Moldova shares a nearly 800-mile border with western Ukraine. And unlike Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, Moldova is not part of the European Union, which means that it has far fewer resources to control its borders. It is one of the poorest countries in Europe and has been a hub human trafficking and organized crime.

Credit…Cristian Movila for The New York Times

Days after the war broke out, Moldovan officials said, Moldovan gangs posted advertisements on Telegram, a popular messaging service in Eastern Europe, offering to book cars and even minibuses to eliminate the rebellious.

Law enforcement officials said the typical method was for smugglers and Ukrainians to select a meeting point along Moldova’s ‘green border’, the term used for unfenced border areas. , and to meet late at night.

One recent night, a team of Moldovan border guards walked through a flat, endless wheat field, their boots sinking in the mud, searching for refractories. There was no border post, just the dim lights of a Ukrainian village and the barking of dogs in the dark.

Here you can enter and leave Ukraine on foot.

Moldovan officials said that since late February they had dismantled more than 20 smuggling rings, including some well-known criminal enterprises. In turn, they apprehended 1,091 people crossing the border illegally. All were Ukrainian men, officials said.

Once caught, these men have a choice. If they don’t want to be sent back, they can apply for asylum in Moldova and cannot be deported.

But if they do not seek asylum, they may be handed over to Ukrainian authorities who Moldovan officials say have pressured them to return them. The vast majority of those who entered illegally, around 1,000, applied for asylum and less than 100 were returned, Moldovan officials said. Another 2,000 Ukrainian men who entered Moldova legally have also requested asylum.

Volodymyr Danuliv is one of them. He refuses to fight in the war, even though it’s not the prospect of dying that worries him, he said. It is the killing.

“I can’t shoot Russians,” said Mr Danuliv, 50.

Credit…Cristian Movila for The New York Times

He explained that his siblings married Russians, and two of his nephews served in the Russian army – in Ukraine.

“How can I fight in this war? ” He asked. “I could kill my own family.”

Myroslav Hai, an official of the Ukrainian military reserve, conceded: “There are people who escape mobilization, but their share compared to volunteers is not so important”. Other Ukrainian officials said men ideologically or religiously opposed to the war could serve in other ways, such as cooks or drivers.

But none of the more than a dozen men interviewed for this article seemed interested. Mr. Danuliv, a businessman from western Ukraine, said he did not want to participate in the war. When asked if he feared being ostracized or shamed, he shook his head.

“I didn’t kill anyone. That’s what’s important to me,” he said. “I don’t care what people say.”

What happens when the war ends? What resentment will surface toward those who have left? These are questions that Ukrainian men and women are beginning to ask themselves.

When Ms. Lepina shamed Mr. Klever, she herself was no longer in Ukraine. She too had left for France. Every day, she says, she struggles with guilt.

“People are suffering in Ukraine, and I want to be there to help them, to support them,” she said. “But at the same time, I’m safe and I want to be here.”

“It’s a very ambiguous and complicated feeling,” she said.

And she knows she will be judged.

“Of course there will be people who will divide Ukrainian nationals into those who left and those who stayed,” she said. “I’m ready for this.”

Siergiej Greczuszkin contributed reporting from Warsaw and Daria Mychkovska from Przemysl, Poland.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Latest news on the Russian-Ukrainian war: live updates
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