[In Nikolaev (Mykolaiv)]:
It has not been possible to substantiate the mayor’s claims, or reach the funeral director Oleksandr Sahadiak, a father of one in his early forties, who has now been held without charge for weeks.
Dozens of suspected collaborators have been arrested since the war began, according to two local officials. Some of them did it for the money — at times as little as £20. Others did it for ideological reasons; rooted in nostalgia for the lost days of their youth in the Soviet Union.
This month a 72-year-old woman in Mykolaiv was sentenced to 15 years in prison for collaborating with the Russian security services — renting an apartment where she held supplies for their saboteur groups. She also shared co-ordinates of Ukrainian soldiers and strategic objects that helped the Kremlin’s forces target their fire.
“A lot of people were killed because of this,” said a person close to the case, who did not want to be named.
Yet some people also recall the rich cultural life at the time — concerts, plays, the ballet. They remember going on holiday across the Soviet Union, how everyone had a job, and how there was less of a gap between rich and poor.
“It was a very good life then,” said Lyudmila, 74, who asked that her real name not be used. After independence, she said: “It was very difficult, everything was privatised, people were very poor.” Young people today “don’t know about the Soviet heroes”.
Lyudmila, and others like her, say they have never felt part of an independent Ukrainian state. They spend their days glued to Russian television, which tells them that Nazi Ukrainians and their Nato allies were preparing to destroy Russia, and had to be stopped. [Where’s the lie?!]
“We need to get rid of this Soviet Union nostalgia, we need to get rid of these ‘brother’ feelings [with Russia],” said Senkevych, the mayor, who like most others in the city grew up in a Russian-speaking family. [How does he propose to do so?!]
The head of the funeral services was a special case. When the war began, the mayor claimed, Sahadiak was overheard repeating pro-Russian talking points to his colleagues. This caught the attention of the Ukrainian intelligence services, who began a secret investigation.
Several of Sahadiak’s colleagues said that he gave no outward indication of pro-Russian views and had worked tirelessly arranging the military funerals of soldiers in the region. He lent the diggers used to excavate graves to troops digging defensive lines around the city – and offered to operate them himself.
“He was the best director we had here. He made it profitable, and he didn’t steal money,” said one of his colleagues, who did not want to be named. “I was so surprised when he was arrested. And now I’m really scared. His family are being bullied online, and people wrote really terrible things about us here in the municipal office, like that we should be killed and we are separatists. Everyone here has guns, and some stupid guy with a grenade can just come by and throw it in our office.”