Galina Artyomenko He has been raising funds for a year and a half to help Ukrainians displaced in Russia due to the February 2022 offensive. Suddenly, in mid-July, his bank cards and those of two other volunteers were blocked. “According to the bank, our collections pursued ‘dubious objectives,'” she says disgustedly, claiming to be able to justify “every ruble spent.”
This blockade shows that their humanitarian commitment is the target of suspicion in a country where repression against those who criticize the attack on Ukraine is in full swing. Together with other volunteers in St. Petersburg (northwest), Galina spreads calls for donations on the internet. With the money raised, he buys clothing, medicine and food products for those who were forced to reach Russian territory by hostilities.
Receives Ukrainians at the St. Petersburg station. It helps them find accommodation, work, or carry out administrative procedures to try to go to the European Union (EU) from Russia. “There are thousands of people who help (Ukrainians) but prefer not to talk about it for security reasons. Although there is no law that prohibits helping people who have fallen from grace,” he says.
In a context of exacerbated repression, many volunteers refuse to talk about the conflict and their help to refugees for fear of attracting the attention of the authorities, who arrest anonymous people accused of collaborating with kyiv or denigrating the Russian army.
According to Liudmila, a 43-year-old volunteer who prefers to keep her last name a secret, many of these Russians are “pacifists” who cannot openly express their positions and ease their conscience by helping victims. “We cannot sit idly by, we have to help those who are in a worse situation than ours and who are suffering,” Lioudmila emphasizes. “It’s the only way to exist that we have left,” says Galina.