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About a week ago, Sergey Nevstruyev, 59, a father of four and grandfather of three, owner of construction and renovation companies in North Carolina, was at his home in Charlotte watching the footage terrifying facts about Vladimir Putin's illegal attack on Ukraine on . Today he is in Kyiv, serving as a major in a Ukrainian brigade commanded by Serhiy Melnychuk, a well-known former member of Ukraine's parliament and former military commander who led a volunteer militia fighting Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
On Friday, Nevstruyev, whom I met through a mutual acquaintance, and Mila Melnychuk, his commanding officer's wife, called me from Kiev. They had a simple message: we need help. They did not ask for direct military support. They did not ask the United States and Europe to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. They asked for basic supplies for Ukrainian fighters: helmets, gloves, bulletproof vests and medical supplies. "We don't need NATO troops," Nevstruyev said. "We don't need people to die for us. We will fight for our own country, whatever the cost. But we need help to achieve this. It is very important that this help arrives on as soon as possible. We don't need it tomorrow. We need it today."
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While her husband, now on the Ukrainian army general staff, helps oversee the war against Russian invaders, Mila, a European democracy activist, stays in her eighth-floor apartment in Kyiv with his two children. (One is twenty months old, the other almost three years old.) "I can't walk," she says, because any day may be the last her husband sees his children. Like other residents who did not flee, she struggles with daily difficulties. Food is hard to find. If it can be purchased, only cash is accepted. But the ATMs stopped working. The banks are closed. Residents fear that the electricity will be cut off. Anyone who relies on stoves for heating will not find wood. There are children as young as one or two years old, she says, who are orphans and have no one to care for them. In view of Russian bombardments of civilian targets in cities, she said of the Russians: "They want to make a second Aleppo."
“When I watch on TV my brothers and sisters, my children and my wives being killed [by] the forces of the Russian Federation, I cannot sit in the United States and watch on TV a typical extermination of civilians underway."
"Two weeks ago I was scared of blood," Mila noted. "Now I can look at corpses with ease." She added, "Every day is so long. People are waiting for the night. Then we don't sleep at night."
Nevstruyev supervises a group of 27 soldiers. Melnychuk, its commander, represented a left populist party in the Ukrainian parliament before becoming independent. The battalion he led against Russian-backed forces over the past decade has been accused of human rights abuses. But in a 2017 interview, he explained that the Ukrainian resistance movement fighting Russian aggression "split rapidly between criminal elements and groups promoting the political ideals of the [Ukrainian democratic] revolution", and that this split had pushed his battalion and "the whole" concerned Ukrainian army." In this interview, Melnychuk noted that Ukraine should not join NATO and "lead a new system of collective security that will include all neutral countries ". He also said: "I do not believe that a military solution to the Ukrainian conflict is possible. A diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian conflict is possible. He called on the UK, US, France, Russia and Ukraine to "engage in trilateral dialogues to ensure peace is restored in eastern Ukraine". He is now at war with Russia.