On November 25, Russia’s Federal Security Service border guard fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels at the Kerch Strait. Moscow and Kyiv have since traded allegations that the conflict was staged to shore up the other’s domestic support. In Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko signed an executive order imposing martial law for 30 days. In total, Russia captured more than 20 Ukrainian sailors, wounding three men when taking the “Berdiansk” gunboat. Neither Moscow now Kyiv has reported the ranks of these men, but it’s known that they’re currently hospitalized in Kerch, in Russian-controlled Crimea. Meduza reviews what we know about these injured sailors.
Twenty-seven-year-old Vasyl Soroka is an avid hunter, has several siblings, and listens to the Ukrainian rock band “Okean Elzy.” His father, Viktor Soroka, previously chaired a district council in the Odessa region, and currently serves as a deputy from the nationalist “Freedom” party in Odessa’s regional legislative assembly.
“I know as much as you do: they’re in the hospital and they were in surgery,” Viktor Soroka told the Ukrainian news outlet Hromadske. “They called me about it. I don't know anything more,” he added. Soroka says he last spoke to his son a week ago, during a visit, and he said nothing about a military operation. “These people are soldiers,” Soroka said of his son. “So they carry out the orders they’re given.”
Twenty-four years old, Artemenko was born in the village of Novoukrainka, in Ukraine’s Kropyvnytskyi region. His father still lives there, while his mother works in Italy. “He’s a very happy guy, responsible, and really just a good person,” one of his friends, Tanya, told Meduza.
Artemenko’s common-law wife, Marina Umanets, told Hromadske that they last spoke as recently as Friday, November 23: “Before he left, he said they needed to relocate a ship to Berdiansk. He said they’d be crossing that Kerch Bridge. Supposedly they had permission.” Umanets says she only knows what has been reported in the media: that Andriy Artemenko has been hospitalized with a shrapnel wound to one of his wrists. Artemenko’s father, Anatoliy, says he spoke to his son about a week and a half ago. “He didn’t say anything, except: ‘Dad, watch the TV,’” Anatoliy Artemenko told Hromadske.
Eighteen-year-old Andriy Eyder was born in Odessa, where he studied at a maritime transport vocational school. His Vkontakte page is full of photos with classmates and his girlfriend. In his bio, Andriy says he listens to rock music and enjoys “cool movies.” Andriy’s mother, Yevhenia, told Hromadske that she keeps in touch with her son mostly through social networks, but they don’t discuss his naval service. She says she learned about Andriy’s injury from a phone call from a journalist in Moscow. “Right now, I know that he’s wounded, he’s hospitalized in Kerch, his wounds are minor, and his condition is stable. The last time I saw him was when he went to enlist,” she said.
A man named Yan who knows Andriy told Meduza that he is a “good, upbeat guy.” “He never refuses to help, and always made a very good impression,” said Yan. Another friend named Valeriy told Meduza that Andriy is a serious Minecraft gamer, which is how the two got acquainted.
Andriy’s father wrote on Facebook that he is proud of his son.