Hero of Ukraine Tells of Resistance in Donbas
The Kremlin's Prisoners is the name of a project aimed at raising awareness about dozens of Ukrainians held captive in Russia and in the Russian-occupied territories in Donbas. It was launched by Volodymyr Zhemchuhov, who was freed from captivity three years ago, and who has since been awarded "Hero of Ukraine." He is now visiting universities in Kharkiv
Zhemchuhov wasn’t visiting the city of Kharkiv for the first time. He had lived and worked in Luhansk some 300 kilometers south.
Before the war, he had traveled around Europe. But in 2014, when Russian hybrid forces occupied his home, he needed to return to defend it, despite having no prior military experience.
Zhemchuhov became the leader of the underground resistance in Luhansk and began helping the Ukrainian Army.
“We collected mines, shells, made landmines out of them, and laid them on the roads in front of columns of Russian military vehicles, blew up communications, blew up the railway a number of times,” Zhemchuhov said.
Zhemchuhov and his unit conducted 30 successful operations. But in the autumn of 2015, he was severely injured in a landmine explosion. He was then captured by the Russian-led militants. Both of Zhemchuhov’s hands were amputated, and he partially lost his eyesight.
At the hospital, Zhemchuhov was interrogated by Russian intelligence. After his release in September 2016, he underwent rehabilitation and now works at the Ministry of Information Policy. He insists on being called a “partisan,” although the term doesn’t fit into the modern military classification.
“You see, on my chest is a medal ‘Hero of Ukraine.’ It was given to me, only because I did not surrender, these bars underneath are distinctions given for conducting guerrilla war, but unfortunately, our legislation has not even resolved the issue with army volunteers yet, let alone with partisan resistance. It’s an illegal formation,” Zhemchuhov said.
In 2018, together with his wife, Olena, Zhemchuhov launched their nationwide project “Prisoners of the Kremlin.” The couple has already traveled to more than forty schools and universities with their documentary about political prisoners of the Kremlin in Crimea and the Donbas.
In Kharkiv, Zhemchuhov plans to meet with cadets of the Kozhedub Air Force University, as well as with students of the Pedagogical University and the Karazin University. After that he will visit universities in Kyiv and Dnipro.