Ukrainian writer and soldier says all Russians are to blame for the invasion: 'It's not Putin who is pulling the trigger in Bucha'

Ukrainian writer and soldier says all Russians are to blame for the invasion: 'It's not Putin who is pulling the trigger in Bucha'
  • Oleksandr Mykhed is a Ukrainian author who became a soldier following the Russian invasion.

  • Mykhed has written a book documenting his and others' experiences during the war.

  • He told Business Insider his book is "a testament for rage, love, and memory."

"War changes everything," writes Oleksandr Mykhed in his new book, "The Language of War."

Before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Ukrainian author lived with his wife, Olena, and their dog, Lisa, in Hostomel, a town close to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

But on February 24, as Russian troops descended on Hostomel Airport, Mykhed and Olena fled to Chernivtsi in the southwest of Ukraine.

Within a week of the invasion, Mykhed, a renowned author who has published nine books, had enlisted in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and his former home had been destroyed by a Russian attack.

As the life he knew collapsed around him, he says he felt compelled to document what was happening to his country.

"You can take my previous life, you can take everything, but still I will be a writer, and I will find a way how to tell this story," he told Business Insider.

He says he began to write down his feelings on the first morning of the invasion, and these notes eventually developed into "The Language of War," which he describes as a testament to "rage, love, and memory."

Meeting me in London to discuss the book, Mykhed appears a hardened and determined figure, shaped by a conflict already stretching into its third year.

In the book, he lays bare the horrors of the conflict in a series of vivid, fragmented paragraphs that seem to reflect the chaos of warfare.

Central to the work is his view that the war is not Putin's but a war carried out by all Russians.

"I blame all of them," Mykhed says. "I think that he is the mirror of what they wanted."

He notes that few opposed Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and that public opinion of the full-scale invasion only began to shift after Putin announced a partial mobilization in September 2022.

He also points to those involved in atrocities committed in Bucha and Mariupol and double-tap strikes where rescue workers are targeted.

"We are fighting against all of them. It's not Putin who is pulling the trigger in Bucha," he says, referencing the massacre that took place in 2022.

Mykhed's parents survived the occupation of Bucha, as he recounts in his book.

"In those weeks when day after day we were waiting for text messages from my parents in occupied Bucha. And then, one short word finally appeared: 'Alive,'" he wrote.

As he talks, Mykhed's anger is evident.

He does not feel hate, he clarifies, as "hate is aimless," but rage.

"This is my fuel," he says. "Rage is a strong feeling that gives you power and motivation to keep on going."

But the war has also allowed him to feel "huge love," as it produces "amazing people," he says, mentioning foreign journalists documenting life in Kyiv as an example.

Mykhed also touches on how the armed forces have united Ukrainians from all walks of life, blurring the boundaries of age, gender, and politics.

"The particularity of the armed forces of Ukraine is that this is the mirror of the whole society," he says. "You won't find a person whose relative is not in the armed forces."

But he also offers a reminder of the brutal realities of the war: "You won't find a person who hasn't lost a friend, a relative, or somebody loved due to the invasion."

In late February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since Russia launched the invasion. In November 2023, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said that at least 10,000 Ukrainian civilians had been killed as a result of the conflict.

Russian military casualties are estimated to be over 500,000.

The only challenge a writer has is to stay alive, he says

Bucha, Ukraine, on April 6, 2022.Chris McGrath

Mykhed's story is just one example of Ukrainian citizens' resilience in the face of the Russian invaders.

In spite of last summer's counteroffensive's failure, which was followed by severe ammunition and equipment shortages, Ukraine's resolve has seen Russia's recent advance around Kharkiv ground down and ensured that Russia failed to achieve its primary objectives for the invasion.

Nevertheless, the war in Ukraine rages on, and Mykhed offers me a stark reminder of that fact when talking about his book.

"In normal literature, you would speak about literary series, literary stylistics, you would experiment with words, you would be edgy, and you would like to be transgressive. In Ukraine, you'd better be just alive," he says.

"This is probably the only challenge a writer has."

Read the original article on Business Insider