In many Ukrainian cities, people gaze sadly at almost every theater, in front of which the word “Children” is written in large letters often with candles burning next to the inscription.

Two years ago, on March 16, a Russian bomber attacked the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol in which hundreds of citizens, including children, were sheltering. On the asphalt outside, the word “children” was written in huge letters, especially intended to alert Russian pilots of their presence. But it did not prevent the destruction of the theater and the murder of the innocent people inside.

In memory of all the civilians who died in Mariupol, on March 16 this year, actors who had escaped from the city painted the word “children” in front of the theater in Uzhhorod where they now live and work.

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This date is not an official day of remembrance, included in the state calendar of memorial events. This might be understandable, as there are now so many tragic dates that almost every day could be one of mourning. But some events should be remembered and kept in the public eye, even as Russia commits more crimes.

Ukrainians themselves took to the streets to honor the memory of soldiers and volunteers murdered by Russia in the Olenevka prisoner of war camp, on July 29, 2022, and to remember the victims of the bombing and shelling of residential buildings in Vinnytsia, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Odesa.

Odesa residents will now have another day of mourning on their calendar – March 15. Among the 21 dead and more than 45 injured in the missile attack, just last week, were many police officers and rescue workers. City officials who went to the scene of devastation were also killed. The mayor of the city, Gennady Trukhanov, who was once considered to be a pro-Russian politician, was almost killed.

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Another mayor who before the war was considered pro-Russian is Yuri Vilkul – the mayor of President Zelensky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih. Today he heads the city’s military administration doing everything possible to protect Kryvyi Rih from Russian attacks.

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There are no pro-Russian politicians left in Ukraine, but it seems that there are still some ordinary citizens who, for money or because of pro-Russian beliefs, pass information to the Russian army.

The address of the premises in Odesa where police and military personnel were temporarily billeted, was passed to Russian special services by a woman who lived nearby. She was arrested soon after the attack and police found correspondence with Russian handlers on her phone, including messages about the building which two Russian missiles struck on March 15.

Informants for Russian intelligence are arrested almost every day, but there are still people willing to commit acts of treachery. They do not realize that Russia considers them expendable. Once arrested, they are no longer of interest, and no efforts are made to exchange them for Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Recently, a street food vendor was arrested in Kyiv. He set up his stall near the headquarters of the Security Services and photographed the building and the license plates of the cars that drove into the yard.

This 32-year-old man turned out to have come from Kherson. After moving to Kyiv, he advertised on Telegram about his desire to earn extra money. A Russian special services officer from Rostov-on-Don replied and recruited him, promising regular “fees” for information about military and other important facilities in Kyiv.

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Fees paid by Russian intelligence services to Ukrainian informants are not particularly high – on average $200-300 for information about an object. Payments are made to electronic wallets. Our street food seller, however, will not be able to spend his earnings. He is in line for a 15-year prison sentence.

Ukrainian special services recently detained a father and son who were also working for Russian intelligence near Kyiv. They were initially asked to look for the remains of Russian soldiers in Kyiv region, to photograph and then bury them in the forest, recording the coordinates of each burial place.

This must have been a test of the new agents’ reliability. After that, they were asked to look for the location of military objects in Kyiv region, as well as the addresses and coordinates of enterprises producing military equipment.

The father and son team discovered the address of a drone factory. They managed to convey this information to their handler. Fortunately, production was moved elsewhere before the Russians had time to use the information. Several groups of military personnel also had to be resettled because the location of their accommodation had also been passed on to Russia.

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Today there are hundreds of traitors in Ukrainian prisons. Perhaps in the future, for their own safety, a separate “traitors” prison will be built. In an ordinary prison, they could become victims of criminals who consider themselves Ukrainian patriots.

Sooner or later, we will face the question of what to do with these people when the time comes for their release. Will prison make them more loyal to Ukraine? Will they want to move to Russia and would Russia accept them? 

We can only look forward to the day when such problems are all we have to worry about. For now, as proved by the March 20 missile attack on Kyiv and the March 21 attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, we must stay focused on survival.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

Andrei Kurkov is the author of over 30 books. His novels are translated in 37 languages, including English, Japanese and Hebrew! He is President of PEN Ukraine. He has published articles and essays in Ukraine in media around the world, including The Guardian, Die Wielt. He also did media projects for EBRD in Ukraine. He resides in Kyiv.

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Comments (2)

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David
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The bombing of the Mariupol theatre is one of the saddest days of the whole war.

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Carl
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Kurkov smells very neutral - he, just like the Kyiv Post, omits the HARD CONCRETE FACT that ALL THESE TRAITORS ARE RUSSIANS - all ethnic RUSSIANS even though they may have Ukrainian citizenship. They are RUSSIAN OCCUPIERS in Ukraine. They HATE UKRAINE, Ukrainians and the Ukrainian language and culture. Also kurkov puts the word criminals together with Ukrainian patriots.

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