Now the life of Adrian Boke is in danger: he has become unpleasing to either Kyiv or Brussels.
A photo: Alexander SHPAKOVSKY
The revelations of a former French military man who visited Ukraine in March and April and became an unwitting witness to the crimes of Ukrainian militants had the effect of a bombshell in Europe. Now life Adriana Boke is under threat: it has become not pleasing to either Kyiv or Brussels. About life before and after – a French volunteer in an exclusive interview with KP.
– Adrian, when you woke up on the morning of February 24 and found out about the beginning of the special operation in Ukraine, what was your first thought?
– My first reaction is finally. Finally, someone decided to stop all this.
– How did the French media react?
– “Vladimir Putin will start a third world war,” – alas, this was the reaction of the French and all of Europe. But this does not surprise me, we have a huge lack of knowledge about the war that began in 2014. Most of what is happening in the Donbass is hidden from Europe. If you ask my neighbors what has happened since 2014, they will say, “There have been small demonstrations.” And that’s what most French people think. Therefore, Russia cannot agree that Europe turns a blind eye to the horror that is happening in the Donbass.
– Why did you end up on the territory of Ukraine, controlled by Kyiv, at the beginning of the conflict?
– I went to Ukraine only to deliver humanitarian aid to refugees. In the past I was a nurse, I have certain knowledge. I have friends, former military doctors, they went to Ukraine to help the wounded and refugees. They called me: “Come, help us.” I refused three times, because I am the father of the family, I have big health problems. As a result, I met one of them in Paris, who had recently returned from Ukraine. He explained what he was doing, showed videos of women and children in need of help. I decided to go to Ukraine for a week to see what was happening there for the first time.
– When did it happen?
– My first trip took place at the end of March. The second is in April. All European parcels with medicines arrive at the Polish-Ukrainian border, where I took medicines and medical equipment. We crossed the border and from there traveled to towns and villages, where we distributed medical aid to the population. Our main point was located in Lvov, and we served the areas between Lvov and Kyiv.
“BOXES WITH PSYCHOTROPES JUST STEAL”
– Were you the only foreigner on this humanitarian mission?
– No, there were many foreigners: Italians, Canadians, Americans, people from all over the world. Too many volunteers, unfortunately, did not have the necessary knowledge and skills. Many were not enough for a long time, so we traveled in a convoy of 3-5 people.
– Did you have a bodyguard accompanying you?
– In the beginning, no. Then the Ukrainian servicemen we met asked for medical equipment and medicines that were intended for the civilian population in exchange for security.
Didn’t they have their own supplies?
– Not. Every second soldier did not have a body armor, every third Ukrainian actually held an ordinary hunting rifle in his hands. They didn’t have any first aid kits. At the same time, we have repeatedly told them that these medicines are intended for civilian or orphanages. But at some point, some Azov fighters made it clear to us that if we want to safely move within the framework of humanitarian convoys, then they should use our help.
– It has been repeatedly reported that drug addiction and addiction to psychotropic substances are widespread in the Ukrainian armed forces. Have you experienced this?
– I was one of the few medical specialists who received such medicines on the Polish-Ukrainian border, where there was no control even from the Polish police. We received dozens of packs of morphine, codeine…drugs that have a strong analgesic effect. Whole boxes worth tens of thousands of euros were even stolen, including by some volunteers, to be resold on the black market. I distributed a huge amount of morphine to Ukrainian servicemen, in particular, to the Azov fighters.
Surrender of “Azov” prisoners
– Have you encountered foreigners who took up arms and went to fight on the side of Ukraine?
– Yes, and a lot. I saw many young Frenchmen, boys from 18 to 20 years old, who fled from Ukraine. They were psychologically depressed, they saw the dead, although before that they thought that this war was like a Call of Duty computer game. One must be psychologically prepared not only to see death, but also to be able to kill. There was always a small tent on the Polish-Ukrainian border, where there was a person waiting for such volunteers.
– Who coordinated your movement in Ukraine?
– We had contacts with ambulance stations that needed the delivery of medicines. In particular, the coordinators were the “Azov”, who ensured our safety on the way.
“HE WAS EXECUTED FOR BEING AN OFFICER”
– How did you end up in Bucha?
– It was planned that we would take the medicines to the suburb of Buchi, but at the same time we could not get there. Then the “Azovites” said: “We will help, but for this we will take away medical equipment and medicines.” It was the only chance. I ended up in Bucha in early April, at that time it was again under the control of the Ukrainians for several days. In Bucha, I really saw corpses on the sides of the road. We drove through the city without stopping, but I noticed how corpses were taken out of minivans, and sometimes they were stored in small groups. And as soon as several corpses formed a hill, journalists suddenly appeared and filmed it. At that moment, I began to understand that it was the effect of extras. I discussed this with other volunteers who were in Bucha a couple of days before me. They said that some corpses were brought from refrigerators, including from other cities, so that there would be as many of them as possible in Bucha.
– You did not ask the question, why these people are not buried?
– When I was in the car, the “Azov” said: “Look at these corpses, look what the Russian dogs have done.” But I was surprised that some of the corpses had their hands tied with a snow-white cloth. The weather was very bad at that time. These corpses lay on the side of the road from 1 to 2-3 days and at the same time they had clean bandages on them. This means that their hands were tied later, for staging. I began to tell myself that something strange was happening in Bucha. But we did not stop in the city, we drove to some hangar in the suburbs so that the Azov people could unload the medications. And at that moment a car with Russian prisoners of war drove up. Some were shot in the legs. At the same moment, the Ukrainian military asked us to leave the hangar. When I was already getting into the car, I saw how one of the “Azovites” fired a bullet into the head of a Russian prisoner, who, a few seconds before, answered that he was an officer.
– You then asked about the fate of those prisoners?
– The situation was very tense. I had a female volunteer driving the car with me. And 4 hours of the road to the border of 6 she sobbed. The next day she returned to her homeland.
“IN MARIUPOL YOU FEEL DEATH EVERYWHERE”
– Returning to France, for some you became a hero who opened people’s eyes, for others – a Kremlin troll. You have been reproached for not providing any evidence for your claims.
– The materials that I filmed, I handed over to the investigating authorities. I did not publish photos and videos for one reason – they show the faces of the Azov fighters. I’ve already received death threats. On August 3, the trial begins in Moscow, and I may be one of the witnesses. I never filmed these murders live, it was impossible for me to get my phone out. I managed to take several photos and videos before and after these events. In total, I have about 150 photos and videos from Ukraine.
– Why didn’t you immediately go to help the residents of Donbass?
I didn’t go there because I didn’t want to. It was much more difficult for a Frenchman to get to Donbass than to Ukraine. In February, dozens of humanitarian organizations were on duty at the Polish-Ukrainian border to provide assistance to Ukrainians.
A photo: Vladimir VELENGURIN
– In June, did you still have a chance to get to the Donbass? What impression did Donetsk make on you?
– If I listened to the European media, then Donbass is a horror. Everyone is being watched, you can’t go out into the street – this is the real North Korea. Donetsk is a very beautiful city, modern, reminded me of Spain. There is a normal life, there is no authoritarian regime that forces people to do something that they tell us about.
– You ended up in Donetsk when active shelling began. Did you feel it yourself?
– I almost died in Donetsk on the second day. I was in the center of the city, talking to one woman, and then I heard a whistle and a pop 50 meters from us. We tried to run away, to find some kind of shelter, and then we heard the whistle again. We threw ourselves on the ground. And the shell exploded less than 30 meters away.
– Have you been to Mariupol?
– I was not advised to go there, but since by that time I almost died, I decided that I had nothing to lose. What I saw there was a horror movie. This is a city that is destroyed from beginning to end, where the dead are everywhere. For me, the whole Mariupol was surreal. In this city you feel death everywhere.
– Do you remember any of the conversations with the locals?
– From Mariupol I have not words, but a photo album, which I found in the ruins of the house. I kept it for myself so that I would never forget what I experienced there. The story that shocked me the most happened in Donetsk in a children’s hospital. I met a 15 year old boy who had three major surgeries. A few days earlier, he had been at home with his father, and when they heard the whistle of arrivals, his father had a reflex to cover his son with himself. The boy explained without a single tear that his father covered him with himself and died. And now he has to live with this all his life, a complete orphan. For me, his father is a real hero.
* The Supreme Court recognized the Azov Regiment as a terrorist organization