Afghanistan War Veterans turn their back on the President - literally
On 15 February, the 23rd anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet soldiers from Afghanistan, around 200 veterans from the organization “Nobody but Us” deliberately snubbed President Yanukovych and other public officials by demonstratively turning their back on them.
The Memorial to the soldiers who died in the Afghanistan War had been surrounded from early morning by several cordons of law enforcement officers. The Veterans who arrived to lay flowers at the graves of fellow soldiers killed in Afghanistan were stunned to learn that only those on the security guards’ list would be allowed to get to the Monument.
“This is my day, not Yanukovych’s”, one of them said to the guards, “This is a monument to my comrades, not his. Let me through”.
“If you’re not on the list you can get through only after the President leaves. Not before”, he was told.
As a result, the Afghanistan War veterans had to spend several hours in freezing conditions, behind metal railing waiting until the President and his retinue had laid flowers.
The President’s adviser, Hanna Herman and Internal Affairs Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko went up to the men and tried to explain why the men whose day this indeed was were not allowed near the Monument.
A few minutes before Yanukovych’s cortege turned up, the men organized themselves in two rows. As soon as the President got out of the car, the order resounded “About-turn!” and the men all turned their backs on the President and officials.
The Veterans of the Afghanistan War were indeed only able to lay their flowers at the Memorial after Yanukovych and his retinue left.
The veterans are among those most affected by cuts in pensions and social benefits.