INTERVIEW: Dzmitry Lisichyk, a Belarusian fighting for Ukraine

INTERVIEW: Dzmitry Lisichyk, a Belarusian fighting for Ukraine
Dzmitry Lisichyk: "My gun is always loaded." / bne IntelliNews
By Linas Jegelevicius in Vilnius February 26, 2022

When being called a mercenary of the Ukrainian army, Dzmitry Lisichyk, a 20-year-old Belarusian national, bristles. “I am a serviceman of the Ukrainian army, one with a special status – a contractor,” Dzmitry told bne IntelliNews in a telephone interview just before the Russian invasion. He is now in the fighting.

Can you reveal where you’re stationed now?

I am on the boundaries of Crimea [annexed by Russia in 2014] in the Kherson district. Our [firing] ground is in a desert-like area.

When you say “we”, who are you referring to? Your comrades? Where are they from?

The majority are Ukrainians. There are also Azeris, Syrians, fighters of some other nationalities.

Can I refer to you as a mercenary?

The right term would be “a military contractor.” My contract is valid for three years. The Ukrainian army signs it with those who do not have Ukrainian citizenship. However, I have the same rights as the Ukrainian troops. I just fall under slightly different jurisdiction.

How big is your wage?

€500 per month. But it will go up soon. The money is transferred to my bank account. I barely spend anything here.

What does your duty involve?

Being ready to stave off an attack by the Russians…My gun is always loaded. Before, I guarded weapon shipments. There was a real possibility that the enemy will attempt to blast them. My comrades and I are also patrolling the territory, where certain military objects are stationed. I’m not exaggerating – we are on duty 24 hours a day. If there is a need, I can be awakened in the middle of night and be ready instantly.

How is the weaponry you have? Do you have enough?

Our military machines are quite decent. Really so. We may be in short of certain weaponry, but that is characteristic to the entire army, not just our squad. What we really need here are drones. We have them here too, but too few. No one here can say they have too many drones.

Is the weaponry locally produced? Western?

Some of the artillery, like the tanks, are Soviet, some tanks and other heavy artillery are pretty new, produced by Ukraine itself. The ambulance vehicles are pretty new, too. Interestingly, here you can see Belarusian MAZ trucks and some other Belarusian military equipment, too. They were provided by Lukashenko to Ukraine just a little over two years ago, in 2019. Now, what a switcheroo – he is threatening Ukraine a war! It tells a lot.

How is the spirit in the ranks?

It is upbeat, as of fighters who are ready to fight and die for what they believe in – a free, proud and united Ukraine. Russia is profusely using scare tactics to demoralise us by announcing ever-changing new dates of invasion to Ukraine. We are getting fed up with the tactics. It would be better for them to move forward with their threats, so they will get finally to see how much they were mistaken to underestimate our valour and readiness.

You know very well that the situation can change any time, meaning you can be relocated to the flaming regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where a warfare will cause bloodshed.

Of course, I am aware of the situation and I am not afraid. Blood can be spilt everywhere if the situation gets nasty. It will be Russia’s fault – it is Russia that keeps frightening us with a full-scale war. But we will hit it back and won’t get scared – no doubt.

If you were to tell Lukashenko and Putin something straight in their faces, what the words would be?

[Giggles] I’d not say nothing to them, I’d do something to them. For what they’ve committed, they both need to be handcuffed and brought to an international tribune.

How does your ordinary day look like?

It depends on the shift of duty, but usually we get up at 7am. At night, some guys guard our compound, throwing something to burn in the makeshift bonfire, so it feels warmer. Rotation takes place every hour.

For meals, we have oatmeal porridge mostly, sea cabbage with mushrooms, sausages, tea. The food is prepared in a field kitchen. The food quality is good, not worse than that for other garrisons. Of course, the cook is a military guy.

Judging from the photos you sent me, it seems you’ve gained some extra kilos while in Ukraine?

[Grins] Indeed, I’ve gained five kilos, mostly muscular tissue. But, physically, I became stronger here – now I can do 16 pull-ups, five more than in Vilnius a half year ago.

Where do you sleep?

In tents. I have a free Belarusian flag sprawled on my belongings in it. But we sleep in beds, not in bunker beds.

Isn’t too cold to sleep in tents in February?

It isn’t bad. I am of low maintenance. But it’s quite warm here, around +12-14 at night.

How often do you get a chance to call you dad and mum, also your friends?

I call them now and then.

What do your parents ask you?

They – especially my mum – ask me to be careful, alert and vigilant. My dad is less emotional than my mum.

How often do get a chance to bath?

 In fact, I’ve just taken a shower. I had not had it for a week, as the stationary shower, one installed on the truck, was not around. But it does not bother me at all.

What are you missing there?

Certainty. When it comes to Russia’s plans here, here is some uncertainty, which keeps us tense, but that is something we have to live through before clarity comes.

In summer, you said Lukashenko can last no more than another two or three years. Now, with Russia’s help, it seems he can stay in power much longer.

Indeed, that is the reality now. What we all see is the ongoing occupation of Belarus [by Russia]. Very sad. Unless Russia wants to get rid of him, he can feel much more comfortable now.

I am sure that Ukraine will get back Crimea, Donbas and the other territories held by Russia – it will happen sooner than later. I’d say much quicker than many expect, as the Russians will not be putting up with what Putin is doing.

Furthermore, if he continues aggression, he needs to know he will get choked on Ukraine, one of the largest European countries. For example, in Mariupol local inhabitants, many of whom were Russians, hit the streets, clamouring against Putin’s warfare here. I saw that on the local news.

To be honest with you, when we spoke in person last time in Vilnius last summer, I was a little hesitant about your determination, if necessary, to sacrifice your life for cause of Ukraine. I chalked it up to your young age and immaturity. Is there anything you’re regretting now?

No, there is nothing to regret. I made the right decision. Absolutely. Believe me. In fact, I feel even more elevated and feel even more determined to fight off aggression of an imperial Russia.

Won’t you get in trouble for speaking publicly?

No, no way. My commanders are aware of the interview. My goal – I should say – our goal is to get the message about what is going on here as widely as possibly – straight from the horse’s mouth. As I said, I feel pride for being able to defend Ukraine and I am fine with whatever the future brings me. If I make it through here, my ultimate desire would be to return to a free, democratic Belarus and work for the local police force.