Interview of Vladyslav Sobolevsky, deputy chief of the central staff of the National Corps, for TV-Park.
Vladyslav 31. He is from Kyiv. He studied at the gymnasium “Dialogue”, was engaged in boxing, “Dynamo” fan, as a member of the ultra-group White Boys Club. He graduated from the Drahomanov National Pedagogical University. He became a teacher of geography. During the Revolution of Dignity he was among the first to join the Maidan. Among other things, he became famous as a successful hunter of titushky [supporters the Ukrainian police force during the administration of Viktor Yanukovych, ed.]. When the Russian-Ukrainian war began, he went to fight as a volunteer without hesitation. From 2014-2017 years he was serving in the Azov Regiment. He started as a private and became the chief of staff. He became a major of the National Guard. For personal courage in battle he has been awarded several times. After the service he did not leave the Azov family. Now Vladyslav is the deputy head of the central branch of the National Corps party. In 2014, while getting to the assembly point in order to go to war, he bought two subway tokens. One he used and one saved. “This token is still with me, because it is too early to throw it in the turnstile on Independence Square to finally return from the war. Not all the work at the front has been done yet, and this symbol is still with me“.
— How it is better to present you to our readers?
— Vladyslav Sobolevsky, former chief of staff of the Azov Regiment.
— When you were a child, what did you dream you’d become?
— Surprisingly, I wanted to become a journalist. Still want to, but now I’m more interested in writing. I even wrote a script for the Ministry of Defense.
— Then why didn’t you enter the department of journalism?
— In my youth it was already transformed into a desire to do movies, to write scripts. Plus the right-wing movement left its mark. The need for adventure, travel was more than for any systematic work.
— When did you join the Ultras movement?
— In my youth.
—On the one hand there was anti-system, on the other you entered the pedagogical university. How did this happen?
— Yes, I am a geography teacher. He chose a specialty I’m good at in order to enter the university for free. I come from a very poor family, it was important to get a scholarship and go somewhere to work.
— After graduating from university did you have to work at school?
— Even while studying. I worked in schools in the Borshchahivka and the Obolon districts. This may sound strange, but education provided a good platform for future service and war.
— Do you remember the day you decided to go to war?
— Yes. I think I first made this decision subconsciously. Without telling anyone, I started looking for a unit to serve in. I did not go to the military registration and enlistment office because I had an exception: I had very poor eyesight. There was a volunteer movement, and it was a chance for me to go to war. The fan team is small, we created our own department, started training together, and we were taken to Azov.
— How did your relatives react to your decision?
— Ironically, my mother reacted very calmly. For some reason it seems to me that this is an element of a kind of Soviet upbringing, where in every family a man must “disappear” for several years in order to pay a debt to the Motherland. Friends did not go with me. I went to war alone and found comrades and friends whom I could rely on at anytime. Friends who didn’t go to war became volunteers.
— Where did your call sign come from?
— When we settled at the base in Berdyansk, Baida approached our unit and asked what my call sign was. I was completely unprepared for this question. People call me either Vlad Dynamo, or just Vlad. I was confused, and my commander said, “You will be Borisfen.” He then prepared this call sign for himself, everyone knows him as Vitaly. In general, we were going to stay there for only a few months, liberate Mariupol, Donetsk and return to Kyiv to get to the autumn part of the away season, ride for Dynamo and return to work.
— What does the Azov Regiment mean to you? Do you miss those moments?
— People sometimes say that the regiment is their second family, I can say that the regiment is me. I revealed myself to myself from a new angle, insanely happy that everything turned out that way. In fact, I’m not sad, because I know I’ll be back. One way or another, I would like to take part in the liberation of Donbas. I go to the regiment several times a year, I see my comrades. And the people I served with now surround me. I didn’t go anywhere, I’m just in the civilian part of the regiment.
— What incident in the war do you remember the most?
— Joining the battle of my platoon — the third platoon of the first company — in Marinka on August 4, when we, preparing to go into battle, exploded on a landmine. 13 people were injured, one was killed Balagan. The wounded were taken out and bandaged. Then in a few minutes a lot of significant things happened to me. I remember well that in the truck on our way to battle, Balagan was the only one shouting: “Valgala!”. It was absolutely useless. It annoyed me terribly. He joined our platoon a day ago and was a new person for us. When his leg was torn off, Balagan asked to shoot him. We gave him first aid. He received an incredible leg injury, but did not cry, silently endured all the pain. We took everyone out, redistributed weapons, drank all the water we had. We swapped places with another platoon. We were in Marinka with the 51st mechanized. brigade, which, I think, was illegally disbanded: they were responsible for Ilovaisk, although the responsibility there is only on one person named Petro Poroshenko.
— Death was near. How did you feel?
— Then it was our first death, after that there were many. We will all die, the only question is whether it changes something in your life or not. In fact, it shouldn’t change. While you have some time, dedicate it to yourself, your family, the team and society. It is hardly possible to influence death. No one will pass these doors, everyone enters them. From December 2014 to September 2017, all deaths passed through me. Among them there were young people, such as Serhyi Ambros, who will always be twenty-five. He was an incredible intellectual, a good friend. One of the goals of my life is to make people remember Serhiy Ambros and the other guys. After all, we live as long as we are remembered.
— Did you turn to God during the war?
— I personally did not. I tried to make my mind up. When I was chief of staff of the regiment, there was no time to be afraid of anything.
— Jokes aside, war is compete disaster. Can you remember anything from Azov humor?
— There was a funny story — cannon fire on the parade in the village of Bezymenne on May 9, 2017. This was done by an “unknown” unit with a BS-3 cannon from a museum pedestal, which was made somewhere in 1938. 100-millimeter shells, which are no longer produced in Ukraine and will never be produced. The Victory Parade was defeated by an unnamed cannon — more than 50 shots in a very short period of time: the barracks destroyed, the headquarters damaged, two deaths. No civilians were injured. History really shows that in order to be well-sanctioned, you don’t always even need an order. This story was spread DNR media for several months. Everything was planned, the targets were prepared, everything was well done, and then the gun successfully returned to the museum pedestal. In fact, having served the Ukrainian nation again 65 years after the end of his service.
— What is the biggest crazy nonsense you’ve heard about the regiment?
— In 2016, rumors that Azov is not at war were very annoying. We then tried to prove that this was not the case. And when you prove it, you start to justify yourself. Azov is always at war. We were created during the war, and now our place is there. Not many military units in world history can be mentioned that were created during the fighting and in the territory where the war is being fought. There were brief moments when we were taken away. But we continued to gather intelligence, we continued to communicate with units. And our withdrawals never lasted for months. They sometimes lasted a week or two. This is what we ourselves did when we used to work in the gray, in the black, in order to solve those tasks that sometimes the Armed Forces could not solve. We have, frankly, better equipment and better training. We can fight as special forces in positional warfare, we can work with a rifle at a distance of up to a kilometer, conduct special reconnaissance, gather intelligence from the front line, analyze it and give some concrete results. All the good that has come to us from NATO standards sometimes still helps.
— How have you changed?
— Probably I became more uncompromising to people who lie to me and lie to themselves. Since there are many comrades left at the front, for me in general, the story of the war is not over. I am an implacable enemy of hypocrites who say that they have a family, so they could not go. I have a constant desire to help the guys, to change something for the front here. The main battles must take place in the offices of the President, the Verkhovna Rada and so on. We can liberate Donbas now.
— As far as I know, you are a supporter of the liberation of our territory by force. On the other hand, you are now saying that you still can’t do without diplomacy.
— We have worked out this issue, there is no other option but the military liberation of Donbas. All we need before the start of a military operation is to get a mandate for action from our foreign policy neighbors and allies. People must be convinced that Ukraine has the full right to the military liberation of Donbas. Nobody is doing anything in this direction now. Zelensky does not deny any fakes that the Armed Forces are firing on someone there. And it does not reinforce the story that the DNR and LNR are just two organized criminal groups. The miners are not paid, they went out to protest, and the organizers of this protest were simply kidnapped! And Zelensky perceives them simply as a party to the conflict, people with whom to communicate. There is a good compromise. After some political work, after the training of troops, which must be taught not to defend themselves and dig trenches, but to attack. Of course, a number of settlements are their strongholds. But by cutting off communications between them, we will leave them without supplies. In order to overcome the LNR and DNR we have enough strength. Of course, this operation must be carried out with restrictions on the local population, which must not suffer from our actions or from the possible actions of terrorists. Donetsk is a separate story. There was a giant strategic mistake of Muzhenko, he covered Donetsk from two sides, instead of capturing it in blocks. Yes, it would be bloody, but it would be a real story, and there would be no LNR and DNR now. Returning to a peaceful life is, of course, a long process, but it can never and under no circumstances begin with elections. It must begin with the establishment of our government. It should be people from outside, maybe even from Donetsk region. We must find all the criminals, start rebuilding the infrastructure. And then organize an election. Reintegration of Donbas will take away huge resources from us, but if there is a place to invest, business will understand. This is an opportunity for growth and development, Donbass after liberation is a great investment.
— As for diplomacy. Elections are about to start. What does the National Corps party think of this period?
— Now there will be local elections, and we will take part. But that’s only half the story. We see this election as a small springboard for the parliamentary elections. Andriy thinks that this parliament will not live to the end of his term. The mandate of trust they were given was completely wasted. With absolute power a year ago, they did nothing. The peace plan stopped working with Golden-4 settlement, anti-corruption activities stopped with the Yermak brother, economic reforms with the pandemic. Zelensky is over. I am glad that we are not exactly a party, but a social movement that has a real membership. Thousands of people we gather for rallies want to fight for social justice in their cities and in Kyiv. This is how we differ from any party. 2/3 of contributions to the National Corps are made by individuals. We are really represented in the people and we will fight for it. We don’t even care about elections, we care about people who believe in our ideas and are ready to follow us.
— What do you think is the phenomenon of Andriy Biletsky?
— In June 2014, I saw what I had not seen in the right movement for several years. I saw the leader. And he is ready to spend time, energy to achieve the set goals. Because the main problem of the right-wing movement until 2014 was disunity. Andriy has enough strength and talent, he was born to be a leader. He has a keen sense of justice, a sincere Ukrainian patriotism, which he could only be infected with in Russian-speaking Kharkiv, where any desire to be Ukrainian is immediately reflected in society and persecuted. But at the same time Slobozhanshchyna is a truly Cossack region. Kharkiv brought up a lot of Ukrainian scientists, and now the military. Is the Ukrainian people worthy of such a leader? For me, this question is open, but I want to believe that it is worthy.
— So, he did cope with the regiment, will he be able to cope with the country?
— Let’s compare Andriy with anyone. We have the opportunity to compare with six presidents. He did not lead the Communist Party, but now he leads the Nationalist Party. He did not lead the Yuzhmash [aerospace manufacturer, ed], but he led the Azov movement and at the same time had an influence on the regiment. He was a People’s Deputy for 5 years. Probably not the most active and not the most fruitful, but the essence of his deputies was not in that. He pulled dozens of people out of prisons, spent time at the front. This is his merit as a deputy. Andriy has everything a national leader needed: strategic thinking, the will to win. And he believes in himself. That’s enough to be in place.
— How do you understand the meaning of the word “patriot”? And how is a patriot different from a nationalist?
— A patriot for me is a person who is ready to sacrifice himself and his own time in the interests of his country. The nationalist in this context does the same, but for the nation.
— Do you think it is worth returning the initial military training to school program?
— Of course. We have a crazy children competition in the military-patriotic camp “Azovets”. And in other regions the same. People understand that it is necessary teach the younger generation. In my school there was a good subject “Defense of the Fatherland”. He was taught by a retired Soviet officer, but he gave us some base that allowed us to continue to be interested in military. Kids have to shoot, they have to play tactical games, they have to study the enemy, because we have a constant danger.
— Is there something you are afraid of?
— I’m afraid to be disappointed in my way.
— What can make you cry?
— Destroying of Tu-160 and Tu-95 MS.
— Why don’t you ever forgive even your loved ones?
— What is money for you?
— Засіб для досягнення поставленої мети.
— If you had a million dollars now, how would you use it?
— I think a few extra buggies for the regiment would be a good help.
— What are the rewards for you? I know you have a prize weapon and a regimental award “For the Defense of Mariupol.”
— On the one hand, being among those who have distinguished themselves is an honor, on the other hand, it is a good memory. I do not live by awards and I understand that there are many more accomplishments ahead.
— Do you have many friends?
— I think yes.
— Is there something you are ashamed of?
— I am ashamed that he left the regiment so early.
— When you need life advice, who do you turn to in the first place?
— To several classmates and two regiment commanders: Cherkas and Mose.
— Is there a person you would like to meet?
— John McCain. I am interested in his way of life, his captivity, his fifty-year war with Russia on various fronts. It would be interesting to know what underlies his core, in his motivation to overcome this evil empire. It is a pity that he is no longer with us.
— What do you value most in people?
— What do you like to do in your free time?
— Sport and art: it’s running, cycling, boxing and cinema.
— What is your favorite movie?
— “Terminator-2. Judgment Day”. “Return” directed by Zvyagintsev.
— What kind of music you listen to?
— Pink Floyd, Dimmu borgir… Now I’m trying to listen to new Ukrainian music.
— What is your favorite book?
— These are Manstein’s memoirs, “The Adventures of the Good Soldier Schweik”, “On the Western Front without Change” by Remarque, “Campaign in Russia” by Leon Degrell, “German Army, 1935-1945.” by Mueller-Hillebrand. “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by Shearer, but I condemn the author for his bias. I am now finishing “The Lord of the Rings” and reading Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. It describes the thesis that all fairy tales and myths of mankind are similar.
— Do you have a favorite saying?
— To each his own.
— What wa the most delicious at the front? And what do you like in general?
— During the assaulting of Mariupol there was a delicious compote and pies. We only got to them in four hours. After the assault, we were terribly hungry, and the pies were without filling, just sprinkled with powdered sugar, but insanely delicious! Now, probably, I would not eat that. Borsch at the eighth checkpoint, when Mariupol was defended at the end of August from the Russian offensive. At the front, everything you share with yours friends is delicious.
— Is your favorite dish?
— I love cooking, I can make pasta, some good salad, steaks.
— What is more important in life than freedom?
— An order.
— Is mercy more important than justice?
— I guess no.
— What does the word “love” mean to you?
— That is what we all live for, if this concept includes not only the relationship between man and woman. Love is what happens between man and nation, between man and the Earth. Love is both a life given at the front and a bullet fired at the enemy. Therefore, love is the basis of life.
— What does family mean to you?
— The family is the path to immortality. Only through the family, through the children, I see the only option to live forever, repeated in the generations of our heirs.
— Do you want children?
— Son. And not one.
— В цій країні?
— When was the last time you fought?
— A long time ago. In 2014. With the man who insulted my commander.
— Do you often use obscene language?
— This is the basis of business communication. Fortunately or unfortunately.
— Are you happy?
— Happy. I live as a man who is able to move forward to accomplishments, and this is the main guarantee of happiness.
— Do you have a dream?
— Now I dream of restoring Ukraine’s nuclear status.
— What else would you like to tell our readers that we didn’t ask you about?
— If you do not know which way of life to choose, and you are less than thirty, go to serve in the “Azov”. This is not just a school of life, this is the path to success and justice for any Ukrainian.
—Is it difficult to get into the Azov Regiment now?
— It is enough to dial the number of the recruitment center. The phone is on the website of the regiment.