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As part of Pride Month, the National LGBTI Consortium spoke with Anton, a soldier from the 77th Separate Air Assault Brigade.

Previously, the Consortium helped Anton raise funds for FPV drones for his unit. Thanks to the 127,820 hryvnias collected, they managed to obtain 9 drones.

A new fundraiser has now been launched — this time for a pickup truck for the brigade’s scout team. They need to raise 80,000 hryvnias (soldiers have already gathered another 80,000 hryvnias themselves) to purchase an Opel Frontera. You can support the fundraiser via Monobank: https://send.monobank.ua/jar/43pV71irWD or through PayPal: vlad.fomin08@gmail.com.

Anton spoke openly about his experience on the front lines, the challenges faced by the military, and shared his thoughts on society’s support for the army and attitudes towards the LGBTIQ+ community in Ukraine.

On Service and Frontline Challenges

Tell us about your service experience. What were the biggest challenges you faced on the front lines?

“After a month of basic training in Great Britain, I found myself near Bakhmut within three days. This is common practice. Two more days of coordination, and we set off for Chasiv Yar. On the way, we were nearly hit by an enemy FPV drone, and as we approached our position, we were met with mortar fire. One comrade was wounded in the vehicle, another in a ravine near the position. Only the guide and I made it to our destination. We tried to evacuate the wounded, but… Not everyone was fortunate enough to return.

The hardest part is realising that your brother-in-arms will never sit beside you again, never talk, never laugh…”

Do you think the state adequately cares for the needs of the military? What, in your opinion, needs to change?

“Regarding everyday essentials, the provisions are sufficient, and the situation with equipment has improved, but it’s still not enough. The biggest problem is with technology and special equipment: night vision devices, drones, electronic warfare tools, and so on.

I’d like to see the bureaucratic apparatus of management simplified, both in the army and in the state as a whole. Too many people are just doing paperwork, often without even delving into the substance of the documents.”

On Civilian Support and Military Morale

As a scout in the 77th Air Assault Brigade, do you feel sufficient support from the civilian population? How does this affect your morale and that of your comrades?

“There were moments after which I personally divided my social circle into close friends and strangers. When a civilian writes, ‘Hi, are you serving there? Can you lend me some money?’ — that’s unacceptable.”

As a soldier, what would you like to convey to civilians about the realities of life on the front lines? You mentioned earlier that the military feels indifference from society, could you elaborate on this thought?

“People, this is not romantic at all. It’s pain, tears, blood, dirt. Every day brings high stress, both physical and moral. This isn’t a scene from an action film, but a harsh reality that you can’t imagine. And I wouldn’t want my friends or loved ones to know about this reality. So what happens in war stays in war.

In Kyiv, I saw that it was as if there was no war. Although military personnel are everywhere, they’re tactically ignored. Because they’re a reminder of what people are trying to distance themselves from.

About serving in the army: I don’t recommend it, but it’s necessary. Unfortunately, most lads will have to go through this. So toughen your body with physical training.

And to those for whom the war doesn’t exist: it’s better to accept reality now. Because when it comes to you and you’re the one asking for help, you’ll get back exactly what you did or DIDN’T do. But then it will be ten times harder. I pray that it passes you by, but I know it’s inevitable. While we’re at our positions defending you from the external enemy, please protect everyone and yourself, first and foremost, from the internal enemy.”

On the LGBTIQ+ Community and Equal Rights

As an ally of the LGBTIQ+ community, tell us about your attitude towards equal rights for LGBTIQ+ people, particularly in the army.

“In the army, we’re already equal (if you’re not a high-ranking officer). In general, I’m for equal rights and opportunities. A team with LGBTIQ+ members treats them absolutely normally. Perhaps the issue lies in societal stereotypes? Maybe we just need to show that we’re all the same, flesh and blood? That we adhere to the same ideas, just with differences in partner choice?”

Tell us what you and your comrades think about the recent Equality March in Kyiv, including the position of opponents. How do you think the dialogue between supporters and opponents of LGBTIQ+ in the army can be improved?

“At first, everyone expressed their opinions about pride and the equality march. Well, here everyone’s a stereotypical ideological hetero. But then all my acquaintances came to understand — something went wrong.

Everyone knows that there are many LGBTIQ+ community members among us, they fight just the same, they perform their work and duties just the same. ‘As long as they don’t invade personal space and don’t impose their ideology, everything’s fine,’ — direct quote from my comrade. However, the fact that there were military personnel on both sides of the Equality March led to a certain ‘split’ in the army after the March.”

How would you describe the interaction between LGBTIQ+ and hetero soldiers? Do misunderstandings arise based on orientation, and how are they overcome?

“Of course, they arise. Overcoming them is simple — communication, explanatory conversations, and non-interference in personal space. And in combat, it doesn’t matter what your orientation is when you’re sleeping in a trench under the same sleeping bag. The main thing is the confidence that your brother-in-arms will cover you, and in case of anything, will treat you and drag you to evacuation.”

Do you think the military can be a target of information and psychological operations aimed at inciting hatred towards LGBTIQ+? How can this be countered?

“Of course, they will inevitably become targets, like anything that can create a split in our thoughts and common cause. It’s like the situation with Polish farmers and grain — they were a small group, but we couldn’t retaliate [Anton and his comrades witnessed the blockade of the Polish-Ukrainian border when returning from training]. Although we really wanted to. But this would have led to an international scandal.

The countermeasure is to identify the psychologically difficult aspects of this issue and work through them. Communication and information dissemination first and foremost. But how to do this more correctly is not a question for me, but rather for psychologists, because I can’t explain it more precisely.”

On Volunteer Help and Army Needs

What role did volunteer help, particularly the fundraising for drones, play for you personally and for the 77th Air Assault Brigade? Is this support sufficient for effective intelligence work?

“The value of the help is incredible. Is it sufficient? Both yes and no at the same time. Because people could have been giving their last money, how can that be insufficient?

And as always, there’s one big ‘but’…

Let’s calculate one sortie of a strike drone group. There are two variables: ‘x’ — the constant (generator, mast, antennas, remote controls, portable charging stations). All this costs about 500,000 hryvnias. And there’s ‘y’ — the constantly changing (FPV drones, Mavic, Autel), ammunition, fuel. In one day of active combat, usually 30 to 100 FPV drones are used. 20,000 each. Have you calculated? Plus Mavic, daytime, which costs 100,000 and night-time — about 200,000, fuel up to 2,000 hryvnias. But let’s return to the drones: minimum 30 FPV — 600,000 hryvnias! And Mavic, at least 2 daytime and 1 night-time. Oh, I forgot, batteries for them. That’s 10,000 for each, there should be at least 16 batteries. And that’s 1,160,000 hryvnias (+-28 000 USD) just for drones and batteries. How’s that figure for you?

Moreover, there are still no state-provided drones in the warehouses. And Mavics are almost gone.

And you know, against the backdrop of all this, I’m infinitely grateful for every donation, because these very drones we were collecting for can stop enemy equipment, and therefore, disrupt the enemy’s offensive.”

Tell us about your plans for the future.

“I want to return and do nothing for a month. Just rest. Sleep and spend time with family.

Then I’ll pursue my dream of a coffee shop chain. I promised my girlfriend that I’d build one that would push out the ‘monopolists’ from Kyiv’s coffee industry [he jokes ;)].

And regarding the LGBTIQ+ community — I think everything will come to normal, it’ll just take some time.”

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