Ukraine: Protesters chant outside Russian embassy in London
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As Vladimir Putin continues to beat the drums of war, Boris Yeghiazaryan and a group of colleagues from the Union of Ukrainian Artists are putting together their own partisan unit to help defend their country. The sense that a full-scale invasion is just around the corner intensified on Wednesday, when the government in Kiev declared a state of emergency in the country and mobilised reserves. Officials also advised any Ukrainians living in Russia to leave immediately.
Their resolve fortified by the growing tensions, Mr Yeghiazaryan and his fellow artists have sworn to make Mr Putin pay a high price for any attack on their motherland.
He told Express.co.uk: “If before we said we are ready to die to defend our country, now we say we are ready to live to destroy them (Russians).
“We don’t want to kill – but the moment the enemy crosses our border, he is then a murderer and we have to kill him.”
The Ukrainian-Armenian is one of his country’s leading painters and has seen his work exhibited around the world, including America.
He said that 80 artists from his collective had formed their own militia and were ready to fight.
Mr Yeghiazaryan said: “We are prepared to take up arms, we are organised and there are definitely 80 of us. All of us have weapons.”
He added: “We know what to do if we come under attack. You can always find places from where to shoot.”
Quizzed about their ability to take on the might of the Russian army, he replied: “All you really need to fight is a gun with ammunition, rucksack with food and a sleeping bag. It’s not that difficult.”
The 65-year-old is no stranger to war and political crises in his eventful life.
He fought with his fellow countrymen in the first Nagorny-Karabakh war at the end of the 1980s, which involved a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
His involvement in the Pan-Armenian National Movement led to his arrest by the KGB and imprisonment.
The KGB burnt his studio along with his paintings from the previous ten years.
On release from prison, he moved back to Kiev in the early 1990s, where he had completed his studies at the Academy of Art in 1986, and has lived there ever since.
Mr Yeghiazaryan also took part in the Maidan protests that gripped the country from November 2013 until February 2014 and which saw the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych unceremoniously toppled.
He was shot when the protests turned violent and spent four days unconscious in hospital.
The artist was lucky to escape with his life, as over 100 people were gunned down, after snipers opened fire on the demonstrators.
He described the Ukraine as “his second motherland” and was confident the whole population would rise up to fight the Russians.
He said: “Ukrainians have made it clear that even if a huge number of Russian troops and tanks invade, if God forbidding they enter Ukrainian territory, they will shoot and destroy the aggressors at every step – even grannies will take up arms to defend their grandchildren.”
Mr Yeghiazaryan argued that a Russian victory in Ukraine risked sparking a wider European war and it was essential to defeat Mr Putin.
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“It will be Belarus, Ukraine and Russia – he will insert pro-Russian leaders here and it will be a powerful alliance opposing Europe on its borders.
“It is highly possible for a wider war to break out.”
He concluded by urging the Russian President to stop the wars and killings that he has unleashed throughout his reign as the country’s ruler.
He said: “For many years you have started wars in many countries. Wherever you have been has led to death and destruction. It is time to stop the killing.
“Try and remember that besides being the head of a powerful army, you are a human being. The life of a human being is the most precious thing there is – that’s what I would say to Putin.”
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