We continue the series of interviews with lawyers of the Kyiv region who defend Ukraine, risking their lives every day on the front lines. This time, lawyer Ilya Kostin spoke about the lack of alternatives to Victory over Russia. Some of his opinions are quite controversial, but absolutely sincere, frank and have the right to exist.
Ilya, remind me, please, at what moment did you decide to defend the country? Did you join the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine or the Council of Ministers?
I had a valid reservist contract, according to which I was attached to the 72nd separate mechanized brigade named after the Black Zaporozhets (slogan "Ukraine or Death!"). This meant that in case of receiving a summons, or a call from the commander, or the introduction of martial law, I had to appear in the unit on the territory of the permanent deployment point within 24 hours. Accordingly, I joined the ranks of the Armed Forces.
You obviously have military training, and possibly "hands-on" military experience, right?
Yes, there is. I received it in 2014, when I was serving in the ranks of the 12th Teroborona battalion at that time. That's why I have experience. But this experience is nothing compared to who and what we faced in 2022…
What tasks are assigned to you now?
Currently, I serve in the reconnaissance platoon of the first battalion of the 72nd OMBr. Well, it is not difficult to guess what tasks.
How many of your fellow lawyers have joined the ranks of the ZSU or TrO?
Many lawyers joined the ranks of the Armed Forces. In fact, the Armed Forces and Territorial Defense are one and the same. Teroborona is a separate type of troops that are part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. I believe that it is necessary to deal with these definitions, because at the time when the war began in February 2022, TrO was created separately, but now it is a component of the Armed Forces.
But I will return to the question. All my life I try to act so that I am surrounded by people who are pleasant to me and, accordingly, how pleasant I am. And these are, first of all, people whom I respect. Therefore, most of my entourage, including my colleagues, are people who felt their obligation to the Motherland to protect it. They did not think about their future and prospects, they went to defend their country with the future of their children and their land in mind. So there are many such people in my circle.
If we talk about some of my colleagues who are not from a close circle of communication, then, of course, not all of them showed desire and activity in this matter.
I understand that this is probably natural for a normal person, so be it. But it is striking that I did not see a single example when a lawyer from among the leadership of the bar went to defend Ukraine. And this would change a lot in the attitude of lawyers to the leadership of NAAU. We would then see and understand that they are not indifferent to the fate of Ukraine, that despite the contradictions, we are still united by common values, such as an independent and invincible Ukraine. The legal profession as an institution of civil society, sorry, “shit” this moment. And now again ordinary lawyers, members of our professional "shop" are trying to save the defamed name of our Bar. Among the prosecutors there are those who volunteered. There are also among the policemen (they were among the first to enter the battle near Irpen, and they also proved themselves in Gostomel). There are also volunteers among the judges. This is, for example, Supreme Court judge Ivan Mishchenko, now an ordinary infantryman. But among the lawyers (I emphasize once again – I mean the management of the bar) everyone turned out to be above this.
Moreover, I directly want to say that when the head of the bar, the head of NAAU is not in a country that is fighting and defending its independence, and the other leadership is also not there, it means that it is treason. I don't know how they will save their portfolio, their reputation with the help of newsletters (which are sometimes sent to me by e-mail when there is a connection), but this is what I see and think. And sooner or later everyone will have this question.
How did the war affect your professional activity?
Any. To be more precise, it affected me so much that I have no professional activity. My clients were taken by my colleagues, thanks to them. I either fight, shoot, or eat and sleep, I don't do anything else, and I can't do anything else. If someone has such an opportunity, then he is not dedicated enough to what he is doing at the front. So, he is either sabotaging, or somehow trying to adapt, in the bad sense of the word. It cannot be otherwise.
How was the first day of the war for you, how did you feel, what did you do?
On the first day of the war, I broke into the unit, I was drafted, but I didn't wait for a uniform or a weapon – I immediately went to the position. It was in the area of the village. Gogolov near Brovary. I was given a weapon directly in the combat position. It was the evening of February 24. This is how it happened. I saw guys who walked along the sidelines and voted to be selected for any unit, I saw people in civilian clothes who came to the trenches to the military unit to stand up for the defense of the Motherland.
If you weren't serving now, what would you be doing besides your professional activities?
If I did not serve, I would serve.
If I could not serve under certain circumstances, I would find something to do to help the boys.
They die, a lot of guys die. Over the past few days, several of my brothers have died, and we still can't find their bodies…
Two things that have impressed you the most since February 24, 2022, both negatively and positively?
On February 24, I was impressed by our people. People came out and asked to protect them, and at the same time they dug trenches in their garden and helped us. And then, when people literally threw themselves on our necks and thanked us for freeing them from this Russian.
As for the negative, I was first of all struck by the traitorous position of the leadership of NAAU.
Even before the start of the war, I repeatedly tried to expose separatist lawyers, of whom there are more than 300 people (we are talking about lawyers who had certificates for the right to practice law both in Ukraine and in the "quasi" republics, the so-called LDPR). All my complaints, all my appeals were torn apart, broken, you can call it whatever you want, due to the fact that the leadership of the VKDKA did not even think to react to it in the way that the patriots of this country should do. All appeals to the Council of Advocates and the Qualification Commission regarding unscrupulous defense attorneys remained unheeded, because often the persons on the list themselves considered the complaints.
I was impressed and continue to be impressed not by the position of the ordinary members of the Association of Lawyers of Ukraine, who are fighting, fighting, maiming, dying, but by the leadership of the APU, which hesitated, hesitated for too long in the situation with its general sponsor – the company AVER LEX ( suspension of cooperation took place on April 16, 2022 year "in view of the impossibility of confirming the common goals and objectives of APU and JSC AVER LEX during the war" ). The open letter of the APU appeared only after I left the Association. In general, this whole story is with the lawyer Vitaly Serdyuk, who too "thoroughly" defended Yanukovych even during the war ( contracts between Viktor Yanukovych, Oleksandr Yanukovych and the bar association AVER LEX was discontinued from 04/28/2022 ), once again proved that you can be a smart person, but money decides everything. And it doesn't matter what and how you say later, actions speak for themselves, and a traitor will forever remain a traitor.
Do you think that Ukraine needs military reform? What do you think should be changed?
Now we need to win the war, not talk about reforms!
We need Victory, we have no other way out.
We are at war with creatures that have nothing really human about them. If they win, they will not only leave statehood on the entire Ukrainian land, they will not leave our children alive, not to mention us. Any war ends with negotiations, so right now, in the next few months, with which portfolio we will come to these negotiations, that is where we will live for the next decades.