Ukraine pays tribute to Russian girl who fought on its aspect

KYIV, Ukraine — An honor guard fired a three-gun salute towards cloudy skies as mates and comrades-in-arms gathered in Kyiv to bid farewell to a Russian girl who was killed whereas preventing on Ukraine’s aspect within the warfare together with her native nation.

Olga Simonova, 34, was remembered for her braveness and kindness at a funeral within the Ukrainian capital on Friday.

Simonova’s coffin was draped within the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag, with a cuddly toy lion on prime. Her nom de guerre was “Simba,” like the primary character within the Disney cartoon “The Lion King.”

Only a few days earlier than Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Simonova spoke to The Related Press in a trench within the Donbas area, the place she had served for years alongside Ukrainian troopers preventing towards Russian-backed separatists.

Born within the Russian metropolis of Chelyabinsk, Simonova had a eager curiosity in sports activities and excelled in each mountaineering and karate. She stated she was all the time proud to compete for Russia.

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However she began feeling uncomfortable about her native nation after studying about Russia’s warfare in Chechnya and its actions in Ukraine’s japanese Donbas area and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Crammed with doubts that she “would ever be capable to increase the flag of my nation, my homeland” once more, Simonova made a life-changing choice. She travelled to Ukraine to affix the battle within the Donbas on the Ukrainian aspect, first as a volunteer fighter, then a paramedic and finally as an enlisted member of the Armed Forces.

“I had this inside feeling that I might deal with it and that what I used to be doing was proper and essential, as a result of I can’t flip a blind eye to the state of affairs,” she stated. “I simply had to purchase a one-way ticket. I purchased it and I left.”

Simonova stated she by no means hid her Russian origin from her colleagues and gained their belief by displaying her dedication to Ukraine on the battlefield. In 2017 she acquired Ukrainian citizenship.

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She turned a sergeant and was given command of each infantry and artillery models.

Mates and colleagues stated Simonova, who was single and had no youngsters, had lately redeployed from the east to the southern Kherson area, the place Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive towards Russian forces. They stated she died on Sept. 13, after her car hit a land mine.

“She was revered not solely as a commander, however as an individual,” stated Dmytro Karabinovskyi, her former commander and good friend.