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24 February 2022 reconstructed. Episode 3. Facility No. 1, or All power in Zelenskyy's bunker

Tuesday, 11 July 2023, 05:30

"On 23 February 2022, we were sitting in the president's office. It was another 'invasion'. There were several times when it could have happened. We sat in the president's office until about 01:00 and waited. We waited, and nothing happened. I was the first to give up and say that I was going home to sleep." Davyd Arakhamiia, head of the Servant of the People parliamentary faction, recounts the night before the full-scale invasion.

He lives with his wife and six children outside Kyiv, so he reached his home around two in the morning, put his phone in sleep mode and immediately fell asleep.

"To be honest, I still sleep through all these air-raid warnings, and I slept through everything then. And I always have my phone on vibration mode, it works in such a way that it declines all calls. And then, if you call again, it ‘realises’ that it's something urgent. And that's how Andrii Yermak (Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine – ed.) called me again. It was about four in the morning. And he said: ‘It's started, come here.’ 


When I was driving – and I live not far from the Odesa highway, where the village of Vita Poshtova is – something exploded to my right so loudly, there was some kind of base there... I didn't understand what it was, but I immediately stepped on the gas and drove through a red light. And it always takes me about 40 minutes to drive [to work], but that time, I reached the Office of the President on Bankova Street in 15 minutes.

When I reached the office, the president was already there, [as well as] Yermak and Danilov (Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine), I think. Sybiha (Andrii Sybiha, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine) was there, and I think Podoliak (Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine) had already arrived."

Around the same time, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Ruslan Stefanchuk, rushed to Bankova Street from the left bank of Kyiv.

"The president came out in a white shirt and said: ‘Well, it has begun’. And then he said the following phrase: ‘Fate has chosen us’. 

Obviously, none of those present in Zelenskyy's office at that moment had chosen this fate. 

The next few hours and days would prove to be decisive in Ukraine's modern history, when it would have to prove that it was capable of defending its independence. The country's leaders would face no less of a challenge.

Some of them would leave Kyiv in the first few hours and rush to take all their possessions far away to the country's west. Some would be evacuated, like half of the government, under orders to preserve the country's governability. Others would accept the challenge and move from the highest offices to the deepest, most cramped shelter, the so-called Facility No. 1, which would, without exaggeration, house the entire country's government in the first few days.

The image of the guarded presidential post where the top officials of the Cabinet of Ministers, the President's Office and the Verkhovna Rada gathered on 24 February 2022 reflected the nature of the entire resistance to the aggressor: sometimes poorly organised, but really deep.

Ukrainska Pravda continues its podcast series 24.02: RECONSTRUCTION and brings its readers the next fascinating episode about life in the presidential bunker in the early days of the full-scale invasion. 

Ukrainska Pravda spoke to several top officials who either lived in Facility No. 1 or visited it from time to time. Unfortunately, it was not possible to talk to the president himself. The head of his office was also unable to find time to talk to us, despite numerous requests from Ukrainska Pravda.

Previous episodes:

24 February 2022 reconstructed. Episode 2. Zaluzhnyi’s office, meetings at Zelenskyy’s, evacuation of the Cabinet of Ministers

24 February 2022 reconstructed. Episode 1. Preparing for the Russian invasion

Please subscribe to the "24.02: The Invasion Reconstructed" updates::

Deep state

24 February 2022, 10:00.

In a room on the third floor of the President’s Office, Davyd Arakhamiia is reading messages from the military to the heads of parliamentary factions about new missile strikes and the situation on the fronts. Arakhamiia spices up the messages from the chats with foul words and occasional attempts at jokes.

All those present are tense, but quite composed for such an extraordinary situation. At one point, the president enters the room, along with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and the head of the Office of the President, Andrii Yermak.

"The president said that he knew where the strikes had been carried out, that we were now mobilising all military and paramilitary forces, the entire defence sector, in fact, so as to build some front lines," Arakhamiia recalls. 

"Zelenskyy asked the prime minister to handle all the 'operational stuff', while he would focus on international issues. It was very important to call everyone, tell everyone, ask for help, and so on. I remember that at first, it was hard to see the president in a calm state because he was always calling someone or someone was calling him. It was like a call centre, you know."

At one point, as Ukrainska Pravda has described in a previous episode, a meeting between the president and the MPs was interrupted by Zelenskyy's bodyguards.

Ruslan Stefanchuk recalls: "The guys from the president's security came in and said that there was some movement towards Bankova Street, so the president had to leave."

To understand the atmosphere of that moment, which is well described by the word "commotion", it would be sufficient to say that the Chairman of the Parliament was not able to enter the protected shelter with the President, and he has a separate block for him there, but people who officially should not have been there were able to enter.

"When the guards came in and took me and the president... I mean, I actually followed them," Arakhamiia admits. He also describes his first impression of descending to the presidential bunker.

"It looks like the film Stalker, to be honest. If you’ve ever visited Pervomaisk and seen the museum of rocket forces, where strategic nuclear weapons used to be stored – The Satan (a Soviet-made missile, known to the West as SS-18 – ed.) and so on. There is a descent to the missile silo. This is about the same kind of experience."

Oleksandr Kubrakov, who also spent a few days in Facility No. 1 as a minister and was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister after returning to more or less usual work, recalls his first impression.

"Everything was like this: a long lift, then some stairs, heavy doors. Long corridors. In general, everything is as Soviet as possible. It is somewhere deep underground. You go down and down...

It looks like a subway. It felt like it was built about the same time. Everything is the same, that’s about it."

"[Viktor] Yanukovych used to be president, and he definitely checked out this facility. When you become president, you are shown this facility. I was wondering why he didn't redecorate anything for himself," Arakhamiia says ironically, referring to the renovations at the Presidential Administration, where even a bathhouse and gym were built during Yanukovych's tenure.

The depressing Sovietness of everyday life turned out to be something that one could get used to quite quickly. But there were also some realities that were psychologically looming larger with each passing hour.

Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov recalls: "It's hard psychologically. The air is different. It's a closed-loop system. You breathe the air, it seems to be purified, but you’re aware that there are a lot of people there at the same time."

Kubrakov recalls the two other things about underground life that depressed him the most.

"For me, it was, of course, the light. You don't know whether it's day or night outside. Underground, it's about the same state. For me, this feeling that you don't know what time it is, it's hard, it's not normal for a person to be in this state all the time. That’s the first thing. And the second was when the Internet went down a couple of times... It was like this feeling at once... Whoops – and that's it, you don't know what's going on in the world. As for the air, we just started going outside to breathe, at least somewhere near the office."

"Close" cooperation

People who are used to watching stories about the life of Vladimir Putin may think that whole cities are built underground. Perhaps this is the case in Russia. But Ukraine's Facility No. 1, once built to protect the Communist party leadership in the event of a nuclear strike, turned out to have very modest living facilities. 

"The rooms are small; there are bedrooms, there are working rooms. They are all very small, everything is minimalist, nothing extraordinary. And everything is as Soviet as possible," says Deputy Prime Minister Kubrakov. 

"There are offices for two, three or four people to work in at the same time. The bedrooms also vary: for one, two or three people."

Zelenskyy's office was no different from the others. Davyd Arakhamiia recalls: "Zelenskyy lived in very poor conditions there, in fact. Definitely considering he’s the president.

An office with five people almost always sitting there. The table was rectangular. And the president slept in such a corner that even I felt bad for him. I said: ‘Let's change this.’ Because the place where we lived… we had even a little more space than the president did. Conditions were spartan, I would say."

The only advantage of the presidential suite was that it had its own shower, but this advantage did not last long. 

"The president had a small shower there. But then somehow these boundaries were broken, and we used to use the presidential shower - a lot of people went there to take a shower. Because the shared shower in the corridor did not have suitable conditions for everyone," Arakhamiia recalls.

"When I arrived, there was no longer any room that was ‘ours’, because Podoliak had occupied Stefanchuk's room [intended for the parliamentary leadership – UP]. And I remember living with Vice Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk – we had two bunk beds in a small barracks. I don't know how big it was, maybe 11-12 square metres.

In general, Podoliak had his own toilet, but ours was in the corridor, next to all the offices. That is, we had a lot of... let's just say we had class hatred for Podoliak, because he took Stefanchuk's office (he laughs). Well, we couldn't evict him, after all... I tried to say tactfully that this was parliamentary property, and he should have been moved out. But..."

Meanwhile, Stefanchuk, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, whose room Podoliak occupied, had to seek shelter in various locations around the capital. By agreement with Zelenskyy, the Speaker of the Parliament and the President were never in the same place at the same time, so that if one of them was killed, the state would not lose control. 

So while Zelenskyy and his team were protected by concrete and soil, Stefanchuk had to be "creative" about looking for protection.

"We started a month of this merry-go-round around Kyiv. The guys know what I mean (he nods to the guards – UP). Every day we changed locations, spending nights in different places, with random people, but we were close enough to reach Kyiv," Stefanchuk recalls.

While the Speaker was learning to work from various random "offices", including a goat farm, life would gradually come to the bunker.

The early days were filled with adrenaline for everyone. Sleeping for a few hours, constant negotiations, working meetings, calls and staff meetings – all of this was so continuous that most of the officials we have quoted who were able to talk about that time are unable to single out individual events. As one of them said, "The first three days are all one piece of memory, and it is simply impossible to separate what happened and when."

For example, it was not possible to establish exactly when an improvised gym was set up in the corridor of the government bunker.

Oleksii Reznikov recalls: "We met with the president on 24 February and, of course, we were at his place. And then, I would visit him in the bunker every day.

What I liked was that in his bunker, the guys already had all this sports equipment... Maybe they had it before, I don't know. You could do pull-ups on horizontal bars, there was a small barbell, and kettlebells. So that the guys from the State Guard could train there. I thought: "’, cool, everything is fine, life goes on.’

"And then Podoliak and I remembered that Kyrylo Tymoshenko [then Deputy Head of the President's Office] had a fridge full of good wine in his office. And we went to ‘loot’ it. It was night-time," Davyd Arakhamiia recalls. "Then I saw how the building of the President’s Office looked at night, when there were floodlights... 

It looked like a horror movie, you know? Everything was covered with sandbags. We were making our way through, and we stepped on a State Guard member, then apologised. Because all the corridors were cut off from the grid, and we were making our way along with the flashlights from our phones...

I remember it was the most delicious wine. You know, when you're nervous and it's not much fun in there… and then we found this wine. And it was kind of a little celebration."

Such moments of freedom became possible a few days later. On the very first day, Zelenskyy's small office in the bunker was constantly crowded with people. It has to be said that there were a lot of people for such a top secret facility.

Immediately after the meeting with the heads of the factions, Arakhamiia, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, and head of the President’ Office Andrii Yermak went down to the shelter with Zelenskyy. The prime minister's right-hand man Oleh Niemchynov, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, and Yermak's deputies, Andriy Sybiha and Roman Mashovets, were there, too.

As time passed, more and more visitors would come down to see Zelenskyy. Some of them stayed with the president all the time, which was incredibly annoying for his bodyguards.

"Relatively speaking, we lived in some isolation. I remember that when someone came, it was a big event, although the security would interfere all the time. I didn't want too many people to know about this facility at all," Arakhamiia recalls.

However, despite the security guards' wishes, the president’s bunker gradually began to look more like a location from "The Mitten" (a Ukrainian fairy tale in which a lot of animals wanted to live in a little mitten) than a top secret facility.

Oleksandr Kubrakov recalls: "We came to Zelenskyy's bunker. Well, it was already quite late. [It was] me, [MP] Mustafa Nayyem, Yurii Vaskov [Deputy Minister – UP] and Oleksandr Kamyshin [then head of Ukrzaliznytsia, the national railway operator– UP]. The guards told the guys to wait. I said: ‘I'll be back in half an hour.’ But I went in there and stayed for about two to two and a half hours, because the president had one negotiation after another: Macron called him, then Duda, and then someone else – on WhatsApp. And I saw how intense it was, and I said: ‘Listen, my guys are waiting for me there.’ He said: ‘So tell them to come over here.’ 

Well, we asked them to come, then we talked, and then the prime minister came from some negotiations, and Andrii Borysovych [Yermak – UP] came. Zelenskyy said: ‘So, let's all stay here.’ And this was some kind of meeting room... ‘Stay, you will work from here.’"

Work – who did what

While the Armed Forces of Ukraine were organising defence actions and fighting their first battles, trying to deter the Russian army, the president and his team had many urgent issues to resolve. Firstly, they had to ensure that the state would continue to function in the face of the invasion and provide everything the Armed Forces needed. 

Another challenge was to obtain international support, as it was essential to convince the leaders of other countries that Ukraine would not fall in two or three days and even that it would resist for "two or three weeks".

"In the first few days, there was a lot of fuss, there were no properly organised, structured processes at all," Davyd Arakhamiia recalls. 

"The bunker is a classified facility, so we can't disclose any big details right now. But there are sectors there. In fact, no one adhered to this division into sectors, because everyone ran to see each other, reported to each other, and so on. There are special communications, video communications, mobile communications, and so on. And at first, information went through all possible channels. Later, it was organised into a normal secure process. 

I remember there were a lot of international calls, and I always wanted to jump in somehow, to participate, to say something, because some world leaders... disappointed us. Almost all of them. A very weak position. Everyone was afraid of Putin. Everyone who called. And the more often they called, the more we realised that they were just afraid. 

In fact, it seems to me that one of the main achievements of the war is that they themselves are no longer afraid of Putin. This is very important for the world order that will continue to exist."

Zelenskyy was in constant communication with another bunker, where Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi and his generals were commanding the country's defence – both via communications and manually.

Several of UP's sources were also in Zaluzhnyi's military bunker. According to Davyd Arakhamiia, the Armed Forces chief's safe house is much smaller than the presidential one and it does not look like a place where one could stay for a while.

"I visited Valerii Fedorovych. But I did not have much time to feel the special atmosphere. You need to live there for a day or two to understand the atmosphere. 

The presidential bunker, also known as Facility No. 1, is more like a permanent facility. It’s a capital asset, you know, whereas over there [at the Commander-in-Chief's], it’s more of a temporary facility."

Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who was staying in Zaluzhnyi's bunker, said there are many such protected command points (PCPs) like his and Zaluzhnyi's across the country. 

"That is, Valerii Zaluzhnyi and I officially have a bunch of offices across the country. Where there are different military checkpoints, we can work there, if necessary. So we had a discussion with him so that in case of emergency, we would know where we were moving to – the point or points where we would meet. After all, at every command post, there is always an office of the minister and the commander-in-chief with one ‘open plan’: there's one notional reception room, a working room, a small recreation room and a bathroom."

Even though the network of protected bunkers is quite extensive, it will have to be completely rebuilt after the victory over Russia. Oleksii Reznikov explains.

"We had instructions on what to do if a full-scale war started. The instructions said all the ministries had to have their own PCPs. All of them, even the Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Culture.

Where do you think the majority of our ministries’ PCPs were located? In Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Sumy Oblasts [in Ukraine’s north, north-east and east]. This is because in Soviet times the potential threat was expected from the West. The ‘brotherly Russian nation’ was not a threat. So all the PCPs are there, right where the invasion started.

This is why today we need to take new decisions and build new PCPs for each ministry in other cities."

On 24 February, Reznikov was supposed to go down to  Zaluzhnyi's PCP and manage things from there. He was supposed to, but he did not.

"I’d seen my place in the bunker before that - they showed it to me when I came to the office. But I only went down there after three days, as far as I remember. During the first three days, I was migrating all over Kyiv," the defence minister recalls.

Having chosen a "nomadic" strategy, Reznikov, just like Speaker Stefanchuk, had to move to a different location in or near the city of Kyiv. Mainly he was paying "surprise visits" to his friends who had left the country on the day of the invasion.

"I didn’t spend two nights in a row in the same place. I mean, I had the opportunity to go home once every three or four days, get some clean clothes, feed the cat, give it some cat food and water. I spent each night at a new location, at my friends’ places, without warning. I’d analyse where I was and when I would be free, and I’d tell my friend: ‘I’m coming to your place.’ And everyone welcomed me. Even friends who had gone, who had large families. I knew where the key was hidden. I’d go to their place, open their door and spend the night there.

It was apartments, dachas, whatever…even garages. I spent a few days in the bunker as well. But I hated it there, so I got out quickly. I’ve probably only spent two nights there."

The nights he spent at his friends’ places sometimes even surprised the Ukrainian defence minister, with luxuries that a Soviet PCP definitely did not have – such as a spa room in the sauna.

"My friend gave me instructions on how I could warm up. I went to the sauna to get warm, to at least detox a bit and then have some rest. So, I was in the sauna and suddenly I got a text from my waiting room saying the Minister of Defence of Australia had agreed to talk to me in 15 minutes – he was flying, on his way somewhere, and he was ready to talk. I said: ‘Okay.’ I took off my sauna hat, still wearing felt boots and a dressing gown, and put on my fleece jacket over it – the jacket has my last name and position on velcro. And that’s what I looked like as I talked to the Minister of Defence of Australia via video link."

When Reznikov was obliged to go to his office and down to the bunker, he tried not to come to Commander Zaluzhnyi and his team empty-handed.

"I started taking some fresh peppers and tomatoes with me, and I’d call Zaluzhnyi to let him know: ‘Mr Zaluzhnyi, I’ve brought some fresh food.’ And I’d bring it to the bunker. Or I’d say: ‘Come to my office.’ He’d say: ‘Wow, fresh air!’ I’d invite him to have some coffee. I was in my office above them, and they were down in the bunker. Zaluzhnyi, Moisiuk [Yevhen Moisiuk, a Ukrainian three-star general who serves as the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – ed.], and Shaptala [Lieutenant General Serhii Shaptala, Chief of the General Staff – ed.]."

"Those dry rations were bad food. We’ve all gained 10-12 kg [22-26 lb], I’ve put on 15 or 16 kg [33-35 lb, over two stone] eating that food," David Arakhamiia recalls. 

If Zaluzhnyi needed anything, the president could connect him with someone from his team. On 24 February in the evening, Zelenskyy called Kubrakov and asked if he had Zaluzhnyi's phone number.

"‘No, I don’t,’ I replied. ‘I only worked with Shaptala before the war.’ He then said: ‘You’re going to get a text with a number, they need to urgently send a brigade from Lviv Oblast to Kyiv Oblast. Talk to Zaluzhnyi, explain the timeframe to him and me.’ I called Zaluzhnyi and explained the situation. Then I called the president and told him what Zalushnyi had said. The president said: ‘No, that’s too late, we need to do it 4-5 hours sooner.’ So I called Zaluzhnyi again. But we managed to sort everything out eventually."

Kubrakov is now convinced that isolating the top leadership of Ukraine and concentrating it in one place might have been decisive for a successful resistance.

"Because a lot of decisions about providing the troops with this or that, about the subordination of some bodies, or some military tasks – all this was happening very fast, in one office. A government meeting was held twice a day: morning and evening. And all the agreements and decisions were being handled very quickly. I even think this is what we are lacking now. The level of bureaucracy in terms of many issues is even higher than before the war.

In the first few days of the war, decisions were made right away – no one gave them a second thought, we just rushed forward. [The military was provided] with everything [they] needed. Everyone understood the risks, especially near Kyiv. I’ve seen the statistics: well, they [the Russians – ed.] were already on this bank of the Dnipro River near Fastiv, and on the other bank near Brovary… And it occurred to me that all that was left was the Kyiv-Odesa highway! And this made you want to help the military even more: ‘Guys, what else do you need? Is there anything, or anyone, we can send over to you?’ Because I felt so bad about it."

International cooperation was faster as well. Kubrakov recalls: "You’d text a minister in the UK, he’d send you the number of the CEO of BP, the CEO of Shell, the American embassy would send you [the number of] the CEO of Exxon. And you’d call them right from the bunker: ‘We need fuel.’ ‘Yeah, wait a sec, we’re on it,’ and so on. That’s how it was."

One of the key issues left unresolved was how to contact Russia and understand what it actually wanted.

"We did not understand the whole ‘denazification’ thing, all these incomprehensible terms which Putin used in his video address," recalls Arakhamiia, who later became the main negotiator with Russia for the next few months. "But nobody really understood what it actually meant."

Arakhamiia recalled that the first opportunity to find out what the Russians wanted appeared when Alexander Lukashenko, self-proclaimed President of Belarus, put himself forward as a negotiator with Kyiv. Even though convoys of military equipment were moving towards Kyiv from Belarus, his offer was accepted.

"Yes, it was 24 or 25 February, I think. Yevhen Shevchenko, a notorious member of the Ukrainian Parliament with ties to Lukashenko, got in touch with him somehow, and put the call through to my phone through Budanov [Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of Defence Intelligence of Ukraine – ed.]. Lukashenko called me via WhatsApp. The president refused to talk to him. And I convinced him, saying: ‘I’ll put him on speaker so that we can at least hear [what he wanted to say], because they are conducting the offensive from that direction’ [Belarus – ed.]. We just needed to understand; maybe he was going to disclose some valuable information."

It was during that conversation that the first agreement to meet with the Russians was reached.

The delegation was then put together rather quickly from among those in the bunker who were available and had preferably had some contacts with Belarusians or Russians before the invasion. Davyd Arakhamiia explains.

"Podoliak knew the late Makei [Vladimir Makei, a Belarusian foreign minister– ed.] from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus. He had somehow had connections with Belarus a long time ago. He was deported back then, I think. And he says: ‘I know this Makei guy.’ I say: ‘Come with us then, because you have at least one personal contact.’ Reznikov knew Gryzlov [Boris Gryzlov, the Russian ambassador to Belarus – ed.] from the Minsk Process [the process of reaching the Minsk Agreements, a series of international agreements signed in 2015 which sought to end the Donbas war being fought between armed Russian separatist groups and the Armed Forces of Ukraine – ed.]. Why I was chosen wasn’t really discussed. Well, they called from my phone. We just went there, and that’s it.

You know, there were no coordinated plans to form a delegation. We just didn’t have time. How could we call the Foreign Ministry person we were supposed to call in this case, if we didn’t know where the people from this ministry were at that time? We gathered those around us and just went there."

Those who happened to be nearby at the time did as much work as they could. No matter what kind of personal relationships these people had had before, the first few days of the Russian invasion showed clearly who were "friends", and who were now "foes".

It was then that something which one might abstractly refer to as "bunker brotherhood" was born in the cramped, fortified command posts of Kyiv.

"I didn’t feel it back then, I only realised it later," Davyd Arakhamiia recalls. "It’s a normal process of human nature: when someone is prepared to die with you, not just in words but in fact, you appreciate this.

That’s what Denys Monastyrskyi, the [former] Minister of Internal Affairs, always told me. Two top officials stayed with him. He said: ‘They will always be with me. Because they were willing to die with me. I have a moral obligation to them.’"

Oleksandr Kubrakov shares similar feelings.

"Whatever I try to convince myself of anyway, the only people who were with me there were Mustafa Naiiem [head of the State Agency for Reconstruction and Infrastructure Development, then Minister of Infrastructure – ed.] and Yurii Vaskov [Deputy Minister of Infrastructure – ed.]. They walked this path with me. I got to know them much better, and they showed their best side. This was cool.

Concerning relationships in the bunker in general – they certainly moved to another level in all senses, because it’s like a submarine. Ranks, hierarchy and so on do not always play a decisive role there. It’s a little bit different. Communication was a lot more sincere, that’s certain. Even after that there was a period when we could discuss unpleasant matters relatively calmly and openly, but in a sincere manner – in a team and with the president."

* * *

On the evening of 24 February, Ruslan Stefanchuk, Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, who had to keep his distance from the president, returned to Parliament. He was tormented by the thought of how many historical sites might have been captured by the Russian occupiers.

"We left the Verkhovna Rada that evening. The only thing we took with us was the flag of Independence. We believed that those bastards did not have the right to take that. That flag travelled with me along the outskirts of Kyiv in a backpack carried by one of us. Now it is in its rightful place, because we knew for sure that neither the flag nor the Constitution of Ukraine and the Act on State Sovereignty could be captured by the orcs [a Ukrainian slang term for the Russian occupiers alluding to the orcs from the Lord of the Rings – ed.]. These were the things we took with us."

As Stefanchuk was leaving the Verkhovna Rada, followed by the sounds of explosions, his American counterpart Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, contacted him.

"It was late in the evening, we took the flag and so on, and went into the garage of the Verkhovna Rada. I asked my team to contact Pelosi in the morning. But she got in touch with me late in the evening. And it was so strange: she called me on my phone, it was the first time we’d talked without interpreters, without any assistance.

And I said: ‘You know, this is a scary situation. I beg you: wake Congress up. Congress and the US must support Ukraine!’

She replied very calmly: ‘Don’t worry, Mr Speaker, I will do everything in my power. I guarantee the support of the US.’ And just at that moment, there were more explosions…

I said: ‘Excuse me, I have to keep moving, so just do your thing, we’ll definitely meet later.

Or maybe not…’"

…To be continued…

Roman Romaniuk, Fedir Popadiuk, Ukrainska Pravda

Translation: Myroslava Zavadska, Violetta Yurkiv, Polina Kyryllova 

Editing: Ivan Zhezhera, Teresa Pearce