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Musa Magomedov

"I cried when seven plant workers died in Avdiivka"

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Musa Magomedov met the war in Avdiivka town in 2014. Then he courageously stood together with the workers of Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant.

In 2022, Musa Magomedov again helps the residents of Avdiivka town who are suffering in the most difficult conditions of a full-scale war in Ukraine. The plant and the town are under shelling attacks again. Civilian people are dying. These are family dynasties that worked at the main enterprise of Avdiivka town.

They never planned to leave their homes but they have been forced to do it.

I am Musa Magomedov, people’s deputy of Ukraine (a Ukrainian MP), and a former director of Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant. I was in Kyiv. I live on the 12th floor, and while half-asleep, I heard how a fighter jet flew by. Well, I was still half-asleep. I didn’t sleep very well because the day before I listened to putin’s speech and for some reason I felt that hard times were ahead. But I didn’t think it would be that hard. So, honestly, I didn’t sleep well.

I woke up and thought, well, I heard the sound of a fighter jet. Then I thought, “What fighter jet could it be at all?” I live in the centre of Kyiv.

I heard it very close. I tried to fall asleep again, but then I just continued to lie in bed and heard how a fighter jet flew by again, for the second time, and an explosion followed. Later, it turned out that it was not a fighter jet, but missiles, cruise missiles. They sound somewhat similar. It was at around or after 5 o’clock in the morning.

I woke up my wife. I said, “Tanya, get up and pack up your things.” It was already clear that the warbegan. Well, we went downstairs. We packed a small suitcase each, woke up our daughter and went for groceries. I looked at the queues that already formed to leave the city. My wife and I agreed that I would take them out and come back. So we did. In 2014-2015, I spent most of my time in Avdiivka, most of the time. I would come home on the weekend, and sometimes once in two weeks. When I could, and when it was calmer. Generally speaking, we understood... it was the wartime. And, in fact, the distinction between weekends and weekdays ceased to exist then. And it is the same now.

For some reason, I could not even remember which month it was because you do not remember either the month or the days of the week. Well, it kind of does not really matter because there is a war, and that is it.

There is nothing else. There is a need to work. Well, compare... you can compare, but now it’s much harder. It’s harder now because in 2014 we had the whole country behind us. You could take your people out and come back. You could leave, as we said, “Go for a rotation.” You go some 50 kilometres away, and you sleep peacefully, gain strength and understand that you have a whole country behind you. Then you return.

Well, yesterday I woke up in Zaporizhzhia at 05:30, I think, because of intense shelling, that is, rocket attacks.

I woke up from the explosions and had some coffee. I had to go to Avdiivka. There was no point in going back to bed. That is, war is everywhere in one form or another.

I passed by Progress and Motor Sich plants. The workshops have been destroyed, despite all the “legends” that “we are shooting at military targets.”

For some reason, a shopping centre has been destroyed by shelling, in the old part of the city. I mean in the private houses’ area. As far as I know, up to 60 houses have been heavily damaged. That is, all those stories that “we only shoot at the military facilities” are only for their internal audience.

Well, they continue to believe in this story because the news shows only one side of the moon and you don’t see the other side, the black one, and you can’t even imagine that it exists.

That is why, in fact, it is a pity for people who live in such a fake, trumped up world and believe that it is possible to force people in another country, which does not want to go in the same direction with you, live the way you want. It won’t happen.

This will not happen, and I really hope that our guys will be able to defend our country, and I actively help this to the best of my ability. And probably like every man in our country who is not on the front line, he has a feeling of guilt. And you can make up for it only by the work that you do and only by what you can do. Right now, it is still a question of evacuation, as we have been engaged in this activity for a long time. These are the authorities of Avdiivka town, the plant’s authorities, and Metinvest company.

We are working with people, explaining that they need to leave, that a decision was made to evacuate Donetsk region, and it was announced. First, I think that it was necessary to announce it earlier.

But the issue is not even about that. The issue is that people are arranged in such a way that they start to leave not because…, well, let’s say, there are more conscious people. Well, honestly, there are more or less well off people, who have the opportunity to take a car, take some money and leave.

But there are people who have neither this nor that, and people with limited mobility. Then, there are people who say, “no one is waiting for us there”. Well, but this is not a trip, this is not a tourist trip, when somebody is waiting for you. When you come somewhere, get your accommodation, and you are fed all the time. I mean, you need to distinguish, need to understand that those are different things.

For example, yesterday we had a case, together with the head of Avdiivka Military Civilian Administration Mr Barabash... A family, a woman and five more people, or five children, to be more precise. First, second, third, fourth and fifth kid, all born no more than a year apart. They are just staying there and are not planning to go anywhere. Like, “I have nowhere to go, I will stay here.” Now she stays here and “clings” to these walls, which will be destroyed, since now they [the enemy] are hitting with direct fire just without stopping...

For example, this night the motor-transport shop [came under fire]. Buses, evacuation buses. Most likely, we will no longer use large buses. We will be using small buses. We have already discussed this and will be evacuating people that way. The approach when we announce the evacuation from a certain assembly point does not work anymore. For example, we planned the evacuation on Saturday, but the place from where we planned to pick up people came under shelling. So we decided to evacuate people using small buses. Even if such a bus gets hit, there will be fewer casualties. We have to say it now and do it this way.

Damages are everywhere. There is not a single school left intact. The first one burned down completely and the second one was badly damaged. The second school was a hub school. It was a big one.

A nice school that was built for three... almost four years.

Today our two fire stations came under shelling. One fire station is a special facility that is located on the territory of the plant. The other one is a municipal fire station located next to the plant. Last night it was also hit by shellfire, and therefore, now the Emergency Service will be working [on it]. Now we are looking for a new place for them outside of the town, but somewhere in the nearby settlements, to keep at least two fire engines there because now there are only 10 Emergency Service workers left in the town. While, in the past, it used to be 35 and 25 people [per a fire station], I think. The police also work having a reduced number of staff. They work three days in a row and then they change. And honestly, it is far not a large number of police officers, but the guys are certainly doing a great job.

They are also engaged in the evacuation of the wounded. The ambulance service has basically resigned. Well, there is an ambulance vehicle, which is for the evacuation purposes, but mostly the guys from the territorial defence units drive it. They are also trained in giving first aid.

Every day is different. On the worst day, seven people died, I think. On other days, we had one, two or three people dead.

The plant has been shut down. The temporary shutdown that was earlier was a “hot shutdown” and there were chances to re-start the plant later. Now there is no natural gas supply. It is a cold shutdown. So the furnaces have been taken out of operation. Well, firstly, I have never heard of such a thing, especially with such an age [of the equipment]. Secondly, the shelling attacks are incessant.

This night, the plants were shelled again. They hit the motor-transport shop and the buses were slashed by shell fragments. The shelling is incessant. Right now part of the plant management, those who are on site, are in bomb shelters. I have just talked to them, “We are not going out because the incoming shellfire is very intense.” Once it becomes quieter, they will go around the bomb shelters to check where, who, and how much.

The shelling attacks reach the plant and the town. They hit at the infrastructure facilities, at schools and hospitals.

Well, it’s all like…, I don’t even want to say it, but this is a standard practice for them. Well, this is how it is. We see how they treat our towns, destroy our schools, hospitals, infrastructure facilities, and destroy the plant. Without the plant, the town of Avdiivka is a village because all multi-storey buildings in the town get heating from the plant’s CHPP. There is no other system. The sewerage system and other utility systems. They are all interconnected, and 80 percent of the town budget is due to the payments from the plant. So what is being done there is a complete annihilation. And if I...

Well, I talk to people and all the time say, “Leave. Leave because they [the enemy] got the task to destroy the town and it is being fulfilled.” It is one thing when they shell from long distances.

One story is when they fire from Grad and Smerch MLRS covering large areas. But in case of aircrafts, attack aircraft, they clearly see where they shoot. A few days ago, attack aircrafts fired at the plant’s main office building and our people barely managed to run inside... Similarly, the enemy air forces attacked AZMK (Avdiivka Metal Construction Details Plant).

One of the latest events in Avdiivka was when seven plant workers died. I cried because I know most of them by sight, and I know some of them by name. The day before that, one retired man was killed. He was a very athletic man who always held all our sports competitions. He used to be connected with our football team, and then he was engaged in our community centre’s activities. Well, I mean, I know their faces; I know what they do.

And during this shelling, you know, I had many friends in Mariupol and when it all started, one of my good friends was traveling back from Bukovel, where the war found him, to Mariupol. He travelled 18 days to take his family out. Part of the way, he tried to get through together with some humanitarian convoys. In the end, he did not succeed. He got off in Berdiansk and from there he walked to Mariupol on foot and took his family out.

When I got there, the garage was already on fire. I drove the car out of the burning garage and took my family out.” First, because no one else could drive a car. They were sitting and waiting. They did not know what to do.

I am glad he managed to do it. My close friends could not get through to their parents from 2 March, I think, but thank God, they also managed to get out. But for some reason, one thing really struck me. At some point it hit me really hard when I learned that one businessman died. I think his name was Andriy. He had his own hotel where I stayed when we had Mariupol-Fest event. I stayed at that hotel then. He was the owner of this hotel. Well, he was such a sporty, good man and an interesting personality. We talked a lot about different things, about his vision, about the city, about its development, what he was going to do next in order to... “I am going to do this and that.”

He had some plans and he was such an absolutely good person, with the right goals, who loved Mariupol and saw its future. He died while delivering humanitarian aid.

He did not leave although he had the opportunity and had money. That is, he was not a poor person at all. He consciously stayed there because he said that he could not leave when there were so many people there. For me, it was just like... Why? Because many people left Mariupol on the second day and absolutely did not think the way this man thought.

In the first few weeks, it was such a devastation, a complete devastation, and you do not understand what to do. Well, you get up,go to work, try to do something, and there is emptiness in your soul and in your mind. Then, when we learned about Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol… Basically, there is nothing left but hatred, and your brain is arranged in such a way that after some time it is reconfigured and you begin to perceive it as part of your life.

And waking up from these shelling attacks, you just understand that such is life. I understand for sure that there are things that cannot be forgiven. It will take decades for us to be able to do this. This will end and those of us who will remain alive, will be different people. I don’t doubt it for a second.

Do you know what question I often ask myself? Now I am not allowed to enter russia because I have voted on a number of issues since November 2018 and I have been included in the sanctions list. For me, it was painful for one simple reason – I have both my mother and father, and my sisters there.

They live in Dagestan and I understand that I cannot come and visit them. Well, at least they could come to me. Clearly, they cannot come to me now because we have the war now, and I cannot go because... and I am here because no sanctions here. In fact, I do not understand…, when it will all end, and it will end. I don’t understand how I will be able to go there and look into the eyes of 82 percent of that country’s people who supported this aggression, these killings, this hell that we had. They think that they defended us.

But I think... Well, now I look into the eyes of one person and another one, and I understand, those who called me and said “Musa, my friend, hold on,” or my closest relatives who said, “We support Ukraine. We are brothers and we hope you win.”

I also have some relatives who served in the russian army. They refused to go to the war. They are in prison; I think they got an eight-year sentence. He refused and said, “I will not go to the war.” He got eight years of prison, and he is not a single case.

I know that about 500 people in Dagestan refused and they are now facing criminal charges, court cases. They will be imprisoned. I think that this is the only right decision they could make. Otherwise, it means to have your hands bloodstained in an unjust war, although there are so many those who continue. They are here. They are in the war. They think they are saving us from the Nazis.

I don’t know how you can be so crazy. Will I go there when I am able to go again? Now I am trying to find a good distribution center where we could bring people from Avdiivka, hand them over and be sure that they are not abandoned, but at least are given some food and water, put on a train, and met by somebody somewhere further. Well, this is what I am busy with. Well, it is very important now.

The question of evacuating plant workers is one story and evacuation of residents of the town is another story. In fact, they are agreeing anyway because no one can say that we will evacuate plant workers, but we will not take others. They evacuate everyone, no matter what somebody says.

People have such a property that they eventually tend to forget all the bad, while the good remains.

And I remember that even in 2014-2015 we met with friends on New Year’s Eve, and we remembered only the good things. And this is not right. You don’t have the right to forget all the hard things that happened to you. Because if you forget it, it will come again.

I assume that perhaps what we are getting now is a consequence of our infantilism, or the attitude to our history not the way it deserves. The main task is to ensure that people do not forget, as Rasul Gamzatov said, if I remember correctly. I can be wrong, but I think these are his words that... or his father’s word (his father Gamzat was also a famous poet). “If you shoot the past with a handgun, the future will shoot you with a cannon.” Therefore, nothing can be forgotten. It tends to be forgotten, and it is probably better to fix it in time.

This is what the Museum of Civilian Voices is doing now and what it did before. And most likely, we will have to continue this work for a long time because the war is for a long time unfortunately. You record everything that happened to us during the war, and later people will be able to visit the museum, hear and see what happened and where, and learn some lessons for themselves not to repeat those mistakes again.

When quoting a story, a reference to the source – the Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation – is mandatory, as follows:

The Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation

Rinat Akhmetov Foundation Civilian Voices Museum
Avdiivka 2014 2022 Video Civilian's stories men 2014 moving destroyed or damaged housing psychological injury shelling job loss safety and life support Job internally displaced persons the first day of the war 2022
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