Why is an award-winning Russian journalist fighting for Ukraine?

A former LA Times correspondent put down his pen and picked up a gun, taking a stand in what he calls “a battle between good and evil.”

After his native Russia invaded Ukraine, 69-year-old Sergei Loiko took a stand and picked up a Kalashnikov. The grey-bearded retired journalist and photographer has set his sights on the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces.

“I’m not afraid because I know I’m doing the right thing,” Loiko said in an interview with Aish.com. “I am here in the trenches. I don’t shoot at the enemy. My unit has not yet had combat contact. In the meantime, I do what I know how to do as a journalist.

The former Muscovite – whose maternal great-grandmother was Jewish – now positions himself in the outskirts of kyiv, where he interviews defenders, makes videos and posts them on social networks. “I create a composite portrait of Ukraine defending itself from Russia.”

Wearing a helmet and fatigues and holding his rifle, he recently appeared on camera himself, in a YouTube video titled “Ukraine Needs You.”

“I am Russian, but I have worked most of my life as a journalist, as a correspondent for a major American newspaper. During my tenure as a journalist, I participated in many armed conflicts and a lot of wars, but I never took sides, I never took up arms, because it was not professional Loiko says to the camera. .

between good and evil

“I am no longer a journalist. I am a free man. And I came here to defend Ukraine from my homeland, from Putin. Why did I decide to become a fighter? Because it’s a biblical battle, a battle between good and evil. It was very easy for me to choose my side, because it’s a black and white war.

In the video, he asks other foreigners with military experience to come to Ukraine and join the defense forces against Russia.

Loiko has already traveled to dozens of war zones, including eight to ten times in Chechnya, but always on the other side of the camera. As a journalist and photographer, he has covered conflicts in Russia and the former Soviet Union, working primarily for the Los Angeles Times. In 2001 he reported on the war in Afghanistan and in 2003 on the war in Iraq. It won the 2014 Overseas Press Club of America award for best interpretation of international affairs by a newspaper or news agency, and the 2015 award Los Angeles Times Editorial award for its Ukrainian coverage.

Born in Finland, Loiko and his late wife, Anastasia, have one son and two grandchildren, who live in the United States.

Life in the trenches

Loiko retired in 2015. “I am happy that I am no longer a journalist. I can finally take sides. He reports that he is on the second line of defense, surrounded by good people who help each other and train every day to meet Russians.

“We eat quite well. There is an excellent network of volunteers to provide and cook food for the troops. In the early days of the war there were bread lines in kyiv. Now you can find bread, he reports.

I feel responsible for what my country is doing in Ukraine.

To participate in this battle, Loiko postponed the cancer surgery he was battling. Yet he does not consider himself a hero for pouring his energy into the Ukrainian cause. “I do what I have to do, it’s my duty,” he asserts.

“I feel responsible for what my country is doing in Ukraine. It’s easy to say that this is Putin’s personal war. It’s us… We’ve had 20 years to oppose it, and we haven’t done it. I blame myself for why I did this, to pay my bill for what’s going on. I will fight Putin and his army.

The military journalist and author knows that in doing so, he is cutting ties with the homeland, where he served in the Soviet special forces in the 1970s.

Loiko leads discussions on social media about Russia’s role in the war. He believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin envies Joseph Stalin’s victory over Germany in World War II and invented his own war in which to claim victory today. “In his head, he created these fascists that don’t exist in Ukraine. He played this war in reality, with much destruction and loss on both sides. He practices the tactics of Stalin’s generals. It no longer works.

Loiko credits Putin with one achievement: uniting the Ukrainian people more than anyone else in 30 years of independence.

In his video, Loiko says he and his comrades are not just fighting for Ukraine. “We are fighting here for you, for the whole world.”

About Cody E. Vaughn

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