I don’t want to kill anyone

The war in Ukraine is having a massive human cost. Ukraine has suffered 109,000 casualties and 15,000 killed in action. Russia has suffered 190,000 casualties and 35,000 killed in action. A notebook has been discovered written by Vitaliy Taktashov, a young Russian soldier. The notebook contains letters Vitaliy wrote to his wife. On 29 November 2022 Vitaliy, a 31-year-old construction worker, arrived at a Russian army encampment in Tokmak, south-eastern Ukraine, along with hundreds of other mobilised soldiers, most of whom had had little training and were poorly equipped. He had left his wife, Ekaterina, and their two-year-old son, Ruslan, in Moscow.

When the couple got married in 2018, Ekaterina wore a short-sleeved white lace dress and pink lipstick and Vitaliy – bare-faced and serious – a blue suit and tie. Near the front line in Ukraine, Vitaliy was homesick and wrote letters almost every day to his beloved wife, “My darling Katya I love you and Rusik very very much and can’t wait to see you. I want to have two more kids. To raise and to educate them. To play with our grandkids. To grow old with you, please wait for me. I don’t want to kill anyone because all religions say, ‘do not kill’. I hope that we won’t kill and that they won’t kill us.”

Vitaliy thought of committing suicide or deliberately breaking his leg so that he would be sent home. On 30 November he wrote, “I am scared, my nerves are hammering, and I write with tears in my eyes, I want to come back home to you. Pray for me. I love you all so much.” On December 4, he got the news he had been dreading, “The worst has happened and we’re going to the ‘zero’ point at the front line. All my thoughts are about you, my darlings. I must come back, must survive, must overcome.” Sadly, Vitaliy would never see his family again. One hot afternoon fighters from an advancing Ukrainian unit on the southern front found the notebook in the pocket of a dead young Russian soldier. The Ukrainian soldiers gave him the dignity of being buried.

“Putin’s war” has destroyed thousands of fathers and brothers on both sides. Some, like Vitaliy, were forced to become soldiers despite having little military experience and were mown down in fields and trenches far from home. Putin and those who support him may escape human justice but must one day stand before the Judge of all the earth who will do what is right. This gracious God also hears the desperate cries of terrified people in the trenches and their loved ones. He also has a particular love for widows and orphans and cares for them.

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