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Armed Ukrainian MP camps outside Kyiv parliament as he thanks the Mail for its life-saving campaign

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A Ukrainian MP who has committed his life to fighting off Russian soldiers has thanked the Mail for its life-saving campaign.

Oleksii Goncharenko, who represents Podilsk in the south west of Ukraine, now spends his days camped out in a bunker near the parliament in Kyiv taking it in shifts to man checkpoints around the city – his last ditch attempt to protect the capital from Putin’s henchmen.

Meanwhile his wife Olga, 43, and their sons, Alex, 16 and Cyril, 3, stay miles away in a secret location, away from the family home.

Oleksii Goncharenko, who represents Podilsk in the south west of Ukraine, now spends his days camped out in a bunker near the parliament in Kyiv

Oleksii Goncharenko, who represents Podilsk in the south west of Ukraine, now spends his days camped out in a bunker near the parliament in Kyiv

Although Mr Goncharenko is confident that Ukraine will win this war – that ‘light’ will outdo ‘darkness’, he recognises the country needs all the help it can get.

He said: ‘Our army is very motivated, very prepared and are fighting back really effectively.

‘When the Russians tried to enter Kyiv, we met them with Molotov cocktails, everybody, just using Molotov cocktails against tanks.

‘I cannot tell you how courageous we have all been, it brings tears to my eyes.’

But he added: ‘However it is not just our efforts which will help to defeat the monster that is Vladimir Putin.

‘We need those from the international community to help us not only with political sanctions, but with humanitarian relief.’

Last night, praising the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday’s campaign, he said: ‘I am so thankful for this important initiative that sees the British public giving donations to those in need hundreds of miles away in my country.’

He added: ‘It helps so much to know that people are thinking of us, and that we are not abandoned.’ 

OLEKSII GONCHARENKO: We are locked in a fight between light and darkness, and I truly believe that light will ultimately prevail

By Oleksii Goncharenko, Ukrainian MP for Podilsk in the South West of Ukraine

Ukrainians have been prepared to defend ourselves against Russia for some time now.

Over the years, we have grown used to walking past the red arrows painted on buildings pointing to the Soviet bomb shelters on our way to enjoy drinks with family and friends in the country’s vibrant city centres.

They are a reminder that war against one of the world’s most unpredictable superpowers could happen at any moment, but it is something, sadly, that we have learned to live with.

A few weeks ago, when Putin was threatening invasion, I thought he was blackmailing us and the world, but I never thought he would embark on this catastrophic war that now grips my nation’s hearts and minds every waking moment.

On Thursday February 24, our fears became a reality.

Barricades, sand bags, soldiers, barbwire, steel-crosses, and Czech hedgehogs in Maidan square (Independence Square) in the city center, as Kyiv awaits the Russian offensive

Barricades, sand bags, soldiers, barbwire, steel-crosses, and Czech hedgehogs in Maidan square (Independence Square) in the city center, as Kyiv awaits the Russian offensive

I was in Kyiv fulfilling my duties as a Ukrainian MP for the Podilsk region when my wife called me at 5am telling me she was ready to leave our home in Odessa.

It was one of the most painful moments of my life.

Our home is known to enemies, so I directed my wife Olga, 43, and our sons, Alex, 16 and Cyril, 3, to escape to stay with family or friends in a safer area of Ukraine as soon as possible.

Save for a few suitcases of clothes, and some toys and books for the little one, we left everything behind in that house.

My oldest son, Alex, didn’t want to leave and pleaded with me to stay, assuming that this conflict would finish soon.

It is not easy for a father to tell their son that they do not know when the war will end.

It is not easy to ask him to look after his mother and his younger brother as best he can while I am away.

My youngest still asks me every day when ‘daddy’ will return from the capital to be with them.

And the frightening truth is, I don’t know. Sometimes I fear I will never see them again.

Right now, I am working as part of the civil militia, and am based out of a small bunker that we have created near the parliament building. 

Mobilized soldiers prepare to join the People's Militia of the Lugansk People's Republic

Mobilized soldiers prepare to join the People’s Militia of the Lugansk People’s Republic

The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline UKRAINE REFUGEE APPEAL

Readers of Mail Newspapers and MailOnline have always shown immense generosity at times of crisis.

Calling upon that human spirit, we are now launching an appeal to raise money for refugees from Ukraine.

For, surely, no one can fail to be moved by the heartbreaking images and stories of families – mostly women, children, the infirm and elderly – fleeing from Russia’s invading armed forces.

As this tally of misery increases over the coming days and months, these innocent victims of a tyrant will require accommodation, schools and medical support.

All donations to the Mail Ukraine Appeal will be distributed to charities and aid organisations providing such essential services.

In the name of charity and compassion, we urge all our readers to give swiftly and generously.

TO MAKE A DONATION ONLINE 

Donate at www.mailforcecharity.co.uk/donate 

To add Gift Aid to a donation – even one already made – complete an online form found here: mymail.co.uk/ukraine

Via bank transfer, please use these details:

Account name: Mail Force Charity

Account number: 48867365

Sort code: 60-00-01

TO MAKE A DONATION VIA CHEQUE

Make your cheque payable to ‘Mail Force’ and post it to: Mail Newspapers Ukraine Appeal, GFM, 42 Phoenix Court, Hawkins Road, Colchester, Essex CO2 8JY

TO MAKE A DONATION FROM THE US

US readers can donate to the appeal via a bank transfer to Associated Newspapers or by sending checks to dailymail.com HQ at 51 Astor Place (9th floor), New York, NY 10003

For the first two days of fighting, me and eight other MPs were stuck here, in a small room, forced to sleep on yoga mats, wash ourselves in the sinks and eat snack food rather than proper meals as heavy shelling rained down outside. The lack of real food did not really matter to most of us, as we were running off adrenaline. Now, I am staying in my own flat in the evening.

Strangely, I have begun to settle into my new slightly surreal routine.

In the morning, I wake up and call the family to make sure they are okay.

We try our best to discuss normal things, like the weather, and I continue to nag my eldest son Alex to keep doing his maths and physics homework rather than just scrolling endlessly on social media and watching the news. When I speak to my wife, we try to stay strong, but sometimes she weeps under the pressure of it all, as she fears that her husband might be the next casualty of this brutal war.

It is something, that as a soldier of this war, I cannot take time to think about.

During the day I go to the base and meet my colleagues, who are now also part of the militia.

We take it in shifts to man checkpoints and check cars for Russian soldiers. Sometimes I will go to the Parliament to vote.

Surrounded by sandbags, security forces stand ready with their guns to defend the building, making it appear like a small fortress.

The unbelievable destruction of Kharkhiv shows why this is necessary, but I remain optimistic that we will win this war.

Our army is very motivated, very prepared and are fighting back really effectively.

When the Russians tried to enter Kyiv, we met them with Molotov cocktails, everybody, just using Molotov cocktails against tanks.

I cannot tell you how courageous we have all been, it brings tears to my eyes.

We are locked in a fight between light and darkness, and I truly believe light will win.

Personally, I know that by speaking out, I have a target on my back.

Putin has already tried to assassinate me in 2015 and kidnap me in 2017, so it is nothing new and it doesn’t scare me anymore.

We feel that we are doing the right thing to defend not only ourselves, our country, but the whole world from this and we will never give up.

But it is not just our efforts which will help to defeat the monster that is Vladimir Putin.

We need those from the international community to help us not only with political sanctions, but with humanitarian relief.

That is why the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday’s campaign is so important.

I am so thankful for this important initiative that sees the British public giving donations to those in need hundreds of miles away in my country. I keep hearing awful stories, with one very distressing one recently about a couple killed in Kharkhiv, leaving their one day old twin girl and boy behind.

Those little babies are orphans now, and they need as much help as they can get.

Secondly, the Mail’s campaign is also very symbolic. It helps so much to know that people are thinking of us, and that we are not abandoned.

I know that times are hard for many people, but I would like to ask everybody to help us.

If you can donate, just imagine that there are people now for whom just a piece of bread would help.

This is a question of just living, surviving. This is what makes humans, human.

If you cannot donate to the campaign, pray for us, if you cannot do that, share some information about what is happening here.

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