Yuriy Malashko, Head of Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration
After de-occupation, some settlements will not remain on the map
27.05.2023 12:40

The official website of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration (RMA) has a very small biographical extract about the new head of our militarily challenging region. In particular, it states that Yuriy Malashko was born on February 16, 1975, graduated from the Kyiv Air Force Institute, served for a long time in the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), was the first deputy head of the military-civilian administration in Maryanka and Pobeda in Donetsk region, and head of the military-civilian administration in Krasnohorivka, Donetsk region. Since February 9, 2023, he has been the Head of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration.

Ukrinform correspondents met with Mr. Yuriy after his first press conference, where he reported on 100 days in his new position.

They talked about de-occupation, military experience in the ATO, the liberation of Sloviansk and traitors.


- On the eve of your appointment, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he would appoint people with military experience to leadership positions in the frontline regions. Information about the alleged appointment of military man Volodymyr Horbatiuk immediately appeared on social media, but then it became known about your candidacy. Tell us about how this happened.

- I am a military man, and when the Supreme Commander-in-Chief gives orders and tasks, I have to fulfill them. So at a certain time I was summoned to the Office of the President of Ukraine, where we had a meeting, talked, and after that, in fact, the decree on my appointment was issued.

- Was it a surprise for you?

- It was neither unexpected nor unexpected. I am a military man and I follow orders. Given the experience I had - and I talked to the President about it - the decision was made. Of course, I underwent certain checks, of course, I was told that there might be such an order, and I was told how this work would have to be done.

- Zaporizhzhia region is quite complicated, because the lion's share of it is currently under occupation. Is this appointment a challenge for you?

- Yes, 67% of the region has been occupied since the first days of the war. With the understanding that the enemy will do the same things there that they have been doing since 2014 in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and now in Kherson, it was really a challenge. The territory of the region that is now occupied is large and it is extremely important, including for the enemy, because it is the land route to Crimea, as is Kherson region.

- 100 days have passed since your appointment. Has the military situation in the region changed? Something we can talk about.

- I think so. I analyzed this issue. I studied the needs of the military that existed before and what is needed now. The military has become more combat-ready, they have the equipment necessary to give a worthy response, and they have learned to resist such an enemy as the Russian Federation.

- You said that a little over UAH 700 million is allocated for the region's defense capability in 2023. Where should this money go?

A classic powerful fortification costs about UAH 4 million. We need not one or three of them

- The Defense Forces stationed in our region have needs. It's not just about tanks, airplanes, or what the Ministry of Defense provides. It's also about the deployment of personnel, the provision of vehicles, Mavic (drones). This also includes fortifications. For example, if we talk about a powerful classical fortification, it costs about UAH 4 million. We need more than one or three of them.


- Do our industrial enterprises help with this?

- Yes, they do. Big business is helping the military. I won't say who exactly, but I will say that they provide not only the necessary equipment, but also bulletproof vests, the same Mavic, and charging stations.

- Because of the occupation, many Zaporizhzhia businesses have been blocked. Do you have any idea how many percent of those who left will return after de-occupation?

- Businesses have moved to safer places, mostly to Western and Central Ukraine. But businesses want to return because their facilities, warehouses, and other premises are here. It is clear that when, for example, the S-300 "flies" over the territory of enterprises, which has happened many times, the production rate decreases. The main thing for businesses is to be able to sell their products. There is the problem of imports and exports. While imports can be solved, exports are a problem. We appealed to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. When de-occupation begins, this issue will be resolved. Business will return, but it is too early to talk about the percentage.

- The enemy has looted everything in the occupied territories, taking away equipment and stocks. Is the business ready to return to a place where there is nothing?

- The enemy is indeed looting and cutting everything because it realizes that de-occupation is a matter of time. We are ready for the fact that there will be nothing on the de-occupied territories, absolutely nothing. Business is also ready for this. International partners are ready to provide support and assistance.

- Let's move on to the agricultural topic. Most of the sown areas are currently occupied and mined. There is not much arable land left on the territory controlled by Ukraine. Will there be enough bread?

- We are ready to cover the needs of our region by 100%. Yes, we have temporarily lost very large areas. As for mine clearance, more than 1,200 hectares of sown areas have been cleared and sown. I would like to add that we have talked to our international partners and provided them with a list of what we need: wheat and other grains, especially winter crops. We were promised that we would receive assistance in September.


- Speaking of de-occupation and reconstruction, at your press conference you said that UAH 29 billion would be needed. I take it this is a preliminary figure?

- This is a preliminary figure, and it is calculated in case we enter the territories and there is nothing there. And unfortunately, it will happen. We know that more than 7,000 objects have been destroyed. These are multi-storey buildings, private houses, and more.

- How long will it take to rebuild?

- It all depends on the extent of the damage. I think it will take up to five years. This is my subjective opinion. The state will provide and is already providing certificates for housing reconstruction.

- We understand that the region will not be the same as it was before February 24, 2022. Certain villages and maybe even cities will disappear...

- A month ago, we gathered community leaders and architects. We honestly said that some settlements would not exist after de-occupation. Somewhere there will be 4-5 or 15 houses left, and no one will create infrastructure - to bring water, electricity, build a school, kindergarten, hospital, etc. So, we invited urban architects to the meeting and asked them to give us a model of how to rebuild, using European experience. The chief architect of the region has already been appointed, there are certain developments and understanding. Community leaders provide information on which settlements are likely to disappear. Perhaps, it is better to make a good road for children to go to a good school, which will be 5 km away in another settlement.

- How many civilians have been injured or killed as a result of Russia's armed aggression?

- Since February 24, 2022, 23 children have died. In total, 354 people died in Zaporizhzhia region, 47 of whom remain unaccounted for. Another 999 people were injured, including 70 children. And the numbers, unfortunately, are increasing.

- How many people, including children, remain in the areas where active hostilities are taking place?

- Many, but recently the intensity of shelling has increased, and we have evacuated about 2000-3000 people in a month. Not all of them register in Zaporizhzhia, some go further. It is difficult to persuade people.

- Do you know how many people are currently in captivity, and is there any information about the mayor of Dniprorudne, Yevhen Matveev, who was captured by the Russians over a year ago?

Up to a thousand residents of Zaporizhzhia region are in captivity

- There is different information about Matveev. I don't want to say anything yet, because it is very hard for the family. We have to believe, we have to fight for every person. There are up to a thousand residents of Zaporizhzhia region in captivity.

- Are there children among them?

- There are cases when the occupiers detain children. Without any reason.

- What do you know about the "gauleiter" of Zaporizhzhia region, Yevhen Balytskiy?

- I had information about him only as an employee of the Security Service of Ukraine. I don't know him personally. Many supporters of parties that are now banned in Ukraine remained in the occupied territory and became "loyal friends of the Russian Federation". They have been doing this since 2014. Such people and parties should have left Ukraine long ago.

- The occupiers are preparing for pseudo-elections. There will be a fierce barrage of disinformation. How to deal with it?

- De-occupation will solve all the issues, and there will be no need to debunk fakes. And people have already learned to distinguish between them.


- Military administrations have been established in Zaporizhzhia region by presidential decree. How many should there be?

- Military administrations are already being formed. Twenty-seven were formed before I was appointed, 19 - after, and 9 more are currently under consideration by the President's Office, we are coordinating some issues.

- You said that after a territory is de-occupied, everything should be working there within seven days. What is needed for this?

The issue is to have sufficient human resources. We need specialists who are ready to work in the de-occupied territory.

- There is a general de-occupation plan that provides for the priority steps of each community. Then the community develops its own detailed plan, which should even include the name, surname, and patronymic of the head of each utility company, his or her phone number, and the tasks he or she must solve from the first day he or she arrives there. We need to create a material reserve. We have Starlinks, generators, 54 mobile ASCs to receive from our partners. But the issue is to have sufficient human resources. We need specialists who are ready to work in the de-occupied territory.


- Let's go back to your past. You are a participant of the ATO. Tell us about it.

- For me, the war started in 2014. Back then I was the head of one of the units, and when the Anti-Terrorist Operation began, I was part of the Anti-Terrorist Center. I cannot say certain things. I was appointed to the headquarters, where I was the head of the SBU forces and means in that territory. The main task was to identify the enemy and his supporters. Now I can tell you about it: we were in the village of Dovhenke (a village on the border of Kharkiv and Donetsk regions - author), which was being destroyed by the Russists. Every day we had combat patrols, identifying those who helped the Russists. Then we went to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk and together with the military liberated them.

- How did people greet you? I saw a photo on social media with a little boy next to you.

- When we entered, there was not a single person there. Not a single person at all. In Sloviansk, we came to the central square near the city hall, and people started to come up. Most of them were elderly, there were people with children. That boy from the photo... I had some candy, money, my brothers-in-arms also had some, and we gave it to them. People were waiting for us. But there were others. On the same day, one of the Russian supporters came to the square and tried to shoot us. He was eliminated. This suggests that there were hidden groups.

- You are a defender of Krasnohorivka and in the same city you worked in a senior position in the administration...

- I was first the first deputy head of the civil-military administration in Maryanka, and then I was appointed to a senior position in Krasnohorivka. These are two towns 3 km apart, but they were and still are on the demarcation line. I knew what the situation was like there - as a military man and as an SBU officer.

- Being the head of the Civil-Military Administration or the Regional State Administration is a political activity. Why did you decide to change your service in the military and the SBU?

- It's not exactly a political activity. For example, in Krasnohorivka, first of all, urgent military actions were needed. And besides, we needed to allocate money for what the population needs right now, to appoint heads of utility companies without waiting for any sessions. In principle, it is the same in Zaporizhzhia region. Right now, defense capability is the most important thing, and helping IDPs is among the priorities.


- I can't help but ask about the dismissal of Zlata Nekrasova, the deputy head of the previous RMA. Why only now?

- When I was appointed, she was on sick leave due to pregnancy. She did not write a letter of resignation, as other deputies did. It took me some time to sort out the situation. There was a scandal, there are certain officials who have been notified of suspicion in the case of possible embezzlement of humanitarian aid. The case files are now in court. There is a court that has to make a decision and say who is guilty and who is not.

As for Nekrasova, she did not receive a salary at the RMA while she was on sick leave. She gave birth and was fired.

- She wrote that she would consult a lawyer and decide whether to go to court...

- We took the practice of the Supreme Court, there are such examples. It's not about general legislation, it's special legislation. She was supposed to write a letter of resignation after the appointment of a new head of the DIA and did not do so. Therefore, she was fired under special legislation. She will go to court, I'm sure. It's not a big deal. Let the court decide.


- Let's go back to the de-occupation. It's one thing to liberate cities that have been occupied for several months, but it will probably be more difficult to liberate those that have been occupied for more than a year?

- It is more difficult for the military. Because we understand that the enemy must be driven out, and for this we must use weapons. The worst thing is that civilians can suffer the most. That's why we say we need to leave. Even if it's through third countries, even if it's with a Russian passport, but they have to leave.

- As for the people who received Russian passports through coercion and intimidation, will they be considered collaborators? Because this is exactly the kind of rumor the occupiers are spreading today.

- No. Unless there is evidence of their collaboration with the Russists. Everything will be resolved in the legal sphere.

- There is no information about your family. If it's not a secret, please tell us.

- I can tell you that I am divorced.

- Was it difficult to move from your native Donetsk region to Zaporizhzhia?

- I worked in Donetsk region for four and a half years in positions in military-civilian administrations. Since 2014, I have been walking on the land of Donetsk region. Zaporizhzhia region is my third homeland. I'm being honest.

When I come to work in a new place, I consider it my own and do everything to make it better.


- There are a lot of complaints on social media that Zaporizhzhia is not talked about enough. Do you agree with this?

- I don't think so. The region is constantly under fire, and we talk about civilians who are suffering, we show everything that is happening. This needs to be done, the world community needs to know.

It's not just about the city of Zaporizhzhia. Orikhiv is simply being wiped off the face of the earth, Huliaipole, Mala Tokmachka as well.

- You are not an "office boss". What cities have you been to so far?

- Along the entire front line: from Dnipropetrovska and Donetska oblasts to Zaporizhzhia.

- Did anything strike you in particular?

- Orikhiv and Komyshuvakha, Stepnohirsk... When we arrived in Stepnohirsk, we went to a kindergarten that had been shelled. There was a watchman and an acting director there, and they were doing something around the house. Under fire.

- Do you have a slogan that helps you when it's hard?

- The words of Shevchenko: "Fight and you will overcome". I know that when it's hard for me, there is someone who has it even harder. The enemy is strong, he is cunning, he doesn't count on anything, even people's lives.

- Have you imagined victory?

- In my imagination, victory is when I come home and hug my mom and dad. They are waiting for me.

- Were there moments when you thought this was the last day?

- This is very personal, but I will say that there were such situations.

- Finally, traditionally, I would like to wish something to our guys who are at the front.

- Strength, patience, understanding that their children, families, and parents are waiting for them.

- To those who are under occupation and cannot leave...

- Only patience and understanding that de-occupation will be soon and we need to protect ourselves.

- And to the enemies.

- I invite them to the "Kobzon concert".

Olha Zvonariova, Zaporizhzhia

Photo by Dmytro Smolenko

P.S. We asked Yuriy Malashko to sign our flag, which we take with us to the front to the military. He left the words of Taras Shevchenko on it. However, he did not sign with his combat call sign - it is still a secret.

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