He is currently based in Munich, but he is a far cry from the average salaried costume designer in world athletics. Yevhen Pronin is the head of the Ukrainian Athletics Federation, but he leads another life outside of sports.
“We drop bombs – he says. – Not only on Russian tanks, but on Russian cars and on bases where they are hiding. I am a drone operator. I am responsible for two things – for intelligence and for the use of military drones, with that drop small bombs.”
Last month, the 31-year-old graduate lawyer accompanied the Ukrainian delegation to the World Athletics Championships, where Russian athletes were again barred. After returning to his homeland, he put on the military uniform and again joined the forces repelling the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The Russian artillery can destroy you in a second, so you have to be very careful. You need experience – how to hide, how to even run away – explains Pronin from the front line in the region around Donetsk.
Of course I’m not a murderer in my ordinary life, but if we don’t kill them, they will kill us and our children.”
Yevhen loved athletics from an early age and competed in the 400 meters as a child. Subsequently, he chose law, but now he is once again helping sports in his country. Seven months ago, he was elected chairman of the athletics federation, but the war changed everything not only for him, but also for all his compatriots.
“It’s a chance for people of my generation. It’s not nice, but we’ve had problems with the Russians for years. My parents are afraid to do anything because they were part of the Soviet Union. But our generation wants a different life.”
According to Pronin, the biggest mistake the Russians made when they occupied the eastern territories was that they did not turn off the television and the Internet.
“They were ten minutes from our house and I remember how my girlfriend was crying – he explains. – Then I opened President Zelensky’s profile on Instagram. From there he vowed that we will not surrender. Then he uttered the historic line that we do not need from evacuation, but from weapons. I was stunned, but I think it changed the attitude of every single Ukrainian, and then we decided that we have to strike back and start fighting.”
Yevhen himself uses social networks to show what he is doing on the front and how he operates the drones.
“Yes, this is propaganda – admits Pronin. – Many Ukrainian soldiers are doing it right now. This is a new type of war, everyone is filming. When we need additional help from international organizations or when we need to buy more drones, everyone asks for videos.”
That is why Yevhen is currently in Munich with the Ukrainian delegation for the European Athletics Championships.
“The government understands very well that this sends a very powerful message – that I and our athletes are here – he further explains. – They understand that here I can also give a lot of interviews. From here I can do much more work than for these a few days at the front.”