From elite IDF combat unit to Ukrainian army

Gregory Fibobrov made Aliyah when he was 9, was raised in Israel and served in Golani Brigade; 8 years ago he decided to leave country and joined Ukrainian military as fears about Russian invasion continue to mount

Edward Doks|
Recently the entire world, including Israel, has been following the developments in Eastern Europe, where Russia massed more than 100,000 troops around Ukraine and the West fears it may invade in an attempt to annex its former Soviet republic.
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  • Some, however, decided that watching the situation unfold from afar is not enough. Meet 40-year-old Gregory "Grisha" Fibobrov, a graduate of an elite IDF combat unit, who now is serving as a squad commander in the Ukrainian army.
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    גרגורי פיבוברוב
    גרגורי פיבוברוב
    Gregory 'Grisha' Fibobrov
    (Photo: Gregory Fibobrov)
    In fact, Fibobrov, who served in Golani Brigade, a prestigious infantry unit, enlisted to one of the combat units in the Ukrainian army seven years ago.
    He is currently stationed on the front line, where troops are preparing for a possible invasion of the Russian army. "We hold our position, but in relation to the situation before, the Russians are much more aggressive and provocative, and they are breaking the truce a lot more," he said.
    "The army's morale is high, the Ukrainian army is well prepared for any scenario. We can respond well to possible Russian attacks, thanks to the United States and Britain. The war in Ukraine has been going on for eight years and the world only noticing it right now," he said, referring to the armed conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine, part of the broader Russo-Ukrainian War.
    Russian army near the Ukrainian border
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "If Russia wanted to attack, it would have already attacked, we are here to protect our country and our land, they are the conqueror, and they are the ones who brought the war to Ukraine, we will fight until the end and we will achieve victory," he said.
    Fibobrov serves in the Aidar Battalion, an assault battalion of the Ukrainian Ground Forces considered to be one of the best in the military.
    "During international military drills with Lithuanians, Bulgarians, Romanians, and Poles, the battalion showed excellent results and was also praised by other foreign armies. Ukraine has been doing a lot of international training and there's a lot of knowledge exchange between our army and NATO forces."
    Fibobrov life, however, has not always looked like this. He made Aliyah to Israel from Saint Petersburg in Russia when he was nine years old, and grew up in the northern part of the country. He was later drafted to the IDF and served in the Golani Brigade.
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    טנק של צבא רוסיה יורה ב תרגיל מתיחות עם אוקראינה
    טנק של צבא רוסיה יורה ב תרגיל מתיחות עם אוקראינה
    Russian tank fires near the Ukrainian border
    (Photo: Reuters)
    He decided to leave Israel eight years ago and arrived in Ukraine just as mass anti-government demonstrations began to ripple through the country and led to the fall of the Russia-backed regime and the war in Donbas.
    "A friend of mine, a medic stationed at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square where biggest and most violent anti-government protests took place) in Kyiv, said that there was a mess and terrible things were happening, so he asked me to come and help. I said to myself sure why not, so I came."
    Despite being a professional soldier in the Ukrainian army, Fibrovov has not yet received his citizenship. "It's because of the Ukrainian bureaucracy," he said.
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