“I don’t think he’s being honest or selfless and I’m going to tell him that to his face,” Mr Samoylenko said.
But in the small Jewish community of Kherson, a remnant of what was once a major part of the fabric of that city, Mr. Karamalikov was widely respected. Before the Holocaust, Rabbi Wolff said, Kherson had 26 temples. Today, only one remains, the Chabad Synagogue in Kherson, and Mr Karamalikov has regularly allowed it free use of its nightclub space.
“He never said no,” Rabbi Wolff said.
A date with “Alpha”
Mr Karamalikov was busy during those first chaotic weeks of the war, his lawyer said – dashing around Kherson in his white Audi, checking neighborhood patrols, stopping at the synagogue and turning his businesses into aid depots de facto where he distributed boxes of Provisions.
This led to him having to deal with Russian officers, particularly a colonel who dressed in all black and went by the code name Alpha. Mr Karamalikov had little choice, his lawyer said. Hopping Russian troops were spread all over the city and Mr Karamalikov had to speak to Russian commanders like Alpha ‘to make sure they hadn’t shot any of the volunteers’.
At around 10 p.m. on March 15, a plumber, a carpenter and the carpenter’s son were standing at a checkpoint when they saw the silhouette of someone walking in and out of the shadows. A voice then shouted, “I am one of you!” and out came the Russian soldier, who had taken the neighborhood guards for fellow Russians.
Andriy Skvortsov, the carpenter’s son, said the soldier was bewildered and barely able to string a sentence together. When he realized the men in front of him were Ukrainians, he looked extremely frightened, Mr Skvortsov said. “He was childish and helpless,” Mr Skvortsov said. And he was heavily armed.