Sa, 2.12.2023

First Estonian volunteer in Ukraine was decorated for courage

Jaanus Piirsalu
, ajakirjanik
German Barinov is currently fighting in the International Legion on the Eastern Front, where the attacks of the Russian army do not stop for a day.
German Barinov is currently fighting in the International Legion on the Eastern Front, where the attacks of the Russian army do not stop for a day. Photo: Erakogu
  • Former resident of Pärnu who serves with the Foreign Legion earned the order For Courage 3rd class.
  • As far as German Barinov knows, comrades from his unit recommended him for the award.
  • He has not yet received the decoration.

German Barinov, 25, has become the first among Estonian volunteers fighting in Ukraine to receive decoration for courage from the president of Ukraine. German was supposed to receive the order on Ukraine’s Day of Independence, but he had to stay on the frontline instead.

Former Pärnu resident Barinov, who serves with the International Legion (also known as the Foreign Legion) of Ukraine, earned the order For Courage 3rd class. This is a state decoration of Ukraine awarded to the military, police officers and other personnel of armed and security services for courage and saving of lives. It could be compared with the Eagle Cross of the Estonian Defense League.

“This is a great honor for me and a reason to feel proud,” said Barinov, who previously worked as a security guard and auxiliary policeman in Pärnu.

Barinov, who joined the Ukrainian Foreign Legion in March, has been fighting at the front for the past four months. During this time, he has been slightly wounded twice. Once, he narrowly escaped with his life when his car hit a mine – a face scar caused by shrapnel reminds him of the incident. Due to his bravery and skill, he quickly rose from an ordinary soldier to a section commander. He has a ten-man unit under his command.

His skills were acquired in the Estonian army and Defense League

“A large part of my military skills – thanks to which I am still alive – comes from the Estonian Defense Forces and the Defense League,” said Barinov. He was only a conscript in the Estonian army but he considers what he learned during his service to be very useful in the current war.

“I can assure that all my Estonian comrades in the Ukrainian army are incredibly brave and skilled soldiers. And I am very happy that an Estonian soldier received such recognition,” said Barinov and added that he accepts the order given to him as Ukraine’s gratitude to all the Estonian volunteer soldiers who came to their aid. According to Postimees, 50–100 Estonians are fighting and working as instructors in Ukraine. Some of them have already returned home. For example, at least two other men from Estonia men are fighting in the same unit as Barinov.

According to Barinov, the war in Ukraine is waged in a different manner compared with what the highly experienced Western volunteers are used to. “However, our defense forces teach us to fight trench warfare against an enemy stronger than ourselves,” said the soldier with the call sign “Barin”. “Many American and Western European veterans who come to our foreign legion leave after a couple of weeks because they were not prepared for the fact that the opponent is likely to be stronger. But this (strength - ed.) is already starting to change in favor of Ukraine.”

First bombardment was terrifying

According to Barinov, it is normal to be afraid when one comes under constant artillery fire of the Russian army for the first time but a good soldier can overcome it. “When I sat in the trench for the first time under massive bombardment, I also thought that after this I shall definitely go home, that it was too much for me,” Barinov recalled. “But I understood that this is pure egoism, because I thought about the ordinary [Ukrainian] residents, who sit under even worse bombardment every day.”

Unless the Russian army is stopped in Ukraine, the war will expand to Europe, Barinov is certain. “To be honest, I prefer death to living under Russia’s control,” he said. “The experience of the Second World War makes it clear to me that this big hungry wolf will not be satisfied with just one sheep.”

According to Barinov, his unit mates recommended him for the award. He has not yet received the actual decoration. At first, there was a possibility that he would travel to Kyiv to receive the order on August 24, Ukraine's Independence Day, but in the harsh reality, the section commander Barinov had to go to the front with his unit to perform a combat mission.

“The order should be handed over by the president, but I am not sure whether I'll be able to get it from him personally, because I have a lot to do at the front. Maybe the commander will just bring it to me from Kyiv sometime,” Barinov guessed.

Before going to war in Ukraine, Barinov spent the last years abroad – in the United States and Australia. He most recently worked as a lifeguard in Australia. From there, he went straight to Ukraine in the spring.

Barinov's plan right now is to continue fighting for the freedom of Ukraine. “Life will show but I would like to see this thing through to the end (i.e. kick the Russian occupiers out of Ukraine - ed.) if I can contribute to it,” he said.