Ukrainian Supreme Court Justice Fights Russian Missiles on Rooftop Battleground

KYIV, Ukraine—In the midst of sub-zero weather, Yuryi Chumak, a supreme court justice, spends his days on the rooftops of ten-story apartment buildings in Kyiv. From this vantage point, he leads civilian volunteer defense squads tasked with defending Ukraine’s capital from Russian missiles and drones. These squads, composed of part-time reservists in the Territorial Defense Force, fill the gaps in the larger military’s anti-air installations. Equipped with vintage machine guns, they rely on donations for gear such as night vision goggles, body armor, and medical kits.

Chumak, a tall and easy-going figure, has experienced two winters fighting the Russians. He first took up arms shortly after Putin’s invasion in February 2022. With smart marksmanship and a bit of luck, these part-time reservists have had moderate success in shooting down Russian drones. However, Ukraine’s defense forces heavily rely on crowdfunding and small non-profit organizations for support, as their resources are limited.

Ukraine’s allies in Europe and the U.S. have supplied the city of Kyiv with effective anti-air defense systems. The U.S. Patriot system intercepts Russian hypersonic missiles, while German Gephards with twin-barreled cannons stop Iranian-made Shahed drones. Additionally, short- to medium-range missile systems such as Norwegian-U.S. supplied NASAMS and German IRIS-T have bolstered Ukraine’s firepower. However, despite these defenses, the mood among Chumak’s team has become more serious and reflective.

Chumak believes that NATO membership is crucial for Ukraine’s security and to instill international investment confidence needed for post-invasion reconstruction. However, both NATO membership and EU membership appear to be distant realities. Supplemental funding for the war effort, amounting to over $100 billion from the EU and the U.S., is currently in limbo due to a small number of skeptics on both sides of the Atlantic. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s opposition to further funding within the EU and a handful of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives claiming “Ukraine fatigue” have hindered progress.

Ukraine is facing shortages of ammunition and artillery shells, making it increasingly difficult to fend off Russian aggression. Chumak, who is also involved in investigating Russian war crimes, is torn between his role as a court justice and his desire to join the fight on the frontlines. He acknowledges the domestic politics surrounding Ukraine’s international supporters and expresses gratitude for their assistance. However, he also stresses the urgent need for promised weapons to be delivered promptly to Ukraine.

Chumak’s concern extends beyond Kyiv; he worries about the rest of Ukraine and predicts that without sufficient weaponry, Russia will launch another attack. While he has confidence in the defense of Kyiv, he warns that many lives are at stake and laments the slow progress in providing support to Ukraine. As the war continues, he predicts that more lives will be lost. The fight for Ukraine’s freedom and survival is ongoing.