Ukraine pensioner defies Russian occupation

STORY: More than 50 years after gangrene left Hryhoriy Yanchenko without legs and fingers.

He’s showing his fighting spirit remains intact by joining the Ukrainian resistance in occupied Kherson.

These videos shared on social media in June show the 75 year old driving his mobility cart through the city, playing the Ukrainian anthem and collecting donations for soldiers.

He wears a blue-striped jersey and sky-blue beret from the Soviet paratroop unit in which he served.

Reuters was able to verify the location of the videos, but not the date they were filmed.

"Every day at 9 am I left on my wheelchair and every day I felt as if I was on a minefield. You go somewhere and may never come back home. But I just felt like a Ukrainian, felt like a patriot of sorts."

Yanchenko served in the Soviet airborne forces in the 1960s and has been trying to support Ukrainian soldiers since 2014, first organizing a benefit concert and then collecting food and other supplies.

In the last six months, Yanchenko said he’s raised more than $16,000.

The money has been used by a Ukrainian group to buy sniper scopes, rifle accessories and clothing.

Some of the money was even donated by Russian soldiers, Yanchenko says with a laugh.

But after being confronted by a member of Russia’s internal security service, Yanchenko knew it was time to leave Kherson, his home for 57 years.

He hid for three days with a friend before making a pre-dawn crossing of the Dnipro River.

"You understand, I am 75 years old. I was scared that if they found my phone, or laptop, or saw something of the sort, I wouldn’t be able to take these challenges at this age. This is all… very, very frightening."

Yanchenko is now in Ukrainian-held Zaporizhzhia where he continues to collect donations.