Hundreds of children have suffered since the beginning of Russian aggression in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
On June 1, International Children’s Day, Andriy Parubiy, Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada, voiced the data about 68 perished children and 186 wounded ones during the two years of war. At the same time, other sources claim that the number is even more tragic: Andriy Pavlenko, children’s ombudsman of the times of Yanukovych, states that 199 children have died and 500 children have been wounded by bullets or pieces of shells. About 10 thoгsand little Ukrainian citizens live in the “grey zone” and risk their health and lives every day.
This interview with Nataliya was recorded a year ago.
Perished children of Donbas. War without censorship. Part 1
Perished children of Donbas. War without censorship. Part 2
"Everything is so mixed up there"
We wanted to buy a vyshyvanka (traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt) for Kira and now I cannot even go past the shops where Ukrainian flower wreaths are sold.
Dasha went to a gymnasium with the Ukrainian language of studying, Khrystyna to a one with the Russian language. To support Dasha, we spoke Ukrainian at home. We also sang Kira Ukrainian songs. I stopped doing that when I moved to Kyiv. I do not know why.
It happened so that this land is mine forever. I have nothing to do in Russia but there is no life for me here as well. Ukraine is its people for me, but I do not value my passport. All that is left from my motherland is a small patch of land with one cross there for the two of them.
Yes, internally-displaced children are accepted here, they can go to schools and study. But what about those who stayed there?..
Ukraine refused from my children. Police does not do anything and it makes me search for answers myself.
I am a mother. I am beyond politics.
My children and me have always been and will always be citizens of Ukraine.
Why did our authorities consider the murder of my children such a trifle that they do not think that it is necessary to investigate into this terrorist attack?
Why are deaths of our children just statistics?..
Who is to blame?
According to the words of Roman Martynovsky, regional human right expert, the European Court on Human Rights will not say exactly who is guilty. It can only decide that one of the conflict parties or both of them are guilty of people’s deaths and of violating the Article #2 of the Convention.
This verdict may launch an investigation at home.
"This is what we want", summarizes the lawyer.
"What really surprised me in this situation is the “geography" of the square. If we draw the objects which are situated here, they will form a kind of a horseshoe. There is a former police department where there used to be Bezler’s headquarters in 2014. Supposedly, they could try to hit it. There were also military units of the unrecognized “DPR” there.
After the first shelling there were other ones and every time the shells did not hit any of those strategic objects. This is highly suspicious.
If Ukrainian troops had been shelling the town, they would have adjusted the fire for the second and third attacks. And surely, they would not shell the square.
This means that the version about a horrible “DPR” provocation is real.
On the other hand, the events of this war tell us that at the very beginning there was a lot of mess and a lot of traitors among Ukrainian troops in the ATO zone.
I am a military lawyer, I have had some training and I know, at least in general, the tactics of conducting a battle. As far as I understand, Bezler and his troops had to escape after the first shelling as they understood, of course, that there were bound to be new, more precise ones.
Still, none of them left. Why?
Maybe, because they knew that next shells would land in the square?
"All is fair in the war" – but did they really need to shell streets and squares where civilians were strolling to make them hate Ukrainian servicemen?
I cannot believe that Ukrainian militaries shelled the square on purpose on July 27, 2014. I cannot believe that they did it some more times later. Still, sometimes I feel some faint doubt: what if it was possible? If poor qualification and absent-mindedness could get to such a horrible scale?
A proper investigation could have given answers to all these questions", says Martynovsky.
However, no one has conducted this investigation in two years’ time.
All the questions addressing Ukrainian and Russian state bodies that are responsible for conducting the investigation remain without answer.
Ukrainian special forces claim that the territory is not controlled by the state. At the same time, Nataliya, who is in Kyiv now, has not been questioned yet.
Other people who were forced to leave Horlivka after shellings and are now in different parts of Ukraine have not been questioned either.
Russia that actually controls the occupied territories of the Donetsk region does not say anything either. Sometimes they send some letters which, generally speaking, invite victims’ relatives to come to Moscow and testify.
The European Court on Human Rights is probably the only possibility for Nataliya and other families to ever learn he truth.
New service "Explain Ukraine". This is a daily mailout of two articles which were written about the situation in the Donbas by Donbas journalists and translated into English. Honest vision of people who work in the field is unbiased and fresh which is crucial in the world which is full of desinformation and propaganda. We try to share this vision in out daily mailout. You can subscribe here.
Iryna Vyrtosu, Centre of Information on Human Rights, for UP.
All the photographs are from the family archive.