Despite the fact that life on the occupied Donbas territories is still one of the main themes of Ukrainian mass media, its everyday realia are often not touched upon at all. As a result, they attract only political attention which does not show the full picture, of course. “The Phrase” managed to talk to one of locals and ask him about what is really going on in Donetsk today, what the situation is like in military, economic, political and social spheres there.
We do not mention the real name of the interlocutor.
Donetsk resident: If “DPR” learns who gives this interview, I will face prison. Part 1
Donetsk resident: If “DPR” learns who gives this interview, I will face prison. Part 2
A lot of people chose Russia in 2014 because they thought and they still think that the Donbas will enter the Russian Federation like it happened to the Crimea. Besides artificially created fear of “The Right Sector” and Ukrainian nationalists, the wish to repeat the Crimean scenario were motivating those who took part in the “referendum”. As far as I can see, the number of people who want to join Russia has not decreased in the last two years. On the other hand, of course they have already understood that there will not be any joining and they hear the words of Russian government representatives who say that it is high time “LPR” and “DPR” returned back to Ukraine. This is why they now support the ides of independence of these “republics” from Ukraine.
Some people have become disappointed in Russia and now they think that no one needs them as the Russian Federation does not accept them and does not grant them Russian citizenship and they have already burnt all the bridges connecting them to Ukraine. In their opinion, if they return to Ukraine, it will mean occupation and death. They are sure that Ukraine occupied the Donbas and other regions where Russian-speaking population comprises the majority, so it is necessary to fight and “liberate" them. However, they fail to remember the date of this “occupation”.
I refuse to comment on this nonsense and it is useless to persuade those who support these ideas of the contrary. As far as I can judge by my communication with those who have left Donetsk and those who still live here, about half of the population support Ukraine and the same amount of people support Russia. There are just a few radicals who want “DPR” to occupy all the territory of the Donetsk region. The majority of people want peace though everyone understands it in their own way...
In my opinion, the solution to the Donbas conflict will take a long time as it is impossible to implement the Minsk Agreements as they contain a lot of contradictions. There is another reason as well, their implementations would mean victory or defeat of one of the conflict sides.
Russia started this conflct to be able to influence the internal policy of Ukraine, in particular, to prevent it from joining the NATO. It is possible to influence the Ukrainian government with the help of these “republics” and this is why Russian is trying hard to legitimize them and change Ukraine into a federation.
Kyiv will never agree to federalization as it will mean betrayal of its people and the victory of Russia. It is the Russia that needs federalization, not people of the Donbas. A lot of people had never even heard the word “federation” before the war started and even now an average person will fail to explain what exactly it means and why he or she needs it. Russia, in its turn, cannot just leave the Donbas as it will have to explain itself and tell its citizens why “Novorossia” project was launched and why it failed. This is why the Russian Federation will not let Ukraine control its border and Ukraine will never agree to hold elections on the occupied territories which are, in fact, controlled by Russia.
Introducing the UN peacekeeping mission (without Russians) or at least the OSCE armed police mission would be the best solution here, but Moscow will never agree to this variant. This is why, in my opinion, the Donbas conflict will last for a long time. Here, time is on the Ukrainian side as Russia has to provide for “L/DPR” (and other unrecognized pro-Russian “republics” it has inspired) in terms of economic crisis, as the sanctions against it are getting tougher. This task will become more and more difficult each year. Ukraine should use this during the Contact Group talks and push through its interests.
Are you going to leave Donetsk?
Yes, I am. Probably I will move to some neighbouring region of Ukraine. The city seems calm, but you can feel discomfort and tension because of the war, of people’s aggression, of militants and “DPR” flags everywhere. It is disgusting when you are walking along the street and people think that you are one of them and you support “DPR”. It is equally disgusting when pro-Ukrainian people think that you are a separatist.
My Donetsk died in 2014. It is a strange city for me now. I cannot imagine how it can ever become that gorgeous place it used to be. The city was turned upside down and now we can see the worst side of it. The main problems connected with moving to another city are high rent and job hunting, the majority of those who have Donetsk registration face them. I wish residents of other cities would stop thinking that everyone who comes from the Donbas is a separatist. I also wish we could feel that our state remembers about us.
What would happen to you if “DPR” learns who gives this interview?
Well, as there are no such notions as human rights protection and freedom of speech in "DPR", and if we take into consideration the fact that people here have become aggressive and suspicious, I think that a person who shares my ideas can easily become a political prisoner here. This is why if “DPR” learns who gives this interview, I will face prison.
Yevhen Sereda, “The Phrase”
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.