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Five myths about the occupied territories of the Donbas


1. Only separatists and defeatists have stayed in the territory of the unrecognized republics.

First of all, I want to mention that this has been written by a person, who takes a totally pro-Ukrainian stand, defending it not just once in disputes with family and friends in 2004 and in 2014. However, now I am living in the territory, uncontrolled by the Ukrainian authorities, the DNR.

It is hard to believe that the European country considered more than three million people as enemies in one fell swoop. In a sign of opposition of its high ideals against “totalitarian Russia”. But it is so. Those who haven’t left are the enemies. Thus, a million people left.

However, for all internally displaced persons I know, the main criterion for changing place of residence was purely economic – a loss of their job. First of all, it’s the law enforcement agencies – the Interior Ministry, State Emergency Service of Ukraine, prosecutors, courts. State institutions and universities. All of them were evacuated in an orderly manner and, of course, “for a short time”. People took a leap, or rather fled, into the unknown only under attacks.

Doctors, teachers, cultural workers largely chose to stay where they were: hryvnia’s decline made it impossible to rent accommodation, and it is the main expenditure item of internally displaced persons. The majority of miners, metallurgists, machine builders, who received enough money before, are simply not in demand in present Ukraine – “domestic” miners are on strike regularly.

So many, having left for two of the most “hot” months, then returned home. And believe me, plenty of mistakes of the new “L/DNR authorities” did not help to deepen love to them. As the person who regularly uses public transport, I can say that since the autumn of the last year the number of supporters of the independent “DNR” has been steadily falling. If previously there was 60 percent (only 10 percent of which was fervent) of such people in my environment, today there is 20 percent of them (and only one percent is fervent). Although very many people will not agree with something less than the autonomy. The Ukrainian government turned away from us too early and zealously: non-payment of pensions and social benefits, economic blockade, humiliation at checkpoints – all this creates a sense of our irrelevance for Ukraine.

2. The economic blockade will force the militants to lay down arms and (or) make the population of the occupied territories excite a riot.

At the moment, Ukraine is not controlling about 409 kilometers of the state border within the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. A spokesman for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine Oleg Slobodyan has said about it in the air of Channel 5. In my opinion, there should not be any questions. No fortress, no city has fallen in the semi-encirclement. Therefore, it is difficult to call it a blockade. Rather, economic sanctions or additional taxation of Ukrainian goods.

However, this tax does not go into the budget, but into the pockets of officials and soldiers controlling the checkpoints. Everyone on this side of the “thin red line” knows the size of a small (common) bribe. But this is so; it is poor few thousands per day for the soldiers. If one goes out in Donetsk in the evening after 20.00, there are few who do it, it is possible to see a lot of trucks: going with coal there, and coming with everything here. And when the SBU security service says about intercepted cars with coffins or toys, the heart stops – that’s all, we are strangled!

Of course, goods that pass through Ukrainian checkpoints are minor items. 90 percent of all manufactured goods and food products are from Russia. There are all the main products in the range and all the manufactured goods without range (in some stores there is one washing machine or refrigerator, shower stall, etc.) All of this is incredibly annoying. And that’s all. Prices for more than 50% of goods are comparable to the Ukrainian ones, and if some people still faint, it is because they remember the Ukrainian prices of 2014. And a lot of things have changed there.

In general, no one will die because of hunger here. There is also a very important point - social bread. Its price is 2.75 hryvnias (6 rubles). And cheap utility services. A riot is not going to happen. And what is more, the local authorities make up an excuse – we could live better, but for the blockade...

Of course, step right, step left – and one faces the difficulties, even significant ones. But now it is a question of survival. And people survive. The most offensive is that blockade does not concern a single militant. These people get good money and live happily. They do not make repairs, do not sell the apartment (although there are even local notaries for the legalization of the “grabbed” property). It’s the people who are totally all right. And then there is a flip side: each truck of sold Kursk potato is the truck of not sold Chernihiv potato. All the money, earned or received by the inhabitants of the Republic in Ukraine, flow as a fairly broad river into the Russian economy. Thus, what about sanctions?

3. The integration of the Donbas in Ukraine will take years, if not decades.

The people and the media claiming it should at least be fined. Communicating with friends I heard this not just once, of course. But it always concerned hypothetical “others”. That is, we will definitely swallow it, but some people, who have lost their housing, family, health, will not forgive. However, “Will they forgive?” is not in the question at the moment. Maybe Slavyansk has not forgiven everything, but it's Ukraine. And the city is significantly destroyed. Common sense prevailed. As no one wants to lose even more. People just want to live as before.

Even according to the internal statistics of the L/DNR, 5-7% of the population living there sees these new formations as independent. Few people will agree to live without future. It’s just necessary to mute the military rhetoric. There are just simple facts – who will be elected as a new mayor of Zhdanivka or Torez is not important for the residents of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil and Berdichev. They neither know these names, nor care. But they are shouting to the whole world: separatists, criminals! Not all are enemies. Many of them are ordinary bureaucrats who have not given up public utilities in the chaos of the time of troubles.
4. The nation’s leadership has been making efforts to return the Donbas to Ukraine.

Perhaps many people watching Ukrainian TV channels will fall under impression that the President, the government are making titanic (or at least some) efforts to return the Donbas. It's a lie. Everything is being done to anger and dissuade people completely. From mass stigmatizing hundreds of thousands as “separatists”, humiliations at checkpoints (people in line have to go to the toilet in the middle of the road as the road sides are mined) to robbery at the state level.

A year ago, we were told that pensions and social benefits were accumulated in special accounts for the time being, and a month ago balances of treasury accounts of the uncontrollable cities were zeroed. Of temporarily uncontrollable ones, if the Donbas is Ukraine. No ton of humanitarian aid from the state and a lot of bureaucratic obstacles. Court decisions in favor of the citizens of Donetsk are simply ignored. You owe to someone all the time. But our passports are the same as there, outside the line. “Citizens of Ukraine”. As it turned out there are also second-rate citizens.

On the back of it, people here haven’t thought about the causes of the conflict for a long time. For the common man everything is simple: hundreds of trucks with food, medicines and building materials, pensions and public sector salaries, child benefits for mothers – all this is Russian. Work, travel without permits, free rehabilitation of thousands of children. The ruble completely replaced hryvnia. And holidays, holidays, holidays. Bread and circuses. Companies that have turned toward the East. Thus, what does Ukraine want? And how in the perception of the powers that be does it all help the Donbas to return to their home country?

5. Life in the L/DNR is better than in Ukraine and almost the same as in Russia.

This information is intended for those who are still proud of participating in the referendum on May 11, but now living in the territories retaken by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in August, 2014.

A human life in the “young republics” is akin to the life of a homeless dog – at any time one can be cussed out, kicked, put on chains, or shot. We’ve got too many weapons here. And there has always been enough vodka. Anything that does not involve issues of survival does not work. Mass unemployment, and even more work for pennies. 80 percent of the population according to the Russian Federation standards (we get salaries in rubles) is not poor, but poverty-struck. Plus there is complete uncertainty around. There is almost no fuel at the gas stations today; there was no heating yesterday; and what will tomorrow look like? ... Everything possible is cut for metal. Slogans and promises are in excess. For everyone and of everything. It's a shame that the powerful industrial region has reduced to the role of a supplicant with an outstretched hand. Or to be more precisely, with both hands. Is that happiness?

See also:

Main Myths about Social Payments to Internally Displaced Persons

How Buddhism Left the Donbas

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