June 15, 2015
Translated by Kristina Rus
What the Donetsk rally was really about
Most bloggers believe that people came out against the ceasefire in its current form
The residents of the long-suffering Oktyabrsky village of Donetsk, which is under constant bombardment, gathered on Monday, June 15, for a rally in the city center.
“Vesti” wrote that the neighborhood is daily hit with a lot of shells, homes are destroyed and innocent civilians are killed. According to the city administration, over 1,500 houses were destroyed by artillery in the village. Only one five-story building on Kremlin Avenue was hit 40 times.
In total more than 200 people gathered near the White house [Donetsk administration building], residents of “October” demanded to resettle them to other areas of the city, to null their utility bills and to take under strict control the collection of scrap metal, where, according to them, the criminal elements sell some of their property, taking advantage of the war. The rally was joined by some people passing by in the center of Donetsk. People also demanded to strengthen the curfew in Oktyabrsky – for defense against the marauders and to shut down all the “watering holes” (the residents said they provoke the alcoholics to steal and sell metal from the shelled neighborhood).
But the main issue of the meeting, which worried everyone – what to do with the ceasefire in its current form. Because the constant projectiles flying over the city can’t be acceptable to local civilians. “Vesti” tried to figure out what was exactly the message of the people who came to the rally. We gathered the posts on social media from eyewitnesses of the events in the center of Donetsk.
About the atmosphere at the rally: people told “Zakhar” [Zakharchenko] in his face, what they thought. About “Minsk-2”, and about utility bills, and about delivery of “humanitarian aid” to the bombed districts. Said it straight up, as it is!
And immediately called the militia “defenders”, asked to drive “ukrop” [Ukrainians] from the city. And treated the fighters with cherries. This was my Donetsk today. And always!
The main demand: to drive ukrop from the city. On the photo: foreign journalists.
I wonder how will they present it?
Photo: Roman Manekin
It was an ambiguous rally. Most people demanded to stop the war. To remove [military] equipment from Kievsky district, stop shooting and not provoke the fire of the Ukrainian army. But there were those who demanded that Zakharchenko bangs up the UAF, chasing them far away, but also so that “it doesn’t fly to our district”.
All together asked for new housing, money, gasoline, pensions, repairs etc.
Zakharchenko promised to help the people, to relocate them to sanatoriums. But asked to be patient about the war, saying it is impossible to stop it right now. “Alas, I can’t” – he said.
The rally was filmed by Russian TV crews. In the final story, I suppose, it may say: residents strongly demanded from Alexander Zakharchenko to launch an offensive on Ukraine, and to protect their lives and property. “Ukrainians must be driven from our homes, attack them!”. “Alas, I can’t – answered Zakharchenko.
If you want to frame correctly what today’s rally in Donetsk was against, it was a protest against the ceasefire. It was the only common agenda for its participants.
But the alternatives to the ceasefire were different. There was: attack, retreat, deployment of Russian troops (yeah-yeah-yeah!) and evacuation of civilian population, while continuing to occupy current positions.
And knowing firsthand data from public opinion polls I can say that the option of an offensive enjoys sustained popularity, and in frontal areas it is off the charts.
There was no unity or common demands. Some were asking to remove the equipment from residential areas, others to attack the Ukrainian army. ~200 people: they were addressed from a DPR car on a megaphone. Neither the audience nor the representatives of DPR had a clear position. No chants, and no conflicts.
A couple of passers-by told the women who have blocked the road: “Let the cars go by”. The answer was, “You first give us a bed, which is not under fire!!”
Some of the residents collected signatures: “to remove military equipment from residential quarters.” Later Zakharchenko told them: “I can’t promise peace, while we are shelled by UAF”
Differences in the media
Even more different was the presentation of the meeting in various media outlets. A lot of Ukrainian media called the rally “anti-DPR” and wrote that the main demand was the withdrawal of separatists from power. Others reported that the majority of the population is war weary and demanded not to shoot at UAF, not to get the fire in response.
The Russian press is convinced: many residents of frontal districts do not wish to remain under fire, and the only solution they see is the attack on UAF to push back the front line.
Most clearly this difference is characterized by the picture, today shared in social networks:
Novosti Ukraini (left): “Donersk residents came out against shooting from residential areas”
Lifenews (right): “Donetsk protesters demanded DPR authorities to protect them from UAF shelling”
How the rally ended
At first no one came out to the people, therefore some of the protesters remained near the White house to write a collective letter to Zakharchenko and some blocked the Artem street. As a result, the route of trolley #2 had to be stopped, the passengers had to walk. In an hour Alexander Zakharchenko had arrived to talk to the protesters. People gathered around the leader of the self-proclaimed Republic and, interrupting each other, began to shout out demands.
Photo: Roman Manekin
Zakharchenko said that the Minister of Labor and Social Policy will come to Oktyabrsky and will be in charge of resettlement of the residents. In addition, according to Zakharchenko, Donetsk city administration received orders regarding the village of Oktyabrsky. “Today, the mayor of Donetsk was given the task to completely restore the lights in Oktyabrsky. The lights will be restored by the end of the week,” – said Zakharchenko. In addition, he promised that all who wish to leave Oktyabrsky will be provided with employment. And the people can be resettled to sanatoriums and health resorts in more peaceful districts.