“They came here to kill terrorists, and found women and grandmothers:” In Kirovskoe, civilians look back on 2014


Laurent BRAYARD 
in DONiPRESS, March 12, 2016

Translated from French by Tom Winter, March 13, 2016

There are four people with me here near the little mining and industrial town of Kirovskoe, a city nestled in the free Donbass that was the target of the Ukrainian Army attacks in the summer of 2014.

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It’s Natasha, Yaroslave, Sasha, and Yevgeni. We’ve settled in at the town’s central park; we’ve got sunshine, and springtime is on its way to the Donbass; the last races of snow have long since disappeared. They were simple workers and denizens when the Ukrainian Army attacked one other springtime, two years ago. 

They were among the first to take to the streets for demonstrations against the Maidan; they understood the danger of the situation, and that nothing good would come of that color revolution whose financing the US doesn’t even bother to hide via the words of Victoria Nuland or John McCain — the famous five billion dollars invested in spreading the disorder in Ukraine, a country since then used like a gun pointed at Russia.  

“At first there weren’t very many of us in the streets, hardly more than a few dozen, and we were hemmed in close by the local police, and were all but arrested many a time. The sad thing is, that the police are from here, mostly, from Kirovskoe and many of them are still here that obey the orders of Kiev, that were, at the time, in obvious opposition to reason and the principle of freedom of expression.

“I served as a coordinator of the militias at the beginning of the invasion. I served in an improvised general staff — with our phones we got calls from the people around us, recording the positions and actions of the reprisal troops of Ukraine. We put the reports together by priority and connected the same way with the insurgent units that had risen spontaneously. 

“I had no political experience before the war, or even military, I am a simple inhabitant of Kirovskoe. I spent my life here quietly with my children, my son is a cadet of the new army of Donetsk People’s Republic. Look at his photos!” 

Natasha with pride shows me photos of her boy in white uniform proudly posing for posterity.

“When the soldiers of Ukraine were approaching the city after the fall of Slavyansk, we reacted and formed volunteer units. We had nothing, practically sticks, weapons at hazard, shotguns, it was ridiculous. We built makeshift bunkers, block-posts on the crossings and in front of the city to monitor and defend the approaches and entrances. 

“Ukrainian fighter planes flew over the area, they were flying so low that sometimes we felt like we were going to get it in the face. Then the shells started falling on the town, sporadically at first, then methodically. 

Then we formed our volunteer units. There weren’t even 50 of us, and many died later. We fought for our land, for our country right up to Minsk 2 in February 2015 and then we were demobilized. 

“It was no longer the time of the uprising but the time of creating an army. We seem all the same to have been forgotten, but we have done our duty. Some honorary awards would not be unwelcome” then continued Sacha, who seems to be about 40.

“When we organized the first demonstrations against the Maidan many people here did not understand their value and importance . Some said it would end badly, others preferred not to see, and anyway most of us had a job, so we took care of organizing events in our free time, off days or evenings. 

“It was a very special time, there was an air of freedom and at the same time we regained our pride and we won the people over. It was a beautiful moment. The famous referendum on federalization and ultimately onward to the path of independence that we had not foreseen, was extraordinary: people came by the hundreds, I’ve never seen so many people come to the polls, it was in a festive atmosphere and good feeling. 

“They came from everywhere, some were disappointed to have arrived after the polls were closed. They shouted, they also wanted to vote, we had to explain, even argue, that the law was the law, that we could not reopen the offices, the referendum had to be done with standards for it to be indisputable for all. For all but alas — not for Kiev. 

“Our voice has not been heard and then we had to defend our city, our families and our lives.” 

Yaroslav continues today, still campaigning in the bosom of a union where he works organizing patriotic actions and aid for the poorest families and the families of volunteers at the front, wounded or killed.

“The war started. Then we understood that it would be terrible. Army helicopters Army strafed civilian cars on the road.” 

Sasha and Natasha told how airplanes flew over the city buzzing the rooftops. We had practically no weapons to defend ourselves. Our friends told us, “but you’re crazy, you do not have any weapons to stop them, and they have automatic weapons, guns and tanks!”

“So what ?” I said, and I explained that we would take the weapons we needed from their hands. Indeed the first soldiers we met were Ukrainian army. Many of the officers were completely panicked: they came to kill terrorists, that’s what they were told, and there we were in front of them civilians, grandmothers, women. The soldiers were draftees, they were 18 or 20 years, so we disarmed dozens, they allowed this because otherwise they would have had to kill ordinary people that looked surprisingly like their parents, their siblings, their families. 

“We even captured armored vehicles in this way, sometimes they also passed over to our side. This was not the same afterwards, the artillery began to bombard and battalions of Nazis arrived, leaving death, looting, and rape in their wake and we defended ourselves,” said Yevgeny, who also now works for a syndicat supporting soldiers and soldiers’ families.

All four were born in the Donbass, they are in their thirties or forties, they were born during the period of the Soviet Union. Yevgeny is proud to show me the sailor’s cap from his grandfather, a hero of the last war, the Great Patriotic War as the Russians and those countries that participated in this titanic conflict against the Nazi invaders call it. 

From one Nazi invader to another, they will keep in mind that just as they had not become slaves of the German Reich, they will be no more of the European Union. The mere mention of their future and also of the European Union triggers laughter and jokes. 

“If indeed those in the West of Ukraine want to live in the heart of Europe and the rules and laws that govern it, Good for them, they can, but here we have nothing to do with these people, we are Russians, we are of Donbass. What will be the future I do not know, we do not agree on our future, there are some who think that Ukraine is Russia right up to the Carpathians, others to the Dnieper, others than we can drive out the Nazis and other creatures of the West and rebuild Ukraine, and still others that the Donbass will be in theRussian Federation. One thing is sure, we have no need for the EU nor the Americans nor Poroshenko and his gang, or the oligarchs. That’s it! “

Yevgeny regrets, however, that Rinat Akhmetov’s companies still pay their taxes in Kiev. (Akhmetov is the famous Donetsk billionaire who fled to Ukraine but whose Akhmetov Foundation sends humanitarian aid in the Donbass.)  

“You see a lot of the larger companies that stay here are his own, but do you think he pays taxes to the Donetsk People’s Republic? No ! This man betrayed us like others before him. The help he sends just serves to keep him popular among the poorest and most numerous of Donbass. The Ukrainians haven’t been bombing his enterprises or factories, or even the stage of his football club in Donetsk. Isn’t that strange when they were bombing all around? 

“We fought for our country and we do not regret it, but I hope that we will push them out to the last, the patriots are those who stayed to defend the Donbass, as for the others, I let you figure it out! “

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