Updated on 29/4/2022 at 8:17 pm
- The Donbass in eastern Ukraine has been the center of the war since 2014.
- Residents yearn to put an end to the feud.
- Some support the Russian invaders.
Since the start of the Russian offensive in the Donbass region, the Ukrainian military has provided fierce opposition. But not everyone in eastern Ukraine wants victory over Russia. Despite the nostalgia for the Soviet era, or the expression of a feeling of hope that the war would end soon, many are fearlessly waiting for the advance of Russian troops, or lacking hope.
In the market in the industrial city of Lysyansk, Olena describes her vision: “Properly speaking, we are Ukrainians. But Donbass is not Ukrainian.” The Ukrainians are “foreigners here, not Russians”. Olena is not the woman’s real name. She does not want to quote her real name – because she says her comment could put her “in jail”.
Support for the invaders
For years, the government in Moscow Kyiv has accused the Donbass of discriminating against Russian-speaking people. The region has been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. The Kremlin says the goal of its military offensive is to “liberate” parts of the Kiev-controlled mining and oil region.
In fact, some Ukrainian soldiers feel like they are already in enemy territory. Irina, an unregulated officer in the Ukrainian army, says: “Although we did everything we could to cover up our position, the people here are giving us information about the other side.” The Kiev army continues to announce the arrest of “saboteurs” in Donbass.
Vadim Liak, mayor of the city of Slaviansk in the northwest of Donbass, says of the progress of Russia:
Memories of Soviet times
The majority of people in Donbass are Russian speakers. Moscow allowed many Russians to settle in the region after World War II. One of the main complaints of many residents is that the region’s economy has collapsed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
For three decades, Olena worked at an oil refinery in Lysychansk. In Soviet times, Donbass had “everything”: “coal, salt, the chemical industry,” he says. “When the Ukrainians were protesting on the ground, we were working,” he said, commenting on the protests in Kyiv in 2014.
More than 160 residents have been fleeing rockets for two months in a bunker in the leading city of Severodonetsk. Many of them accuse the Ukrainian army of bombing their village, not Russian troops.
“Why should we be afraid of the Russians?”
Tamara Doriventko, a retired English teacher, sat on a bed in the bunker and read to Jane Austen, waiting for the shelling to end. “Why should we be afraid of the Russians?” Ask her. “We lived in the Soviet Union for 70 years. We were the same.”
However, the retiree seems to be torn. He says he sympathizes with Moscow but “loves” Ukraine – “a beautiful country with many freedoms.” That is why Dorovyenko, in his own words, wanted to continue living in Ukraine. But he thinks he will live under the Russian government in the future: “The decision was made for us,” he notes.
According to Mayor Lyak, nothing can be done by the Ukrainian authorities about the pro-Russian sentiment. These parts of the population want the war to end and see that “there is no problem with hostility to Russia.” But Liaog is betting that the occupation forces’ destruction of Russian-speaking cities such as Mariupol and Kharkiv will “change the mind” of pro-Moscow communities.
On Thursday, Kiev was again the target of Russian rocket attacks. President Volodymyr Zhelensky said five rockets had hit the Ukrainian capital immediately after a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Zhelensky accused Russia of wanting to humiliate the UN. According to Ukrainian sources, this is the first rocket attack in about two weeks.
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