16.01.2015 Author: Konrad Stachnio

Eyewitness Report from Donetsk: Is There a Peaceful Solution?

D4888422234With a war correspondent, David Hudziec from Novorosia Today, staying in Donetsk, I talk about the situation in the New Russia.

– Do you think that the ceasefire actually has a chance to be kept?

If the ceasefire continues, it will be merely necessitated by force. On the one hand, it would have to be pressure of Russians on the insurgents. On the other hand, pressure of the United States on Ukrainians, because if there would be no pressure, this conflict may erupt again. I think that the war will be resumed before spring. For now, it will be an artillery war, positional and in the spring will begin again. Generally, I do not believe in the ceasefire.

-Polish Defence Ministry has allocated 3 million € for humanitarian support for the Ukrainian army what do people from Donetsk think about this?

This is the hypocrisy of the Western States and the Polish government, at a time when Russia sent nine convoys, large state-humanitarian convoys, every time there is a cry that it is the violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Why is that, Russia may send humanitarian aid to the residents of eastern Ukraine and in the meantime, the Polish government is sending humanitarian aid to foreign army, acting like a total hypocrite, talking about the tough situation of Poles in the Donbas.

-What about foreign journalists reporting situation in Donetsk. Is it true that the Kiev side shoots to journalists with a visible emblem ‘Press’?

All those who go directly to the front lines and not just to make a quick photo and run, take off press badges etc. Recently, there was a message, I think it was from the UN, that Ukraine is now the most dangerous place for journalists.

– The New Russia has a new banking system?

The central bank of the Republic of Donetsk has been running for a week or two. Nationalization of the banks has been announced although I have no idea how it will look like. Surely, these two republics are preparing to create their own central bank which is expected to produce its own ATM cards and own accounts. It should be normally operating bank until the Russian and Abkhazian banks will not enter here because they are in the first place. So as to cash would circulate even within the country, and to function in conjunction with Russian banks. For now, the primary objective of these banks is to pay benefits: retirement pension, the whole social. For now, they are mainly used to it.

– And they pay these pensions?

They are not large amount of money, because they oscillate around one thousand nine hundred and fifty hryvnyas, a thousand, a thousand, three hundred hryvnyas. This is a minimum, but due to the fact that just before the winter they introduced here a package of social protection, people don’t need to pay for housing and they have money on food. The law states that rents for the period of winter are to be settled later with the owner.

– There was a situation that Kiev has suspended payment of pensions for the residents of eastern Ukraine.

Kiev has suspended payment of pensions a long time ago, probably in the summer, but now it’s official. They’ve just stopped sending money and did not say anything about this, blaming the insurgents. Then after the election, Poroshenko said that they will not pay.

-Do you know something about the Kiev’s call up for the new volunteers?

No one believes in a cease-fire because, all the time, we have information that the Ukrainian forces are drafted. At the time when the West says that they will send the weapons, it does not seem to be a peacekeeping. Especially when Poroshenko says that Crimea will be back in Ukraine. They also do not recognize the existence of New Russia. It looks like it’s just a winter ceasefire. They are simply stalling. We cannot strike because there immediately will be a noise that we broke the ceasefire. Anyway, it will be so. Ukraine will find dozens of excuses to strike at the praise trumpets of the West.

– Do you prepare to the counter the attack of Kiev?

I meet with such opinions, that there is, all the time, full readiness to fight. People look like as if they were waiting, they wait for the war to break out again. These people cannot imagine a situation that Krematorsk, Slavyansk would remain outside the Republic. It is unimaginable for them. There are many people, refugees and soldiers who are simply out of the cities, and it is inconceivable for them that they will never be able to go back home because there will be Ukraine.

– What does the SBU do in the controlled areas?

SBU is raging in the most endangered cities. Bombs explode there, there are shellfires. Maidan activists who are not in the military, or do not have the weapons, they get whips on the street, end up in the hospital. If the New Russia armies will come closer to the cities, there will be an uprising.

– Ukrainian army one of the best?

Ukrainian army gets a stitch on the whole line. And as the soldiers says here, or even Givi: Ukrainian army cannot fight in battle, it can only attack by artillery, but even this, they are not able to do correctly. Besides, these people simply do not want to fight. I talked, in the military police station, with a boy, Ukrainian prisoner, who was very happy to be captured there. He does not want to take part in any war. He was not asked to go to war. They forced him to go for a war and then he was taken prisoner. He was very excited and hopes that he will remain in captivity till the end of the war.

The guys from the military police told me that the prisoners did not want to fight with them or with the Russians. Simply, there are combat units on the side of the Kiev, the soldiers who shoot those who are going to withdraw, or shoot in combat so there is no evidence.

– So, how they can surrender?

If they surrender during a fight, they get shot in the back. It was the same in Iłowajsk, Donbass forces stopped the offensive for a few days, at the cost of the war to eliminate encirclement. When the Ukrainian troops were left on an ordinary plane and basically had no place to hide, they just might be shot like the ducks. Militia forces appealed to them. Even the Ukrainian media urged to surrender. There was a situation that in the last day, Ukrainian soldiers decided to surrender. There was a proposition from the police that if they do not trust New Russia troops, they just make a corridor for them and they will be able to go to the Russian border, and to be disarmed there. At the time when the Ukrainian soldiers have made a decision that they surrender (which is a period of 3-4 hours on disarmament, the destruction of documents, etc.). They were bombed by the Ukrainian air force.

-Who fights on the side of New Russia from abroad?

Slovaks, Poles, Brazilians, Serbs, Russians, Dagestanis, Ossetians are also here. People from different parts of the world. For example, we have people from the left who want to fight against fascism. We have even people from different movements who came to fight the expansion of the West, Atlanticism. We have people who want to fight for Orthodoxy, people who want to fight for the Russian world.

– What civilians think about Poroszenko?

Every person with whom I speak here says: we were at home, they came to us, not we to them.

– What is the situation in Luhansk?

In general, the situation is the same as in Donetsk. If the mortar just missed the transmission of gas or water, everything works normally. It was the same in Donetsk, there was even a situation that I did not even have water for two days because of mortar.

– People stay in Donetsk or escape?

They return. In September, the cars just slip through here sometimes. Now if you go out at this time, you cannot get to the bus. Trolley buses drive every five minutes. Most refugees are in the first wave, as the war begins. As soon as the first one is gone, the worst of all, let’s say the first two weeks, then people get used to it. They are simply less sensitive to this.

Konrad Stachnio is an independent Poland based journalist, he hosted a number of radio and TV programs for the Polish edition of PrisonPlanet, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.