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100 km Difference: Beach Season on Both Sides of the Donbas Contact Line
2 August, 2018
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The occupying authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic have promised its residents a real beach resort by 2021. They are planning to completely reconstruct Siedove – the only seaside town on the Azov coast that is not controlled by the Ukrainian government.

The republic’s so-called minister of construction, housing, and communal service announced that project aims to expand the roadways, build a new bus station and refurbish the coastal area. However, the current situation leaves much to be desired. For example, the town only received a round-the-clock water supply at the start of the summer.

100 kilometers away from Siedove and across the contact line is Urzuf, a little resort town controlled by Ukraine. According to state bodies, both towns boast near the same population size (about 3,000 people) but other than that have little in common.

Hromadske visited both places to see what holidaying there is like.

The Only Beach Resort in Occupied Donbas

A two-week holiday in Siedove, the only resort in separatist-controlled Donbas, on average costs 10,000 rubles or $160. For the local residents, this is not cheap.

Accommodation prices can vary. $1.6 per night may be the cheapest option – which is a bed in a flat far away from the sea, outdoor toilet and no fridge – but there are “luxury” suites available on the seafront. These cost around $48 (3,000 rubles) per night. 

The seaside town of Siedove located in occupied Donbas on July 20, 2018. Photo credit: Hromadske

However, all the fun ends at 11 p.m. every night, which is when the curfew comes into force across the entire occupied Donbas. Bars, cafes and restaurants close an hour before.

“It’s true that everything closes at 10 p.m. here,” says one holidaymaker who came to Siedove from occupied Luhansk. “It’s completely fine by me, but my daughter wants to have fun for longer, walk around.”

A holidaymaker from occupied Luhansk in the occupied seaside town of Siedove in Donbas on July 20, 2018. Photo credit: Hromadske

The curfew lasts from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Violating it could result in arrest. Over a period of three days, between June 29 and July 1, the self-proclaimed republic’s “law-enforcement” reported 443 detentions as a result of curfew violations.

On July 22, a video appeared on social media showing how militants shut down a local party. People with “police” written across their t-shirts arrived at the party and attempted to turn off the music. The partygoers then proceeded to chant for the music to be switched back on. The militants responded by tackling a man to the ground and taking him to the “police station.” Two policemen arrested the man and a third pointed a gun at the crowd, demanding that they all leave.

The seaside town of Siedove located in occupied Donbas on July 20, 2018. Photo credit: Hromadske

What’s more, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have not been allowed into the town. Militants denied access to the OSCE patrol members, saying that the region was closed to foreign citizens.  

For some local citizens, however, the beach season is one of very few opportunities to make some extra money. As well as renting out their apartments to holidaymakers, locals sell produce from their gardens.

A beach in the seaside town of Siedove located in occupied Donbas on July 20, 2018. Photo credit: Hromadske

“The influx of tourists is really good. I sell whatever I grow. The bigger the harvest, the greater the opportunity to earn money,” says one woman, who sells vegetables by the roadside. According to her, there are more tourists here this year than there were last year.

Where The People Divided by War Can Meet Up

The beach season in Ukrainian-controlled Donbas town of Urzuf is also well underway. This is where people who have left the occupied parts of Donbas come to relax. However, there aren’t many people from other parts of Ukraine here.

The resort town of Urzuf in Donbas, Ukraine on July 20, 2018. Photo credit: Hromadske

The resort town of Urzuf in Donbas, Ukraine on July 20, 2018. Photo credit: Hromadske

Yevhen, a resident of government-controlled Druzhivka in Donbas, used to holiday in Siedove before the start of the conflict.

“This is my first time in Urzuf, I used to vacation in Siedove and Bilosarayska Kosa. But Urzuf is better,” he says.

The resort town of Urzuf in Donbas, Ukraine on July 20, 2018. The sign says: "We're fully booked." Photo credit: Hromadske

Holidaymakers say that accommodation here is inexpensive and everyone can find somewhere within their price range.

“There is [accommodation] for 50 hryvnias ($1.9) and 100 hryvnias ($3.75) per person per night, and there are some for 150 ($5.6) and 200 ($7.48). It all depends on the conditions... We chose somewhere mid-range and settled,” says Mykola from Ukrainian-controlled Severodonetsk.

The resort town of Urzuf in Donbas, Ukraine on July 20, 2018. Photo credit: Hromadske

Alla Leiontiyivna, a maid at a local hotel, says that the season is off for a good start. The tourists who come are neat and polite, many come with families.  

The resort town of Urzuf in Donbas, Ukraine on July 20, 2018. Photo credit: Hromadske

The resort town of Urzuf in Donbas, Ukraine on July 20, 2018. Photo credit: Hromadske

But Urzuf is not just a resort. It has become a place where friends and family divided by the war can meet up. Tanya from the Vinnytsia region in western-central Ukraine says that she is holidaying here with her family, who live in occupied Donetsk.

Around 200,000 people vacation here every year. The occupying authorities reported that 65,000 people visited their Siedove resort last year.