Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the unrecognized “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LPR) in Ukraine’s east, cares what you think.
At least, that’s what the website of his presidential “administration” wants you to believe. The Russia-backed “republic” allows residents of the occupied region to write to Plotnitsky’s “administration” and seek solutions to their problems. Other LPR “ministries” also have email addresses where residents can send their complaints.
And complain they do. Residents write about a broad scope of problems related to living in a fictive state: water shut-offs, unpaid salaries and social benefits, fuel and electricity prices, and unemployment. They also denounce their neighbors, colleagues and local leaders to Luhansk’s separatist higher-ups.
Hromadske obtained an enormous cache of these complaint emails from its sources and selected the most interesting ones to publish. We checked to confirm that the letters are indeed from people living in the occupied territories. To ensure the security of the complaint writers, we removed identifying information from the emails.
Collectively, the complaints paint a picture of a separatist “state” struggling to provide an adequate life to its population. But they also offer a rare glimpse into some of the oddities of living in the LPR.
Many of these messages are sent multiple times, and receive no official answer from the separatist “authorities.”
(Letters have been translated and lightly edited for clarity.)
“Higher Powers” and “Intimate Relations”
Many complaints directly address everyday problems related to the war in the Donbas region and its consequences. People want to know when there will be a normal, round-the-clock water supply, when the “authorities” will repair homes damaged by artillery shelling, and what’s up with coal deliveries.
Complaint-writers often ask for a job. But there are also complaints about low wages, alimony, childbirth-related expenses. People lament that they have no vacation, grocery prices are too high, and their pensions are too small.
But there are also the denouncements:
Subject: Complaint against Larisa Valentinovna
I request you to look into Larisa Valentinovna *******, who is legally registered at the address ************* in Luhansk, but don’t be too harsh on her.
Besides acquaintances and neighbors, people also report on doctors, employers, and colleagues. For example, a hospital employee in the occupied town of Lutuhino writes that doctors there are not being paid their bonuses — and this is happening because the manager is an “opponent of the existing authorities.”
Subject: On corruption and disorder in the Lutuhino hospital
Hospital employees are not being paid their bonuses (if in Luhansk and in the Lutuhino ambulance services they support employees with bonuses), only selected employees get a bonus here, it seems they created a commission, but the people are not satisfied with the distribution. In the accountant’s office, they get a reward for economizing. For what? What are they economizing on? For example, in the outpatient hospital, the director’s word means nothing, and only one old lady decides everything for everyone. By the way, about her: Not long ago, she was fired from this position for being unqualified for her job and for a bad bedside manner with patients. But somehow she wound up back at work, even though she hasn’t changed her behavior, and management knows what she’s doing. She continues to be rude to sick patients, constantly humiliates her subordinates with insults both in front of the patients and in private. She takes bribes. Even the director is afraid to speak against her. In a word, she’s a chatterbox. She’s an ardent opponent of the [LPR] government, constantly vomiting slander against it. This lady is called T.S. Sokolova. She should not be allowed to work as a doctor, yet she manages people [in a hospital].
The courtyard has gone to chaos, complete anarchy. Underwritten petrol is brazenly stolen, food is taken from the kitchen and pantry. The kitchen workers feed themselves and all their relatives using humanitarian aid packages. It is impossible for the head doctor not to know about this.
One woman denounced the “higher forces” in the legal system.
Subject: Why did nothing change
The issue is that the higher powers promote their favorites to management post, like a certain Aleksei Ivanovich promotes head of the ********* Court Marshal department, Maria Mikhailovna, with whom he has intimate relations. And the real specialists can’t get a job.
There are also people who warn Plotnitsky about his own inner circle. They allege that, even among the most trusted separatist fighters, there are those who want to kill the LPR “leader.”
Subject: The Leader’s Safety
In the city, there are people with guns who are preparing a coup d’etat against you. They are now waiting for the moment, and there are many of them. I see no sense in appealing to the state organs, as [the plotters] have them all under their control. Therefore, this information is for you alone. Give me some of your time and I’ll give you the details.
A resident of Irmino, a village on the contact line that is occasionally shelled, also sent an interesting letter. He complains that the chairman of the town’s executive committee dates back to former president Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Only those who work for the committee are paid, no one collects taxes, and, hence, “the authorities are illegitimate.”
Subject: illegitimate authorities in the city of Irmino, LPR
Good day! The residents of the city of Irmino, located near the city of Stakhanov, have a very serious question for you. We believe that the authorities in our city are illegitimate. The executive committee works, and committee’s workers get paid regularly — we’re not talking small sums — but there’s no result from their work. Land issues in the city is never resolved, because the city is still ruled by the deputies of the old Ukrainian convocation. They gather for sessions, decide something, and that’s it. These decisions never get anywhere further than the city, because there’s no administration in the city, and the executive committee of the previous government is still hanging around. It’s all governed by V.S. Yaroshuk, who you couldn’t sweep out with a broomstick. The city is not receiving any income, and land rents are not being paid, because there’s no one to sign a contract with. In the executive committee, they say that’s how it should be. Businessmen do not pay land taxes or rent for facilities. We don’t know how the city will survive. We ask you to deal with V.S. Yaroshuk and his old team, so that the city can work to its full potential, collect taxes, develop, and not just fill the pockets of the executive committee workers who don’t do anything and don’t take responsibility for anything. We truly hope for your help!!!!
Residents of Irmino
Beatings and Robberies by the Militants
Residents also often complain about separatist militants and soldiers. Many of the appeals concern drunk militants who beat people and steal cars, yet go unpunished. Most of the victims of the militants’ violence are women.
Subject: A soldier beat a girl and was not punished
I was beaten by a soldier. I received a serious head trauma, a concussion, fractured cheek bones. The case was managed by the Zhovtnevo district commandant’s office. But today the case closed because the court’s medical expert testified that the physical injuries inflicted were minor. In the end, the serviceman — from [separatist fighter “Goblin’s” subdivision — continues to serve in his sub-division. I spent a month in the hospital and spent 8000 rubles [$130], and now I’m work two jobs in order to repay the medical debt. In the end, [they say] he’s a good guy, he’s a protector of the motherland. I will suffer my whole life from this head injury. Tell me, is there any possibility for him to be punished or will we continue to have soldiers who beat girls and face no consequences.
After an attack, another victim of violence wrote:
Subject: Drunk militiamen beat me.
On ******* my family and I were beaten in our home by the drunken militiamen who hang out in the Uspensky neurological hospital. My statement was filed with the police and the commandant's office *********, and to this day, there has been no result. These soldiers used to go to my neighbors’ place for moonshine and still do. I can’t go on like this. I’m afraid to walk by their guard posts on my way to work. Can you give me any kind of explanation why soldiers, who are supposed to be defending us, insult me in my own home? How long will it take for the commandant’s office to reply to my official complaint?
There have even been cases when fighters and security forces stole people’s cars and no complaints could help get these cars returned.
Subject: Police Chief Yu.A. Pashchenko seized my car without reason
***********t the police chief in the city of Pervomaisk, without any reason, stole my car ***********************. Motivated by ********************* . In ** months, I was handed the expert’s conclusions, ********************************************. I went and met with Yu.A. Pashchenko. He looked me in the eye and said I will not get my car back, that he decides everything in the city and he doesn’t give a shit about any complaints, that there is no one in our republic who can influence him. I’ve repeatedly appealed to the LPR Interior Ministry and General Procuracy, but I haven’t received a single response to my appeals. Even though I have copies of all my statement on hand. My common-law husband was killed protecting Luhansk. He fought so we could live in a free and fair state, but it’s all turning out the opposite way. Our city cries over the police chief’s extortion. He does what he wants. And the LPR Interior Ministry and the General Procuracy are satisfied with that. Because of Police Chief Yu. A. Pashchenko’s threats, I was hospitalized. I started to have problems with my health. Is there really not a single person in our republic who can stop this lawlessness? Seriously, our people look at Yu.A. Pashchenko, and think: did our boys really die so that people like him can continue to bully the people. The head of our republic has already received so many complaints about Yu.A. Pashchenko, but no one pays attention. I don’t have the energy to fight alone. But I hope that there are individuals in the people’s council who are not indifferent to their own people. I hope that you can help me with my problem and return my car.
There are also complaints from people who were illegally imprisoned and had their cars stolen.
Subject: On the immobility of the court’s decision
I am ***** Sergey **********. I ask you to take measures in relation to the LPR, and namely the court in LPR city of Sverdlovsk, [which] illegally imprisoned me for 3 years and, what’s more, confiscated my car and did not return it, in spite of a court order. I ask you to take measures and return my property.
Prayer and Television
LPR residents also write to Plotnitsky with proposals to organize cultural events — for example, a free concert by “I Have The Honor,” a society of Russian military officers.
In another case, a LPR resident proposed holding a “prayer for peace.” According to the letter’s author, “during the Second World War, the King of England held nine separate prayers when British forces were surrounded on the battlefield.
Subject: How to stop the war
Dear Igor Venediktovich [Plotnitsky], the most important thing that hasn’t yet been done in the republic is organizing a general, republic-wide fast and prayer for peace and God’s will in Donbas and Ukraine, which should be repeated every Sunday. And call ... Ukraine and Russia [and] people around the world through Christian mass media, it will touch 2 billion people. First of all, it’s godly, and God always acts by his own accord. Secondly, it’s publicity for all of the world, that Donbas is a source [sic] and wants peace! And it’s looking for a path!!
There are a few cases on the planet when people turned to God and God saved [them], changed the situation. For example, check out Fiji in 2002, two coups and a civil war, all the churches came together and started to call people to pray, and they came, from peasants to governors, and what a miracle, the insurrection government ran away! The same in Nigeria, people united and prayed and the dictator ran away. During the Second World War, the King of England called for the people to pray nine times, and every time it seemed like they were done for, and magically every time the people prayed everything was fixed.
Also check out “Archimandrite Kirill’s notes of Marshal Zhukov “there, at the beginning of the war, I saw good, well thought-out decisions of the German generals. And after Stalin came out with a decree about the Church, the people went out to pray. There was a breakthrough, and German generals miscalculated. If God wants to punish someone, he leaves them senseless!!
In a lot of biblical cases, when someone was surrounded, people called to God, and the Lord relieved them by instilling the enemy with disagreement and conflict between themselves and, thereby, defeat.
People in despair often write angry letters criticizing the occupation regime in general and Plotnitsky in specific. For example, one resident of Uspenka writes:
Subject: How is pay calculated in LPR
Greetings! I am probably writing in vain, because only on television are you able to speak beautifully, but, in reality, you do very little. You do a lot for the businessmen, but you didn’t obligate them to pay people’s salaries. So with what money should people pay for utilities, I’m curious? Where do they get it? Should they steal it from someone? Or what? Look, I don’t have coal, my children don’t have winter shoes, and it’s not because my husband and I are lazy bums, but because we haven’t been paid any money, so how do we live on? Soon, the potatoes will be gone, how will the family eat? But you tell us that everything is going well. For you, yes. But for the simple workers, no. We are not state employees and we don’t have enough money. And the simple workers are just surviving, and their children have long forgotten the taste of candy. Yes, I’m not a pensioner yet and it’s unlikely that I’ll live to be one in the conditions of our beloved Republic. And I really would like to believe that it will be better for us than in Ukraine. but I don’t know with whom our journalists are speaking, but the people I speak with are increasingly losing faith in a happy future. Thank you for not responding to letters or not helping us with anything. Now, I will know that your work is to pretend that you are doing things for us.
Businessmen also write the “republic” with various proposals. For example, Tatyana, a Russian entrepreneur from the city of Serpukhov outside Moscow, proposed opening a factory in the LPR which would produce wine, beer, and baby carriages — oh, and maybe sew denim skirts too. Alas, Tatyana has no money, she writes, but she does have ideas.
Greetings! My name is Tatyana, I’m 59 years old, and I live in Serpukhov, Moscow oblast. I left Luhansk in 1975 for Russia and often visits my hometown. But now, there’s not a single person there. I tried many times to call you, but there hasn’t been a single reply, and generally, it seems to me, that there’s been no connection. I don’t know. I appeal to you because I have an idea to open a beer, wine, baby carriage, jeans skirts business. I’m a dilettante. I have 300 samples of one model and 500 of another. I have no money, but I think we’ll find people interested in increasing the productivity [of the region]...
But it appears Tatyana is confused. At the end of the letter, she writes that she “remembers the champagne from Artemovsk.” Artemovsk is the old name of Bakhmut, a city Kyiv managed to liberate from the separatists. Even if Ukraine hadn’t succeeded at that, Bakhmut is located in Donetsk region, meaning it never would have fallen under Plotnitsky’s purview to begin with.
Miners and Prices
After the Euromaidan revolution in 2014, one of the most influential rumors that spread through Ukraine’s east was that the new Kyiv government planned to shut down all the region’s mines and fire the miners. The myth even influenced the creation of the separatist “republics” in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
But reality turned out the other way around: On the occupied territories, many mines were either bombed or flooded, and the miners no longer get paid. Unsurprisingly, Plotnitsky’s inbox receives no shortage of messages from angry miners.
Subject: When will they stop treating the miners of Sverdlovsk like their b****es?
I’m a worker of the Tsentrsoyuz mine, and I speak for all the workers here in saying I would like to [ask], are we the dregs of society? Sverdlovsk voted for independence but it feels like only folks not working in the mines became independent. It feels like we have been forgotten. Now since the start of the war, the leadership treats us like trash, the trade union has died from money [problems]. We can’t take this anymore. No one gives a damn about us as I understand…. I ask you deal with this situation, because our collective is already rebelling and we cannot depend on anyone. Lugansk has forgotten about us, because we are under [oligarch Rinat] Ahmetov...
Miners write that they have no money and coal, and are working for free. For example, Natalya complains that “the prices are higher than in Russia.”
Subject: Why don’t you control the prices?
Good day!!! Today, I went to the market and the prices are simply astronomical!! Why is nobody controlling this? In Volgograd, the price for buckwheat is 60 rubles [roughly $1] and the minimum wage is 15000 rubles [$250] !!! And it’s 100 rubles [$1.60] for us!!!
/translated by Chen Ou Yang, Gaby Kourkov, Matthew Kupfer