With no end in sight, the Ukrainian-Russian war in the east of Ukraine has now entered its fifth year. Over 10,000 have been killed and over a million more displaced. And with only less than a third of the victims being soldiers, it is clear that this war affects civilians more than any other population sector.
Throughout these four years, Hromadske has not stopped covering the subject despite the worldwide attention fizzling out. This week, we are preparing a whole program dedicated to the conflict with specific focus on the humanitarian issues. We also go back to the basics of the war because we believe that these are the areas that lack attention.
✅ Addressing the Roots of War in the Donbas
With the height of summer in full swing, Ukraine’s occupied Donbas areas reach what is known as the “bread ceasefire” (or a ceasefire during harvest season when confrontations tend to escalate). Alexander Hug, the Principal Deputy Chief Monitor at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM), says that over 401,000 ceasefire violations took place last year. Nevertheless, Hug believes that both sides have what it takes to end the conflict. They are not willing to address the root causes that “bring and have brought this instability to the area.”
Principal Deputy Chief Monitor, OSCE SMM
✅ Safety Issues in a Liberated Donbas Village
For the past four years, the village of Pivdenne has been under fire. Residents however only began to flee their homes in May, when the Ukrainian Army recaptured the village. Located a mere 1.5 kilometers from occupied Horlivka, the village has long been in the grey zone - a territory controlled by neither the Ukrainian government nor Russian-backed separatists. Since the Ukrainian Army has moved in, however, at least 11 buildings have been destroyed by shelling. Hromadske traveled to Pivdenne to speak to residents about their decisions to leave and stay in the village.
✅ Humanitarian Challenges in the Donbas
Donbas seems to be gradually disappearing from many Ukrainian politicians’ agenda due to the fact that most residents don’t take part in national elections. While Donbas residents themselves complain that they’ve lost their voices and nobody listens to them. But despite pressure from the occupation authorities, Oleksiy Matsuka, the Head of Donetsk Institute Of Information, says that people in the Donbas are desperately trying to maintain their Ukrainian ties.
Head of Donetsk Institute Of Information, co-founder of Donbas Media Forum
✅ How Ukrainian War-Torn Places Change After Liberation
Electricity, water access, and gas are the essential needs that most of us take for granted. However, Andrii Romanenko, the coordinator at the Civic control center DIY-Kramatorsk, says that for Ukrainian towns that have been liberated by the government these remain a distant perspective while the majority of allocated government funds strangely go to what Romanenko refers to as “imaginary projects.” These include secondary or even tertiary things such as parks and swimming pools. “This negatively affects the image that the central government has [in these areas,]” Romanenko says. And with many mayors with openly separatist views staying in power, it looks like it is still a long way to go until these people truly feel liberated.
coordinator, DIY-Kramatorsk civic control center
✅ Life and Work in Luhansk’s Theater in Exile
In December 2014, the Luhansk Regional Academic Ukrainian Music & Drama Theater relocated from Russia-occupied Luhansk to government-controlled Severodonetsk. They worked in the run-down City Drama Theater and then rented a former nursery school. Since August 2017, the theater has had its own space – the renovated City Drama Theater. Hromadske went to the premiere of the comic play “Blithe Spirit” and found out what the lives of the actors from Luhansk are like today.
✅ Who Are the Serbians Fighting in Ukraine?
Last year Ukraine’s Security Service revealed more than 300 Serbian mercenaries have fought on the side of the Russian-backed separatists in Donbas. However, according to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), the actual number of Serbians fighting in eastern Ukraine is unknown. With Serbia passing the law that criminalizes Serbians’ participation in foreign conflicts, things were bound to get trickier, at least on paper. But Marija Ristic, the Regional Director at BIRN, highlights that some of these militants manage to evade arrest by remaining in Donbas.
Regional Director, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network