WORLD AFFAIRS. For three years now, I’ve been providing a small scholarship to a little girl in the city of Druzhkivka (population: 65,000) in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Province. Her mother, G, has sent me several brief on-the-ground reports of events in Druzhkivka. They convey better than any analysis just what average Ukrainians are experiencing as a result of Vladimir Putin’s promotion of terrorism in eastern Ukraine.

Bands of outsiders have been terrorizing the city since February 22nd, the day after the triumph of the democratic Euro Revolution in Kyiv and the collapse of the criminal regime of President Viktor Yanukovych. On Saturday, April 12th, armed pro-Russian terrorists seized the Druzhkivka district administration building. Since then, the city has been at the mercy of the pro-Kremlin extremists.

Note a few important points.

G emphasizes that the troublemakers are outsiders, and not residents of the city—a point that journalists and the Ukrainian authorities also make. It’s virtually certain that some of them are Russian intelligence agents and spetsnaz special forces.

She also states that Druzhkivka’s troublemakers, like those of many other provincial cities, enjoy the support of the local mayor. These officials, all members of the pro-Yanukovych Party of Regions, are clearly hoping to use the provocations as a means of holding on to power and escaping prosecution for corruption and other forms of wrongdoing during the years of the Yanukovych regime.

Finally, G underlines that the agents provocateurs are all invoking Vladimir Putin’s bogeyman, the long-deceased Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera, who headed a Ukrainian national liberation movement, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, in the 1930s–1950s. Significantly, as G notes, no one has ever encountered Bandera supporters in Druzhkivka. Their absence in the rest of Donetsk Province is just as striking. In a word, the terrorists are sowing fear of a non-existent foe in order to keep an uninformed population on edge.

February 23, 2014 (two days after Viktor Yanukovych’s flight from Kyiv):

Long live Ukraine, Alexander!

I’m happy for Kyiv, proud of western Ukraine, and ashamed of Donetsk Province. What’s taking place in our city today is simply horrible.

On February 22nd, at 12 noon, on the central square of the city, near the eternal flame, there collected several civilians and one person wearing a Don Cossack uniform. They were holding the flag of the Russian Federation. They also had the black and yellow flag of the Romanov dynasty.

They were asked who they were, what they were doing, what sort of flags they were carrying, and what their plans were.

The one on the Don Cossack uniform said that they were defenders of the homeland from the “Banderites.” They were, he said, all members of a Don Cossack organization that was registered in the city. Their general was the city mayor, Valery Hnatenko. They supported the introduction of Russian troops into Ukraine and the annexation of our state by Russia.  

In the night of February 22nd–23rd, starting at 10 p.m., groups of 3–4 unknown persons trawled the city’s streets, throwing plastic bottles, causing a ruckus, and loudly shouting Long Live Ukraine and that Bandera has finally arrived. There were a few such brigades, and they were evidently drunk. It was clear that they were the little Cossacks headed by our mayor. Another 2,000 people gathered; they were disorganized, drunk, and very aggressive. Some people thought they were defending their town from western Ukrainian “gangs.” Many, mostly older people, came to honor the memory of those who had died [during the Euro Revolution in Kyiv]. They were attacked with eggs. The militia asked that they hide the Ukrainian flag, lest the aggressively inclined participants of the gathering be provoked.

February 23rd:

Apologies for the convoluted description… The people who supported the ideas of the Maidan no longer feel safe in their own land. What a horror.

March 2nd (two days after Russian troops occupied Crimea):

I don’t know if you have the opportunity to acquire reliable information about what is currently taking place in eastern Ukraine. As a simple person from the Donbas, I wish to inform everyone I know that unknown people have appeared in many cities of Donetsk Province. They are not residents of these cities, but enjoy the support of local mayors and their machines. They’re attempting to promote separatist ideas and to terrify the population with non-existent western [Ukrainian] extremists whom no one has ever seen.

April 14th (two days after terrorists seized the building of the Druzhkivka district administration):

Alexander, they will kill us…

I haven’t heard from G since that last note. Although I’m sure she and her family are safe, I still shudder at the thought of how terrified she must have been to have expected death—for nothing more than her identity as a Ukrainian in the unremittingly hostile environment created by Putin’s deliberate attempt to create havoc in her country.

Alexander J. Motyl's blog

Ukrayinska Dumka


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