Ukraine: ‘We are surviving, but not living’ under Russian occupation

Women in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine demonstrated last month against the forced conscription of men into the armed forces of the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”.

A banner, stating “We are surviving, but not living” was pictured by the Eastern Human Rights Group – which has supported workers’ movements and civil society organisations in the “republics” since they were founded in 2014 – on its facebook page.

“We are surviving, but not living”. From the Eastern Human Rights Group facebook page

The chaotic situation in the Russian-controlled areas, including a reshuffle of the puppet government of the “Donetsk people’s republic”, is described by Ukrainian activists in this series of facebook posts, reproduced with permission.

Forcible conscription provokes protests

By Vera Yastrebova, 18 May

On Monday and Tuesday, 16-17 May, women protested near local military recruitment offices in Debaltseve (Donetsk), Krasnoe Luch and Perevalsk (Luhansk). Women demanded to be given information about the whereabouts of their men who had been forcibly mobilized by the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). In Anthracite and Rovenky (Luhansk), women organised a collective march to address the heads of the occupation administrations of these cities and to demand information.

Women also wrote numerous letters of protest to the authorities of the Russian Federation, demanding an end to the forced mobilisation of men and students in the DPR and LPR. However, in almost all cases, their grievances were dismissed, or they were recommended to approach the Luhansk and Donetsk administrations.

The level of protest by women in the Russian-occupied territories has risen, due to a new wave of military mobilisation. The authorities are recruiting workers, who were initially considered reserved for industrial plants to ensure their operation. Now the plants are being shut down for extended periods, and the workers are being mobilised into the armed forces.

Donetsk ‘government’ dissolved

By Pavel Lisyansky, 8 June

Denis Pushilin, the head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), dissolved the government on 8 June. According to my sources in occupied Donetsk, the dissolution of the DPR government is related to a change of those in charge of the occupied territories of Ukraine. Sergei Kiriyenko, first deputy chief of staff of the Russian presidential administration, decided to dissolve the government following numerous requests from Pushilin (made to Kiriyenko and Andrey Turchak, a senior Russian senator).

It is necessary to understand that practically all of the so-called DPR government was composed of different influence groups coordinated with Dmitry Kozak, deputy chief of staff of the Russian presidential administration. Many of them were lobbied by people from Vneshtorgservis(subsequently UGMK); former elites of the Donetsk Region; [pro-Kremlin political] party cadres from Russia; and so on. As a result, many problems remained unresolved, many initiatives within the government were undermined if they were considered part of the internal struggle, and so on. [Note. Vneshtorgservis, now UGMK, is a holding company registered in South Ossettia, the Russian-supported enclave of Georgia, and connected to Serhii Kurchenko, an oligarch closely connected to Viktor Yanukovich, the president of Ukraine removed by popular action in 2014. Many industrial assets in the DPR and LPR have been transferred to it.]

Now it has been decided to form a single transitional government team, to prepare for a “referendum” [on the status of areas newly occupied this year], and work together with Russian businesses to “restore” destroyed cities. (This is of course an illusion, but so I am told.) And of course the new curator wants to appoint his own people who will control the financial flows from Russia.

For instance, heads of certain cities were dismissed, signalling that purges within the security block have begun. In addition, the heads of the occupation administrations are expected to be replaced.

The head of the DPR government [that was dismissed on 8 June], Alexander Ananchenko, from Kozak’s team, was appointed to head the state-run corporation, Donetsk Technologies, an organisation that exists only on paper. 

A change of the DPR government had already been planned [before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February], with Yevgeny Yurchenko, head of UGMC, as the main candidate to take over. However, the invaders decided that they would quickly take over Kyiv and change the government afterwards.

Members of the DPR government will be offered positions in the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

Healthcare in the occupied territories paralysed

By Eastern Human Rights Group, 8 June

There are healthcare problems in the Russian-occupied territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. In fact, healthcare is completely paralysed.

According to our sources, drugs for patients with various categories of HIV, tuberculosis and diabetes will be over in exactly one month;

There are only paramedics left in the detention centers of the occupied territories and there is virtually no medications;

Doctors and medical personnel remaining in the occupied territories can provide services to only 30% of the population;

Cases of forced blood donation from locals for the Russian occupiers have been recorded; and

Doctors who remained in the occupied territory are not subject to filtration and arrests by the occupiers if they agree to work in the hospitals.

Donations to Luhansk deducted from Russian workers’ pay

By the Eastern Human Rights Group, 9 June

There is a campaign in the Russian Federation to support towns controlled by the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LPR). For example, Bashkortostan is responsible for supporting the Khrustalny (Krasniy Luch). In Bashkortostan, workers at various enterprises are required to transfer from 5% to 10% of their salaries every month to support the LPR and DNR. [Note. The republic of Bashkortostan, also named Bashkiria, one of the 85 subjects of the Russian Federation, in the southern Urals.]

Such actions have also been recorded in other regions of the Russian Federation, which have also been made to give support to the Russian-occupied territories;

Workers have already begun to express their discontent and refusal to the management;

Fundraising is done through the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, the official trade union in the Russian Federation.

Death penalty in the Donetsk ‘republic’

By the Eastern Human Rights Group, 11 June

The Donetsk “republic” recently pronounced the death penalty on some citizens of foreign countries. We would like to draw attention to the research on the death penalty in the occupied territories, undertaken since 2017 by Vera Yastrebova, director of the Eastern Human Rights Group. In 2021 legislation in the Luhansk “people’s republic” was changed to introduce the death penalty there too.

See “In the DPR, serious crimes are still punished by shooting”, August 2018 Hromadske Radio; and “In the LPR the death penalty is to be introduced”, December 2021, DS News, in Russian.

As for the reconciliation of norms relating to the death penalty for foreign citizens, Vera Yastrebova has been in touch with lawyers working in the occupied territories. She has been informed that foreign citizens can write asking to be pardoned. There are also efforts being made to synchronise the legislation of the occupied territories with that of the Russian Federation, and after 11 September it is planned to abolish the death penalty in the occupied territories, as it is abolished in Russia.

Thanks to Anna Yegorova for translating these. 13 June 2022

More on the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine

□ A regular digest of news in English on the Russian-occupied territories is being posted on the Ukraine solidarity pages here

Solidarity appeal for victims of Russian abductions – April 2022

The Russian statelets in Donbas are no “people’s republics” – by Simon Pirani, February 2022

Ukraine: ‘we need new ways of organising’. An interview with Pavel Lisyansky, 2017

One Response to Ukraine: ‘We are surviving, but not living’ under Russian occupation

  1. […] more likely. They are in touch with mining workers in Donbass – the knowledge about conditions there will also have motivated them to resist the occupation by the Russian […]

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