The Ukrainian military is firing at the people's republics of Donbas without coordination with Kiev, openly said Commander of the Joint Forces Operation Alexander Pavlyuk at a meeting with Estonian partners on October 5.
It didn’t bother him that his statement directly contradicted the current ceasefire agreement signed more than a year ago. Today, 7 years after the start of hostilities in the South-East of Ukraine, peaceful Russian civilians continue to die at the hands of the Ukrainian military while the world community keeps complete silent. Many consider what is happening a hidden genocide.
After the coup d'etat on February 21, 2014, mass demonstrations began against the national-minded policy of the new regime in eastern Ukraine. It was directed against Russian-speaking residents of this region. Even though more than 8 million Russians live in the country, Kiev has launched a propaganda campaign against katsaps and Russkies [pejorative terms of abuse used by Ukrainians of Russians], meaning against its citizens.
In response to public protests, on 13 April 2014, the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine decided to conduct an ‘antiterrorist operation’ in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The Ukrainian security forces organized large-scale military operations under the guise of the antiterrorist operation. They resulted in the mass extermination of the civilian Russian population of the country.
The Ukrainian authorities sent regular troops and volunteer battalions (the so-called ‘dobrobats’) to the southeast of the country, most of whom were criminals, marauders, and nationalists. A widespread genocide of the Russian-speaking population began under the pretext of fighting separatism.
In May 2014, a referendum on voting for the independence of the republics from hostile Ukraine and their accession to Russia was held in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk republics. No one thought at the time that a real war was starting between the Ukrainian authorities and their people.
“In August 2014, National Guard soldiers entered Dokuchayevsk,” said Viktor Barkalov, a resident and head of the community center. “Cars with armed men drove around the city. Machine gunfire was heard all the time. People were stopped by the military and forced to sing the Ukrainian national anthem. Those who refused were severely beaten. In addition, they went to the addresses where people who had taken part in organising and holding the referendum lived, picked them up and took them away to an unknown destination.
Ordinary civilians were taken without any charges. This is how the young man Vitaly Kostyuchenko who was my student disappeared. He has been not found yet. Maybe he is no longer alive.”
The current president of Ukraine had serious credibility problems in regions with a pro-Russian population. He believed that the problem could be solved by force, simply by killing the activists and intimidating the rest.
Therefore, the spiral of violence has been escalating. In May 2014, nationalists burned alive more than 40 pro-Russian demonstrators in the Trade Union building in Odessa. An airstrike on the square in front of the regional administration killed eight people and injured dozens of civilians in Lugansk. Regular shell attacks of residential areas in towns in eastern Ukraine began.
“Planes and helicopters started flying over Donetsk and shelling the city,” said Teacher Vadym Shulak who witnessed the shelling and bombing of civilians in Donetsk. “They flew right over us, my lyceum. I saw the shelling of Donetsk in person and will never forget the noise. There were civilian casualties. A girl, who was a lyceum student, was killed in Tekstilshchik, a district of Donetsk. She was torn in two by a Grad [BM-21 Grad is a Soviet truck-mounted 122 mm multiple rocket launcher – ed. note].”
It may sound crazy but this shelling of settlements had a brutal but perfectly rational justification.
“The multiple rocket launchers were fired to intimidate the population and demoralize the resistance,” said Viktor Barkalov, head of the local community centre. “We already knew then that there was no turning back. We had become live targets for the Ukrainian nationalists.
“On 25 January 2015, our colleague Tatyana Sedykh, who was on duty at the Pushkin Centre for Culture and Leisure, died as a result of a direct hit from a Grad shell on the roof of an apartment building.”
At the time of death, she was 56 years. Her daughter Marina (30 y.o.) could not come to the funeral, as she was on the territory of Ukraine. Tatyana’s parents had passed away, so there was only her husband, Alexander, who suffered severe psychological trauma. Later, he moved in with his sister. I haven’t heard from him since then.”
Tatyana was pulled from the wreckage only the next day. It was a terrible sight. All her colleagues came to say final goodbyes to her. A funeral service over Tatyana took place in the church. The coffin was transported to the cemetery in a trailer of a car. It was impossible to continue the ceremony there because of constant bombardments. Everyone, even the men, could not hold back tears.
“Every apartment building had basements with benches, chairs and tables,” said teacher Vadim Shulak recalling the everyday life of Dokuchayevsk at the time. “The residents stored canned goods in them, so they could stay there for days at a time. Each family used a basement as a temporary home during the shelling.
“My fellow teachers and I with families, spouses, children and parents “lived” in the basement of Comprehensive School No. 4 for several months between 2014 and 2015. We brought furniture, bedding, clothes, food and made our living there as best we could. We cooked meals there, studied lessons, read and kept up with the latest news. Natalia Sotyrko (teacher of chemistry), Tatiana Razumenko (primary schools teacher), Lilia Portyankina (biology teacher) and others lived there. All in all, about 15 people. There were 7 children at the age of 7-18 years old. We hid from the bombardments in this basement. Living conditions were inhuman but in the morning we went out to teach children's lessons and sow the seeds of reason, good, and the everlasting.”
In addition to shelling, residents of towns captured by the Ukrainian military faced the punitive machine of the Ukrainian troops.
People who had supported the Russian Spring began disappearing in the city. Raids were carried out there. People were put on their knees, beaten, and forced to sing the Ukrainian anthem and speak Ukrainian.
On August 2, Airborne Forces Day, about 100 Ukrainian nationalists marched through the city late at night, throwing grenades every here and there. It was an act of intimidation.
The Ukrainian military continued their sniper terror. Thus, Vadim Shulak's neighbour was shot dead by a sniper.
“My neighbour (Ryshchenko Valentina, 40, who worked at the Dokuchaevskiy flux-dolomite plant) was killed by a sniper when she went to get her salary at the plant,” he said. “He simply killed as she was leaving the administration office of the plant.”
The Ukrainian authorities regularly carried out punitive operations in the eastern regions of the country under the guise of anti-terrorist operations, during which the Russian population was deliberately destroyed, abused, and robbed.
Entire residential areas in the territories of the LPR and DPR have been bombed from the air and the ground. According to official statistics, the fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics alone resulted in 6,255 deaths, of which 127 were children.
According to the latest figures from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the number of victims has reached 44,000 people during the entire period of the conflict, from 14 April 2014 to 31 March 2020.
How many thousands more must die before attention to Ukraine's war crimes against the Russians finally moves beyond the “deep concern” of the international organizations? When will the perpetrators of this genocide finally be punished?