Alleged elections. I think the people there still don’t know today what a truly democratic election is. No real election observers, only radical left-wing and radical right-wing henchmen brought in by the Russians as observers, needed as fig leaves for the propaganda machine. Long lines at the polling stations. Not because everyone wants to vote, but because a so-called “benefit card” could reportedly only be requested or obtained at the polling stations. A trick to get people out of their houses and out into the cold, since Russian TV, the ultra left-wingers, and the ultra right-wingers need impressive images to justify Russia’s next move: recognition of the “elections.” But everyone knows that the victors were pre-determined. These “benefit cards” are supposed to grant holders free basic medical care (nothing particularly special for a Ukrainian), plus a 5% discount on flour, sugar, salt, macaroni, oil, and a 5% discount on local public transit. A farce considering that hardly anyone can afford the remaining 95%. Public employees receive their salary, if at all, as payments-in-kind: flour, sugar, or buckwheat. Even the police. But the police there always knew how to raise money. A cleaning lady told me that she got 1 (in letters: ONE) glass of buckwheat as her salary. Per week.
Buses and taxis, and there are surprisingly many of them, only run until around 6 in the evening, then comes an eerie quiet on the streets. There is still a curfew in force at night. In the morning, something that could be called civilization slowly returns. There are a couple of factories that are back in operation. The electric supply isn’t sufficient for the rest. Natural gas is (still) available, but the terrorists have apparently not yet paid a single bill from the Ukrainian gas company. That won’t go well for much longer. Some schools are open, kindergartens too. Same for higher education institutions. Of late there’s Internet, now and then. Looters are shot on the spot. Of course, old scores are also being settled in this manner. There are no court proceedings. On the other hand, “friends” of the local elite are given entire houses or apartments. Companies are simply expropriated, or in the words of the powers-that-be, “nationalized.” No one really thinks this a good thing, but there’s no possibility to take action against it. The enemy is brutal and dominant, so the people come to terms.
The most important document of all is a Ukrainian passport. Anyone who’s lost his Ukrainian passport isn’t going anywhere. Ukrainian authorities will only issue passports in a person’s city of residence, but now the so-called LNR is there. Russia won’t let anyone in the country without a passport. Done. A pure trap. As a replacement there are papers issued by the so-called LNR. But one is just as well taking those with them to the bathroom – nobody in the world recognizes them, not even Russia.
Nobody should let himself be spotted with a Ukrainian flag; that can be deadly. In open conversation everyone only talks about the evil junta in Kyiv. I don’t recognize my Luhansk neighbors anymore. They claim that the Americans are in Ukraine and are readying nuclear weapons. Poroshenko wants to kill every resident of the Donbas. It’s strange then that many cars are driving around Kyiv with Donetsk license plates, all the passengers enjoying perfect health. But they don’t know that in Luhansk, the Ukrainian TV channels are blocked. People are in a sort of trance, the mood is unbelievably bleak. Denunciation is a daily occurrence, so it’s best not to say anything about Putin. The Russians have crafted two new cults: the LNR and the DNR. Things are only discussed frankly in conversations with the closest of friends and family. A mix of fear, depression, and pure hate.
One thing has become clear to me: Russia doesn’t really want to develop or modernize this region. It’s not even about simple conquest. Russia wants to create a hot spot, a bloody wound in a future EU and NATO member, in order to destabilize the whole EU. Russia’s strategic goal is the destruction of the EU.
Luhansk, November 2, 2014.
Fritz Ehrlich is a German engineer who has been closely involved in Ukrainian business for the past 15 years. His first visit to Kyiv took place during the Soviet times, and he now owns several offices across Ukraine. Mr. Ehrlich was born and raised in the former communist German Democratic Republic (East Germany). (T)his work is widely appreciated by his German audience in the social media. Photo by @VoiceOfDonetsk