On Monday, June 15, residents from the village of Zhovtneve, outraged by constant shelling, staged a protest meeting in Donetsk. People came to the building of the so-called “DNR Government,” located in the Oblast Administration building, and blocked the Artem street.
The outraged villagers demanded that the “DNR” leader Alexander Zakharchenko immediately cease military operations in their village. Zakharchenko, accompanied by guards with automatic weapons, went out to meet the demonstrators but was unable to calm the crown.
TSN.ua asked journalists and Donetsk natives their views on the meaning and consequences of the protests in the context of the Donbas conflict
Yevhen Ikhelzon, journalist, inpress.ua
Perhaps some of the people simply found some courage. I keep in touch with many people from the Donetsk area and as far as I know nobody really wants war. Nobody wants to fight. Without the volunteers from neighboring countries who want to fight with Ukraine, the fighting would have ended long ago.
Just try to mobilize Donetsk residents to go fight with Ukraine. There will be very few volunteers among the people who are still there. Money? What is money? Life is worth more. Ask the Donetsk residents now if they want to go fight Kyiv or to seize Mariupol. Do they need this? I’m convinced they do not. They need peace, calm, the return to normal life within Ukraine — perhaps under some new conditions. But this is not important, since this will be decided by the politicians. First of all, the killing must be stopped.
I hope that my words will be heard by people who have remained there. Really a demonstration is the most appropriate approach. It is necessary to demand peace, not only from Ukraine but from the “DNR.” These are the very people who are shooting in the direction of Ukraine, and this is why their fire is being returned. If people want peace they must demand solutions from those who are there. This is very important. I wrote about this a long time ago: that the first real chance for real peace will come with the first demonstration in Donetsk. There are many decent people in Donetsk who should speak out. They do not have to come out in the streets. It is enough for them to say what they think on the Internet, to reach out to Kyiv today, to reach out to Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv. And there are people here who will understand.
I don’t know if these demonstrations will continue. Perhaps tomorrow all these people will be seized and imprisoned. Nobody knows. But I really would like to think that today the courage demonstrated by these people will play a role.
First of all, it is very important for the people in Donetsk to have a voice. Because if today we, ordinary citizens, want to appeal to them, to find someone with whom to negotiate about the future simply as citizen to citizen, then it is necessary for some associations or civic groups to appear in Donetsk who can speak about peace today and not about war. This demonstration is a prototype of such a dialogue.
Petro Shuklinov, blogger, journalist, Liga.net
The events in Donetsk are not a reason either for joy or sorrow. Judging by the rhetoric of the demonstration, people there have not yet understood what has happened and who is to blame. And this still is directly tied to the fact that they themselves have not sufficiently experienced the consequences of war.
The fact is that their choice — “Putin send troops” — must be paid for. And paid for not only with their own lives but with the lives of their children and grandchildren. And when the inhabitants of Donetsk or Luhansk bury their children they should remember that they were the ones who went to the referendums and brought their own country to war. They have achieved what they wanted.
To tell the truth, based on my talks with Ukrainians from all regions of the country, I can say that most Ukrainians are indifferent to what is happening in Donetsk and Luhansk. They couldn’t give a hoot. We have our lives, our problems. For example, how to help the real patriots leave the occupied territories. And the traitors in Donetsk and Luhansk are of no interest to anyone. Let them kiss the terrorists, let them raise them up on the forklifts. Ukraine has said good riddance to these people who went to the referendums.
Serhiy Harmash, journalist, Radio Svoboda
Regarding today’s meeting in Donetsk, our local contributor reported that some 500 people came, primarily women — the inhabitants of the Sovtneve village, adjacent to the airport. Their demands sounded ambiguous. People did not ask to stop the military activities, as reported by many in our media, but to move the frontline away from their village or to demilitarize it.
Since talking about the withdrawal of weapons in Donetsk is practically the same thing now as talking about surrendering to the Ukrainian army, that does not appear to be the sentiment there. In fact, the demonstration today could be used by the militants to justify another attack — in other words, to push the Ukrainian troops from the residential areas of the city “at the request of the workers.” This is a dangerous syndrome. Especially if it turns out that the demonstration was organized.
But so far we have no information about anything like it. According to our correspondent, the people were very tense, and the attacks of recent days provide a logical reason for such action. If the demonstration was not inspired by political technologists, then it has a number of positive points. One of them is that it sets a precedent that it is possible to protest in the “DNR” and not be repressed or killed. Under conditions where effective informational work can be carried out with the population of the occupied territories, it could become one of the instruments of political pressure on the separatists and Moscow.
Kyrylo Sazonov, political scientist, blogger, journalist
People are very tired. They are tired of the war, of attacks, of uncertainty. Despair has pushed many of them to public protest. The demonstration was not organized by the leadership of the militants, as demonstrated by the contradictory slogans and demands. Some people demanded for the offensive to end, to get moved to the rear rather than in the frontline area. Others demanded that the militants stop firing on Ukrainian positions from the residential areas, thus provoking retaliation. A number of people want to move to other areas, others openly swear at the DNR.
This is actually not the first demonstration and not the first protest. They occur periodically in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in the occupied territories. Miners and state employees are demanding to be paid, and people on the verge of starvation are demanding that food be distributed. It is simply that actions in the middle of Donetsk end up being broadcast on TV, but in the suburbs and in the small towns similar actions go unnoticed.
As the economic situation in the self-proclaimed republics worsens, the number of these protests will grow. But it is important to note that any protest will be allowed only as long as the militants can somehow direct it to their advantage. For example, to demand free passage to and from the territory under Ukrainian control. To demand peace on terms proposed by their puppet masters in Moscow. But any pro-Ukrainian or anti-DNR demonstration will be suppressed immediately by all possible means, including the shooting of the protesters.
Editor’s Note: In subsequent interviews with Russian media, Zakharchenko claimed that the demonstration was a provocation by a “fifth column,” organized according to a “scenario” designed in Kyiv.