A warning sign in the Donbas: Moscow replacing local people with Russians

Devastation in the Donbas, Ukraine brought by the Russian military aggression (Image: znak.com)

Devastation in the Donbas, Ukraine brought by the Russian military aggression (Image: znak.com) 

International, More, War in the Donbas

One of the most reliable signs that an aggressor is about to launch a new attack is his replacement of local people who might resist his effort with carefully selected outsiders who can be counted on to support or at least not actively oppose any new aggression.

According to people in the Donbas with whom US-based Russian journalist Kseniya Kirillova has spoken, that is exactly what has been happening in the days since the murder of Oleksandr Zakharchenko, the so-called “head of the DNR.” Her report should set off alarm bells in Kyiv.

One Donbas resident speaking on condition of anonymity says that in the days since Zakharchenko was killed, the powers that be in the “DNR” region have increased the number of searches and arrests of local people. Residents are frightened “but despite that, dissatisfaction is growing” because of three inter-related developments.

First, “the local population continues to be replaced by new arrivals. Militants from Russia come with their children, wives, and pensioner parents; and in recent times, most of them are coming from Vorkuta and Irkutsk [cities in Russian Far North and Siberia – Ed.]. They are given residence permits and in addition to their Russian passports, they are issued ‘DNR’ passports as well.”

The new arrivals are settled in apartments left vacant by the departure of former residents so there is no problem with housing.

Second, inflation is increasing, putting ever more products beyond the reach of the former residents but not so high that arrivals cannot afford to buy, especially given their relocation bonuses, larger pensions and incomes and their own recent experiences with higher prices in Siberia and the Russian North.

And third, “DNR” officials are doing nothing to counter a rising environmental disaster as poisonous substances and even radioactive materials spill into the water and soil of the region. Former residents know about these things; but the new people are ignoring them, perhaps because in the Russian regions they come from, these are considered normal.

Consequently, the former residents are leaving, giving more room for the arrival of Russians from elsewhere.

Kirillova does not say, but it is clear from her interviews that the “DNR” officials backed by Moscow are interested in promoting the departure of the older residents and their replacement with more malleable and thus reliable Russians from distant regions of the Russian Federation. Indeed, it appears that this is very much a conscious policy.

That it has intensified in the last days suggests that Moscow and the “DNR” have plans to launch a new campaign and are doing what they can to ensure that they won’t have the problems in rear areas that they would have if the older residents remained in place.

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Edited by: A. N.

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