Luhansk and Donetsk await liberation


Ukrainian politics

Olena Removska

The National Security and Defense Council still has no idea how many people died as a result of the shooting at the civilian convoy in Luhansk Oblast. Kyiv is talking about possibly “dozens of victims” and asking that videos from the tragedy site not be published, as it is “horrifying.” Meanwhile the territory of Donbas under pro-Russian control is still suffering a humanitarian crisis. There is no water in Donetsk, and Luhansk still has no electricity, gas or communication services. 

The convoy of Luhansk residents, leaving under escort of Ukrainian servicemen, was traveling with white flags. Despite the special designations, the mercenaries fired at the civilians with “Grad” systems and mortar-launchers. According to National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko, the number of victims is still unknown, and the footage from the site is “horrifying.” “The convoy consisted of two parts. The first were the adults, the second were the children, who were transported separately. The mercenaries awaited this convoy and bombed it completely,” he said.

The mercenaries in Donbas are denying the claims made by the Ukrainian side. A representative of the separatists told the Russian Interfax news agency that the statements of the NSDC “don’t have any proof,” and the occurrence of the attack “has not been officially documented.”

Razumkov Center expert Olexiy Melnyk assumes that the attack on civilians by the mercenaries may have been an accident. “Innocent people will die as long as this conflict continues. It may have been an accident, but it is not an accident that such a situation has been created, in which such tragedies are possible,” said the analyst.

It is possible to leave, but dangerous 

According to the NSDC, the convoy of Luhansk residents was organized over the course of several days: the people were picked up in vehicles from various locations, and help was requested of the Ukrainian army. There are sufficient offers available to evacuate people from terrorist-controlled territory, either for free or for a fee. The organization takes place for the most part over social media.

Such information [about being evacuated from the city] is brought to to Luhansk through the families of those who have already left. According to the Luhansk Oblast State Administration (OSA), over 800 people left during the weekend.

Denys, editor of the Luhansk website Infortmator (who asked not to mention his surname due to safety concerns), told Radio Svoboda that it is possible to leave, but there is no guarantee for the security of those who are willing to leave the city. “It is currently very dangerous, at one’s own risk. There are some kamikaze transporters who will take people out [of Luhansk],” he noted.

A taxi from Luhansk, which is under terrorist control, to the free city of Shchastye (23 kilometers away) costs 2500 UAH. This was reported by Luhansk OSA representative Dmytro Alev on his Facebook page.

The locals avoid mercenaries

According to the latest reports, Ukrainian soldieries have managed to take part of Luhansk from the mercenaries, and the ATO troops have almost completely surrounded the city. The humanitarian situation remains complicated: the majority of districts have no electricity or water, and it is impossible to reach Luhansk by phone.

The situation with food is not critical, however: it is imported and sold at slightly higher prices. Meanwhile, as Radio Svoboda managed to find out, the people have almost completely stopped buying perishables and foods that require long preparation. This applies to meat in particular. As many districts have no gas and electricity, it is only possible to cook over a fire. Such methods of food preparation are not a rarity in Luhansk either.

“The product now most in shortage is potatoes. They told me they cost 10 UAH per kilo. There is meat, but given the fact that there is nowhere to store it, farmers don’t even bother bringing it,” Denys says.

The situation in terrorist-occupied Donetsk is less critical. There is phone coverage almost everywhere, as well as electricity and gas. Meanwhile, problems with water have started appearing after the main filtering station in the city was damaged. “Yesterday (on Sunday, August 17) before 9 p.m. the city council warned us we wouldn’t have water. There is no water in any of Donetsk’s city districts,” citizen Maria told Radio Svoboda.

The locals avoid contact with the mercenaries in both Donetsk and Luhansk. In Luhansk, for example, they are trying to keep away from the city center, as this is where the separatists are located. After lunch, and especially in the evening, life halts in both cities: first, there is a curfew imposed by the mercenaries, and second, shelling becomes more frequent.

One of the Luhansk citizens Radio Svoboda managed to reach advised not to make any definite conclusions as to whom the locals support. According to him, the only question most Luhansk citizens have now is when the Ukrainian army will free the city.

Source: Radio Liberty

Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina, edited by Andrew Kinder

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