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“Visitors” from Russia pushing out Donbas locals and taking over housing

Donetsk locals. Photo: AFP
“Visitors” from Russia pushing out Donbas locals and taking over housing
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
While some Donetsk residents are trying to leave the occupied zone, newcomers from Russia’s depressed zones are streaming into the Donbas, says Donetsk native Olena Nekrasova (the name has been changed for security reasons).
On the streets of Donetsk, December 2014
On the streets of Donetsk, December 2014

“I know several such newly arrived families. As a rule, the men are sent out to fight, while their wives and children are provided with local housing. As a matter of fact, the persons who arrive here from “dead” Russian villages where there’s no work and no modern conveniences, people that often barely survive on the streets of their own towns and villages, are very happy to live in a city with modern amenities and well-developed infrastructure. They’re usually housed in school dormitories or in buildings built before the war that have never been occupied. But, of course, the authorities also confiscate the apartments of local residents and hand them over to these “visitors”.” says Olena.

Olena Nekrasova knows what she is talking about as she experienced this tragedy herself. In 2014, her mother died and she inherited the apartment. Sadly enough, it was soon taken over by a “DNR militiaman”.

“Today, some sort of “boyevyk” (gunman) lives there, and I have absolutely no access to my own apartment. The entrance code was changed so I couldn’t get in. When I asked a so-called militant coming out of the building for the new code and explained that I wanted to get into my apartment, he literally threatened me with a weapon. My mother had an armoured door installed in the apartment, and I have the only key. When I finally got in, I saw that the door had been forced open… We had so many precious things in our house: family heirlooms that my family had preserved since pre-revolutionary times, modern expensive household appliances, personal articles and valuables. They stripped me of everything. I can’t report or complain to anyone, as it’s just too dangerous…Some people who asked questions related to the confiscation of their property just disappeared and no one could find them.” continues Olena.

"Visitor" in private home. Photo from different social networks
“Visitor” in private home. Photo from different social networks

Militants admit the seizure of private property

Olena’s testimony has been confirmed by numerous reports filed by other victims. One of the most vivid examples, when the militants themselves admitted the seizure of private property, was when former “LNR leader” Igor Plotnitsky demonstratively evicted “LNR Interior Minister” Ihor Kornet from his illegally occupied home shortly before the “coup in Luhansk”.

On a video posted on the Internet (in Russian), the legal owner says that she could not get into her own house and had to rent another apartment, and moreover, Kornet avoided any conversations with her. After a personal conflict with “minister Kornet”, who lived in this occupied home for almost four years, Plotnitsky unexpectedly declared that “it was time to observe the law” and returned the apartment to the rightful owner.

However, after Kornet’s showcase eviction, such cases did not stop, but became more regulated and official. In October 2016, Sevodnya Information Agency published an article about the seizure of private property (in Russian). The victims reported that these cases began immediately after the start of the occupation, but only at the end of October 2016 did the former “head of the Donetsk Administration” Ihor Martynov officially announce “the nationalization of all movable and immovable property belonging to enemies of the people”.

"Visitor" in private home. Photo from different social networks
“Visitor” in private home. Photo from different social networks

Russian “visitors” are housed in “nationalized” residences

In March 2017, the Central Intelligence Office of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine confirmed information on the forthcoming “nationalization” of private property in the occupied territories.

“Occupation “authorities” plan to house homeless Russian citizens and persons who have declared their readiness to sign or extend their military service contracts in military formations and units of the 1st (Donetsk) and 2nd (Luhansk) Army Corps as part of the Territorial Centre of the Southern Military District of the Armed Forces of Russia.”

This fact has been confirmed by Luhansk resident Tetiana, who was able to leave the occupied territory and currently resides with her daughter in New York, USA.

“Shortly before the so-called “coup in the LNR”, a neighbour from Luhansk, who’s looking after our house, called and told me that a district police officer had come to see her. He was interested in our house, because he’d learned from the housing committee (similar to ZhEK- the housing and utilities management office, but for private sector houses – Ed.) that we’d left for America and that our house was empty. The officer added that he’d been ordered to list all the vacant homes in his district, which would soon “accommodate future visitors”. Our neighbour told him that her son and daughter-in-law would be living in our house. So far, they haven’t bothered with our home, but no one knows what will happen tomorrow.” says Tetiana.

Locals leaving, while more and more “visitors” arriving

On August 7, 2017, Ukrainian MP Dmytro Tymchuk, coordinator of Information Resistance, reported that, after Luhansk, Donetsk had also launched a campaign to inventorize all empty houses and apartments.

“DNR” law enforcers and representatives of Zakharchenko’s  “administration” and Oleksandr Timofeev’s (aka “Tashkent”) “DNR Revenue Ministry” are searching out and compiling lists of “abandoned” apartments and houses (whose owners have been absent for a long time) in view of another “nationalization” campaign.”

Last month, journalist and blogger Denys Kazansky published an internal document of the so-called “DNR State Property Fund”, describing the mechanisms for raider seizure of apartments in Donetsk. The confiscation of private property is called “enhancing the efficiency of real estate”. In mid-December, information on vacant houses and apartments in Donetsk and Makiyivka appeared on these lists.

"Visitors" in private home. Photo from different social networks
“Visitors” in private home. Photo from different social networks

Donetsk journalist Olha Meshcheryakova, who now lives in Kyiv, cannot return to her native city, but maintains close ties with her friends and compatriots in the occupied zone.

“I know for sure that Motorola lived in an expropriated home. My close friends haven’t been evicted, but they all confirm that there’ve been a lot of “visitors” in the city, which is especially flagrant seen against the background of the outflow of local population. Many of these “visitors” have taken up residence in the university dormitory where students of the Faculty of Finance, Accounting and Economics and Law used to live. Friends told me that private cars are often taken away in the city streets. Sometimes, my friends even saw young girls being “thrown into” the trunks of passing cars. I recently learned that three men, who are said to be supporters of Ukraine, disappeared and have been missing for five months: my classmate’s husband, the husband of a girl who studied with us, but in another branch, and her brother. Nobody knows what’s happened to them…” says Olha.

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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