After in 2014 in Eastern Ukraine the conflict broke out, an electrician from Kiev Leonid Andrew was drafted into the Ukrainian army and fighting with Russian-backed separatists. Now he, like many other Ukrainians, willing to admit that these lands are lost to the country.
“There all filled Russian. They methodically eradicate all things Ukrainian. So why do I — and ruined — Ukraine must pay for this occupation?” says the 43-year-old electrician.
For a long time the Ukrainians could not even think about having to leave — even temporarily — the region known as the Donbass, and recognize it is actually occupied by Russia. After the fighting, which lasted several years, and the deaths of an estimated 10,000 people, it seemed unimaginable. However, now they are beginning to accept this idea.
In fact, such a step would bury the Minsk peace agreements concluded under the mediation of France and Germany and aimed at preserving a United Ukraine. As confirmed at their meeting held this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Minsk agreement is still supported by the West and Russia.
These agreements, to which Ukraine agreed in 2015, when its forces retreated, dramatically reduced the bloodshed, but did not stop it.
Attempts to fulfill that part of them which relates to a political settlement failed.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko continues to act in the Minsk agreement. However, in recent months, his government had embarked on the isolation of the East. It blocks trade with him and stopped the supply of gas and electricity, showing that it now considers this industrial region the problem of Moscow.
Several parliamentary groups have also submitted to Parliament a bill under which the territory beyond the control of Kiev, declared “occupied”.
“It is time to call a spade a spade and recognize the Russian occupation of Donbass”, — said Yuriy Bereza, one of the authors of this bill. Birch, who commanded one of the volunteer battalions that fought in the East, believes that this step is necessary to save the country.
However, it is unlikely that the bill will be put to the vote, as the government does not want to officially recognize the loss of territory.
However, according to a survey conducted by the Razumkov Center, nearly half of Ukrainians is in favour of declaring the separatist-controlled territories in Donetsk and Lugansk regions “occupied.”
Under the terms of the Minsk agreement, these two regions must remain part of Ukraine but with special status. They should have the right to conduct its own elections. Those who fought against the Ukrainian army, should be pardoned.
However, these ideas do not enjoy public support in Ukraine. The survey showed that only 22% of Ukrainians are ready to provide the Donbass “special status”. 31% of respondents said that they find it difficult to answer this question. The study was conducted in January and covered 2 018 people throughout Ukraine. Its margin of error is 2.3 percentage points.
“It is obvious that Ukrainian society supports the isolation and blockade of Donbass. It dictates the behavior of the President Poroshenko, believes sociologist at the Razumkov Center Andriy Bychenko. — If Poroshenko plans to be elected for a second term, he needs to think about the attitude of the society and not about the expectations of the West.”
Poroshenko was chosen by the head of state after mass protests early 2014, which led to the overthrow of Pro-Russian President of Ukraine. He moved the country towards closer integration with the West.
Although the government Poroshenko are still talking about a United Ukraine, last month it stopped to supply Lugansk electricity because of unpaid debt. Kiev also stopped gas supplies to the Donetsk and Lugansk region, and in March, Poroshenko imposed a trade blockade regions not controlled by Kiev.
Putin’s press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told journalists that this was “another step on the path of alienating Ukraine from the territories.”
Although in the beginning of the conflict Russia has hurry to Annex the Crimean Peninsula, Putin makes clear that he is not interested in annexation of Eastern Ukraine.
“The Kremlin tried again to impose on Ukraine this cancer and the use of the Donetsk and Luhansk as a Trojan horse that allows you to manipulate Kiev, — says Russian political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky. — However, the Ukrainian government will have enough common sense not to allow it”.
Speaking on Tuesday to reporters after a meeting with Merkel, Putin discontent reacted on the assumption that the Donbas is already de facto separated from Ukraine and in this regard, it may be time to think about the new peace agreement.
“These areas no one was separated — they separated themselves the Ukrainian authorities, organizing all kinds of kinds of the blockade,” Putin said. Russia was forced to support the Donbass, he added, stressing that she “still delivers a significant number of commodities, including energy, is supplying coking coal for the Ukrainian metallurgical industry”.
Both Putin and Merkel stressed that, despite all the problems, they see no alternatives to the Minsk agreements.
Sergey Garmash — one of those who left from the Eastern Ukraine. In total, the region left, leaving their homes, two million people. He says that in Donetsk there is not almost nothing Ukrainian. They use Russian rubles, and only works on Russian television. The region survives thanks to Russian subsidies.
“Ukrainian politicians time to have the courage to officially recognize that this territory is occupied by Russia. This will force Moscow to pay the bill. And the more expensive this venture will cost the Kremlin, the sooner he will leave,” says 45-year-old Garmash, now living in Kiev.
Moscow each month send to the Donbass humanitarian convoys and pays the people living in the region, salaries and pensions. It also supports the military operations of the separatists, while the Kremlin denies that it helps them with arms and soldiers.
Russia suffered economically from the sanctions imposed by the West in response to the annexation of Crimea and support for separatists.
“Public opinion has shifted sharply in the direction of isolation of Donbass. Now the government in Kiev is a good time to shift all the costs of “frozen conflict” in Moscow”, — said the head of the Ukrainian center of applied political studies “Penta” Volodymyr Fesenko.
“Of course, the war in the Donbas was unleashed by Russia to slow down Ukraine’s movement to Europe, — said Fesenko. — However, no Ukrainian politician can publicly abandon Crimea and Donbas and recognize them as part of Russia”.
According to the Kiev electrician Androva, no one knows what to do with the Donbass — and that is the problem.
He compares this region with a “suitcase without a handle, which can be hard, and to throw — sorry.”