Today in the center of Donetsk there is nothing like that the front is just a few kilometers outside the city. The active phase of the fighting ended more than two years ago, and times when cities in the Donbas were deserted, gone. Donetsk people’s Republic (DNR) is celebrating the third birthday of drowning in flags and billboards with such slogans as “the Only power in DND is people.”
Some refugees returned home. In the markets crowded with shops, cinemas and restaurants, and the people boast that they have the street cleaner than before the war. About glow conflict like posters, warning of unexploded shells and mines, the ads in the bus with a call to join the army and a curfew. Locals love to tell the story about how the police recently detained a Golden youth in the bar after 23.00 and sent young people out of the city to dig trenches.
The most reliable way to feed service in the national guard, today called the rebel army. “Now people go to the front not because of ideals, but for money. Money is small, but families have to eat,” says 41-year-old Julia, whose husband is in the military, receiving 15 thousand rubles (about 6.4 thousand kroons) per month.
“We do not have enough. Our house was destroyed by shelling, and we need the money for repairs. And prices are rising. The cost of gas and electricity and less than in Ukraine, but food prices are rising. Medication is horribly expensive, so we can’t afford to be sick. Medical care in the USSR, are free, but the medication themselves,” talks about his life Julia.
Perhaps worst of all live pensioners, because with the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian government does not pay pensions to those who live on the territory of the rebels. DNR reimburses the retirement allowance of two or three thousand rubles per month, while bread cost about 15 rubles, a liter of milk is 30. “In Ukraine, I worked 53 years, but the pension is not paid me” — complains a former nurse Alexandra.
For a cheeseburger — “Donmac”
The cheapest products you can buy at First national supermarket, as two years ago, the rebels had renamed “nationalized” stores of the Ukrainian network of ATV. There you can find primarily Russian and Belarusian goods. Products produced on the territory of the Donetsk people’s Republic, marked with a large tag “Made in DPR.” Cigarettes is brought from Russia and Bulgaria, in the stalls and boxes are visible with the Czech labels, but prices are 25% higher than in Czech Republic.
Former restaurants “McDonald’s”, which after the war was fired, now headed by another owner. Fast food was renamed “Donmac”, but otherwise everything is the same as before: the interior, the shape of the staff and the taste of the food. A day full of people. In Donetsk and even create a people’s Republic, but people still want cheeseburgers and fries.
Rebel Republic controls all stations and markets, which sent its inspectors — the so-called people’s control. Unscrupulous sellers sometimes seeks the support of the operator even the head of the Republic Alexander Zakharchenko. Today he spoke about the criminal plans of Kiev — the main content of the programs on the new channels, such as the First national channel, Russia TV and channel “hold”, named in honor of one of the battalions of the rebels.
“I’m absolutely free to write what you want, without any censorship. I am my own censor. I poured the Donetsk Republic mud and not publish the facts of a military nature. We still are at war,” says Frenchman Erwan Castel, who two years ago came here to fight. Now he writes for the newspaper “Novorossiya” and boasted that his newspaper, in contrast to the official media of the DPR, the independent. But who owns it and who is funding it, Castel has no idea.
Cash on you
In the Donetsk Republic is and your mobile operator. It’s called “Phoenix”, and for Czech standards, offers tariffs dreams: for 95 rubles per month (about 40 dollars) you will have 100 minutes free calls and unlimited Internet. “Phoenix” uses the infrastructure of the operator “Kyivstar”, which the rebels seized two years ago. Locals boast of the quality of the signal and the price, although there are his own but with another operator on the “Phoenix” do not call.
A separate conversation is the banking system. Since the war Kyiv has imposed on rebel areas of economic blockade, closed branch of the national Bank and turned off the ATMs. Today, the DNR is only one financial institution — Central national Bank. He collects taxes, pays benefits and is the operator of the ATM, which, however, only accept its cards.
The fact that the Bank of the DNI is not connected to a foreign system, so the foreigner must carry the ruble (hryvnia there is already practically do not meet) with you. Some employers send the money through the South Ossetia, because only she of all the world’s countries have recognized the rebel Republic in the South-East of Ukraine. It is a long and complicated process, therefore, businessmen often carry money in suitcases across the border.
Ordinary people to transfer money from Russia or Ukraine turning to intermediaries. They send the money to an account in Russia and pay it to the client in Donetsk, taking a percentage. “DNR didn’t allow this type of business, but it refers to it,” says the translator Vladimir Tupikin, who lives on the royalties from Ukrainian companies. “Probably someone on something earns, there is some roof,” he alludes to the patronage of the authorities.
Nationalized enterprises in charge of Russian Manager
It is no secret that the Donetsk national Republic lives only thanks to the support of Russia. “Is the economic, military and social assistance. Kiev wanted to kill us, and Russia wouldn’t allow it”, — says Nikolay Tupikin, who spent several years in Czechoslovakia, when he served in the Soviet army. He calls the Ukrainian government fascists and Bandera.
In recent years Moscow has made significant progress in the economic integration of the Donbas. The process gained momentum at the beginning of the year, when Russia recognized the passports of DNR. Simultaneously, Ukrainian nationalists have blocked all trade with the separatist territories, and in response, the rebels took control of dozens of companies, including steel plants and power plants oligarch Rinat Akhmetov.
“As a mandate from God”
The situation in the Donbass allegedly engaged Vladislav Surkov, Vladimir Putin’s Advisor on relations with Ukraine. One of the former leaders of the rebels claims that Surkov controls the situation through personally chosen commissioners, who regularly informed him about everything. Allegedly, together with his assistants he also organises elections and creates a power structure that unconditionally fulfill the desires of Moscow. “Any orders from Moscow — as a mandate from God himself… and then turns,” said one of the former leaders of the rebels in the Donetsk region Alexei Alexandrov, who left Eastern Ukraine.
“To take these businesses into administration was the only way. If the owner can’t manage his firm, we will do it, and the money stays here. We really didn’t like that the company Akhmetov pay taxes in Ukraine”, — explains Nikolay Tupikin.
The Russian newspaper “Kommersant” recently found out that the confiscated enterprises were transferred to the company Vneshtorgservis, which is registered in South Ossetia and has no office, no website. This company is headed by former Deputy Governor of the Irkutsk region and chief Advisor, sector for economic issues Vladimir Pashkov. He leads a humanitarian Fund through which Moscow finances the rebel Republic.
Now Moscow has to ensure that nationalized enterprises functioned and gave people jobs. So in early may the Russian government has allocated ten billion rubles for the supply of raw materials for local steel plants, and in the Railways said that will give transportation a 25% discount. Recently, the leadership of the DNI reported that the furnace at the plant Akhmetov in Donetsk, which before the war had about nine thousand men, resumed work after the break caused by the Ukrainian blockade.
Sooner or later we will join Russia
According to AP, today in Ukraine more and more of those who believes Donbass lost, and Kiev can officially declare it an occupied territory. This would mean the final collapse of the Minsk agreements, according to which the rebel Republic are still a part of Ukraine “special status”.
A total economic blockade, which continues to push the Donbass into the arms of Russia, according to the January poll, approves half of Ukrainians. “Public opinion strongly tends to the isolation of Donbass. For Kiev, it is the ability to write off to Moscow all the costs of this ‘frozen conflict’,” said Agency AP Ukrainian analyst, Volodymyr Fesenko.
The bonds are gradually disappearing. At the end of April because of the billions of dollars of debt Ukraine has cut off electricity supplies to the Luhansk people’s Republic. An hour later the light had come back: came to the aid of Russia. Donetsk is also the need for electricity, but Ukraine can not disable, because then the darkness will descend and Avdiyivka, which is located on the other side of the front. Both self-proclaimed republics receive Russian gas for more than two years, and now there is talk about stopping the supply.
So three years after the outbreak of war in Donetsk is increasingly fused with his strong tread. Despite the fact that the Kremlin denies such ideas, considering them naive, the locals have no doubt in the future of Donbass. “Sooner or later we will join Russia. While all will be the same as with South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria”, — said Vladimir Tupikin, remembering other frozen conflicts involving Russia.