What is to be done to stop the war in eastern Ukraine? Petro Poroshenko wants to make Russia let international peacekeepers into Donbas; Volodymyr Zelenskiy came up with a proposal to hold negotiations with the Kremlin. What do residents of front-line settlements expect of the leading candidates and what problems do they face every day?
A Belsat TV crew visited Zhovanka (Donetsk region). The village that once was flourishing, is becoming depopulated: only 150 residents (of 600) remain. Residents of the town of Horlivka used to buy summer houses here; a local entrepreneur built a beautiful hotel. But the year of 2014 brought drastic changes.
“Everything I kept in the sideboard, all expensive dishes – everything is broken. A TV set went to bits, and my children gave me me their own TV. There are no window glasses; my son used plywood to cover the windows,” Elena Ivanovna, a resident of Zhovanka, told Belsat.
The front line which is only 500 metres from Zhovanka halved the neighbouring village of Zaytsevo. For 4 years, Elena Ivanovna has been dwelling in her summer kitchen that was miraculously preserved. And she dreams of only one thing.
“I wish I would have an opportunity to leave in peace and quiet for at least one year. I was born in the wartime and we are at war again now. I was born in 1940, I saw that war, and another war has come. I never think that I would live up to it,” the woman said.
Residents of the village of Mayorsk live half a kilometre from the demarcation line. They are now able to specify a caliber and type of ammo damaging their homes.
“There is a garage and vegetable garden, 17 mines fell down here,” residents of Mayorsk recall.
Charity foundations help people to have their houses repaired and restored, but people fear they will have to hide from shelling for many years.
“Well, if we have what we have, the situation will soon be like that of Transnistria. How many years has that conflict been in progress? We will face the same,” Nikolai, a resident of Mayorsk, believes.
The two participants in the second round of the presidential election vow to regain the occupied areas. The locals put the both candidates’ ability to get peace in question, but hope still dwells within their hearts.
“Life goes on. And we should hope that there will be peace, that all bad will be over, that life will resume its normal course,” Nikolai hopes.
Vladimir Veselkin, Head of the local administration, is trying to keep up a little steam in the destroyed villages. Earlier, he ran a business in Horlivka. A year before the war, he was elected Mayor of Zaitsevo. When the front line settled, he again headed the village – to more precise, its unoccupied part.
“As a person who served in the army and defended Ukraine, who gave up on everything I had on the other side, who could not agree to living under the rule of crooked people, under the rule of Russia, I think that our president has chosen the right way, i.e. fighting until we win,” Mr Veselkin told Belsat.
The so-called Russian world turned out to be grave; the war destroyed the economy, over 1.5 mln young and active people left their homes forever.
“With the help of European, American, Australian, Canadian partners who support us and consider Russia an aggressor, it will take us a few years to recover, and all this will seem to be just a nightmare,” the local official said.
At the moment, however, one can see no end to it. Along the contact line, a classical positional war is on. Front-line settlements are turning into ghost villages, and the people of Donbas are getting used to living amid a frozen conflict.
Alyaksandr Papko, Alyaksandr Barazenka, Belsat TV