IDPs from Luhansk region: “We want it all to end”
Belarusian human rights activists, who are taking part in the Human Rights Humanitarian Mission in Ukraine, render various kinds of assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the occupied territory – the zone of the anti-terrorist operation, who currently reside in Kharkiv.
According to the official statistics, there are 180,000 of registered IDPs there. Belarusians continue recording the stories of the people who had to flee their birthplaces and move to Kharkiv.
Story of a Luhansk resident
I left Luhansk in June 2014. It all began with the seizure of the office of the Luhansk Region Security Service. I didn't see who did it, I was working at the time. After work I always drove through the territory, adjacent to the offices of the Security Service and the State Administration. Rallies were held there almost everyday, there started appearing some Cossacks guarding the state administration, the police were there too.
Then I remember that the Security Service was captured. They fenced it with barbed wire and put several roadblocks. At that time, however, one could get into the fenced area. Over time, roadblocks began appearing near the city of Luhansk, being guarded mostly by local citizens with shotguns. Later, there started appearing strange people in very good uniform, camouflage. The locals didn't even stop me when I was driving by, while these ones were stopping me, asking where I was going and what for.
I needed to drive across the region. At that time I could do it, but cars were checked for weapons and drugs. In particular, I was struck by the city of Antratsyt. I personally saw there Russian Cossacks, I can say it for sure. They moved in KAMAZ cars without any marks and number plates, wearing Cossack uniform. In Antratsyt, roadblocks were also guarded by armed Cossacks, not locals.
Various military institutions were being captured little by little. There were several military units, captured by these people. For instance, the frontier stand in Luhansk and the unit of the internal military forces near the town of Aleksandrivka. There was a shooting, explosions, I saw it from the roof. The people who attacked the military unit brought there a combat reconnaissance vehicle. When we realized that some shelling was about to begin, we immediately decided to leave Luhansk, at least for some time. We drover out bypassing the road to Shchastsia, where there were hostilities. One can drive around through Triohizbenka. There were Russians at the checkpoint, I can say for sure. First, they had a Russian accent. Secondly - a very expensive uniform, helmets, goggles. They came and asked where we were going, we said that we were going to visit our friends, and they let us through. We have never come back then.
This area is located approximately 100 km from the Russian border. I remember how tanks started appearing in the Luhansk region, while the Ukrainian army had no tanks in that region. Most probably, they came from the Rostov region, the North Caucasus Military District. I saw armed Chechens. They lived, for example, in the hostel of the East-Ukrainian University named after Dahl.
Most of them were armed with machine guns and drove armored infantry vehicles. I have no wish to return there so far. All is ruined, there are no jobs. There's just no sense in returning there now.
What concerns the referendum declaring the People's Republic of Luhansk – my relatives from the older generation went to vote at it. After voting, they called home and told all others that they didn't need to go to the referendum, as they had already voted for those who were at home, too. Thus, it's clear that the referendum was rigged. I can't tell for sure who the referendum was held by, but it was already under gun barrels.
In my opinion, at that time there was a certain bond between the local authorities and those who came with guns. Judging by their behavior, it seems to me that somebody directed them altogether. At that time of the first referendum the older generation was really incited to vote for LPR and DPR in order to get united with Russia. They believed that the Russian Federation would help them and they would have a better life.
Story of a resident of Alchevsk
I lived in the city of Alchevsk in the Luhansk region. I had to leave, as the city was occupied. Everything started with the capture of the building of the city executive committee. Then they captured the office of the State Security Service. However, they didn't have to use force in that case – everything was ready for it. There came the people, who wanted to change the flags. They dropped the Ukrainian flag and hung that Novorossiya.
Rallies were held there. Most probably, they were organized and well-paid. There were Cossacks, especially in Perevalsk. There were also Cossacks in Alchevsk. My daughter left the town when my grandson was just 1.5 months old, having to flee from the bombing and shelling. I left with my grandson in mid-June. We got registered as displaced people and are still here.
I saw tanks and armed people on 22 June, when Mozgovoy's gang came to us from the city of Severodonetsk, from which they were expelled. Tanks drove through our streets, heading for Perevalsk. Our town was shelled just once, on August 3-4, 2014.
Now we are here, that's why we know about all later events only from the Internet and our acquaintances. Some people from a neighboring house went to Seleznivka to earn some money. They were for LPR and seem to have got in an ambush. They are no longer alive. It is a pity the young, who could still live and raise families have to die because of someone's stupidity.
I think that this conflict can last for years. We want it all to end, but I think this are may become another Transnistria.