Until today, anarchist media group assembly.org.ua from frontline Kharkov has been covering the war in Ukraine from government-controlled territories. Now let’s take a look at what has been happening all this time on the opposite side of the front, e.g. in one of the largest cities of Donbass, controlled by the Russian far-right proxies of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” since the spring of 2014. An employee of one of the city enterprises named Maxim told us about this yesterday. To support us in the restoration of the social fabric, including organizing and coverege of rebuilding collective works, please visit this page. The photo with redecorated symbol of the Putler militarism is from Siberian comrades.
Originally published by Libcom.
– Could you tell us what has been happening in your city since mid-February in general? Does the same positional war continue as it has for 8 years, or are there any significant changes?
– Before the recognition of the “independence” of the DPR by Putin, everything in my city was quite calm. After the recognition, many residents had the hope that the Russian Federation brings “peacekeeping” troops into the territory of the “republics” and the war would stop. Instead, the inhabitants of Gorlovka received mobilization, due to which a significant part of the male population of Gorlovka ended up in the ranks of the “Popular Militia of the DPR”. Utilities have mobilized at least 50% of all men, and some have mobilized 100%. As a result, there is simply no one to repair many infrastructure facilities. As the familiar employees of the city water utility said on March 13: “There is only a few days of water left in the city, after which we will all be in shit.”
In general, the atmosphere of fear in the city is much stronger than in 2014. But there is still enough food and other goods on store shelves.
As for military operations in the Gorlovka area, there are no changes in the front line and, it seems to me, there will not be any in the foreseeable future. But the artillery began to work more intensively.
– Has it affected you and your close circle in any way? Both in terms of shelling, and in terms of mobilization.
– My father and I almost all the time stay home without getting out so as not to get a summons on the street. Our female relatives, of course, are very worried about all this meat grinder.
As for shelling, I and my surroundings live in the Central City district, which (compared to other areas of my city) suffered little from the consequences of shelling throughout the war. But the outskirts of the city and their inhabitants have always had much worse. So I was still lucky, because my situation is much better than that of many residents of Gorlovka.
– In social networks, for the last month, we can often see that white guards are raking up right everyone on the outdoors, whoever they can reach, and then force them to go on the offensive like meat in front of the Putler regular army (as the German military advancing across Ukraine sometimes used haidamaks in spring of 1918). There are no photo or video proofs of it. How much should we believe these rumors, do you know anything?
– Summons are really handed right on the street, it also happened that people were put into cars in whole groups and taken to the military recruitment office. I know cases when people with a “white ticket” were mobilized. Although there is an opportunity to legally evade the service: if a person ends up in the military office, he needs to demand a full medical examination for himself. It lasts for several days, and if he is found to have serious enough health problems, then he will be left behind. My neighbor, who used to suffer from oncology, was thus able to avoid mobilization. I think that even if there are no health problems, the examination will give a respite of a few days, which can be used to hide somewhere safe.
As for those who were mobilized, their fate is different; some are sent to the front line, others serve in the rear. I also know the case when the mobilized were sent to serve in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions, to guard the captured settlements. One such unfortunate fellow is now serving somewhere in the Kherson region, at a “marshalling yard”. Loads trucks with the corpses of dead Russian soldiers, after which they are taken to the Crimea. As he himself said, “I would rather have spent five years in prison than have seen all this horror.”
Among the mobilized already there are dead and wounded, and in large numbers. It is also known about the mobilized who were captured by the Ukrainians. Those mobilized who refuse to go to the front line are threatened with criminal liability and prison.
– If those who have the opportunity to evade still march to the slaughter, does this mean that the fighting spirit of the masses is still high, or are they just afraid of punishment for evading?
– When the mobilization had just begun, people were promised that they would simply be kept in the barracks for several days, after which they would be sent home. That’s why many people came to the military enlistment offices. And besides, people were afraid of possible problems at work, in case of absenteeism for mobilization. And so, here doesn’t smell of any high fighting spirit, and never smelled. Those ardent patriots of the “DPR” that I know have no desire to join the “People’s Militia” and take part in the war.
– There is an opinion that the social climate in Donbass is set by paternalistic pensioners. At the same time, living and working conditions side by side in mining settlements should form much stronger community ties than, for example, in trade and service Kharkiv. How are things with grassroots self-organization? Is there at least such humanitarian social activity as we are taking part here?
– As long as I can remember, my countrymen have always been distinguished by passivity and craving for a “firm hand”. The peak of the class struggle in the Donbass was the mining strikes of the 90s and early 2000s, but as soon as the Ukrainian economy stabilized, and the miners began to receive more or less decent wages, all their activity and willingness to fight for their rights irrevocably disappeared.
I wouldn’t place all the blame for the social climate on paternalistic elders. The youth of Donbass is more to blame (not all, of course, but its main part), because absolutely is not interested in class problems.
As for those young people who started to engage in some kind of activism, their activism in most cases did not last long – a year or two. After that, “playing enough”, they became ordinary townsfolk. And after the formation of the fascist DPR, even these barely noticeable shoots of activism dried up.
In my city in the first years of the war there was a group of apolitical volunteers helped residents who were not able to take care of themselves. But I haven’t heard anything about these volunteers for a long time. So there is no grassroots self-organization here even close.
– And finally, tell a few words about your experience of participating in the anarchist movement, and also what would you like to call on those who read this interview in other parts of the world?
– This experience of my participation was not great. I was a member of the now deceased Revolutionary Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists, a couple of times I took part in the anarchist May Day in Donetsk. Pasted leaflets with agitation on the walls of houses and lampposts, threw the Anarchy newspaper into mailboxes. Well, I hung out in the RKAS camp in the Kharkov region, in the summer of 2012.
All in all, I have nothing to brag about. But I suspect that many anarchists don’t even have such modest experience. And it’s sad, really. So I hope I’m wrong.
And I can call readers of this interview in other parts of the world… Never lose heart, never be cowardly, and always stand up for your principles. I don’t think that I have the moral right to give specific recommendations on what should do comrades in other territories. You yourself, based on the circumstances, should be able to see what to do.
In addition, we remind you of our recent martyrology of apolitical humanitarian volunteers killed during these weeks by Russian shelling of Kharkov.